Fine Art Witchery: Where the Arts & Magick Meet

An exploration of the metaphysical intersection between the Fine Arts & Witchcraft: including history, current usage, and practical application.

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Laura Tempest Zakroff

Laura Tempest Zakroff

Laura "Tempest" Zakroff is a professionally trained visual artist, designer, writer and a Modern Traditional Witch. Her artwork explores the realm of Myth and the Esoteric and has been featured in numerous publications and shows across the world. She is also is a world-renown belly dance performer and instructor, focusing on sacred and darkly inspired fusions that pull from the traditions of North Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. She is based in Seattle, WA.

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Art is Temporary, As Are We

"And they painted on cardboard, because it was new, cheap, and affordable. But they didn't know it wasn't archival, so very little of that work remains intact."  -The words of one of my art history professors, talking about a group of abstract expressionists or similar genre of artists from the 40's-50's. 

It sounded like some sort of moral failing - that these artists had abandoned expensive, time-tested techniques of canvas or wood panels to try something they could afford and was plentiful.  

Having been in art school for a good chunk of my life, as well as a professional high-end picture framer, I have come to see how much museum-culture of the last 300 hundred years has had an effect on the modern art-making process.  That we must work with archival materials, watch out for UV light and dampness, preserve, preserve, preserve.  Think about the future of your work.

The other week while finishing up my book tour, we stopped at Mt. Rushmore, as well as watched the 15-minute film about the making of it. I believe it was in part of a speech from FDR where he talked about the world 10,000 years from now, and what future generations of Americans may think when they see the monument, worn by the weather and time.  In that moment I was thinking two things: if there are even human beings on this planet then - and the condition of the giant sphinx in Egypt.

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The Struggle of Sacred, Sensual, Sexual

In 5th grade, we had an assignment to make art depicting "innocence and the light and grace of God" (or something similar). I chose to draw a young boy and girl standing bathed in the light of the Holy Spirit (in dove form), their backs to the viewer, their bodies lightly covered in transparent shifts.  To me that showed the purity of creation, a clear symbol of innocence. I thought it was a beautiful drawing. 

My classmates called me a pervert and were horrified. My teacher told me they needed more clothes.  I didn't see anything wrong or shameful in what I had drawn.  

I grew up with big books of museum art full of nudes, wallpaper with naked women bathing in my parents' bathroom - which was no different than the metallic lions and tigers in the jungle on the walls of the bathroom my brothers and I shared. Bodies are used in art because they are amazing things.  I inherently understood that being naked didn't automatically mean being sexual. 

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  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Very interesting and well put. I too grew up with an artist mother and parents who didn't hide their bodies. My mom used to invite

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Goddesses Come Knocking

I don't have what many would call a devotional relationship with many of the deities I paint, but that doesn't mean there isn't a divine connection or other kind of relationship.  Often I tap into other people's devotions for those deities, or have an interesting conversation with those gods for a short time. 

Over the weekend, I just finished a series of 5 small goddess paintings, and wanted to share with you all a little behind the process of making them.

First a little background:
Friday (June 16th) is the opening for the Goddess show at Gargoyles Statuary in Seattle. I think it may be the 4th year I've participated in this show, and this one's a little extra special as I'll also be doing an author talk and signing for my new book, The Witch's Cauldron. However, I'm leaving the very next day for a 6 week long book/workshop/performance tour, so I was concerned about getting art done in time.  I had planned to get one new painting done for it - which I managed to finish last week.  But it's a large and highly detailed painting with a very high price point (if I make it available at all for sale at this time.)

Waste Not, Want Not
I was contemplated how to create a few more pieces at a friendly price-point when I spied the small stack of pine pieces I had cut off a recent batch of panels for shrine prints. Under 5"x8" and lightweight, they were a great size.  Even though I was going to be at an event all weekend, I knew from past experiences that this event tends to have slow periods.  So I painted gesso on 5 pieces, sanded them, then did some color washes on each from the leftover paint sitting in my palette from the big painting I just finished. (It's acrylic, so it would have gone to waste.) 

Once dry, I tucked the panels, a couple bottles of paint, some brushes, and pens - to take with me to the event. 

Calling All Goddesses
The next step was figuring out who to paint.  So I put a call out on my Facebook page, asking folks for suggestions on deities that I haven't painted yet, or haven't done in a long while.  From that list, I wrote down about a dozen of the suggestions that stood out for me.  I did some light research on the backgrounds of the goddesses and historical art made for them. 

Once I was situated in my booth, I pulled out the panels.  Because I had done random color washes on them before I left, each one had a different "mood" to it.  I looked at the list, and the panel in my hand, and one name jumped off: Anahita.  And so she was the first painting, emerging out of a wash of deep Prussian blue and navy pen work. 

The next panel I picked up was a mixture of greens and browns, and Pachamama's name leaped off the page.  In the wash, I could see her peeking out at the viewer with a full pregnant body of earth and greens. 

As I was working on that piece, a third panel nudged its way out - the wash looking like a powerful swirl of deep waters.  Yemaya leaped off the list and on to the panel. 

Two panels left.  A warm purple/earthy panel was chosen by Pele. I started work on her before I had to finish for the day - 3.5 paintings is pretty good for one day's work while tending to a booth!

Next Day
In the morning, I finished up Pele, adding a little bronze paint into her skin, and trails of flowers.  I thought 4 was good enough - in fact, I would have been happy with finishing 3.  But then the 5th panel fell to the floor from where it was sitting under the table.  Well, I still had a few hours....

The panel was mainly a light blue wash and didn't speak yet to any of the names on the list, but I still had purples, yellows, and rust left over from Pele. So I did another layer of color washes.  Suddenly, Ereshkigal leaped off the list - I could see her body in a lamia-esque form swirling out of the colors.  

So in the end, I got 5 of these little paintings done, and made contact with 5 very different deities from all over the world. 





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In Search of Perfection

Is the quest for perfection a worthy one?

No matter what form of art I've explored, there are always people trying to hold up a mirror of perfection.  Some use it as a moving target for them to aim their practice to, motivating them to work harder, pushing them along.  Some people take that to an extreme, and never find satisfaction in anything they do because it falls short in their eyes.  They deny themselves credit and possibilities because they feel their work doesn't measure up. Their work might never see the light of day because of their fear. 

Why fear? Because others use an elusive ideal as a means to tear down others who don't fit THEIR idea of what "perfect" is.  Even if they wouldn't even attempt to try it themselves.  They too are trapped by fear and insecurity - of failing short.  But it's easier to talk the talk than walk the walk. 

But the reality is this: There is no perfect film, song, book, dance, building, or work of art. Nothing we create is ever truly perfect - it is all inherently flawed, because that is both our nature and the true disease of time. A work can never be all things to all people. It's not meant to be.

Yet within this unavoidable imperfection, a work IS perfect. It is a pinpoint perfection of that moment in time, that decade, that experience - of the creator and those who interact with it. Perfect dwells in the liminal, the intangible, the shifting land of hopes, dreams, desires, and memories.

What works for one moment may not work for the following one.  That's how time works.  Society is always moving, we as beings are ever-growing and changing.  What we deem worthy or commendable in one situation or timeframe may fall out of favor in the next.  And vice versa. 

Working artists know this.  They know perfection is a lie.  We fall in love with our latest work of art, and then move on to the next one.  We see our work as a series of steps in a spiraling staircase that only ends when we end...or the work ceases to exist.  Each piece of work is part of a larger pattern - and if we rip out those threads solely because we later deem them imperfect, then we fail to see the beauty of the pattern. 

It's important to keep this in mind whether you're considering an artistic, metaphysical, or spiritual practice.  (And often all 3 may find common ground!). 

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Manifesting Your Path As An Artist

This past weekend at Paganicon in Minneapolis, MN, I gave workshops on Witchcraft, Ritual Movement, and Art.  The latter especially focused on my own path as an artist and where it intersects with my Witchcraft.  Alas, 90 minutes wasn't quite enough time to get it all in, so I figured I'd write up 6 key points here for y'all.

In my lecture, I talked about how art schools rarely give artists the tools they need to really succeed.  Sure, we can learn the craft of being artists from a technical standpoint and refine the use of our media - but when it comes to promotion and being professional, those areas are sorely lacking in formal art education.  Which means finding your way through a lot of trial and error. 

So how do you get your work out there as an artist?

1) Have a presence on the internet: a facebook page for your work, Instagram account, your own website, or being on a portfolio website (deviantart, behance, etc), etc.  This requires also getting good photos and/or scans of your artwork, as well as crafting a short biography, artist statement, and build a resume of shows/events/awards/education. Watermark your art! 

2) Have a physical presence in the real world: invest in business cards, postcards, etc - that you pass out with your work and online presence on them. Network with other artists, check out local groups, galleries, and other events.  Does your local town/city have an artwalk? Check out the spaces, see what the art is like. 

3) Craft a plan for each year, setting goals for what you want to accomplish.  Goals can be along the lines of: doing a series of 10 paintings on X theme, participate in 3 group shows, get a solo show, do 1 outdoor festival, etc.  It all depends on your media and where you want to go with your artwork.

4) Keep your word and be realistic.  This seems like a common sense thing, but unfortunately there is often a lot of substance behind the idea of the "flakey artists."  I can't tell you how many times I've filled in at events for artists who have flaked at the last minute because they didn't get work done for the show. However, shit does happen, so if you suspect you're not able to do an event or make a deadline, give the host/organizer PLENTY of time, so they can adjust accordingly.  Saying yes and falling through again and again damages your reputation, no matter how good your work may be. 

5) Presentation and Products! Consider the ways you can show and replicate your artwork so that you can get it out there and make money off of it.  Is your work easy to frame? What size works best? How durable is it? How much will it cost to hang it properly? Be creative! Prints, notecards, calendars, magnets, t-shirts, etc - can be really awesome - or a money pit. Go to events and see what similar artists (subject, media, etc) are doing, and consider what can be your own take. Look to create a variety of pricepoints as well.  For example, I have notecards that are $4, prints from $20-$30, higher end prints from $45-$150, and then original art - so art for a variety of budgets.  

6) Make art.  No really, make it. Don't just think about it or talk about it, or plan it. MAKE IT. The only way to expand as an artist is to keep making art, keep producing it, keep developing and trying out ideas.  

Now there's a lot more that can be done, but these 6 points I believe are at the root of developing your brand and growing as an artist.  "Overnight success" is the result of years of hard work that most people never see. 


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The Art of #WeAreAradia

What is #WeAreAradia? 

As I wrote over here, #WeAreAradia says we don’t need a savior, or one voice to save us.  We need to save ourselves, we need to be the teachers.  We need to be the learners and the guides. We need to be the Witches.  It’s a call to stand up for your beliefs.  A message, a call to action to build and use your practices to protect and to empower everyone who needs it. I would like to also note that this is a call across traditions, genders, colors, creeds, ages, and abilities.  We can revel in and honor diversity – AND bring everyone up together.

And as Storm beautifully says here:  #WeAreAradia is a call to action for witches and warlocks everywhere: Stand up. Speak out. Cast proud. We offer whatever magic we can to the cause of freedom and resistance to tyranny. Some of us are healers. Others are artists. Some are diviners. Still others are warriors. Aradia wasn’t teaching us how to enable our oppressors, but how to defeat them. It will take all of our skills together in order to survive what comes next, if we pay attention to what history has taught us. I believe that the time has come for witches to remember our history. Dark times require dark arts.

It's inspired me to create some artwork as well as right a new charge to inspire.  Keep an eye out for more artwork soon.  

The Charge of the New Aradia
When sense and world has parted ways,
Whenever need is great and dire
In brightest sun or moon’s dark phase
Bring forth will to light the fire.
Send down the roots, raise up your arms,
Call forth spirit, summon its charms
With wand and cauldron, stang and knife,
With cloak and horn and lore of wife
Build your wisdom and bide your time
In eyes of heart, and blood sweet wine.
In city and wood gather still
To protect and guide with our will.
Now is the time to heed the call
Witches together one and all.
In our truth, we know the power,
That our voice brings down the tower.
To banish, cleanse, bless, heal, and guide
With our secrets and sabbat ride.
It’s the hour to change the tides
For now as witches we all rise!

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Claim Your Power

I know I've been quiet over here - really got leveled by a nasty cold that wouldn't go away, then as soon as I could, I was back in the studio making artwork and finishing the first draft of my second book, Sigil Witchery.  I'll be sharing with you some insights into the artwork I made recently, but for now, I wanted to share a new colored variation of the Power Sigil.  

To read more about it, please visit this blog post - which will also get you back to the original post on the Power Sigil.  You can also read about the Power Sigil more in this blog's archives.  This version follows all of the same protocol I released on the original one - so you can save it, print it out, tattoo it, making cross-stitch of it, etc - as long as you don't use it in such a way to make money off of it. Thank you! 

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