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.
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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Be Dangerous. Make Art.

“Surely all art is the result of one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any further.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Cézanne

(This is a companion piece that I wrote the same time as the post I published yesterday over at Patheos called The Dangers of Witchcraft)

Time and time again, I find myself pondering the above quote from Rilke.  It came to mind again recently as several people have remarked to me about the importance of making art in the years to come.  I pondered it from both practical (making a living) and spiritual (making a cultural impact) contexts.  

To make art - in a historical/evolutionary context - was a dangerous thing.  Think about it -when you focus on creating something that isn't specifically devoted to food or shelter, it's taking a risk.  Yet, it's an investment in fully living, an opportunity to enhance and transcend our experience, to connect with the divine and the Other.  It was a struggle for our ancestors - yet it was the creation of art that advanced us forward as a species. Today, surviving may not seem so balanced on a razor's edge, but there's still risks in making art. 

Art is the expression of the soul, the exploration and manifestation of intent. It not only suggests the vulnerability of the maker, it magnifies the whole of society - its best attributes, as well as its worst.  The latter is especially disconcerting to the comfortable, the entitled, and those seeking to control.  Art is fine, as long as it's on their side, promoting their ideals, matching their proverbial couches. 

A struggle against the making of art may not have seemed so apparent in modern society, but the evidence has been slowing creeping in for decades.  A little story for you to explain:

I didn't have any issues with sports until my teens. That's when it was starting to become apparent that schools were cutting back on the arts.  There was often the explanation that it was for saving money, but suddenly the sports programs would see new equipment, more investments in stadiums and so forth.  Yes, sports are great for keeping folks active and team-building, but there's also an undercurrent of herd mentality.  Be part of the crowd, support the team, have school spirit.  You could perhaps argue that maybe the arts don't benefit a school in the same way - but there are plenty of noteworthy competitions and events that involve the arts, and band, orchestra, dance, theater, literary magazines and newspapers all involve working in team structures. The arts also encourage critical thinking, valuing individuals for their diverse talents, and giving young people creative outlets to express and discover themselves. 


So I don't think it's a coincidence that soon after we began to see the cuts to art departments in schools, we were rocked by Columbine and similar tragedies.  We've continued to see a disturbing rise in school/mass shootings, to a point where it's become so much more common over the years, that it's become practically "normal."  There are so many different reasons cited for the why and how, but not many correlate the lack of funding for the arts with mental and social well-being. Take away the arts and you cut off the stimulation of creative thinking, self-healing, and the access to reasonable outlets to channel expression through. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_psychicpower-web.jpgThere's an illusion that art is elitist, that it's for the genteel and the high-end (an effort to take it out of the hands of all people), but art has always been a process for and by all. It is a product of and by the dangerous, of those who see differently, those who wish or need to make their voice heard.  When art has not rested peacefully on a wall, it has been banned, shunned, and ridiculed - until its message is absorbed.  Every major movement in art has gone through the eye of the needle before finding acceptance and understanding. 

The truth at the essence of the concept of the "starving artist" is not a romance about a person unfit to make a "proper living" - but someone with a vision strong enough that they reject being silenced and risk being comfortable to see it through. 

So many cultures have plundered and destroyed art that has come before them - as a means to silence history, to rewrite and change the narrative.  From Nazis destroying the work (and lives) of European artists of the late 1930's-40's to fundamentalists destroying ancient artifacts in the Middle East and China imprisoning their artists who dare to speak out through their work. Whether it's through violence or a slow stealthy strangle, art has been attacked because it has been seen as dangerous. 

All because art is the result of focused intent. Intent is the root of magick. Art is magick, and art is dangerous. Art can change our viewpoint and that of the world. Don't forget that, and for the love of all things human and divine, don't stop making art. 

(painting: "Spellcraft - Psychic Power - by the author)

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A Power Sigil

I initially published this post over at my Patheos Blog this morning, but I feel it's quite relevant to share here as well, as it's about sigilcraft - and finding our own power. 

This morning, as I put inked brush to paper, my hand trembled.  I’ve been using brushes for over 35 years, and I can’t remember a time when my hand shook like this, from the emotions welling within.  I could have probably used a Micron pen to offset it, but my gut said ink and brush.

So much is at stake, at risk, and in danger – yet these are the times we were made for.  I seek to exchange my tears of fear and dread – for those of determination, spawn by the winds of revolution.  I have put brush to paper, intent into action by crafting a sigil for all of you who need protection and guidance against the impending storm.  To summon its power and remind you of your own. To be a beacon to get us to time of the Star, navigating safely through the time of the Tower.

Description of the Power Sigil and the meaning of its parts:
The largest part of the form is a 5-pointed star, representing protection and the elements that make us up: earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. Within that star is a second star, another layer of protection and a balance of conflicting identities, shining against the dark and the unknown.  Within that star is an open circle representing an egg, a seed of truth, the eye of calm within, potential.  Extending out from each arm of the larger star are tripled-barbed arrows.  They guide our energy outward, reaching while protecting, their points finding purchase in what they pierce. Flanking each internal chevron of the star is a crescent moon – its horns protecting the vulnerable areas, while also representing the waxing and waning of the moon, of ideas, of waves.  There is one for each of the next 4 years, with a 5th to mark the rising of a new era of hope and change.  Behind each is a black dot – a point of origin or destination, a new moon’s energy of facing fears and banishing the dark within and without.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Kim
    Kim says #
    Thank you for sharing this sigil with us. I am curious about the variable shading between the smaller (inside) pentacle and the la
  • Laura Tempest Zakroff
    Laura Tempest Zakroff says #
    Hi Kim! The art you see here is a scan of the original drawing, which does indeed have a wash of grey inside that varies just a b
  • monica
    monica says #
    would it be ok to make some for my family. I would like to have my kids that are in military bases to keep them safe since they kn
  • Laura Tempest Zakroff
    Laura Tempest Zakroff says #
    Hi Monica! Yes of course! As long as it's not being reproduced for sale/profit without my permission, you can use it as you like.
  • michael Kennedy
    michael Kennedy says #
    I love the symbol design the only thing that I would have done differently would be to make the center circle the ying yang symbol

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Where Does The Magick Happen?

"If we focus more on the end result - the product - more than we do on the process, we teach ourselves and others how to consume instead of how to create."  (Quote by me.)

I may have woken up with a tad bit of a ritual hangover this morning.  But that didn't stop my brain from diving down a fascinating rabbit hole thanks to a facebook post from Byron about art and witchery. 

We often look at art in terms of being an end result, without much thought to the process.  I'm not only talking about visual art here, but all of the arts: dance, music, writing, theater, etc.  The end result rarely speaks of all of the hours of work, training, editing, practicing, derailed personal lives, lack of sleep, cuts, bruises, sweat, blood, and a whole slew of other things that really aren't slick, sexy, or appealing in general.  Yet the result is often something of beauty - profound, moving, emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually compelling.  Unless you're involved in that art yourself, it's hard to fathom or understand everything that went into it.  Which is another reason why art is so often devalued in our society - that it's merely entertainment, dressing, something easy and amusing, full of pleasure and indulgence. 

Yet, it's also not just some combination of elements that make it into art.  Just because you have a canvas, some paint, a brush, and some time does not mean you will have a great painting at the end of it.  You'll have a painting in the basic sense of the word, but that doesn't mean it's art. Nor does a beautiful work of art mean that lollypops, cupcakes, birds singing, and sunshine were the stuff that made that piece happen. Inversely, a dark and painful appearing work of art doesn't mean that blood, tears, and thorns were involved in the making of it. Really, unless you were there, you can't know or say, you only have your own personal experience with the end result to base your opinion upon.  Which leads us to, when we add in the concept of "beauty is in the eye of beholder" and the lines between real and fantasy, experience and validity become very wispy indeed.  

Regardless of the end result, a skilled artist calls upon their experience throughout the process of making, transforming and changing materials through focus and intent. 

Similarly, a lot of folks look at spellcraft by the results without understanding the process.  They see the results, and they see a list of ingredients, and assume that's all that is needed.  But the experienced practitioner knows that it's the will that transforms and causes change in recognition of the elements and materials. It's the application of will and focus in the process.  You can follow the motions (burning a candle, digging a root, inserting of thorns, etc), but without the understanding and focus, they're often just actions that fall flat. 

Ask any artist where the magick happens, and they'll most likely tell you it's in the making of the art.  The need and desire to create comes from the actual process.  While the ego may be pleased by the end product of the process - and yes, it's definitely the thing that everyone else responds to -  it's the art-making itself that satisfies the spirit.

Though I certainly hope that for my own work, the ordeal and experience of the process is something that the end viewer gets a glimpse of. Not so much a look at my personal process, but perhaps that it speaks to their own experiences and processes.

In the end, it's not the telling of the process nor displaying of the art or spellcrafting that makes the magick, but the actual doing of it. 



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The Magick of Value

Do you truly value your work? 

This weekend I gave a lecture at 2nd Star Festival in Florence, OR.  Originally the idea was to give my "Visual Alchemy" lecture, which looks at the history and intersection of art and magick - but at the festival itself, there wasn't much description for attendees to read besides  the time and "Tempest, artist/dancer", so I decided to go off the rails a bit, and hope no one complained that I wasn't dancing as I lectured.  

2nd Star is a neat fledgling festival that is a cross-section of steampunk, fairies, pirates, mermaids, and other sorts of myth/creative folk - a little of everything fantasy. Just before I took the stage, the previous lecturer Josh Kinsey was answering a question about the title/use of the word maker.  I think that seeded the field a bit for the direction I went.

I started off with my basic introduction of defining art and magick, showing some slides of various kinds of art from early civilizations. Then I talked about art that is temporary - such as sand paintings, and art that is long-lived (temples, henges, etc), yet they are linked by intent and both equally important. And then I talked (ranted) about the value of art in today's society.  

Unfortunately, the vast majority of today's society does not recognize the importance and inherent value of art.  Art is more than something that matches your couch and looks nice, or is tucked away in a museum.  It's essential for human expression and well-being.  It defines and advances civilizations, building cultures.  It bridges the gap between different people and finds a common soul. It connects us and teaches us. 

When you, as a maker/creator/artisan/artist/master of the ephemeral exist in a society that doesn't understand the value of art, you're most likely going to have a hard time valuing your work.  When the artist doesn't value their work, then the society doesn't see value in the work or the worker for that matter. It's a vicious ouroboros.  
So in my rant--err--lecture, I challenged the folks present to reconsider art as something that is integral to their lives, and especially to the creators present - to re-evaluate how they see their work.  If you value your own work, then others in turn will start to see the value in it.  It should be priced with respect to the quality of the work, the materials, the amount of time, and true market value - versus what you think others (especially yourself, your friends, etc) may pay for it.  Nor does it matter if it's what you do for a living or as a hobby on the side, the effort and the result is the same. 

Just the simple act of believing and acting on the sense of value of your work causes a shift - in yourself, as well as those who interact with your work.  If you define magick as the art of changing consciousness in accordance with will - then valuing your work is also a form of magick.  You see value in your work, your work will be empowered, and others will respond to that shift in value, and see it for themselves.

Success in the arts is never overnight.  It doesn't come through one perfect connection, but rather years of hard work and dedication.  However, that sparkle of success rarely comes without belief in one's work, and a dedication to value.  Go forth and do some magick. 





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