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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Designing With The Divine

Sometimes when I make art, I take on the role of psychopomp - creating art for the dying and deceased, as well as those left behind: a death mask for a dying man, a painted mailbox for a gravesite for a young teen, portraits of beloved pets who have left this world. 

Sometimes my art leads me to the path of the Oracle, creating work for clients to help clear their paths that starts with a Tarot reading and ends with a painting or talisman: finding or defining a vocation, marking a new beginning, or helping to find resolution in the past so that new work can begin.  

Sometimes when I am making art, I am the Witch and Conjurer. I pull from my own inner visions to create images and unravel myths.  I can simultaneously make works for myself, for everyone, for anyone, and for no one at all, weaving the materials into spells and stories.  There is all of the meaning to be unlocked - or none at all, seen and unseen. Much of my work tends to fall into this category. 

And sometimes when I make art, I am the Priest and Priestess. The process goes beyond communing with the media, materials, and inklings of visions, and becomes a conversation with Someone Else. You can call it Spirit, God, Goddess, the Mighty Dead, the Ancestors, but those are just labels that help us grasp Them. I have worked with Many over the years - pretty much from every path that you can think of.  Sometimes it is for a client, who has been called to have a certain piece (or pieces) of artwork on their altar by their Patron/Matron.  Other times, I'll be working on a concept and it will have the effect of calling in Someone new (or old).  

It's rather interesting to interact with Those beyond my own traditions and background.  Perhaps it's because my cultural background is so diverse, or perhaps They just don't care what blood flows through my veins, because it's the art they are interested in.  Can't say that I blame them, though it sure does throw some of Their people off on occasion - who I suppose think that one must be privy to certain mysteries, rites, or believe in specific myths to connect with Them.  Nope, apparently that doesn't matter if you're an artist that interests Them!

Whatever the rhyme or reason (or lack there of), creating a piece of work inspired by (or for) a specific Deity can be quite the interesting challenge.  Just as it's true with regular old graphic design, where some clients know exactly what they want and how to express that clearly, others have specific ideas but fail at communication (can you make it POP?), and then there's that have no idea what they want, but they'll know it when they see it. Some pieces flow very easily and quickly, and others can be a struggle, going through many stages until it's just right.  Some are repeat "clients", coming back and back again (their version of the Divine Selfie?), and others are a one time deal.  But each experience is a little bit different.

How does it work? Well, it would be quite romantic for me to say that I cast a magick circle, complete with specific herbs, oils, and incense - after ritually cleansing, preparing and dressing for the process. But I'm not that kind of Witch.  (Perhaps I should start referring to the various pairs of charcoal jeans I wear in the studio as "thy sacred ritual attire of artistic communing." Though if I think about it, I don't even want the folks at the Post Office to see me in those jeans, let alone the Divine.)  But Art is messy, and They really aren't interested in my bathing, grooming habits, or attire. And my studio is already my sacred space....that I make a terrific mess out of quite regularly.  I clean it for my own sanity, and so that I can find the cats in it.  Where I am, and where my tools are - that's the temple, and that's the start of the process.

So there's no magickal process of how I get down to conversing with the Divine about art. Rather, I have over three decades of art-making experience, and so there's a natural-altered state I am likely to enter when I start to work on a piece.  It's the pattern, process, and object-recognition that evokes trance - not unlike other elements that are used in formal ritual to obtain certain states.  I suppose I could go all out (and I certainly wouldn't dissuade anyone else from doing so if they were inclined), but it would be different from my usual art-making habit. 

Typically, though not always, working the Divine (whether for a client's needs, or by Divine Prodding) involves doing some research, including reading up on myths, pulling imagery and doing some light sketches.  Then the final base is chosen (paper, wood, canvas, metal, etc), and the work begins. There is a distinct "otherly" pull when creating these works then other pieces.  For my general work, I may have music or more preferably the radio or podcast on, and there's very little "talking" in my head.  In fact, when I go back to scan and digitally "clean" my regular work, I can often recall what story I was literally hearing while I worked on that piece. But for Divine pieces, there is a distinct conversation happening, concerning line, energy, color, etc, and I can't recall what was on the radio or playing on the computer. I will be more aggressive about changes and getting certain expressions just right - which doesn't seem to be as big a deal with other work.  Some deities are very demanding, and it takes several rounds to get a piece to be finalized so that everyone involved (well, me and Them) are happy. Some pieces happening amazingly fast, done so quickly, it's astounding.

I'll share with you one funny story from about 17 years ago (which should give you an idea how long I've been aware of this relationship). For about the length of two weeks, I had been working on a fairly large, very layered painting that merged Greenman and Horned God concepts. As I looked at it, wondering if it was done or not, I suddenly remembered the strange dream I had the night before - where Billy Idol was the Horned God.  Laughing, I turned away from the painting and walked towards the window where my clock radio was, which had shut itself off via the timer about an hour or more ago. I turned the radio back on, and starting to play right then and there was Billy Idol's "White Wedding."  I considered the painting done.

I wouldn't be surprised if other artists have had similar experiences when creating images that speak of/with certain deities, though I would also say that not every image of a god is divinely-inspired either.  Though what truly matters in the end is, does the work speak to you? 

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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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