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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Making Dark Art

"I really like your artwork - it's beautiful and powerful.  But it's too dark for me to hang in my home." These words came from a middle-aged woman (my guess), standing in front of my table at a recent art show.  While most of the other attendees were in some form of fandom or cosplay attire, she was in regular clothes - well put-together, conservative yet confident, reminiscent of my mother in style.  

Though none of that really matters, it was just a quick observation on my part while trying to come up with a response.

At the moment, she was directly in front of my 2018 Witch Essence calendar - which has the painting I've included with this blog post on the cover. Most of that series is monochromatic in nature - heavily black, grey, and white, with just small touches of color.  So the first thing my brain managed to latch on to word-wise was, "Well, I do have more colorful pieces...." as I gestured over to the nearby print bin and the brightly colored shrine prints behind me. I start to flip over to the vibrant "Witch Heart" pieces. 

"No, that's not what I meant..." she said. 

We look down at the piece I stopped at, "The Wild Within" - which shows a woman with an exposed rib cage, as her chest splits open to reveal her heart pulsing within a forest, leaves and things sprouting from it.  It's very colorful.

I respond, "Yes, I understand" as other pieces flip by.  "I guess all of my artwork is dark." I'm contemplating that as I look at it. 

She gushes,"I don't mean it as a criticism - I really think your work is amazing. There's more to it than..." her eyes flash to my neighbors' displays.  "Than what you typically see. I just....can't hang it in my home."

We look at each other for a moment and nod.  I tell her thank you, and she hurries off, my card tucked in her hand.

I know she didn't mean that it wouldn't match her couch or curtains. The art didn't fit into her lifestyle, into the roles she plays at home and with family.  It was something she couldn't explain to others. 

It's been a few weeks, and that conversation still keeps popping up in my head. What it meant for her, what it said about my work, what makes my art different perhaps.  What attracts and repels people when it comes to art. 

My art isn't pretty art. The kind of beautiful art that creates an attractive image and a wisp of emotion that feels safely contained.  They're often technically amazing, visually stunning, and to me - silent. They give you a nice feeling, even if they portray matters of death and decay, of surreal situations.  They seem safely ensconced in a dream world that isn't about to collide with ours.

I can't make art like that. There's too much reality lurking with them.  The pictures of gods and goddesses aren't faraway myths, they're right there at your front door, at your kitchen table, in your bed. They're beautiful, they are technically proficient, but they're never quiet.  My myths don't stay safely in books. 

My paintings are like bees, humming constantly, pollinating the mind, coating the soul with honey - and occasionally they sting. No matter how bright and colorful they are, underneath there's a layer of ink: of darkness that reminds us about birth and death, of nature and hidden unknown things. 

It's not always an easy thing to accept.  In art school, they would preach to you about being unique, while at the same time enforcing following the trend, the popular, the safe.  There's a current that would be so easy to just flow into.  To just float along the surface and make pretty art.

But my brushes pull from murky waters, bristles coated like the hair of the Rusalka. The wooden panels might as well be pieces of Yggdrasil, carved with runes that are ever-changing.  My paints are colored from the blood of myths, living and flowing.

So, I guess in the end, I make art that is dark.  Good thing I'm not afraid of the dark. 

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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.


  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Friday, 29 December 2017

    I wouldn't really call your artwork "dark" (although I'm happy you are willing to own that.) More like fantastic, astonishing, and a revelation. Just my nickel, your mileage may vary.

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