Art

I'm not an artist.  But I do like to paint.  It is an expression of myself in an atypical way.  This kind of expression - using a medium I'm not accustomed to (unlike music or writing) - draws on a different part of myself.  I find it therapeutic.  It often helps me crystalise something that I have experienced or heard.  It is, especially, a form of spiritual expression.

Note that the main images range in size from 500K to 800K.

If you have enjoyed my work, I'd love to hear from you - contact me.

 

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“Flight” (7 October 2003)

I made this painting during a Mandala Workshop while attending the Joint Universities Committee Conference at UNISA.  I attended this workshop in an attempt to do something for myself – to nurture myself.  Through a visualisation exercise that the facilitator ran, I encountered a number of images, including an image of the Christ.  I painted the mandala in acrylics in an hour or so, in a group.  I incorporated a quaternity in the circle – the circle quartered. 

  • The top left quadrant reflects cool intellect (the blue), my love for words and language (the letters that are reminiscent of flying birds) and music (the black and white border indicative of a keyboard).

  • The lower left quadrant has a wing – a bird, perhaps a dove or an angel, with the colour green and yellow to represent life.

  • The lower right quadrant is near-black – I was aiming for midnight blue.  The white dots are eyes, I think, and I think these represent people in my life.  At the time I was unclear what this meant.

  • The top right quadrant reflects life, hope, and joy.  The colours break out of the mandala into the larger world.

  • The centre of the mandala is dark and contains a purple-on-black uroboros.  The very centre of the mandala contains a speck of gold, reflecting some light, albeit very little, in the very core of the mandala.

Behind the mandala is a representation of the Christ that I saw during the visualisation preceding the painting.  I didn’t want the other members of the group to see the image – it felt very personal and precious.  I sketched it in with pencil when preparing the mandala, but then painted over it, except for the bottom of the robe, which can be seen at the bottom centre of the mandala in cream-to-grey colours.

I was very deliberate in attempt to not use flat colours in the mandala – and so colours are mixed and blended throughout.  I think this was to represent the lack of stability and absolutes in my psyche.

After painting the mandala, especially the next day, I experienced a profound sense of calm, peace and well-being.  It convinced me that I needed to paint mandalas more often.

 

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“Novus” (11 October 2003)

My second mandala, the first I made at home, is also made with acrylics.  I did it over a weekend.  Erin was fascinated by it and wanted to make one too, which he did.

I wanted to use the painting process as a kind of meditation and so decided on the concentric circles.  This gives it a kind of eastern feel, although this was not my direct intention.  I was trying to gather my energies towards the centre of the mandala.

The egg, of course, represents life, new beginnings and hope.  The snake, a version of the uroboros, also represents life, but in an undifferentiated, primitive, unformed way.  The star burst in the centre, in two shades of gold, has a kind of ethereal quality – particularly in the way it appears suspended in the firmament.  The star has 16 points (4x4) and so is also reflective of individuation.

 

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“Window” (21 October 2003)

I wanted to create an abstract mandala, as a meditative exercise, as with the previous mandala.  I did this one also over a weekend.  I wanted to convey the impression of a stained glass window, with cool blues from lighter in the middle to darker one the outside.  The mandala is done in acrylics, with black pen highlights in the centre.

Once, again, the mandala has a dark centre – somehow reflective of my sense of self being dark in the core – not black or evil, but dark and sombre.  I wanted the window to be kind of suspended in a frame with the sky visible through the edges – hence the pale blue surrounding the main mandala, punctuated by the pointy bits.

The frame itself is a wheel, with alternating gold and red-gold – two sets of four bands.  This was the break from the blues in the inside.  I think it was to convey a sense of the richness of the centre – red being an expensive colour and gold being inherently valuable.

I was surprised when I had finished how luminous the blues had become and how much depth had been discovered in the image.  This really contributed to my sense of this being a window.

 

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“Mundi” (3 November 2003)

This mandala took me quite a while to make – 3 November was the date of completion, but I think I started working on it on 26 October.  Part of the reason for it taking so long was that it was quite difficult and detailed.  Part of the reason was that I avoided completing it – I’m not sure why or what it means.  Perhaps the image is still too deep.

Some drawings I made in previous years while I was in therapy with Chris prompted the image.  I had made crayon drawings of a world surrounded by a uroboros.  The presence of the uroboros somehow represented a containing force.  I also replicated this drawing in the sand pit while in therapy.

I made this mandala with acrylics and pen outline for the uroboros.  I got the outline of the earth from a computer graphic.  I tried to capture the earth fairly realistically, with representations of jungle, desert, ice and sea.  I used layering, painting layers of colour to obtain what I hoped was a greater sense of depth.

The uroboros itself is jewelled.  The colours all have a gold base, mixed with various shaded of red or green.  I used a flesh-orange gel pen to outline the scales and was happy with the bright effect it gave.

I painted the frame – the first time I created a frame around the mandala – with dark blue acrylics diluted in water to give a kind of watercolour wash.  I painted three or four layers on to give a sense of depth and luminescence.  This was to represent space.  I considered putting some stars in but felt it would be too kitsch.

On completion, this mandala gave me a feeling of safety – a good experience.

 

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“Life Force” (15 November 2003)

This mandala was the first I made with coloured pencils.  It was also the first really free flowing mandala I had made at home – all the others were very structured and planned.  It took about an hour to make.  The image, however, had been mulling over in my imagination for a couple of weeks.  But because I was on course (Junior Command & Staff), I had not really found enough time to work on a painting – hence the two-week gap since completing the previous mandala.

I was inspired by a mandala I saw in a book that had swirling clouds in a night sky around a central something.  I was moved by the sense of chaotic swirling and how pregnant this was with possibilities, like the primordial soup out of which the universe emerged.

I started in the centre by creating an embryo.  I had originally conceptualised a small child or foetus, but in the end an embryo is what appeared – perhaps I just couldn’t draw a child.

I then began sketching in fragments of colour around the embryo, starting with the pale blue.  Once I got towards the orange, the fragments began to become more wedge shaped and I realised that they were in fact flowing around the central core – not just pretty shapes, but almost comets or star fragments or life fragments, swirling around – perhaps like Saturn’s rings.  There was an increased sense of movement in the picture that I hadn’t planned, but that seemed to just emerge from the paper.  (I later went back to some of the fragments I had already drawn and made them more wedge shaped too.)

I had initially planned that the fragments would be placed within a dark background, as if in space.  But once I had completed the fragments, this seemed wrong.  I don’t know what colour I was really looking for – I was quite limited by the number of pencil crayons available to me.  The fleshy, warm colour seemed appropriate to the intent of the mandala – it’s called Deep Chrome on the box.

I wanted a green border – I think to reflect some kind of life principle, algae, organic, grass, perhaps a more generic form of life.  This was also the second time I put in a border around the mandala, although it is perhaps just an extension of the mandala, having still a circular form.  It conveys a sense of location in space, despite the green, and leaves me feeling that the mandala is floating in primordial soup that is the essence of life.

Although the pencil crayons are less intense than the acrylics – and this was also my first attempt with this medium – the mandala gives me a feeling of power or force, which I found striking.

 

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“Mission” (15 March 2005)

As can be seen, there was a 16-month gap between the fifth and sixth Mandalas.  I’m not sure why – probably just busy with work and life.  Also, the Mandalas take a long time to make and this is often difficult with Erin and life.

I had recently run one my “Developing Personal Direction” courses, during which I had reformulated my personal mission statement.  My previous statement had been very long and complex.  During this workshop I found a new sense of clarity about what is important to me and what gives me greatest pleasure.

Having formulated the statement in untidy writing on a piece of paper, I felt a need to pull it into something more aesthetic, and specifically into a Mandala.

I have used the traditional forms – circle and quarters.  I kept the background colours pale and fresh – green, yellow and blue – but with depth, not flat or monotone.  The silver cross reminds me of a pendant – a quartered circle.  I almost felt as if the pendant was fitted with coloured textured glass, with a sense of translucency and light.

I created the text by printing the words in Corel Draw on a spiral and then pressing through the letters onto the paper with a stylus, then inking in the letters.  I first did the lettering, then painted, then redid the lettering.  It was difficult – the pens didn’t like working on the paint and I eventually was working almost freehand.  I’m not a calligrapher, so felt frustrated and out of my depth.

But the finished product was very satisfying and I felt that the whole reflected nicely what I felt as I meditated on my personal mission in life.

 

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“Herald” (First Half of 2005)

I did not date this painting, but I made it in the first half of 2005, sometime after I had applied for a preaching license at St Martins and before I got an affirmative reply.  The imagery was prompted by Tom Beale, who had prayed for me after church one day when I was feeling discouraged by the lack of answer and feeling unsure about God’s calling for me to preach.

Tom told me he had a vision of me as a herald, with a trumpet coming out of my mouth.  I was very struck by the image and felt it connected deeply with my sense of calling.

I came home and painted the image, as I received it in response to Tom.

Although the colours came out darker and more sombre than I intended, I wanted to convey a sense firstly of regality – that it is God’s Word that I am proclaiming – and secondly of speaking into the darkness of the world.

The figure is obviously myself, and the trumpet is part of me rather than an instrument I’m playing – hence I’m not holding it.  The rays of light come from the bell of the trumpet rather than from my mouth to indicate that as my word leaves my mouth/bell it is transfigured into God’s Word, shedding light into the world.

The picture was not entirely satisfying to me.  I cannot draw realistically and this was too much of an attempt to draw a figure.  So it didn’t quite capture what I envisaged.  Nevertheless, it is an expression of an important vision.

 

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“Into Eternity” (22 April 2006)

Again, a long break since my last Mandala.  Since my last Mandala I got permission to preach, starting in August 2005 and have preached monthly since then.  In September I began studying towards a BTh.  This has kept me very busy and I unconsciously prioritised my studies above my art.

One of my assignments for the course in spirituality was to formulate a Rule of Life.  And as I did so (in the past week), I recognised that creating Mandalas is an important part of my spirituality, in which I express my faith visually.  I am a creative person, but typically I express my creativity in music.  I am not an artist, and so to express my creative faith in painting extends my self in a different and important kind of way.  It becomes less intuitive/natural/thoughtless and more intentional/effortful/purposeful.  And this feels important to me – as if it is an important way to express myself.

Anyway, so I committed myself in my Rule to paint one Mandala a month – more realistic than the one-a-week I’d originally intended (when I first started with Mandala 2).

This one went very quickly – more messy and impressionistic than most of the others I’ve done.  I was inspired by John 1, where we meet the Word, who had always existed with the Father and through whom all things were made; who came into the world as the light of the world; Word made flesh.

Partly, the image makes me think of the light (in the centre) coming into the darkness (the perimeter), shedding light as He comes.  Partly, the image makes me think of flying through space and seeing a point of light – a star? – in the distance, and seeing it grow larger and more luminescent as I get closer.  Partly, it feels like the journey after death towards the proverbial light.

I like the messiness of the image – it feels like an unconscious image rather than a carefully crafted painting.  There is something emotional, raw and appealing about it.

 

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“Journey” (22 April 2006)

Well, this was an experiment with digital painting.  I did this in Corel PhotoPaint.  I just began to paint and a wave emerged, as if about to crash.  As the image emerged, I felt the warmth of the sun on the wave, so put in the bright yellow sky, as if the wave were crashing into the sun.

The whole evokes in me a sense of movement – a journeying in the sun/Son.

 

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“And God Said” (23 April 2006)

In Genesis 1, when “God said” order, harmony and shalom emerged out of chaos.  In the ancient world God’s providence comprised of God holding the forces of chaos at bay.  After God’s creation ex nihlo, I have the sense of God shaping chaotic raw materials into the ordered and coherent world that we know.

This image portrays this Word of God – the concentric circles reflect the gradually emerging order – starting at the outside in chaos and darkness and working inwards towards a harmonious and clean creation. 

Alternatively, the image can be viewed from centre out, with God’s Word gradually working its way into the universe, bringing order and harmony.

And yet, the chaos is not a force unto itself.  Even the chaos is bounded by God’s creative purpose and love; a ring of gold, like a wedding ring, holding the chaos at the very time as it is being brought into peace.

 

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Pentecost 2007 (27 May 2008)

Pentecost is the Sunday several weeks after Easter when the church celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in Acts chapter 2. The Spirit was said to descend like tongues of fire and settle on the heads on the disciples. The association of the Spirit with the dove comes from Jesus' baptism, which Luke (2:22) records as descending on Jesus "in bodily form like a dove."

A small group of us spend a day making a couple of hundred origami doves in white paper, which we suspended on fishing line from the ceiling of the entrance to the church. They hung at head height, so that as you walked in, the doves knocked gently against people's heads. We interspersed the doves with strips of red crepe paper to represent the fire.

After the service, parishioners were invited to take the doves as gifts of peace for those in need.

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Pentecost 2008d.jpg (750729 bytes) Pentecost 2008 (11 May 2008)

For Pentecost 2008 I arranged an art festival, in which about a dozen members of our church participated. We displayed the art around the church on Pentecost Sunday, as a celebration of the creative and life-giving character of the Holy Spirit. 

I painted my mandala on canvas, with the Ndebele borders bending over the sides of the canvas (not visible in the main photo). I used beadwork for the innter black border. The image is supposed to reflect the immanence of the Holy Spirit in Africa.

The second photo is of the church sanctuary. We decorated the front with red, the liturgical colour for Pentecost. 

The third photo is a fabric creation by a friend of mine, Fiona Langham.

The four photo is a photo, about 2.5 meters tall, of a flame, printed on a mounted canvas. It was created by another friend, Lynda Smith.

 

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“Spring” (19 September 2008)

In September 2008 I ran a masters class on the use of the Self as a therapeutic tool in psychotherapy. Part of the class entailed painting mandalas. I had not planned to paint a mandala myself, but as I led the class through the preparatory exercises, this image came to mind. The mental image me of the henna paintings that women do on their hands.

This page last updated: 21 September 2008