Watercolor and the Art of Life

People think watercolor is difficult.

“You can’t control it,” they say.

And, “It’s so unforgiving!”

“You just need to learn its secrets,” I tell them. “When you do, your watercolors will take wing all on their own.”

Goshawk watercolor painting
“Goshawk in flight,” watercolor sketch 11″x 11″. Click on the bird to read about its symbolic meaning!

Here are the secrets of watercolor:

1. You don’t paint with watercolor. You set it up for success. You create the framework. Then, all you have to do is encourage the water to follow the framework. The water does the painting for you.

2. Watercolor isn’t unforgiving. You can lift it, scrub it, paint over it. Or just turn over a new leaf of paper and start over. The only thing that’s not forgiving is our rigid vision of perfection.

Doesn’t it sound a lot like life?

Did you enjoy this post? Anne

Spirit animal painting: Buffalo and Crows

Here’s my latest! (If you’d like to know its messages as I received them, see below.)

Buffalo and crows
Spirit Painting: Buffalo and Crows – Mixed water media on paper, 28″x22″

The Buffalo (actually the American Bison) is a sacred symbol amongst Native Americans. I don’t pretend to know much about Native American spirituality, but I can certainly see why the Buffalo is considered sacred in this tradition. It has incredible strength, solidity, and presence. Here are some of the qualities associated with this majestic beast:

  • Strength
  • Abundance
  • Prosperity
  • Stability
  • Gratitude

(If you are of Native ancestry and/or familiar with this tradition please feel free to add to or correct this list.)

This Buffalo confronts us head-on. It doesn’t seem aggressive, but you can’t ignore its assertive presence. Perhaps it is challenging us to face our fears and live up to our dreams. This is primarily a Yellow buffalo, with hints of Red. Yellow brings to mind the 3rd chakra, or Power Center, and Red is the color of the 1st, or Root chakra. These are both warm colors, contrasting sharply with the wintery landscape. This creature is grounded, powerful, and very much alive.

Although it is still at the moment, the Buffalo’s Breath is visible, jetting forcefully from its nostrils. Breath represents Life and Spirit. It evokes all 4 elements: it is made up of water and air, emanates from the physical body (earth), and contains the heat (fire) that living things generate and carry within them. The breath coming out could represent creative energy, or one’s life force in action.

This Buffalo’s environment is significant. You can see the roundness of the earth in the exaggerated horizon. In fact, the earth seems rather small compared to the size of the animal. To me this is an indication of how significant one’s presence and actions on the earth really are. (You are more powerful than you know!) It is winter, which is a time of rest between cycles. A large animal like the buffalo must eat a lot; because food is scarce in winter it must rely on fat stores from summer to carry it through. Therefore it must trust that when the snows come and the earth chills and darkens, this is a temporary condition and a part of the natural cycle. The Buffalo knows that Spring will come again, and does not panic!

A row of Trees rings the horizon. Trees connect heaven and earth, and are highly spiritual beings. These trees are bare and dormant, but the ghostly flower pattern showing in the snow indicates that under the frigid ice life stirs, ready to spring forth in abundance with the first warm breaths of Spring.

This pending event is hinted at by the wintery Sun in the painting. It struggles to break through the clouds with a cold, watery light, but as the days grow longer it will gain in strength and warmth, providing the energy to nourish all life on Earth through another yearly cycle.

Is this Sun rising or setting? It could be either, representing either new beginnings or the end of a phase or cycle. (Remember, though, that in every ending lies the seed of a new beginning.) The lighting and shadows reveal no set direction, allowing for whatever interpretation feels right at the moment. The buffalo, too, sometimes appears red, sometimes yellow. Either way, it indicates a period of transition, or a pause between periods of growth – underscoring the theme of winter. If you would like to meditate on this image to help you through a transitional period, you might want to imagine it as a setting sun at first, and change to a rising sun as you begin to feel your energies rise again.

Finally, a mob of seven Crows accompanies this Bison. The number Seven is, of course, regarded as having great significance in any number of traditions. It’s frequently associated with magic and spiritual awareness, along with the ability to manifest results in our lives. (Seven black birds appear in another painting of mine as well, an art reading for the daughter of a friend. You can view and read about it here.)

Many traditions associate Crows with magic, sometimes black magic. While Crows are certainly Black, I don’t feel them to be a bad omen. Rather, their color signifies a deeply Feminine energy and access to the unseen spiritual world. Crows have wonderful, strong (some say harsh, but I think they’re beautiful!) voices that carry a long way, and they are great at warning each other of approaching danger. They are a reminder to listen to and heed the warnings of one’s intuition.

Crows are, in many traditions, a Trickster animal. They are also opportunists, and great at not just surviving but adapting and thriving – which is why you are just as likely to meet up with a Crow in the city as in deep wilderness. These particular crows appear a little impish, irreverently perching on and around the majestic Buffalo. They tell us it’s ok to have fun and be bold when pursuing our dreams and goals.

The fun thing about symbols is that they mean different things to different people. I’m always interested to hear what other people take away from the images I create. What does this painting say to you?

Did you enjoy this post? Anne

Guidepost and Growing Pain(ting)s

he thing is, it’s the less-than-perfect days that make the perfect ones possible.

Like all the days you spend going to work and earning a paycheck. Not memorable, but they pave the way for a whole week or two of wonderful vacation experiences.

Or the day you spend cleaning and cooking to make your FABULOUS holiday party a go.

Paintings can do that, too.

Did you enjoy this post? Anne

Rainbow wolf paintingYou know how some days are masterpieces? Days you remember for the rest of your life?

And other days fall short of masterpiece status, but they’re still “keepers.” The kind of day you wouldn’t mind every day being like.

But most days don’t quite make it to that level. They’re decent, but you probably won’t remember them in a month unless somebody reminds you.

And of course we all have days we wish we could do over.

The thing is, it’s the less-than-perfect days that make the perfect ones possible. 

Like all the days you spend going to work and earning a paycheck. Not memorable, but they pave the way for a whole week or two of wonderful vacation experiences.

Or the day you spend cleaning and cooking to make your FABULOUS holiday party a go.

Paintings can do that, too. 

I call them “guidepost paintings.”

Or, when they’re the kind you end up painting over, “growing pain(ting)s.”

I think this one I painted yesterday qualifies as a guidepost.

Overall, it’s OK. I like some of what’s going on with the watercolor. And I think I managed to capture the “wolf stare” I was after.

Honestly, though, I wouldn’t feature it in my portfolio.

BUT…

Now that I’m done with it, and looking at it critically, it’s tickling something deep down in my brain.

Maybe it’s the title, that came to me as I painted: “Rainbow Wolf.”

Think I’ll take that idea and run with it.

If I’m lucky, maybe it’ll lead to some keepers!

What “guidepost” experiences have you had in your life recently? Where do you think they will take you?

Coming soon: my 36-page guidebook to connecting with your totem animals! Reserve your copy here.

Did you enjoy this post? Anne

Bears!

My dad seems to have bear energy. I’m staying at his house for a few days and keep wanting to paint bears.

Here is the first one.

Bear painting 1
“Bear 1″, original watercolor painting, 7″x10”

Here is the second. (I like the first one better.)

Bear painting in watercolor
“Bear 2″, original watercolor painting, 7″x10”

I used a very limited primary color palette for these, and did most of my color mixing on the paper.

I have started a third, of a sow bear with cubs. It’s still in progress, but will post when done!

Did you enjoy this post? Anne

My new art website

So pleased to announce that my new art website is now live! Check it out, and if you have any suggestions for improvement I’m all ears!

Anne Michelsen artist website screenshot

So pleased to announce that my new art website is now live!

I’m using Managed Artworks, a web developer that creates sites for artists and galleries. I couldn’t be more pleased with their service and product! My site is a work in progress (aren’t they all?) :-), but they are a pleasure to work with and have thought of everything an artist might need!

Check it out, and if you have any suggestions for improvement I’m all ears!