I am home with a bad cold today. I am reading Sidewalk Oracle by my favorite dream guide, Robert Moss. I fell asleep for a while. Images floated through my mind, but nothing stuck except when I awoke, the name or word Gaia was with me, the name for Planet Earth.
Still in that liminal state, I did a Mysterious Night Vision scribble drawing of a figure who has emerged in my drawings before. This one I called, “She Who Guides My Stars.” She floats just above the ocean waves, the full moon over her left shoulder. She is centered with a spinning wheel with stars shining between the spokes.
Both hands are on it like a ship’s wheel – also like the Wheel of Fortune in Tarot. Both of her eyes are open, looking ahead, steering the ship of my body and life, spinning out my fate, guided by celestial navigation – the moon, the stars, and the changeable tides.
Although I don’t do as much with the Tarot as I used to, those images are meaningful to me. I have worked on and off a building a Night Vision Tarot deck which I call a Dream Deck. I think this is one to add as a Wheel of Fortune, which refers to the creative cycles of life. The planet of “Wheel of Fortune” is Jupiter, the planet of opportunity, growth, success, and expansion.
The lesson of the Wheel is always that there are ups and downs in life, but in my image, the Wheel s not just running free like an unmanned Ferris wheel; the goddess has both hands on the wheel, using it to steer the ship.
It says that when I have been pushed in a new direction, I have to accept it and adapt. A good example is the cold I have right now, which is making sure I stay put and do nothing I had planned. Instead, I have been given hours to pursue new reading, new lines of thought. I have a few days to turn the compost of my mind to let the fertilizer reach those roots.
As a major arcana card, the Wheel of Fortune appears at a pivotal time in my life where new options become possible. Through all the changes, I feel the center of stability within me; my Celestial Navigator is at the helm.
She slowly cycles her way in and out of my dreams, each visit announcing a new chapter in my life. She silently enters the black screen of my night vision from stage right, confidently steering her wobbly, decrepit blue bicycle. She pauses in the spotlight and looks directly into my eyes. Time for change. She lifts her red boxing glove, signifying a fight may be in my near future. She implies that I should do no harm and draw no blood either physically or emotionally.
The Silly Woman shifts her gaze and she wheels the wobbling bike stage left. I wonder, is she silly? She looks silly. Or is she wise?
Before I could talk, even before I could walk, my young mother would scoop me up and dance with me in her arms. By 3 years old, I was her tiny dance partner. I knew all the big band sounds, the crooners and the words to the popular songs of the 1930s and 1940’s. I didn’t learn to dance – it was full immersion from birth.
The Jitterbug Dancer sketch came from a Mysterious Night Vision gel pen scribble. I did it with my eyes closed. The fun and the creativity came when I “saw” something in the scribble. I used Gelly Roll gel pens and Prismacolor colored pencils.
Our mom is now about to turn 90. She still loves Glen Miller and she still dances in place. She is my Jitterbug Dancer.
In late February 2016, Cheryl Renee Long and the hard working behind-the-scenes crew at Toucan Create! will introduce a brand new online class on how to loosen up your creativity and really explore your artistic imagination drawing with gel pen or colored pencils on black paper. This is your Mysterious Night Vision Field Journal!
GETTING READY FOR THE CLASS
Here are some tips about some supplies you might like to get you started.
TALKING ABOUT PAPER
First things first! Check out the Toucan Artists Bookstore or your local art supply store and buy yourself a black sketchbook. Size is up to you, but personally I like something small that says “field journal” to me. The one I just started is by Artagain and is 9″ x 6″. It’s pretty spendy at $29.70. If I had my way, it would be about 5 1/2″ x 5 1/5″.
If you like working on a little larger format, the Pacon Basic Black Sketch Book, 8.5″x11″ is a good choice and only costs $4.99. I have been known to buy a sketchbook this large then take it down to my local copy center, cut the pages in halves or quarters and have the resulting custom-sized sketchbook spiral bound with my own cover on it.
TALKING ABOUT GEL PENS AND COLORED PENCILS
When it comes to gel pens that glow in the darkness that is your Mysterious Night Vision Field Journal, one pen rules them all: the one, the only, the fabulous Sakura of Gelly Roll fame. Their huge line of pens glitter, glow, and pouf. Here are a couple of charts to help you better evaluate which pens do what:
Of the pens that look great on black paper, Moonlight at $6.99 for a pack of 10 is the best. I know Souffle looks good, but it is a weird, three-dimensional ink that takes a couple minutes to dry, and then if you flip another page down on top it, the poufiness crushes down into a peculiar mess. Proceed at your own risk!
When I was a little girl, I was doll crazy. I dressed my dolls obsessively, and I was lucky enough to have an Aunt Mel who loved to make doll clothes for my girls.
I sat them around the picnic table and taught them; and I became a teacher.
I invited them to tea parties and cooked for them in my doll kitchen; and I became an avid home cook and dinner party hostess.
I read to them and became a reader.
I drew with them and became an artist.
What I am now, I learned by acting on The Doll Stage.
“Am I not right to feel as if I
must stay seated, as if I must wait
before The Doll Stage, or, rather,
gaze at it so intensely that at
last an Angel
has to come and make the stuffed skins startle into life?
Angel and Doll: A real play, finally.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke
My most beloved doll was a Betsy McCall doll. I took her on our family vacation to Glacier National Park. One morning, I got her all dressed for the day’s adventure over the Going to the Sun Highway and arranged her in a little tableau under a huge old oak tree.
In the kerfluffle of departure, I forgot her until we were high on the pass, and then the parents said it was too late to go back for her. I was heartbroken. My mother, now age 89, has so many times told me one of the few regrets of her well-lived life was that they didn’t go back for Betsy.
In my memory, Betsy is still there, waiting for me. I have returned to Montana three times over the span of the ensuing five decades, and each time I have gone to that tree to look for her. At age 65, there is some inner compulsion to return again and again to the scene of the crime; the crime of abandoning a loved one to the wilderness.
Why does a doll, an inanimate object, hold such a place of psychic charge, of emotional power on The Doll Stage of my soul? She was my first loss; she went ahead of me and created the Room of Inconsolable Grief that is now always there just off stage. Betsy lives there in the good company of my father and a black dog named Fianna.
Dolls occupy a liminal space between the rational and the irrational, between form and its shadow, between daylight and dream. The psychodramas of childhood doll play became the dark well of Mystery that I draw on daily in my art, in all the details of a passionate life lived for and in art.
I return to the theme of dolls again and again in my Mysterious Night Vision Field Journal (soon to be an online class. Stay tuned by subscribing to toucancreate.com, the website for our online art classes.). I find them deeply satisfying. The dolls speak to me of my many interior worlds; they act out on The Doll Stage that is the theatrical doorway to the old growth forest of my mind.
It turns out that I am the “Angel who startles the stuffed skins into life. Angel and Doll: A real play, finally.”
Are you a doll lover, too? Some people hate dolls and find them creepy–I will write about that next time. Is there something in your life that acts as dolls do for me, as intermediary objects between daylight and the place where you do art, that waking dream?
Please share your thoughts in the comment field below, or the one at the very top of the page–between the two “The Lost Doll” titles where it says “Leave a Comment.”–I’d love to hear from you!
It is, in many ways, the opposite of ColorYourWorld. In the ColorYourWorld class, we are looking out at the world and making an artistic representation of it. When we have black paper, we have a dark blank slate. It is our interior darkness. It is the world of dream, of spontaneous creation. Here we may draw our deepest thoughts, our most ephemeral emotions, the world that lives behind our eyes. It is the well we go down to where we may draw up the water of our own personal Source Imagery.
In this dream, I am sitting with Mom at a cafe outside the Museum of Modern Art, although I have significantly and unconsciously labeled it “Musee.”
We see my dad, long since gone from this world, climbing the steps and entering the “Musee.”
That’s it, but this 2008 dream is still strong in me seven years later. You’ll notice (or maybe not) that I can’t draw. That matters not at all to me.
I am fascinated by the way the dreaming mind likes to rhyme. My parents were inseparable except by death, but even in death, dad enters the MOM-A. I think that speaks to their bond, which built the strong foundation of my life.
But the element that still engages me is the connection to me of Modern Art–and I have tried to live a life in art–and the cross meaning of “Musee,” or “muse,” that which inspires. In Greek mythology, there were nine Muses, and still today, each artist is said to have his or her own Muse or inner source of inspiration.
What I understand now about the dream is that my father’s spirit entered into the storehouse of modern art and became my Muse, an artistic spirit who still advises me. But I have to say these meanings only come to me now as I reflect on the dream so many years later.
THE DREAM MANDALA
I love the idea of drawing such elusive inner experiences inside a circle. It is a spiritual or ritual symbol representing the universe. Knowing that, my dream fills up the space of the universe for the page of the moment and reminds me to think expansively, to look not only inward but outward.