When the phone in my little magical shop rang on that chilly day in February of 2004, I figured it was someone asking for directions or looking for a certain hard to find item or book. But the voice on the other end said, "Hi, this is Raven Grimassi." Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. I had worked with him on art for a couple of covers for his Raven's Call magazine several years before, but it was all done via email. I had never had the pleasure of speaking with him, but knew him from his emails to be a very nice man and had enjoyed working with him in the past.
Raven told me that he had gotten my number from mutual friend Ellen Dugan. He then revealed that he and Stephanie Taylor had a project on which they were working, a divination deck with many other uses as well, something unique that had never been done before. The more he spoke about the project the more intriguing it became...and then he told me they needed an artist. Well, how could I refuse?!
Our work together had begun. After a slow start coming up with color schemes and the overall look of the deck, we fell into our groove. Because they were in California and I in Missouri, we would converse over the phone. Raven, Stephanie and I would discuss the ideas they had for several cards at a time. They would talk about how the card should look and the symbolism they wanted to include, and so forth. Working from notes taken during our phone calls, I would create a pencil sketch for each. I often enlisted family members to pose for reference photos using my digital camera. I find that this step adds life to the piece. Each sketch was scanned and emailed off to Raven and Stephanie. Then we would usually have another phone conversation discussing colors and any changes that needed to be made. This is how the spell was originally woven for each piece. At this point I began the process of creating a magical piece of art.
Sitting at my old wooden art table, and candle glowing on my inspiration altar on the wall above, the sketch was transferred onto a piece of hot press illustration board which is very smooth and takes well to the paint and pencils that I use. Next a thin layer of liquid frisket, which is similar to very watered down rubber cement, was applied to the areas on the board that I didn't want to get background paint on. I usually would cover the main figures or anything to remain white or light colored. While the frisket dried, I would gather together my magical herbs. This is a process I began using in my art years ago, and it has served me well. I selected herbs corresponding with the subject I was working on and they went into the tea ball that I use only for this purpose. I filled my old jar with hot water and let the herbs steep, creating a magically charged infusion, which would be mixed with the paint. I have found that this step helps me to unlock the door to my subject, and tap into the potential of the finished piece. Adding the element of ritual to the creation of my art has enabled me to connect on a spiritual level with the subject and channel that into the work. It also tends to squelch creative block, which is the bane of many artists, by fully opening myself up to the experience of creating. I found my magical artistic self and brought her to the surface as the frisket dried, and the infusion cooled.
With a medium-sized brush I began mixing the paint on my palate with the infusion as though ingredients in a cauldron just waiting to become something else. I worked the color onto the board as the magical herbal infusion permeated the new piece of art, adding its vibrations and my intentions. I worked the mixture until I was pleased with the background. The thin wash of color dried quickly, but it was always difficult to wait as it dried. Now that it was dry, a little fun. Rubbing and peeling the frisket off is always a magical experience, exposing the white board beneath is like a gift, and my fingers are always itching to put my pencils to work. I began working with Berol Prismacolor colored pencils 20 years ago and have built up many techniques for using them through the years. These aren't those old pencils we used to color maps in social studies! Prismacolors pencils colors are vivid and widely varied, and the slightly waxy consistency of the pencil is great for blending. I love the control and the amount detail that can be achieved using them. In them, I have over sixty magic wands in an array of colors. I use them to direct my thoughts and imagination on to the board!
When I started working with the colored pencils, I would usually work on the shadows first, I began doing this for artistic reasons, later realizing that in magical tradition, darkness comes before light, and all is born from darkness. I allowed my experience as an artist, and the magic spell of the herbs and my tools guide my hand as I work. I layered color on top of color, blending as I went, as all things in life and magick are comprised of many layers, subtleties, colors creating new colors and textures. This is the magical step of manifesting the finished work. I had to visualize how I wanted it to look and then make that happen upon the illustration board. Sometimes I would get lost in the work, not always, but sometimes. There are a few pieces that I look back on, and I really don't remember the process, or how I got certain effects. On these occasions, the work itself finds me in a trance state, I'm not aware of things around me, and upon finishing the work, I sit back and look at it, amazed and wonder where that came from. These are the moments that I relish!
Upon completing the pencil work, I called upon my magical infusion of herbs and my cauldron of colors once again. This last step is my own invention, I have never seen this technique in any art book, and as far as I know, no one else has done it. I noticed that when using colored pencil, slight variations in the board, no matter how smooth, you get little tiny white specks of paper that show through. In order to create a vivid, smooth appearance I used an even thinner wash than I did for the background, to fill in each section of the work, color by color. Because of the pencils waxy consistency, the light wash of paint only fills in the white specks, repelling from the waxy pencil, making the subject look smooth and consistent. In a way this last step mirrors magickal grounding and centering, as I am smoothing out, filling in, reaching completion.
Now came a truly magical step. Upon the completion of each piece, I would first show it to my husband, who was usually the only one awake since I did most of the work late at night. Then I immediately would scan the finished color art, and save it on my computer. Then I would attach it to an email and send it off to Raven and Stephanie. They usually saw the finished art less than ½ hour after it was completed. After all, they had begun the spell we wove; now it was time for it to come to fruition! I usually couldn't wait, so I often called them to let them know that it was in their email. Raven and Stephanie's ritual was to open the email together. If I had finished the art too late to call them and they got the email the following morning, they would wait until both were together to open the email. I loved hearing their reactions over the phone as they first saw the finished art. They usually were amazed that the piece was so close to what they envisioned, but as we had discussed many times, the three of us went through the steps of planning, visualizing, and creating a magical process. It seemed no wonder that through our collaboration we managed to manifest the magical art of The Well Worn Path.
Mickie Mueller (Missouri) explores magic and spirituality through art and the written word. She includes magical herbal washes in her art that correspond with the subject, making every piece enchanted. She is the ...