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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is reflect.

I don’t remember where I first came across the idea that everything in one’s environment is imbued with Spirit and has messages to give, but it’s a belief central to Native American and Aboriginal world views. That we are connected to everything and all of it is an aspect of our own psyche is also reflected in Carl Jung’s theory of the Collective Unconscious. All of these posit a friendly universe, not a hostile universe, where everything that is happening and speaking to us has our best interest at heart. Comforting…this idea that everything is trying to tell us, “You are loved!”

This philosophy has also influenced my approach to making art. With each drawing and painting, I try to allow (yes, I know ‘try’ and ‘allow’ are oxymorons, but bear with me) an image to develop on its own, to let it reflect what’s going on in the hinterlands of my mind and heart. The most timeless images and surprising visual connections can happen this way, and it is a most satisfying way to work.

Which brings me to this post’s painting, “Man with a Bee.” This image is very straight-forward on the face of it—simply an amusing picture. But if I look deeper with the aforementioned philosophy, the message is deeper. “Be.” Be myself, be present, be happy, ‘be’ as the goal, be here now (or Else, with that bee so close!). All good messages for the ending of one year and the start of a new one, yes?

I love this time of year, aside from the usual insanity associated with the holidays. The meeting of endings and new beginnings, the ‘turning of the wheel’ is the absolute perfect time to pause and reflect, and twenty-some years ago, I adopted a personal ritual to mark the occasion. Every year on New Year’s day, I lay out a Celtic Cross Spread to see what the upcoming year may hold. Are you familiar with a Tarot reading? A certain number of cards are drawn from a shuffled deck and each card will address a specific question or issue (the past, the future, hopes and fears, etc.). A ten-card spread gives a complete overview–a year’s worth of insight and food for thought. It takes a bit of time to read all the individual cards’ descriptions in an accompanying book and write down a synopsis for each question, but it’s time well spent. Then I pull out last year’s card reading and compare them. What cards show up in both, what are the common or divergent themes, what issues have evolved, what cards are brand-new this year? It’s always a real eye-opener and a confirmation that there is indeed a pattern unfolding in my life. An excellent ritual, so much nicer than getting plastered or running my charge card up.

If Tarot piques your interest, but you’re not ready for the full layman’s plunge, there are several online Tarot sites where one can pose a question, pick a specific Tarot deck and particular spread (single card, three card, ten-card) and receive a brief summary of the reading’s interpretation. Tarot cards of any deck are always visually intriguing and layered in significance, and artists of the past and present have outdone themselves in creating meaningful beauty. My personal favorite is Aleister Crawley’s Thoth deck, illustrated in watercolor by Lady Frieda Harris and completed in 1943. This is the deck that cultural anthropologist, Angeles Arrien, uses in her profoundly informative book, The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols. This is the book I started with and still use.

❖ However you celebrate and mark your ending and new beginning, I wish all of you a peaceful season of change and much joy and prosperity of all kinds in the New Year!

“Man with a Bee”     (watercolor, pen & ink)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Continuing with the theme paintings… This week’s Illustration Friday word is expired. “A New Life” (watercolor, pen & ink, pencil) is the first illustration for a children’s picture book that I’ve been working on intermittently. “The Journey of Mr. Tweet” begins with these words, “On the day that Mr. Tweet’s keeper disappeared, he found his cage door open…”

Is your first association with the word ‘expire’… death?? Mine was. But then I remembered that most ancient traditions see Life as a circle, and believe that “the wheel of Life turns and returns.” Therefore, what we call death will always, inevitably, be followed by a rebirth… and new life. This seems a very appropriate theme for the last day of winter and the arrival of the Spring Equinox, the official first day of Spring. In California, this season’s tradition is the changing of the clocks for Daylight Savings Time, and although this modern ‘ritual’ is commerce-inspired, it still shifts my focus from wintery inward-ness to looking outward as days warm and lengthen, and trees once again put on their green clothes. Hooray!

I will be writing more about new beginnings and the original New Year’s Day next week…

While you’re waiting, more of my work can be seen at www.susansorrellhill.com

More artist’s works inspired by the word extinct (and many other words) can be seen at Illustration Friday.

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