Illustration! Breaking through

I cannot tell you how long it’s taken me to dive into a life as an illustrator. What I mean by my ideal: to take time each and every day to draw and paint, to have projects in motion, and projects I complete. To have a vision of what’s pulling me to create and to express what I can of it each and every day. To make time to follow unexpected inspirations. Some of you may be shaking your heads — those of you who decide and do. What’s the fuss? Just do the thing!

I don’t really know why I couldn’t just do the thing, or when I did, why every picture was so precious (meaning: few and far between, and thus taking so much more space in my psyche). But one thing I’ve learned is that you have to do a lot of something to reach the place where you can let go. Making up and telling stories to children once or even twice weekly for the past eight years (sometimes even daily!) means I don’t need to spend a lot of time working up or reviewing a story. I don’t stress about it. I just do it.

And I guess I just needed to build up a critical mass of illustrations, including and especially illustrations that I complete in short amounts of time. I’m absolutely grateful to my friend and fellow artist, Anne Cotter Moses. We have been meeting most weeks (in cafes, outdoors, and via Zoom) for the past three years, sketching, painting, and completing our illustrations in 1 1/2 hours or less. I’ve learned to just let the illustration be what it is, and to allow it to surprise me.

Illustration from a photo of Lucy Bertram, c. 1900, Kittitas Tribe displayed on the ferry to Fauntleroy. I completed this one during the short ferry ride — in about 15 minutes.

But even with our weekly art dates I still wasn’t making daily time for art. I just couldn’t make myself schedule time for that, much less keep to that commitment with myself. Why not? And what would it take for me to break through my own version of a sound barrier?

One day, while writing in my journal, I engaged in a good talking with myself, pen to page. You have to know that I am a writer — at age seven I decided I’d be a writer, and at age nine I started keeping a diary (one of those Five Year Diaries), and I have been pretty much journaling nonstop since then. It’s something I do every morning as I drink my cappuccino and settle into the day. I notate dreams, wonder about things, fret, imagine, jot down interesting things I’m studying, and make occasional illustrations in the margins, either of a dream, my musings, or of the hens, deer, or the land and weather outside.

I realized that I needed what amounted to a rewiring of my neurology. I’d be writing mountains of text for the rest of my life,with few folks reading any of it, and never get down to creating what I truly longed to create at this point (basically what amount to illuminated manuscripts) unless I did something drastic. And frankly, I don’t need to write mountains of text (although I seem to be doing so right here!) — certainly not text sans art.

Right then and there, I began drawing my journal — my entries became illustrated text, and then full blown comics. I “draw it all” — attempting to render everything that springs to mind — including impressions of, say, plant energetics or even Reiki. “Mistakes” and “inadequacies” are a fantastic way to learn, and when I head into my day, having attempted to render something in my journal that didn’t quite capture what I wanted in the way that I wanted, I find myself paying more attention to things like anatomy or perspective or whatever it was that eluded my hand. But I also find that I don’t mind the imperfections in my art, just as I don’t mind them in my harp playing, storytelling, or writing. I see the life they are attempting to express.

I have more to say about my adventures in illustrating — about how I’m bringing illustrating into my herbal study (I’m enrolled now in an herbal practitioner course, yay!), and how illustrating is helping me to live my magical life in its next expression (Magical Life, v. 4.0?), and how I intend to bring illustration into my musical life too. But I’ll leave off for now with some art. Enjoy!

Three Works in Progress by Jane

Left: the beginning of an illuminated page on Italian Cypress as magical plant
Center: A glimpse of a journal page
Right: Illustrations for my forthcoming book, Paloma and Wings: an Herbal Comic

Honoring our Ancestors video: Follow the Deer

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here. Mostly I’ve posted at Foresthalls.org and ChantsandPlants.com. But this is going to change, starting with this video. If you feel yourself wrapped in the magic of our world that is nature, I hope you’ll enjoy this video!

Last year I put together an audio to celebrate the Ancestor time of year (late autumn, aka now). “Follow the Deer” honors the depth and breadth of our heritage, and this year I added some video. As beings of the earth, even the stones, plants, animals, and bio-regions in which we live are family. Illustrations, photos, narrative, and harp music are by me. This video is only two minutes long.

The Antlered Deer Goddess

I love how with each turning of the year, I discover more and more of the deep mythic heart of the world. In so much that on surface seems mundane and superficial in what I perceive as the post-modern world, are truths that are powerfully present — as if in sleep or hibernation, or awaiting the time, like King Arthur and the knights in a cave, when the people and the land have most need of them.

That time is now.

And so, in various areas of my life — and perhaps you are finding it in yours — I discover power, beauty, mischievous and awe-inspiring magic.

Here as our wheel round the sun tilts furthest toward the longest night, I am finding our world rediscovering who Santa’s flying reindeer really are.

Gift of the Antlered Deer Mother - art by Jane Valencia

Gift of the Antlered Deer Mother – art by Jane Valencia

For one thing, the antlered reindeer in winter are female. And Santa himself, in shamanic garb, may — in this lore — represent a sacred power quite different from what is portrayed today. For the mythic and ancestral truth at the heart of Santa’s flying reindeer please read this beautiful and world-opening blog post: “Doe, a Deer, A Female Reindeer: The Spirit of Mother Christmas.”

As a child, crazy about deer (still am), my favorite Christmas story was that of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. As a young adult I strode away from anything reeking to me of commercialism around the holidays. Eventually I became aware of so much majesty that moves through our dreaming at this time of year, in our participation in the circling of the year, and embodiment of earth’s energies as we tilt away and toward the sun again. As ancestral myths and sacred knowings resurface, I feel myself turning the Sun, and the Soul of the World with eyes and heart that once again know wonder and awe, and the child nature that is ready to fly with the deer in the starlit longest night sky.

As we approach the Solstice, what magic are you discovering or rediscovering from an ever-deepening heart-space?

For more Deer Magic, please visit:
An Antlered Advent – Art Contributions
Seven women present art, musings, and more about their relationships with the ancient Deer Goddess and the Deer. I am honored to be included. You’ll find photos by me there, plus a link to “The Abbots Horn Dance” — Celtic harp music by Spookytree, my duo with Deb Knodel. At that link you can listen to and, through the end of this month, download the track for free!

Finally, I finish here with an illustration. Wild Sweet Blessings to you in this Season of Light!

The Year She Grew Her Antlers - art by Jane Valencia

The Year She Grew Her Antlers – illustration by Jane Valencia