Tree of Life – how a painting is born, part 2

on the day before my trip I was a little obsessed about the Tree of Life. I was feeling a little blocked – maybe because I was so tired and my eyes were hurting and feeling heavy. but I decided to start a quick research about the subject, since my knowledge about trees of life was a bit too generic. I could realize how complex it is, though, since there are myths about trees practically in every culture of this world.

working with myths is a treacherous field. the further you go studying them, the more excited you get to see how things unfold and relate to others, mainly inside yourself. ideas start to pop out from everywhere and you end up getting lost and frustrated because it’s simply impossible to put everything in a painting. better take it easy, starting from the basics and hear your inner voice.

the Tree of Life is basically about how all the creatures’ existence is intertwined and tied to this big net called Universe. microcosm and macrocosm together, skies and earth. looking at my rough study sketch, I notice that my figures composition is a triad – Virgin, Mother and Crone? – and that their heads make an almost perfect triangle.

I add to it another one, pointed downward. the Seal of Salomon, spirit and matter, macrocosm and microcosm, as above so below. if I had planned it, it wouldn’t be so perfect.

so now you can see how crazy might be all this thing of creating art. this is why most of time I don’t despair when I feel blocked. I know that the work (?) will point out the directions by itself, and things sooner or later fall into place.

I have a problem, now. I just found out the six pointed star in the sketch when I already had the definitive penciling done. and on the board the heads are not that aligned, the symmetry of the triangle is not the same. it would be kind of crazy to reject the first work and doing another one, more “into the rules” – even why, a second similar work is never like the first one. it might be better, or worse. I don’t want to risk. I stick with the first, and accept the challenge of creating a pictorial solution that suggests, or simulates, the triangles.

another problem: the “tree trunk” is occupying more than 60% of the board area. ok, the three women are nice and all, the composition is attractive enough, but it’s a Tree of Life, and it has to have a big, luscious canopy.

the solution comes in the form of additional panels, one at the top and one at each side. I like the idea, it will look like some kind of puzzle. nice, nice. and in each panel, what about to represent one of the four elements, or the four seasons? the four seasons are a perfect symbol for the cycle of life.

I look for images of Trees of Life around the web. I find many ones with branches and limbs in the shape of spirals. I paint a lot of spirals, but I wanted something different just because spirals are a kind of cliche for trees of life, and we must run away from cliches whenever we can. but… spirals are symbols of life! they represent cycles, evolution, fertility. the spiral is one of the oldest representations of the Goddess power. Klimt probably knew very well what he was doing when he painted his famous and beautiful Tree of Life. how could I run away from that?

but I want more in each one of the panels. I want more symbols, not only birds, fishes (I love fishes in unusual places) and mammals. I am now exploring a little of Kabalah and trying to find relations between its tree and mine. I know almost nothing of Kabalah and never could take the time to study it, so now I think I’m before a good opportunity to understand it a little.

Studies for birds.

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