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Into the Mind’s Eye

Part I – My inspiration for the theme

The project that I am working on right now is called Into the Mind’s Eye and it captures the brief moment before we pass through the doors to our imagination.  

Of the many art motifs in which I find inspiration, the chimerical bird-female figure has always been the closest to my heart. A Native American might say that a certain bird is my animal spirit, embodying the traits and strengths that I should be honoring most in my life.

Wherever I travel, I always admire and study the local bird species, many of which have a privileged status in my previous paintings. 

In my current painting, the swan serves as a companion not only for my painted figure, but also in my own personal journey as I delve into the history of art. The motif serves as a common link to help me discover new artists and styles in figurative art, both in past centuries and in the present.

An Old First Draft

The idea of painting a female figure among swans is not new for me. 

I had been testing various approaches for many months while working on some children’s book illustrations for the Silent Book Contest that featured the metamorphosis of a woman into a swan. The real challenge was that the book project could not contain words, with the exception of the title and possible subtitle. The narration had to be realized exclusively through the illustrations and to have narrative and stylistic coherence. The story was fully imagined by me and I loved working on it.

Unfortunately, because I found out about the competition only one month before the deadline, the time to work on the book was too limited for me to develop the theme as far as I wanted to. Fortunately, some compositions stuck to my mind, and this work – Into the Mind’s Eye – is the first and perhaps not the last painting of mine inspired by that book.  

A brief look at the process 

I learned that thoughtfully planning ahead by creating color studies beforehand is a great help in the painting process to come, so I decided to use a limited but sufficient color palette that focuses on titanium white, yellow ochre, oxide red, cadmium red and lamp black. 

The goal of these color studies was not to create a final painting, but rather to explore and test different arrangements of color. My two preliminary color studies focus almost entirely on color arrangements – testing out the chromas, the values, the hues; that is, the temperatures of the colors. 

The underpainting is made in the grisaille technique using a neutral palette in burnt umber that aims to give a first smooth unifying layer to all the elements of the composition. 

The swan as an epiphany of light

“Those who awaken never rest in one place. Like swans, they rise and leave the lake. On the air they rise and fly an invisible course. Their food is knowledge. They live on emptiness. They have seen how to break free. Who can follow them?” – Gautama Buddha 

In this painting, the swan represents for me the epiphany of light, the means that gives the possibility of transformation into something beautiful. On her wings, the descending into one’s mind’s eye, into oneself is happening. In the inner flight, the swan merges with the figure, they act as one.

I had to study how the light from each angle fell upon the swan and the pond, and to make many other light studies for each element of the composition in my art studio in order for the final painting to mirror reality.

The inner flight

“Your outer journey may contain a million steps; your inner journey only has one: the step you are taking right now.” Eckhart Tolle 

How does one delve into the mind’s eye?

As spiritual beings on a journey in the physical world, there are continuous moments in every seeker’s life when one is asked to rediscover oneself. This process of self-discovery precipitates a process of self-creation – evolution –: it is an inner journey for those seeking depth and authenticity.

The pond as a portal

“So come to the pond, or the river of your imagination, or the harbor of your longing, and put your lips to the world. And live your life.” Mary Oliver 

I am imagining the beginning of this inner journey as drifting on the calm waters of a pond: an ever-unfolding process of emotions, thoughts and visions. The small pond is like a portal, the home of mystical powers. In addition, it can represent the transition and cycle of life, death, and resurrection. In many cultures, the pond is often seen as the source of creative power, the sea of chaos, the unconscious,

The Self Portrait

Considering the pond’s reflective power, symbolizing a mirror for self-contemplation as well as a channel for revelation, I deemed that using my facial features would be suitable to suggest what I intended to communicate of my own inner state through the female character.

The forest as a sanctuary

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau

The forest is a mysterious place; a place of self-testing, but at the same time a place of self- forging; an unexplored realm holding the secrets of nature, a tremendous mystery beckoning one to explore the unknown. It is a place where life thrives and therefore so does the imagination. The forest is a natural sanctuary, a temple no less divine than any other.

Just as temples are sometimes designed to focus rays of light in a diagonal fascicle through its stained glass windows, so did I want the light to be focused when descending through the stained leaves and feathers of Nature’s temple, and to reflect back onto the sun, creating an uninterrupted column of light to suggest the path of continuous ascension. 

Sic Itur Ad Anima

As suggested by the swan’s landing posture, this ascent occurs inwardly, with the swan delving into the mind’s eye; for her, sic itur ad astra (reach for the stars) becomes sic itur ad anima (reach for the soul).

Date2020ArtistRaluca NeferuClassificationPaintingDimensions55- 70 cmShare

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