Some magic is small, like how the laugh of a baby can melt your heart regardless of your state of mind. Some magic is big, like when you run into an old friend in a city of 15 million people you are only visiting for a week. When the likelihood of something happening is way smaller then it not happening, it is called synchronicity.
The above painting started with an exploration of polarities. I experimented with a few opposing colors on the color wheel, and when nothing seemed to activate, reverted back to the simplicity of black and white. By this time I had added the textural elements as part of preparing my ground and began giving form to the textures in the light part. The shapes that you see came forth slowly making me think of magical nature spirits, like floating seeds that have a face, a body and life to them. One of the gifts of art is that things don’t have to make sense. One can entertain and express forms that don’t exist in everyday reality.
The painting evolved from the right to the left in the manner of Arabic writing, which I never learned (unlike my grandmother). She learned to write from left to right using the Latin alphabet in her adulthood, after the language reform that followed the founding of the Turkish Republic. I’ve always thought it a shame that we weren’t taught the old script, particularly because of its beauty. But I digress.
The leaves that made up the seed beings seemed to be generated by an underground Goddess that came into being with an air of certainty about who she was. Unlike her, though, I had no idea what she or the painting was about initially. However, I have been practicing art therapy long enough to know that meaning eventually reveals itself, not unlike life, sometimes right away and other times months or years later, so I wasn’t particularly bothered.
The way the meaning behind this painting arrived was uncommon in that a complete story arrived instantaneously in response to a simple question by a dear friend. She inquired about the darker middle section of the painting, teasing me to reveal what was lurking in the dark corners of my psyche. I found myself responding with excitement and a sense of urgency around what was suddenly clear to me. I proceeded to explain that the figure was the underground Goddess of Ideas and that she blew those ideas onto the leaves in the manner of breathing life into something. The Thought Seeds then make their way to the light with the push of her breath. I explained that they float around us, invisible to the eye, waiting for us to be inspired by them, or to turn them into reality.
I remember how my body felt way more clearly then the actual words I used; it was one of those rarer adult moments of pure bliss that children seem to tap into on a daily basis. I was not only excited about the knowing in my mind, but also filled with a sense of happiness that comes from being fully in the moment, connected to knowing (insight/wisdom).
A few days later I was retelling the story to another friend who matter of factly asked if I had read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. I think she suspected that I surely must have since she talked about how inspiration works, describing with amazing similarity what my painting revealed. Gilbert doesn’t talk about an underground Goddess or that inspiration looks like thought seeds, but about how ideas come into being.
I bought the book the very same day, swallowed it whole, and talked about it to everyone I knew for at least two weeks straight. When I come upon something that is a new discovery and seems like it could be helpful to others I cannot help but spread the news. At least two of my clients who were stuck in their creative journeys found the book useful.
Gilbert talks about her beliefs about how creativity works, that it is inherently not human in its origins, that it is in fact, a force of enchantment:
So, how is it that what Gilbert wrote about in her Big Magic showed up in my painting without it being in my consciousness? Even before I finished writing the question, the awareness that once again I’m engaging in the futile attempt to explain mystery struck me! I know I should just smile and say, it is one of those unknowable dynamics of the deeper psyche, but my mind cannot let go of its desire to figure it out.
My best guess is that I tapped into a knowing which exists in the collective unconscious that Gilbert had written about. Or maybe, the thought seeds got offended that she wrote they had no physical body, and wanted to make their form known through my painting. Big Magic, indeed. Or maybe, there is no magic at play, it is just that there are forms we do not see, similar to colors we don’t see because we lack the cones that would make them visible to us.
So many possibilities…
Sibel Ozer is a licensed professional counselor and board-certified art therapist currently doing private practice in downtown Ann Arbor. She started her career as a clinical psychologist working with earthquake survivors in Turkey. She continued her work in the United States in hospice, hospital, and private practice settings further specializing in grief, loss, and trauma. She is a certified EMDR practitioner and a graduate of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. She gives experiential workshops nationally and in her country of origin (Turkey) on different art therapy topics. Visit www.sibelozer.com, call (303) 905-1109, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.