Saturday, May 6, 2017

Library & Garden and why everyone should have them.

"Si Hortum et Bibliotheca habes, deerit nihil"
To Varro, in Ad Familiares IX, 4

This quote from Roman philosopher and consul Cicero, has often been translated as: If you have a library and a garden, you have everything. But the literal translation would actually be: If you have a garden and a library, you'll lack nothing. In this fast age of I-phones and consumerism, think about it for a moment. What do we really need? As an artist I could easily add in an art studio as well. But why is a library and a garden so important to have these days, no matter how small they are?

Enjoying a beautiful garden in Apaneca, El Salvador.

Growing up in a  farm in Puerto Rico left a deep impression in my soul. Now that I look back, spending the days surrounded by trees, animals and such a fertile land you could throw about any seed and it would grow unattended, this was key to a fertile imagination. Not only was I blessed by my natural surroundings but also by the family book collection we had. Perhaps it wasn't the best and it was lacking some important books, it was more than enough to inspire me to read and make a habit of it from an early age. We didn't have computers or smartphones growing up in the 80's. There were other toys to play with and the huge mango tree by the house was the best playground of all. At night I always went to bed reading a children's book. Sometimes my brother or sister would read these to me. I will never forget the nights there were blackouts and all we had were candles and lamps, a perfect time to play with shadows and tell stories. At night you could see so many stars and even a UFO flying by if you were lucky. We had chicken, geese, cows, dogs and many cats but I also remember insects that have either gone extinct or rarely seen these days. 

Part of the remaining land where I grew up. Not a farm anymore, but still a place full of memories. The signs on the trees are quotes my mom wrote with her calligraphy.

Sadly that farm is now gone and replaced by an empty strip mall. They destroyed almost every beautiful thing there was in that land. But our house remains with a small lot of land I planted with many new trees nearly 14 years ago. And now I live in a big city in Texas, in a relatively small apartment with a decent balcony. I enjoy all the amenities of living in a big city but I keep my personal library. The improvised garden is still a work in progress but it'll get there. Once you move from the countryside to the city, you begin to fully appreciate  the value of certain things in life. The city has much to offer, don't get me wrong, but I can see how much of a positive impact my early upbringing surrounded by nature and books had on my creativity. And yes, I know, we can all go to a park and play, or to the public library, but its not the same. I keep a small collection of books and plants to remind me of who I am and where I come from. These things define my sensibility, my mind, my humanity.

Emblema XLII from the alchemical text Atalanta Fugiens by Michael Myers.
The Alchemist follows Nature, with his lamp (knowledge by reading) and cane (experience).

By having a small library and garden, we nurture our mind and soul. Having a digital library in the cloud or a screen saver image of a forest is no substitute for the real thing. In an age of traffic rush hour, overwhelming information technology and mindless consumerism, we need more than ever to slow down a bit. We need time to enjoy the simple things in life. Not only a garden provides a nice opportunity to be responsible and take care of beautiful living beings, it can also provide food for our bodies and souls. A garden attracts insects and other animals bringing a little piece of nature into our enclosed artificial vessels we call homes. A library on the other hand opens up a world of human ideas. Depending on our books, of course, it can define our character and the way we think of the world around us. For instance, my library is primarily composed of art books, philosophy, history, mythology and mysticism. This is one of the things I enjoy most after painting. Life is short, the Romans knew this, and Cicero was right, the best sources of inspiration in life come to us from nature and knowledge. As an artist I of course add in the art studio. The studio, home for the heart, the garden, home for the body and soul and the library, home for the mind. In our times, these are urgently needed. 

Hope you enjoyed this article. If you wish to see my artwork, please visit my new artist website at: Stay tuned for more related articles that I'll be posting once a month on this blog. Take care and as always, thank you very much for your support!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Painting Process & Tarot, A Creative Journey. Part 3

My first self-portrait in 1989

28 years ago I drew my first self-portrait and from there started to dedicate hours to drawing and painting. In just a few years I already knew this was what I wanted to do for a living. I was in high school at the time and remember not just my art studio filled with drawings but also my interest in the occult. I was still young though and when introduced to the Tarot for the first time, I did not understand the full meaning of it and kept that Tarot deck in a safe place. I already wanted to create my own deck but any attempt would have been utterly foolish and didn't give it much thought at the time. 25 years later (Last year) I went back to Puerto Rico and found that Tarot deck I had kept and forgotten for all these years. I instantly knew what had to be done. Like a divine spark lighting up in my soul, there was no question in my mind about it. Previously I've been doing  research into the Tarot and incorporating it into my work. At the present moment I'm also working on my first Tarot deck.  I've found it to be an invaluable source of inspiration with endless narrative possibilities. But I also see in the cards a way of thinking creatively, of approaching the art of painting. As we wrap things up and finish this three part series about the creative process and Tarot, let's review our journey so far. 

 My first Tarot deck from 1992

We the artists started off our adventure as The Fool, not really sure of what we are doing and where to begin. Every blank canvas is a "cero" full of hidden numbers and aesthetic potentiality.  As we embark in our journey we are first encountered by The Magician. He teaches us the importance of craftsmanship, technique and getting hands-on with our work. The High Priestess is our mystical guide who encourages us to rely on our intuition and imagination. Next we are greeted by The Empress. She inspires us with beauty and urges us to materialize it in our art. Along comes The Emperor who bestows in us a sense of responsibility and structure. For every "Great" work there should be a plan. The Pope instills in us reverence for the sacred ritual of creating. We must also have faith in our  artistic vision. Then we are liberated by the ecstatic joy of TheLovers. Art should be an act of Love free from all limitations. As we move forward to the final stage of our process, we should be reminded, this is just one of many paths we may take in our creative endeavor. There are 78 cards in the Tarot, I've just concentrated in the first 9 trumps, the period of gestation.

Pa' Florizona (2011)
 Oil on canvas, metal leaf and toy cars on wood frame 
11" x 17". Private Collection.

El Carro (2013) Oil and metal leaf on panel 24" x 44". Private Collection.

This is the hero's march towards victory. Sometimes painting can become sluggish and seem to be going nowhere. Somehow it does not advance and we feel stagnated. Along comes The Chariot with Mars/Ares, the warrior on board. He shouts at us to stay focused and drive forward. His transportation is pulled by either two horses or sphinxes. They usually represent the opposites within us but they are now under control and given a common purpose. The Chariot can only go in one direction: Forward. So we choose our priorities  and aim at the most important elements in our work. In order to get things done, we should focus on the things that stand out and become focal points. Just like the warrior's spear, we take aim at something and give it our best shot. We cannot be all over the place unless we wish to fail. Define the prime directives of your own chariot, keep your horses together and conduct them mindfully towards your main goal. We are almost at the finish line.

Allegory to Justice (2009) Oil and metal leaf on canvas 24" x 24"

Spraying Global Occupation (2011) 
Oil and metal leaf on wood tryptich 18" x 24". 
Private Collection.

With Justice we enter a period of discernment, where abstract thinking becomes imperative. Justice is the first full figure we encounter that is more symbolic than real. There is no such thing as justice but we humans imagine it and wish to believe in it. A sense of order and truth is needed to keep things in human perspective. Justice carries a sword, representing truth and valor residing in the mind. She also holds scales. Notice Justice is attributed feminine aspect. She is the judge who decides what deserves to stay and what has to go. In other words, she is the editor in chief of our work. Listen to her advice and trust your own inner judgment. Discern and decide what elements in this painting are really necessary and which can be omitted or delegated to a minor plane. Often we are too harsh and become our worse critic. Other times we become too laid back and complacent. Justice holds on to her scales to bring balance into the equation. Be just and objective with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others but rather measure your work to your own standards. Is this painting better than other paintings I've done? How does it compete with similar pieces I've already done?

Mcolonial Mendigo (2011) Oil and metal leaf on panel 11" x 24". Private Collection

Saturn (2008) Oil and metal leaf on panel 11" x 24". Private Collection

Finally The Hermit pays us a studio visit. This comes in the form of solitude and silence. There is a moment when we need to be alone and in silence in front of our nearly finished painting. This is a time for contemplation and silent dialogue with the accomplished work. The Hermit teaches us to stay away from all the distractive noise coming from the world outside us and just listen to what this new artwork has to say. This is a time to rest and put all your brushes down. The Hermit is shown as an elderly man holding a staff and lamp, as if searching for truth and hidden meaning in life. As we sit back and study the piece , he will then tell us if it's finished or not. If it isn't, we'll know and go back to work. If it is, this is then a good time to reflect on the process and study what we've accomplished so far and what it means for us in the greater scope of things. The Hermit is now a wiser Fool, having wandered through life. and art, the Hermit doesn't stop there and proceeds to his or her next creative journey. This is just the beginning...

Photo of me in my studio taken in 2016

We hope you enjoyed this archetypal exploration through the Tarot and the creative process of painting. If you wish to see more of my original artwork visit my new artist website at: Stay tuned for more related articles that will be posted on this blog on a monthly basis and as always, thank you for your support!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Painting Process & Tarot, A Creative Journey. Part 2

Hercules and the Virtues (2013) Oil ad metal leaf on panel 36" x 28" by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

We now continue this creative journey using the Tarot in our artistic process, but let's have a quick recap before we take off . Last time we explored The Magician, The High Priestess and The Empress and of course we started off with The Fool (The artist himself). With each one of these archetypes, there was a lesson to be learned and applied in our creative process. Each one of them sees the world from a different perspective enriching the ways in which we think about creativity and Art. The Magician taught us to use our hands and master our craft. The High Priestess showed us  the power of intuition and imagination. The Empress inspired us with beauty and love for what we create. As a painter I shall be referring to things that relate directly to painting but these lessons apply to any other art form as well.  Now let's continue our journey.

El Emperador  (2013) Oil and metal leaf on panel 24" x 47" Private Collection. 

Mcolonial Politician (2011) Oil and metal leaf on panel 11" x 24" by Patrick McGrath Muñiz 

4. The Emperor

As we encounter this powerful father figure archetype, we are reminded of our capacity to be in full control of our work and to think of our studio as our personal kingdom. A painting can be a territory we are about to conquer, build and govern. The Emperor is both pragmatic but ambitious and he teaches us to have a clear purpose and reach our goals with discipline, clarity and determination. In order to succeed we will need a plan, a winning strategy to expand our empire. This is the type of language we might hear from someone like him and there is much to be learned from it as an artist. For example: Our palette can be seen a the camp where we train and prepare our soldiers (paints). Who are we fighting against? Idleness, chaos and fear.  Some of you may now be thinking: "But I love chaos!". We may argue there is a difference between "ordered chaos" and chaos without purpose and meaning. The Emperor does not take part in either one as he is the capital representative of civilization as opposed to the barbaric and undisciplined . Order is the principal command and lesson here.  Once in a while we must clean our Empire (studio & also mind) and have Laws (a set of rules and daily schedule) in order to be an effective ruler/creator. This will bring structure, clarity and guide us further in our creative journey.

 St. Nick before the consumerist festivities (2008) Oil on canvas 11: x 14".
 Private Collection. by Patrick McGrath Muñiz 

Mcolonial Tele-Evangelist (2011) Oil and metal leaf on panel 12" x 24"  by Patrick McGrath Muñiz 
While The Emperor  is the supreme ruler and guiding principle of practical matters in the material world, The Pope (Also known as the Hierophant) is the supreme ruler and guiding principle of the spiritual world. He may be dogmatic and even severe but he teaches us the importance of reverence and ritual when making art. The Pope tells us that we should not obsess over the material aspects of creation. There is much more to it than that. Art is bursting with divine meaning and we should seriously consider the hidden gospel in every work of art.  It really doesn't matter what you believe in or what religion you profess. The important thing to remember here is to be clear about what you believe in, stand by it and express it in art. He encourages us as artists to become missionaries and spread the message with our art. But in order to know what your true message is, we must first prepare our soul and purify our thoughts and actions. Having a moment of prayer, meditation or silence before starting to work is advised. We can adopt a personal ritual and make of our studio a holy space for it is where the "Great Work" will be forged. We are to become a medium or bridge in which this higher truth will be channeled  through in order to create that sacred piece of art. Above all, The Pope wishes us to devote ourselves to our art with principles and faith.

Planet of the Apps (2013) Oil on canvas 36" x 36". Private Collection. by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Neo-Genesis (2015) Ink on paper 12" x 12" by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

And now we fall endlessly in love with what we do. Along came The Lovers and as we now sneak behind a tree and watch them kiss passionately and become one, we reflect on how arousing and intoxicating Love and Art can be. The sweet scent of Ambrosia and beautiful sound of wind chimes soothes our soul while we feel butterflies in our stomach and our heart is aroused. This is the kind of exciting feeling and addictive sensation The Lovers wish us to have when we make art. When we feel this way about art, everything else disappears and it is just the artist and his work. Artistic creation then becomes a true labor of love. They teach us to paint with pleasure, passion and highly concentrated in becoming one with our art. Pour your whole heart into it without any fears or inhibitions. When we are fully committed to creation totally focused with zero distractions, the muses start whispering in our ears the true meaning of Art. After learning to be in full command of the material aspects of our work with The Emperor and in spiritual bliss and contemplation with The Pope, The Lovers free us from all societal restrictions and allow us to be children once again, playing and discovering the world for the first time. To be in Love is to be connected to the Universe and in harmony with creation. Be free and allow Love to become your creative compass.

Mariamundi (2016) Oil and metal leaf on canvas 50" x 35" 

Stay tuned for the last segment of this three part article: Painting Process and Tarot, A Creative Journey, Part 3, where we will end with The Car, Justice and The Hermit.