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.
7. The Chariot
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".
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
9. The Hermit
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: www.patrickmcgrath-art.com. 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!