Simon’s Soul

Once again, another wondrous and mystical collaboration with a very willing and open client. Simon emailed me back in January as he was emerging from a dark time in his life. He was turning over a new leaf and embarking on significant changes to his life and mindset. Part of his new direction involved buying a new condo which he wanted to decorate with his own artistic flair, which included a reverence to his life in symbols.

This painting came about one morning as he was sitting on his couch having his tea before work and focusing his mind on how fortunate he has been in his life. He wrote me stating he wanted something “significant, pertinent, beautiful and spectacular” to fill his walls.

“… I want those walls to carry positive images, something that evokes positive feelings…images of aboriginal icons came to me because they are mysterious, they have a meaning, every time you look at them they are different but also they are minimal-geometric, they are a brilliant exercise of concise synthesis and communication of ideas…I realized that what I was thinking of at that moment was the images from your art work and I thought right then and there that the “something special, significant, pertinent, spectacular” I want there to fill my walls is one of your art pieces….I would be honoured if you consider to paint something for me in that big format …something that would be an inspiration everyday when I have my tea in the mornings, and something that welcomes me after a day out. Something that inspires me and tells something about me in that simple language of lines and planes of aboriginal symbols. Something that would lift my spirit and reminds me of all that is good and well.”

And thus, our journey began.

I met with Simon a week later to discuss this painting. Simon was an absolute dream to work with, completely open to anything I suggested, and willing to divulge any information necessary to make the painting represent his life thus far. Simon did not want to see any images of what I created during the process. He wanted everything to be a complete surprise, and had the utmost faith in whatever I wanted to paint for him. We agreed on roughly the size and shape, and a few of the symbols. One of the first things that stood out was The Turtle, and it was only after I suggested it I realized the significance of The Turtle from incidents in Simon’s childhood, growing up in Venezuela.

The Turtle is used in every square of his painting, symbolic of the strength of character that runs through Simon’s entire being, whether he was conscious of it or not.

It is also symbolic of instances from his past that have embedded their way into his own indomitable spirit which has shown him as a person who is too strong to deter, no matter what life throws his way.

In the world of symbolism, the Turtle is one of the strongest and most revered creatures on the planet. The idea behind putting the Turtle in every square was to remind Simon of his own strengths, and how much he has in common with this magnificent and magical creature.

The Turtle has transcended all cultures, religions, and corners of the earth. It is a being whose magic united heaven and earth, and the sea turtle in particular is a prevailing mythic figure and archetype. The Turtle encapsulates protection, patience, wisdom, courage, compassion, perseverance, skill, longevity, loyalty, peace, confidence, love, adaptability, healing, and knowledge. Impervious to attack, the turtle is seen as a very model of settled, universal order. It is steady, strong, protective, and unshakeable. A self-contained creative source the Turtle is also called “the keeper of secrets” considered long-lived, wise, and secretive. The turtle is courageous because it makes progress only when it sticks its neck out, and moves forward with a patient, steady flow in order to achieve the desired destination.

The turtle has carried Wisdom on its back for many cultures throughout history. Wise with age, some psychological theories see in the turtle a connection with the self; the unity of the personality as a whole. Though life around us may be chaotic, the turtle can slow down and heighten its awareness, which continually allows it to see the connection to all things. Proverbially steady, in Eastern religions the turtle is thought to be the balance of opposing principles.

The turtle also signifies immortality and is considered a provisional dwelling places for souls making their way through a series of lives on the path to Nirvana. In many cultures, if you need grounding, focus, endurance or deep power, calling on the turtle for help is a time-honoured way of wisdom.

The Rabbit

For my wise friend Simon, I have anointed him with the totem symbol of The Rabbit.

While the Turtle is representative of the strength that is woven into that fabric of his soul, his actual animal spirit is The Rabbit. In Simon’s painting there are two Rabbits, looking outward from the centre of the Turtle.

An incredibly stoic symbol The Rabbit, I have had an affinity for it for as long as I can remember, yet Simon is the first person I have ever felt worthy enough to don as Rabbit. I suspect it is because I was waiting for just the right person – for an individual sleek and courageous enough to match Rabbit energy and symbolism.

I remember vividly watching the movie Watership Down when I was about 9 (which goes to show you how lax movie ratings were in the 70s, theatres would NEVER show that movie to anyone under 14 nowadays). Despite the violence and adult nature of it, it is still one of my favourite movies of all time, and accentuated my affinity to the symbolic nature of The Rabbit.

In particular, I always loved the quote at the beginning of the movie / novel, a warning given by the Great Frith: “All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and when they catch you, they will kill you… but first they must catch you.” In my own overly dramatic mindset of youth, I felt a bit like the Rabbits in the movie (especially Fiver, bordering on the world of the psychic), feeling all the world was (at times) plotting against me (especially in math class), and vowing to never let “them” get to me.

It’s ironic that although I’ve always had a great connection to The Rabbit, I’ve never drawn one seriously for anyone (other than cartoons when I was in my teens).

Simon possesses all of the admirable qualities of the Rabbit. Rabbits are virtuous, creative, reserved and have excellent taste. They are admired, trusted and avoid aggressive situations.

Simon was also born in the year of the Water Rabbit. People born under this sign are easy going, relaxed, avoid conflict, and while they are extremely supportive of others, their sincerity and generosity are often taken advantage of.

In relationships, Water Rabbits are very sexual and family orientated. However they are sometimes too giving and therefore often at risk of becoming entangled in unhealthy relationships. Regardless, they are still a representative of strength, swiftness, courage and overcoming limiting beliefs.

Cat and Dog

This is one of two “Yin & Yang” type symbols in Simon’s paintings, representing his sons Claudio and Octavio. Originally I was going to do an indepth investigation into their signs, but Simon continually referring to them as his “cat and dog”, representing their opposing personalities. I figured he knew them best, and here they are in the Yin and Yang, as Cat and Dog.

Man in the Maze (a.k.a. The Life Path)

The maze is the story of every human being, traveling through life as though through a maze, taking many turns (some veering us away from where we directly want to go, acknowledging that sometimes the world takes you on a different path from what you’d planned, so it can teach you something). Every turn is an opportunity to find acceptance or an understanding you need to acquire before you reach your destination (how do you know who you are supposed to be unless you occasionally see yourself in contrast to what it is you think you are… ) but all the while growing stronger and wiser as the centre of the maze comes closer. It is a variation of the Tohono O’odham’s symbol of life cycles and choice, and eternal motion with the goal of achieving harmony. The design is actually a unicursal figure that represents the choices one makes throughout life. This represents the journey from darkness to light.

Sun & Moon

This is the second Yin and Yang symbols, for sun and moon, Mother & Father.

I have juxtaposed the metaphors of these images slightly. Traditionally the Sun is a masculine symbol, and Moon feminine. In Simon’s painting, the Sun represents his Mother, and the Moon his Father.

Collectively the Sun and Moon represent an equal balance of male and female, as it is found in nature as well as the gods.

The symbol of the Sun is Simon’s Mother. She is the earth’s guardian in day, healing energy, and the giver of life, warmth, growth and goodness. She is an emblem of glory and brilliance. In astrology the Sun represents our vitality and life force. It also represents happiness, life, spirituality, awareness and the super-conscious mind.

The Moon is also a protector of the earth at night. It waxes and wanes and is reborn once more, allowing us the potential to connect with our own ability to rejuvenate our lives. It also represents our powers of psychic perception and intuition. Moon energy does not always involve conscious thought, thus it goes through different phases and affects each of us in different ways.

The Rabbit also represents Moon Magic, which here shows that although Rabbit and Moon might not have always “connected”, as Rabbit Simon still has a prevailing connection to the Moon.

Dolphin (Love and Hope)

Simon wanted the last square in his painting to represent Love and Hope, which is evident in the symbol of The Dolphin.

There are 2 dolphins in the painting, whose tails and fins touch in the shape of a heart.

Dolphins represent joy, harmony, intelligence, self-connection, life force, rhythm and Breath.

First Border – Flower petals

I didn’t actually know what I was going to use as a design in the borders until about 3 weeks before I finished the painting. I wanted to have all of the Turtle squares completely before I decided on what to that would best accentuate the painting. I would only realize once I actually presented Simon with the painting of the intuitive connection I made with his past and this border. I had no idea of his connection to this symbol until he told me. Occasionally, I do feel instances where I am not painting so much as taking Divine Dictation. It just seemed something told me to use the Flower. It didn’t come from me, it was a gift from someone else. The details remain private, but the flowers encircle Simon’s entire being, and are there as his Guardian, as his Angel, watching over him and protecting him, ever more.

The song list on my iPod for my 2009 creations:

Promises – Badly Drawn Boy
Hometown Glory – Adele
Heart’s a Mess – Gotye
On an Ocean – Jeff Rona / Lisa Gerrard
Unknown Caller – U2
9 Crimes – Damien Rice Kids – MGMT
Sometime Around Midnight – The Airborne Toxic Experiment
Requiem on Frankfort Ave – Eluvium
So Far Round the Bend – The National
Ayume – Hana
Foul Weather Friend – Northbound
Noiman – Augaflames
Can’t You See in the Fever –  Nana Wang
Shot in the Back of the Head – Moby
Study War – Moby
Scream Pilots – Moby
Isolate – Moby
Finish Line – Fanfarlo
Juliet – Royal Wood
Please please please – The Dream Academy
Everything As It Should Be – Future Loop Foundation
Indian Summer – Jonsi & Alex
Boy 1904 – Jonsi & Alex
Daniell In the Sea – Jonsi & Alex
Longing for Lullabies – Kleerup
The Caterpilar (Flicker Mix) – The Cure
Too Late – Broad Way Sleep
Sound The Alarm – Broad Way Sleep
Something  To Touch – Broad Way Sleep
Ashes – Broad Way Sleep
Shy and Out of Season – Broad Way Sleep
La Pluie – Amethystium
Automne – Amethystium
Silken Twine – Amethystium
Dreamlie Insomnia  – Amethystium
Black Tables – Other Lives
Boy Lilikoi – Jonsi
Skeletons – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Love Always Remains – MGMT
Sleepyhead – Passion Pit
Scream Pilots (Ambient) – Moby
Is There Nothing We Could Do – Badly Drawn Boy
Just Look At Us Know – Badly Drawn Boy

Simon’s Soul (28″ x 90″)
June 2009 / Calgary AB