Discovering the Inner Through the Veils of Color
Apr 24, 2021
A painter, who finds no satisfaction in mere representation, however artistic, in his longing to express his inner life, cannot but envy the ease with which music, the most non-material of the arts today, achieves this end. He naturally seeks to apply the methods of music to his own art.--Kandinsky
Over 30 years ago, when I started my artistic path, I first thought that to be a good artist was to be like a camera and capture what I observed as accurately as possible. I showed some aptitude at this, but it didn’t enthrall me. It was not until I began the Foundation Year at a Waldorf teacher training program that I began to experience another painting style. We were instructed not to reproduce the outside world but to make contact with the inner. Two methods of watercolor we worked with, wet-on-wet and veiled. Both ways used the colors of the rainbow without any attempt to control the outcome. In this article, I am going to focus on veil paintings.
A little background first. A Foundation Year is a year that those pursuing Waldorf teaching, Eurythmy (a form of movement), Biodynamic gardening, or to deepen one’s study of Anthroposophy will take. One is taught how to play the recorder and read music, do drama, tell stories, paint, sculpt, do geometric drawings, do Botmer or Spatial Dynamic movement, and study the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (the founder of Anthroposophy). In short, this year of studying helps foster the urge to become a well-rounded person who will seek Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in one’s life.
That year and the following year, when I focused on becoming a Waldorf teacher, were pivotal in my life. I was already firmly on a meditative path from the teachings of the East, but now I found a way of incorporating my meditation into expression. I see my art, writing, storytelling, and teaching as all facets of my spiritual path.
So back to veil paintings or illuminated paintings as others might call them. When I set out to do this sort of painting, I go to the paper with a meditative state of mind, usually with no intention, or perhaps a very open-ended one such as a landscape. With the slightest bit of color on the wet brush, I apply it to a spot and quickly work outwards, thinning the color as I go, so there is no hard edge at all with this puddle of color (very difficult with blue, easy with yellow). I do that all around the page but only on dry areas. It is important not to touch any wet areas as it will remove part of the hue. After getting as much color on the page, I let the paper completely dry (I might use a hairdryer). With the second layer, I will begin overlapping colors but with the same method of painting only of dry areas, avoiding making any lines. Layer after layer, this is repeated until I start to see forms emerge. I may choose to bring forth some shapes by allowing lines to form along the edges, or others I will ignore, just like with thoughts; some are worthy of holding onto, others are not. The challenge is that once a mark has touched the paper, it cannot be removed. With wet watercolors, you can mitigate it easier, and of course, with oils and acrylics, one can always paint over any “mistake.”
Sometimes I will continue through the veiled journey. At other times I will start one but feel I want to come down into form in a more tangible way. When it is the latter, often the forms will be anchored with bold black/gray lines. The following are some examples of veil paintings. The first was my initial painting in this style. I can still remember the excitement of discovering this image. It is like having a vivid dream that will offer messages to grow by. How different than when I reproduced an object. Yes, I would feel good that I could do that, that I had such skill; however, I gained no inner insight, nothing to point me on my journey.
"Invocation under the World"
Thank you for reading and looking at my work. Please share your thoughts and questions.
The Kandinsky quote (who was a student of Steiner) is from www.wassilykandinsky.net