Category Archives: pilgrimages

A Sneak Peak at My Travel Journal

I posted another sneak peak image from my pilgrimage here, for my Patreon supporters. I’m going to start recounting the Krakow portion of my trip later today. In the meantime, one of the things I want to share is the travel journal i kept from the moment I left Beacon.

I got this idea from a fellow artist, Rosemary Busnell, who attended the Taos Residency that I was also at in May. I’ve kept journals when I traveled before, but just quick recap of whatever I did during the day. This was more elaborate and much more FUN. It’s also given me an absolutely treasure. It’s the one thing from my trip that I all but hand carried back.

Instead of just writing about my experiences, or rather in addition to writing about them, I painted, collaged, pasted and had a damned good time. The day I arrived at each  new place, I’d paint little color smudges, just smudges of all the dominant colors in the city. It’s simple, but gave me an immediate visual overview of the color palette of a particular place. This is also where I first got the idea to do collaged icons like this:

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This is my interpretation of the icon at St. Thomas church in Krakow. I liked the icon but didn’t want to take a photo — the church was full and people were praying and photography seemed disrespectful in the moment. Still, the icon affected me so deeply that I was moved to tears. (the original icon has Mary holding the baby Jesus, but that wasn’t working for me in the collage so I gave Her flowers instead).  I’ve since expanded these little collages for images of our Gods too and it’s something I intend to keep doing. For instance, inspired by a woodcut by artist Pete White (wonderful and gracious artist), I did this image of Odin on the Tree:

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Mr. White’s original woodcut (which he gave me permission to use here) is this (stunning work. unfortunately by the time i found it, he was sold out. Woodcuts always have limited runs because of the process itself):

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Here are two of the other Madonnas I did (all gifts):

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I suspect I’ll be making these to sell in the future, as well as incorporating this style of art into my mail art. (I’ve had requests for them already and one of the partners at the gallery i co-own asked me to make some to sell).  They’re a lot of fun and while they can be rather complicated, they seem to work a different part of my brain from actually painting. I’m no good at all at abstract collage (I’ve seen masterful work and know that I’m not even in the ballpark!) but this sort of collage i can do: reproducing a specific image. The only problem I had was that by the time we hit Cologne, I’d run out of the nice paper I brought with me!  I had to improvise (candy wrappers, if they are gold or silver paper, are godsends lol)

It’s completely changed the way I look at keeping a journal now. I took post cards and cut them up and collaged them (or when really lazy, just pasted them in and decorated around them — sometimes i wanted to keep the image as is). I painted in the book, I kept a nice written narrative as well. It seemed to make the experience more *mine* in a way. I figure the same thing can be applied to a regular journal.

Here are a couple of pages to give you an idea of how and what I did:

prague page from book

Coming over one of the bridges into Prague, I kept seeing this pink building with the black cupola (i’m fascinated by those onion domes–brilliant idea, a real pain in the butt to draw). I love the play of colors so i painted it quickly. The page on the right here was originally a watercolor. I was pretty sure it sucked though so i just collaged over it. LOL.

That was the thing that really struck me about Prague, btw: the colors. In Krakow, the dominant colors were a rust red, black, and ochre. Coming into Prague, there was this glorious riot of aqua and pink and yellow and ochre, and light green, and oranges and it was beautiful. Krakow was beautiful too but in a different way, a quieter way.

sedlec page from book

Then there was the ossuary in Sedlec, in Kutna Hora. I let the cards stand (better than any of my photos) and did this as a memorial piece. I’m going to be writing quite a bit about my visit here — it was one of the most singularly powerful places I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting.

Ellegua page from book

Finally in Prague we visited the Church of Our Lady Victorious where there is both a Black Madonna and also (the reason for my visit), the famous statue of the Infant of Prague. This particular image is often syncretized with Ellegua. 🙂 When I said all the many circles of my religious life came full circle on this trip, I meant it! Maferefun, Ellegua!

This particular statue, by the way, has over 180 dresses. *G*. There’s even one that was made and donated by a local girl scout troop and I think that’s marvelous. St. Nicholas Church, mentioned in this page is located right across from the music conservatory. We went to a concert there, with an organist and a soprano and OMG the acoustics were amazing. I wanted nothing more than to lay down on the parquet floor and let the sounds and vibrations wash over me (but I didn’t–figured i’d get thrown out!).

Anyway, I have been tremendously resistant over the last couple of years to keeping any kind of journal. I used to do it religiously but somehow fell out of the practice, perhaps because so much of my work involves writing. This has renewed my interest in journaling again and given me new and different outlets for my art other than simply painting. Best of all, there’s no pressure. I work with what i have and don’t expect every page to be a masterpiece. It’s something for myself and it’s immensely enjoyable and sometimes I do, as with the pages I shared above, come out with something that inspires all the rest of my artistic work.

So that’s it for now. I’ll be posting more later but for now i need to get offline and deal with a plumber.

Initial Update: Where I was, What I did, and Why

Over the next week or so, I’ll be posting a number of articles related to my recent sojourn in Europe. I rarely travel just for pleasure. There’s almost always a religious or work-related motive and that was certainly the case now (not that I don’t enjoy being a tourist occasionally, I do, but when I travel, I travel with ulterior motives!). I initially planned this trip because I had been invited to an international artists’ residency in Poland. I’ve never been to Poland and the first artists’ residency I attended one in Taos, was just amazing. I grew immeasurably as an artist and I hoped that would be the case here as well (I think it was). So when I initially sat down to plan this trip, it was centered around a two week stay in Myslenice, Poland (about an hour outside of Krakow), where I would be painting for two weeks alongside artists working in various media from France, England, Wales, the Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Slovakia, and of course the USA. The best part was that the two weeks involved room, board, and all art supplies fully paid for. All I had to do was pay my airfare.

As I was looking at plane fares and such, I started getting strongly pushed by my ancestors to expand the parameters of this trip. I started getting pushed to make this an ancestral pilgrimage. They were very clear that by ‘ancestor’ they weren’t just restricting this to my own ancestors, but were looking at this as an opportunity to seek the presence and blessing of our collective ancestors, and part of that for me as a spirit-worker involved exposure to different groups of dead.

I did a good bit of divination and was directed to extend the time of my stay abroad and visit at least four ossuaries. They were most insistent that wherever else I chose to visit, one of the ossuaries had to be in Germany (possibly because I have quite a bit of German ancestry). I went to this site, which is a godsend, and started looking up places in Poland. There was one about a day’s drive from Myslenice, and then I noticed that Kutna Hora and Sedlec, both Unesco sites, and the latter one of the most well known bone churches in the world, were not far from Prague so I booked that as well. Then, for ease of travel home: Cologne. I’ll be talking about why I chose these places and the sites that I visited there in the next few articles. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Divination showed all of this was acceptable, and my military dead got into the act and I ended up tagging on a visit to Austerlitz battlefield, which wasn’t too far from (but also not exactly close to) Brno, the site of one of the ossuaries. I threw all this on my travel agent (because the thought of booking it all was enough to make my head ache) and got on with other things.

In the weeks immediately preceding my departure, I found myself dealing with personal miasma on a level that I had never expected, and was forced to undergo some major cleansings, all of which put me in a very good place to begin this trip. I was as clean as I had been in years, though quite exhausted heading out. Fortunately, I was traveling with my friend MAG who agreed to act as my assistant for the spiritual work I had to do. She was a godsend, making sure that I didn’t neglect food or sleep (something I am prone to do when working), nor walk into traffic on the sites themselves! She also rounded up taxis when I was unable to walk—cobblestones being the devil for someone with a severe back injury. Before I left, I made offerings to Hermes for safe travel and indeed, He watched over me the entire time I was on pilgrimage, getting me there and back again safe and sound.

It was an odd thing. In many ways all the various threads of my religious life came full circle for me here and that’s something I shall write about over the coming days too. It’s something for which I’m immensely grateful.

We spent a day in NYC prior to catching a flight to Krakow. Omens were coming hard and fast from the moment I left my house and I knew that this trip would break me open to the dead like nothing else…and it did.

More to come soon.

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(image is mine, of Corpus Christi church, Krakow).