Awake(n): Fall Equinox Recovery Gals Art Exchange

The word for the fall equinox recovery gals art exchange was: Awake(n).

Photo and art by Tammi Salas

Part of the definition of awaken is to: “rouse from sleep; cause to stop sleeping.” or to “make someone aware of (something) for the first time”. (from Merriam Webster’s Dictionary)

I immediately thought of an awakening and related it to recovery, and how once we know something, for example, that alcohol doesn’t jive with our body or our souls, we can’t “unknow” it. I also thought of a goddess, and the serene look those that have found clarity in their life have. I imagined hues of serene colors, like an ocean scene, and also knew I wanted to include gold in some way as that color symbolizes success, achievement and triumph. “At the uppermost level, this is a color which is associated
with higher ideals, wisdom, understanding and enlightenment. It inspires knowledge, spirituality and a deep understanding of the self and the soul.” Also, gold is “linked to masculine energy and the power of the sun”.

I wanted this piece to speak quietly, but also loudly, to that feeling we have when we are in that place in our lives when we know that we have arrived, when things may not be perfect, but we know we are on the right path, when we are connected
to God, or our higher power, and also to our community and most of all, to ourselves.

I had the opportunity to meet my art exchange partner, Jill, at She Recovers LA . And while I had already started working on this piece, when I met Jill, I knew that it was perfect for her.

She had that way about her, that she knew she was on her path, and I could tell she is a very strong woman and she just silently screamed “goddess” when she walked into a room. So, I was very eager to get home and finish this project.

I always try a new art medium in these exchanges, which I find very interesting because I don’t like change, and I’m a perfectionist. I think perhaps this also speaks to the recovery process, or, as I like to see it, the process of taking
something away that you think you can’t live without, but you definitely can, and you should if it’s something you hold onto that tightly.

As Meadow Devor said, “If you want to know why you’re doing something quit doing it.”

I like to envision what I want to create before doing so, and I kept seeing materials for something called “acrylic pouring” at my local craft store, and I was intrigued. I am usually more of a watercolor and sketch artist, but I couldn’t
get this idea out of my head. Acrylic pouring interested me as it was a messy process (like recovery), and the outcome was this beautiful spread, much like a galaxy (have I mentioned I love galaxies?) or like brain waves. It is beautiful and there is science
behind it, too. More on that later.

So, I did what most artists do, I set off to Google to see some images to inspire me, and also I had NO clue about how to do an acrylic pour painting, so I needed to get to work.

In my search, I found an video from an artist who created an ocean goddess using a process called acrylic swiping, and I knew that I wanted to do THAT. The colors were already for the most part colors I wanted to use, except I knew I wanted
gold instead of silver, and the metaphors for me came rushing in, how in awakening we are essentially “swiping” our brains to remove the need for a substance from it, and all the beautiful colors come through, as in our lives after we remove this substance.

The artist in the video made it look very easy. It was not, at least not for me. First, I needed to trace the silhouette and then cut out the silhouette from contact paper, and the first brand of paper that I purchased didn’t stick to my canvas.

So, I went and borrowed
a roll from my sister that seemed sturdier. It was the year anniversary of my mother’s death, and I had taken the day off of work. I felt like my mom would have loved nothing better than to know that I was creating art and thinking of her.

But it turned out the problem was that I had purchased a high-quality canvas that was prepped already with gesso, so nothing really wanted to stick to it. I used some painters tape on top of the silhouette as a
work around, and then I used a masking product and painted a thin line of it by the silhouette so that the paint wouldn’t seep in.

Then I got to work. In traditional acrylic pouring, you add all of the paints to a cup and layer it, and then after adding medium (to help the paint thin out and spread, and also it helps with cell formation), you just plop it on the canvas.

Now here’s where the science comes in. It turns out that some paints are more dense than others, and move at a different speed. This creates cells to form when you pour them together. To help the acrylic paint flow, you add a medium to thin it out. Everyone has their own recipe for this. I used a generic pouring medium mixed with Flood Floetrol, and added to each paint individually before pouring onto the canvas. I didn’t add water.

But with acrylic swiping, you just add the colors very messy like onto the canvas, without thinking too much about it. This was also a challenge for me, because I love to overthink everything (again, relates to recovery I could go on and on here).

Once I had the colors on, it was time to swipe! I used a wet paper towel that I spritzed with water also added lavender essential oil to and swiped across once. The outcome was gorgeous!

But I wanted more of the gold and white to come through, so I added a bit more white and swiped again.

I saw the cells start to form, and I also used a torch (well, my husband did that part) to help them form. I also used a heating element I have.

Now it was time to dry. It took about 2-3 days to completely dry. Then it was time to unveil, and then I planned on painting the other half of the canvas with a solid turquoise color.

Then it was time for a second coat of turquoise.

After I did that, and let it dry, it was time to unpeel the masking adhesive. This was going to be tricky, because I didn’t want to alter the silhouette, or take up the canvas. I ended up using the eraser of a pencil to get it off. It
was a tedious process (like recovery) but I focused on Jill, who I would be gifting it to, and her journey.

My eyes aren’t the greatest, so at times I worked very close to the canvas, to ensure I was getting all of the masking adhesive off. When I did this, everything looked wrong, and I wondered if it was good enough, or beautiful enough.
The lines weren’t exact, and parts were a bit off.

And I realized this: we can’t look at artwork up close to pick away at it, rather we view it from afar and see the beauty. The same with life and recovery, we can’t look at all of our mistakes up close, we stand back and see that over
time, our lives were made of both good decisions and bad, missteps that over time, shaped us into who we are. Everything shapes us.

Then she was done. I fell in love with this goddess by the end of this process and a bit more in love with myself, too. We are strong. We do hard things. We persevere.

I ended up with a lot of leftover paint from the dribbles from the goddess, so I used those to create an art card with a quote from “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin:

but whatever came, she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself.

Kate Chopin, The Awakening

I also wanted to create one of my art affirmation cards for Jill. I knew I wanted to sketch a coffee cup, and the lyrics to Daydream Believer from the Monkees wouldn’t get out of my head. So that’s what I wrote.

Lastly, I went to my local metaphysical store, The Moondragon, and inquired as to which stones speak to the theme of awakening: prasiolite and iolite.

Photo taken by Jill Smith Bacaner

I love this exchange. Thank you to Tammi and Sondra of the Unruffled Podcast for creating this space and this community. I have met some of my greatest friends here, and it is such a wonderful place to be free.

“It’s empowering to be truthful about how awesome this is.” – Dawn Nickel

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sondra says:

    I love all of your details and just the whole process. I can’t believe those blobs of paint made her beautiful hair! I just love this, Kathy.

    1. Thank you Sondra! That means a lot 💕

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