Here's an easy and fun project you can do with adults or children. All you need is two backgrounds, and one figure. A good place to start for an idea might be your favorite settings, times of day, or places. You can also view the works of Nicholas Roerich for ideas. He was a Russian painter in the late 1800's into the beginning of the 19th century (October 9, 1874 – December 13, 1947). You might also view some Stevie Knicks music videos.
Here's how you construct your very own mystic painting:
1.) NARRATOR FIGURE CHARACTER
Make a sketch of your figure, and a window of some kind. You might choose a lattice looking out onto the world, a car door, a cave, a tent door, or a small tower window. It's up to you. If you're working with elementary kids do the window last, but finish the figure first using cutout paper or felt. This character will determine how we view the scene. If they're a warrior, we'll look at the scene through the eyes of a warrior, if they're a wizard we'll look at the scene through the eyes of a wizard. I chose a fair maiden of some kind - a woman reflecting and waiting for the dawn. She's looking into the night, but the dawn is creeping up behind her. Is her world the night, the day, or both?
2.) WORLD SETTING 1
You'll want to get some references, so have some National Geographics, the internet, Grandfather Twilight, or photographs available. Choose a simple field to paint like the sunset, the ocean, the top of a lake, waves, crystals, diamonds, rainy evening, mountains, or a sky. I chose the dawn for my first background. Use paper cutouts and glue for elementary kids. (Mountains are easy to construct using triangles of varying shades.)
3.) WORLD SETTING 2
Choose a second setting. Again, it can be a northern aurora borealis scene, a day at the lake, the bottom of a glacier, a fiery volcano, fireworks show, or misty morning with trees. It is up to you. For my second, I chose to brush-stroke and splatter a starry field. See my blog post on constellations if you want to get a more in-depth description of how to splatter paint. Paint on top of the previous painting or cut a hole and paste it on top of the first with paper or felt.
4.) FINALLY, BRING THEM ALL TOGETHER
Now that you have two backgrounds and a figure choose something to bring all of your pieces together. I chose a dark river, and posed my figure sitting on the ledge between an archway to the first setting. She is definitely housed in the starry setting, but all of the light from the first world is spilling in on her from behind. I chose an archway to show the first world, and reflected some of the light in the river. I also gave my figure a scarf that is blowing in the wind. Maybe the wind is coming from the first world, or is it coming from the second If you're working with paper or felt pose and paste the figure in one or both of the worlds. Use paint, paper or felt to add props like axes, candles, lanterns, fruit and vegetables, or hats. Use paint, paper or felt to add things like rivers, icebergs, icicles, auroras, pebbles, skeletons, towers our whatever is in your imagination.
PRESENTING YOUR WORK
When you go to present your work explain what you were thinking, and what happens when all of the symbols work together. I chose the night sky because it's dark, and that is where things happen. Your eyes have to adjust to the shadows to make sense out of the spaces and starlight in the sky. My figure is a reflective, wispy sort, but a step away from somber. Only her left side is in shadow. She's lit by the dawn. She might not be looking into it, but its there for her to gaze into. In fact, dawn follows the night. She's not worried at all about the night hours. In fact, it seems like the night sky is her home.
We are in her abode, but the scene tells us it is not her only home. She's part of the daytime too. The daytime is a soft shade, slowly coming into the scene. It could go by and pass all day through that archway, the night always there somewhere. The river reflects the dawn's light, you can see hints of it in the banks shadowy sands and pebbles. The darkness is the place she makes sense of the world, and the dawn a beautiful place she keeps in a window, that blows her scarf in the wind.
I used simple acrylic on a gessoed wooden board and decided to leave the figure undeveloped I chose to do this because I did not want the details to interfere with the viewer's perception. Had I provided details, the figure would have become an identifiable character thus severing the connection between the viewer and the figure. Leaving the figure abstract and unidentified allows the viewer to more closely associate themselves with the figure. Details like a pointed nose, or a short nose get in the way. By no means was I going for realism. I was more interested in the subtle variations in color and fields, as well as the mystic quality of looking in onto another world from another; the present into the future, the present into the past, the interior into the exterior, etc. In that way it is mystical, and surreal. The doorway, dawn, starry sky, maiden, and river all act as symbols revealing deeper meaning.