A Classical Painting Adventure with Michael Fuchs
It’s all a bit synchronous and strange how it all came to be, and it seems to all be a part of the bigger unfolding magik of my path as Art Witch.
Last August for Imbolc I went to a Reclaiming ritual in a beautiful old church hall north of the city where Brigid was to be Aspected in her three forms
I have loved Brigid for a long, long, time, she has been with me for at least 16 years that I am conscious of.
That night in ritual I made a pledge at the Forge of Brigid the Smith to walk through the next year with Courage and an Open Heart. It wasn’t a specific ‘achievement’ goal but it was the flavour of energy and momentum that I knew I needed, it was the tempering of steel my heart required, for at this point I had previously turned down calling in an Element for this exact ritual, the mere thought leaving my heart pounding and hands trembling and even walking out into the middle of the circle to speak my pledge in front of the 30ish people present had me shaking in fear, 'where had my confidence gone?' I often wondered and so I asked for Brigid’s fiery heart to guide my way.
After the ritual my beloved and I went across the road from the hall to a little bar to have a drink while we waited to move along to a friend’s birthday celebrations. There on the walls was a selection of stunning artworks and a couple of particularly fiery pieces really jumped out at me post Brigid fire goddess ritual. I was dazzled and immediately searched for more of the artist Katia Honour's work online https://katiahonour.com/
I spoke of my desire aloud to my beloved "One-day i really want to learn Oil Painting and do training in visionary art techniques."
Two days later, post Imbolc ritual, I began my journey as a WildWood witch, not really the beginning, as mystery would reveal I had been here all along, the spirits weaving through my life from the beginning but perhaps Imbolc instead marks the official dedicant journey to myself because, let’s face it, time isn’t linear and maybe nonsense is perfect sense. A ritual was held, the godds were called, eyes were turned in my direction and a path was revealed in the woods.
12 weeks after the Imbolc ritual a message arrives in my Facebook Page Inbox from Katia, the very same artist whose work captivated me that Imbolc ritual night. Here was a message inviting me to come train in Classical ‘Old Master’ techniques with Michael Fuchs son of Ernst Fuchs the creator of the Vienna Academy of Visionary Art and teacher of Amanda Sage one of my favourite Visionary Artists.
Oh my Squee, the rush of energy that came and wrapped around me was intoxicating. I had been dreaming of attending this Visionary Art Academy for years and now the training was coming here to Melbourne! I wouldn’t have to fly to Vienna or Byron to train in these techniques, here it was coming to me. It all felt so aligned. Yes! I replied joyfully, I will make this happen, I will follow this dream. Leaning in felt very surreal, I faced all kinds of Fraud Police yelling that I wasn’t ready or good enough, how could I do a Master Class in Oil Paint, I hadn’t touched oil paint in what felt like a million years. But I kept just leaning in and listening to the YES!
In January I would have my WildWood initiation, a beautiful ritual that would see me begin to unravel old stories, old pain. Our Lady of the WildWood would come to me in starlight and roses, she whispers to me in dreamtime that I will know her as Mary, it’s not her secret name but a name I will personally hold for her.
The Mary statues at the local Cemetery call to me and I go visit them, and as the painting workshop gets closer I receive a vision of Our Lady of The Wildwood as Mary in a starlit rose garden, she asks me to paint her.
On Thursday the 14th of March I began the oil painting workshop with Michael Fuchs, it is thoroughly confronting to begin with.
Firstly - Oil Paint – what the hell am I meant to do with this mess!
We begin by choosing from a variety of pre-prepared images for our study, I’m initially disappointed to not be able to paint my Mary vision, but I trust she will come. I choose an image Michael calls ‘The Nun’ she reminds me of Mary so much, I feel Our Lady with me as I paint.
We are to copy the photo precisely not by tracing paper or grids or projectors but through training our eyes and hands, the process is brutal, I am faced with the realisation that I in fact can’t see and even find myself developing and eye infection – what!
This workshop has been intense. I am learning so much, all my edges are being stretched and pushed. Usually I spend the majority of my time alone in my studio. Im introverted by nature, perhaps a by-product of feeling a bit too sensitive for the structures of society and the general public. This painting is getting me out of my square. It’s actually the first ‘training’ I have ever done in art, even though I went to ‘art school’ for 5 years.
I remember arriving at my first day of a TAFE diploma in visual arts majoring in painting to have my painting lecturer declare “painting is dead”. So bloody unhelpful and consequently I learn nothing about painting. At uni, I major in Painting for a year to again have no painting skills shared, this is not an atelier of dreams, instead we are told to come up with a concept, create a body of work and then we are to sit around and critique each other – gah! It is the worst. I hear on an almost daily basis that faerie painting is irrelevant and it would be years post art school before I can even paint again. Since then every painting has felt like a triumph against everyone who ever said I couldn’t, every smash of fluoro pink a defiant finger up at the ‘art system’.
And so it was very hard at first to be here in this monochromatic classical oil painting class, acrylics are frowned upon and so is my ‘garish’ use of colour, lack of light source and illustrative style. I went home the first night and cried a lot. All the art school wounding had arisen and I was beginning to look around at all my paintings and flavour them with ‘not good enough’ I let myself cry for a night. Michael asks us to bring in a painting for him to help us resolve but I can’t bring myself to have him critique anything, yeah I know, it’s a defensive ego thing. Instead of critiquing a self-taught acrylic painting with no reference images I decide to hold all my previous paintings as triumph, they are precious, I taught myself this and I kept painting despite “painting is dead” being thrown at me from the very beginning.
I go home at night and cry, I cry at first because I desire the environment to be a heArt space and instead I feel it as harsh and critical. All my mistakes are pointed out every moment as a way to show me how much I can't see, the process isn’t the free flowing heArt space I love to dive into, instead it feels gruelling. Michael doesn’t like garish colour and I go home and judge all my previous art as rubbish, without any visual depth even though they are full of emotive magik and stories.
I cry a lot about this old art until I remember that every painting I have completed is a love story of life, my life. And somehow I kept painting, I just kept squishing out paint and smooshing it on surfaces, I had no idea what I was doing and i just kept going! This intensive workshop would be the very first time I had ‘real’ training and it was so confronting.
I decided if I was going to make it through these next 11 days I had to leave everything I had ever done behind me and show up to this as a gracious bumbly beginner, I had to hold as precious all the previous art I had made and move ahead unfolding a new chapter in the book of ArtLove.
By now I am thoroughly immersed in Michael’s training, I am enthralled by ‘learning to see’ The tears wash away the eye infection and all I can see every day is Mary, Our Lady wrapped around me. I go home and research statues of Mary and i'm delighted find the original artist who sculpted my chosen study
And there she is in all her shining glory
I am delighted at the synchronicity. I did get to paint her after all.
Every day I commute 4 hours to get to class. Two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. Mary calls to me from the pages of ‘Aspecting The Goddess’ a beautiful book by Jane Meredith that I would devour each morning on my commute.
I paint for 6 hours every day.
It is an act of devotion. I lean into Our Lady, on a few occasions I have accidently called it a Painting Ritual rather than workshop and then I realise it is all a spell. An act of devotion to Our Lady and the part of me that longs, yearns, desires to grow and develop as an artist in the world.
Here she is Our Lady Mary my first complete Oil Painting in 18 years.
And now finally with some skills up my sleeves, moving forward I’m really looking forward to putting some of this training into practise.
I’m very excited for the future of my paintings.
Michael has been painting for 50 years and now I look forward to the magik I will create over the next 50 years. So much gratitude.
In the middle of our Painting adventure we head to the National Gallery of Victoria to peruse the Classical and Baroque art and I find Mary everywhere, Pan, and witchy goodness.
Listening to Michael share his wisdom of art history in relation to the painting techniques we had been learning brought the gallery to life. Honestly I’m the worst capital “A” artist ever, I was bored at the Louvre (sorry!) If paintings aren’t filled with mythology, surrealism or symbolism my eyes glaze over. All the classical painting and even a lot of modern art feels very elitist, the gallery feels far, far away from the reality of heArt, perhaps art school has left me a lot more jaded than I truly realise. But today rather than bored I am enthralled! Michael brings the artwork to life and I can see all the techniques we have been learning mirrored in the work around me. These astounding works of skill feel like possibilities for my work in the future. (With a smash load of fluoro pink and faerie wings popped in – don’t you worry!)
To finish up the workshop I do a small study from a photo taken on our travels to St Nectan's Glen in Cornwall last year. A little mossy nook in the wall complete with faerie stone stack.
By the end of the 11 days I am totally in love with oil paint and can’t seem to get enough of Michael’s tuition, “please point out every mistake so I can learn to see them for myself!” I am like a painting knowledge sponge,
I want to soak it all up, I am getting so much out of the experience.
As the workshop comes to a close I begin to notice myself day dreaming at the way light reflects on surfaces and the cast of different shadows that I would normally never notice. I find myself one night standing gazing dreamily at a swash of beautiful fabric above my bed lit by a salt lamp. I no longer just see a beautiful gift from a beloved friend, I see the way the salt lamp hits the left hand side, I see the light before dark, the way the right side is not as illuminated as the left.
I see more love, more beauty, more depth and complexity than ever before.
I am so grateful for this gift of enhanced vision, I feel my sight has been returned to me and life is so much more beautiful for this gift of light and subtlety.
I'm clearly still a dork though!