Athena, goddess of wisdom, offers the Scroll of Wisdom. She bears the head of Medusa, encircled by the ouroboros, on her girdle, and carries the sword of the Tarot, which is a symbolic tool for cutting through illusion to reveal truth.
The idea of alphabets in general has always fascinated me, long before I ever even hear the term “font.” I read calligraphy books in grade school and often wrote out fancy alphabets as a centering technique. I liked the idea of decorative caps, and wanted to write an acrostic story with twenty-six chapters, which I would illuminate with twenty-six initial letters.
Inking the illustration for chapter C: the magical rowan tree. Mandalas feature prominently in the scroll.
Illustrating the Scroll of Wisdom was a new challenge for me. Graphic storytelling had become fascinating to me in recent years, but my ability to draw in a regimented way, maintaining a consistent style and moving a character through a magical landscape, seemed overwhelming. However, the mission seemed clear. After spontaneously drawing Pallas Athene on a sheet of butcher paper, I realized that, rather then cutting her free from the roll, I should utilize this old method creating a text and simply let one drawing follow the next on a continuous sheet of paper.
The completed tree
The story gradually revealed itself: a journey from initiation to mastery. The magician’s journey. The journey of the will. We’ll get back to this in a little while….
Title for the Alphabet of Desire. The lettering is based on Gothic Versals.
I don’t remember where I first heard the term “Alphabet of Desire,” a magical device invented by artist Austin Osman Spare, but it was something that synchronistically popped up here and there, until it occupied a firm space in my mind. I went so far as to sketch out the ideas I would use in my own Alphabet of Desire, and would find them every couple months or so.
The first initial cap for my acrostic novella. The wood symbolizes the Tarot wands and the concept of generation. A sprouting stick signifies new beginnings and earthly ventures. The snake represents the mystic male generative principle.
At the same time, I had also been long kicking around an idea of writing a story whose plot was based on the Tarot’s journey of the Fool (i.e. a work of twenty-two segments, each based on a Major Arcana).
For every chapter of the Alphabet of Desire, I also do a page of hand drawn letters in various fonts, which serves as a centering exercise.
This whimsical punk mandala was inspired by a visit to the Hot Topic store at the mall
One thing I don’t worry about when I draw mandalas is perfection. Another think I don’t worry too much about is symmetry. My soul is clearly not perfect. And it is clearly not symmetrical, so why would my mandalas conform to that pattern?
A mandala inspired by satellites
Most of the mandalas in the collection are abstract, but some of my favorite ones are representative. Often, the silly and imperfect ones are the most-eye catching.
Inspired by a burlesque show
I can be serious too. One of the more complicated mandalas represents the emotions I experienced while editing the doctoral thesis of a former friend who refused to talk to me but still seemed to think I was the best copyeditor she knew. She paid me a good rate to work on her long and involved dissertation, but refused to renew our friendship. Another mandala was drawn as my mother-in-law began treatment for breast cancer.
Sometimes, it’s good to be playful about serious things, too.
Most women can probably figure out what serious monthly life event I have amusingly commemorated here.
A flower-based mandala
I set out to draw one hundred mandalas to help me find my way as an artist. It took about six months. Part of me thought, “why not one thousand,” but I only got to about one twenty five before other things became more interesting to me. I still draw mandalas sometimes, but it used to be a couple a week.
A mandala inspired by Aztec design
Patterns started to appear in the mandalas. Although each was different, there were many based on flowers or other plants, many based on crystals. There were mandalas inspired by holidays and mandalas inspired by tragedies. Comedic ones made my smile, perfectly symmetrical ones made my work a little harder.