Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A Walk on the Wild Side

I am the Flame - Lion/Jesus inspirational drawing
I am the flame. © Angela Cutler 2013

I have always had a connection with nature. As a kid I would be fascinated by whatever I could find in my garden - what we as adults find ordinary, was extraordinary to me then. I even remember as a toddler sitting watching ants industriously scurry by, I'd watch spiders spin webs and wrap up flies, I'd try and find caterpillars, so that I could put them in a jam jar and watch them turn into hard, crusty crysalis's; then transform into butterflies...mostly 'cabbage whites' as I recall. I was just amazed by the enormous variety of life and lifeforms, of colour, of everything living. I have two older brothers who brought home a plethora of unusual pets - grass snakes, toads, lizards, stick insects. As I grew older, I'd watch and feed the garden birds and then later, we did have some more usual pets - a goldfish from a fair, a mouse saved from a zoological supplies shop, gerbils and fancy rats; we never had a dog or cat. I would also watch all the David Attenborough nature programmes on TV, read natural history books too and my favorite place to visit was the zoo - I got to be pretty knowledgeable about the flora and fauna around me. Much later, I almost read Ecology at University rather than Art. Almost.

Cabbage white butterfly

So this love of nature was obviously reflected in what I would draw. Very early on I would copy pictures from books, or try and paint the garden birds. As I grew older - I loved the fantasy and illustration from Tolkein, Marion Zimmer-Bradley amongst others and artists such as Boris Vellejo and Roger Dean who designed the album covers for the 70s band Yes. I morphed ordinary animals into fantastical creatures from my imagination - only to once again be told it wasn't valid art! I think I stopped drawing animals then. Drawing become a means to an end, instead, drawing plants cells and amoeba or the insides of a dissected rat for my 'A' level Biology coursework. It lost it's magic.

It is only recently that I have started drawing again - this time I'm older, wiser and there isn't anyone to tell me what I can and can't draw, or how I should or shouldn't paint. There is only me, and only me to please and whatever is in my heart.  Therefore the work that I am producing is very personal to me and is a reflection of where I am at in my life. I am still relearning the skill, or learning as with the painting.

A lot of my new work reflects my beliefs and I recently became a Christian. Before, even the word was anathema to me - so no-one is more surprised than me that this happened, believe me! My understanding is that of a contemporary spirituality and not as a religion or doctrine. As my knowledge of Jesus' teaching become clearer to me, and my old life falls away - my life and who I am have been transformed, and so much more for the better. However, it has not been an easy journey and I'm certainly not 'there' yet. 

Lioness detail © Angela Cutler 2013

The lion is a symbol of strength, power, glory, bravery, valour, strength, and royalty, since traditionally, it is regarded as the king of beasts and has been used over the millenium by so many cultures - it is a universal symbol. In Christianity it is often used as to symbolise Christ, and is mentioned many times throughout the Bible. For the most part, I think people regard the lion as male with his power and strength and giant majestic mane of hair - it certainly is a very striking image. Other early cultures viewed the lioness as a  powerful symbol such as the ancient Egyptians and some middle Eastern cultures too.

I too, wanted to draw a lioness because this is how I've experienced the power of Jesus - as a feminine, nurturing and caring energy. I also wanted to challenge the church who always views God as male, often making him seem quite war-like and vindictive. Oftentimes, I've felt myself guided gently and lovingly from one dark place or another, allowed to grow, take whatever time I need and finally realise and find my own light. They talk of God being a father, but I definitely feel a motherly aspect too. The lioness looks directly to you drawing you into her midst. The sun and fire behind her reminds you of the almighty power of the Holy Spirit available for you draw upon.

Both symbols of lion and sun/fire however, are universal and cross-cultural and can speak on many other levels, without needing any belief in God or Christianity. I think for me, this painting is about having a belief in yourself and accessing the power and strength within. 

In my next post, I will show you one of my paintings from last year inspired by the sea.