May 13, 2011
Spring of Culture at GhostvillageJackie Williams
By Deonna Kelli Sayed
Ghostvillage is launching Spring of Culture to celebrate the emerging scene of paranormal inspired creative arts. "The shows" -- paranormal reality TV -- often dominate the discussion in media culture. That is only a small part of the story! Off of the TV screen is a growing community of artists who engage paranormal themes (ghosts, paranormal investigation, and other supernatural elements) in web cartoons, comics, tarot card art, and in other distinctive outlets. Plus, some cast members from "the shows" are doing creative stuff in their free time. Consider Spring of Culture as an online Festival of the Haunted Arts -- and only at Ghostvillage!
Jackie Williams is an interesting enigma. She is an author, an energy worker, a medium, and a member of the House of Kheperu. She is a colleague of author and Paranormal State cast member, Michelle Belanger, and they have collaborated on a forthcoming Watcher Angel Tarot deck. You may have seen Jackie's work in the following books: Brad Steiger's Real Zombies (2010), and Lon Milo DuQuette's Low Magic (2010). Her art is also featured in two books by Michelle Belanger, D is for Demon and Dictionary of Demons. This year, she has contributed images to Practical Protection Magic by Ellen Dugan and Christopher Penczak's, The Witches Heart.
Deonna Kelli Sayed posed questions to Jackie, exploring everything from the artistic process to the intersections of creativity and paranormal interest.
You are an energy worker, a medium, and an artist. Let us break it down. First how has your experience as an energy worker and medium influenced your art? Is there a relationship between your abilities and creativity?
My experience as an energy worker and medium has had a significant impact on my art in a number of ways. My medium skills allow me to clearly see the spirit I am communicating with. So, being an artist, I can then draw the person I am seeing which sometimes makes me feel like I'm a sketch artist for the dead. It's a little creepy to some, but this has opened up a whole new avenue for my art. The ability to draw the spirit has provided positive proof of a haunting on a number of occasions. I have also had spirits pose for me and actually used one of them in the Watcher Angel Tarot deck as the figure in the Three of Swords.
Being able to artistically represent the unseen has been a very practical application of art and energy work and played a large role in my creation of the Tarot deck. Most of the major arcana in the tarot are connected to collective universal concepts called egregores. These egregores are not really static ideas, but feel almost like sentient beings and could, perhaps, be categorized as a different kind of spirit. When creating many of the major arcana, I would connect to that energy aspect and then try to interpret - within the style of the deck - what the card should look like. The design was then based on the images and impressions I was receiving, often utilizing the background colors to embody the energy and emotion of the concept.
Occasionally when designing a card, Michelle Belanger and I would discuss card concept. As psychics, we found that we were able to telepathically share image ideas with both of us coming up with the same design idea at the same time. I was then able to sketch out the design with minimal descriptors and the finished product would be exactly what we were thinking. The impossible part to determine is which of us came up with the idea first.
Is there a relationship between my abilities and creativity? I would have to say yes. I put a lot of my own energy into each of my creations. I feel like I pour myself into a painting, imbuing each piece with the energy of my thoughts and feelings. My art can literally feel heavy from energy. If I do not replenish my energy and become too low, my art suffers as I feel lethargic and apathetic. But then, when I'm at that kind of low point, everything about me suffers. Being able to maintain a reasonable energy level does improve my ability to function artistically and improves my creativity because I am not fighting my body. It also makes it easier to communicate with the other side.
When did you first notice that you had psychic abilities?
When I was a child, I knew that I had certain abilities such as the capacity to see spirits or have visions. As I grew older, the experiences grew stronger and stranger, but I generally kept it to myself and didn't share these experiences with others until college. In college and after, I found that the more I practiced energy work and spirit communication, the more my skills rapidly developed and new abilities presented themselves.
Likewise, how did you grow as an artist?
My growth as an artist has been dependent on exposure to a variety of mediums (materials) and artists. I started drawing when I was about 2 years old. My mother Rosalie was the strongest influence on my artistic development as a child. She was an artist too and was always encouraging me and teaching me arts and crafts.
My teachers encouraged my creativity and expression by just standing back and letting me work. They did the most important thing a teacher could do with an artistic student, they didn't try to enforce conformity. By high school I was exploring textile arts such as sewing, weaving, ceramics, and enameling.
In college I became involved with the theater, making costumes and learning stage make-up. I also found the campus gaming group and had a great time with the role-playing games. The imaginative game world was inspirational and I would take my sketchbook with me to gaming sessions and draw our characters, making my first real forays into fantasy art.
Though my major in college had nothing to do with art, it did influence my artistic style. I majored in Classical Studies - Latin, ancient history and culture, etc. The exposure to the art of the ancient world led to an interest in neoclassical art and a love affair with drapery (as evidenced by nearly every tarot card).
Thanks to my dear friend Kate, while in college I started going to renaissance festivals and after college became very involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Participation in the SCA had a major influence on my artwork as I discovered the illuminated manuscript art of the Middle Ages and renaissance. I began studying the topic and practicing the scribal arts, making award scrolls in the Society and for private commissions. This interest in medieval manuscripts has both subsequently and in conjunction with my energy work and psychic abilities led to an interest in the textual amulets, talismans, and charms produced from the ancient world through the Middle Ages and renaissance. My skill as an energy worker, scribe and background in Classics has allowed me to recreate these amulets as works of art with an energetic twist.
You have a forthcoming Watcher Angel Tarot deck with Michelle Belanger. How is Tarot art different from other mediums (no pun intended)? Also, how does an artist call a Tarot card into being, so to speak?
The Tarot art is different from other art. For example, painting landscapes does not tend to consume your soul, nor does it leave you mentally and emotionally exhausted. To paint a landscape, one need only be inspired by the beauty of nature. To truly paint a tarot card, an artist needs to look deep within, examining personal concepts, and then have the courage and conviction to represent on the canvas images that may be painful or emotional.
So, how does an artist call a Tarot card into being and not simply redevelop age-old images? I will tell you how I painted each card, though it is not really possible to share the entirety of the five year journey. To start, every card begins first with a meditation or consideration of the concept of the card. You (the artist) think about what the card means in all aspects - its general meaning, its meaning in the story of the deck, and its personal meaning to you the artist. Sometimes the vision of the card comes to you immediately and you can't get the image on the canvas fast enough. Sometimes it is more difficult and you only have a rough idea of what you want. So you start looking at art books, your box of reference materials, and you develop the image of the card over a few days or weeks. I would sometimes brainstorm the concept of the card with friends and occasionally ask a friend to model for the image of the card. I would just tell them, "Show me what the concept of 'x' looks like to you." And they would think about it and then pose, as though embodying the card concept. And 99% of the time the image of the card would present itself right then with the click of the camera.
By focusing on the idea of the card, you frequently put that card into play. Since thought directs energy, the end result frequently was whether intended or not, the concept of the card becomes reflected in your life and sometimes in the lives of your friends. You get to experience the concept of the card in all of its glory. This effect generally lasts from the time you start thinking about the card until the card is completed. It's not as easy or as fun as it sounds. I have lived every single card in some form. So for anyone truly thinking of creating a tarot deck, be warned and be prepared to experience your deck.
A little like the "chicken or the egg" question, the hard part is deciding whether the card is affecting your life, or whether your life events are determining the next card. It's a little of both. I did not paint the cards in any particular order. I painted them according to whichever card concept seemed right at that moment. I would jump between suits, or to the major arcana, painting nothing in order. In a way, it was as though I were giving myself a tarot reading just by the randomness of the card selection. Sometimes the card was inspired by my life events taking shape, and sometimes I blazed boldly (and blindly) forward on a card only to have its affect meet me mid-way in the creation process.
Who inspires you as an artist?
I am influenced by a number of artists, really to many to name. In the past 5 years through the creation of the tarot, I have been particularly influenced and inspired by the following: John Waterhouse, Arthur Rackham, Alphonse Mucha, Brian Froud, John Howe, and the pre-Raphaelite artists as a whole. And although it is difficult to list a medieval illuminator (most illustrations were not signed), I am particularly fond of the work of Jean Pucelle, an early 14th century artist whose workshop was responsible for the creation of the Book of Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux. It is a particularly magnificent and ground breaking work that fundamentally changed the style of medieval illumination. Jean Pucelle blazed a trail in manuscript art.
In your opinion, is there a link between the creative arts and many who gravitate to the paranormal?
In my opinion, I think the more imagination and curiosity a person has, the more likely they will gravitate toward the paranormal. I feel that the more an individual learns to think outside the box, the more likely they will seek answers outside the conventional norm. They may be less likely to reach for what they are given and more likely to pursue their own path, being less rigid in their thinking and lending consideration to both the probable and improbable in equal measure.
Do you have any insights regarding how popular culture has influenced the "paranormal art genre"?
I can't really say that I've paid much attention to this subject. I admit, I tend to live under the proverbial "rock" focusing most of my attention on artists from 100+ years ago (Froud and Howe being the obvious exceptions). Most pop culture reference is lost on me, just ask my friends. I may be digging my own grave in the jokes and mockery category, but I also admit I consider anything that happened in the past 30 years to be "pop culture." But just ask me about something from the 1940's and before and I would totally get the reference. A little sad, isn't it folks?
What are your future plans as an artist?
In the short term, I will be working on the tarot post production, marketing and distribution. I will also be working on some personal projects and private commissions. For the long term, aside from the personal exploration of the pre-Raphaelite technique, I have no concrete plans. I would definitely like to pursue more illustration projects, especially for books. I have really enjoyed working with Llewellyn, doing sigil work for their publications, so I hope to do more in that regard. Being a published artist has been a life-long dream and I would like to continue that goal.
Any last words for inspiring energy workers and/or artists?
For the artists: words of advice - nothing is impossible if you work hard. If you can find personal satisfaction in your art, then you have already succeeded whether or not you publish or sell a single piece. Just because your style is different doesn't make it bad or wrong, it is your style and uniqueness is a good thing. Strive toward personal excellence, it's all any artist can do. The technique will follow in time, even accomplished artists are still learning. Do learn from other artists, but don't compare your art to that of other artists. You can only be who you are. Cope. Now, go create something that makes you happy and just do it for you.
For the energy workers: abilities come when you are ready for them, so be patient and keep working. Recognize that there are limits to your ability potential - not everyone can be an Olympic athlete after all. Learn all you can but be true to yourself and follow your own path. Examine all possibilities before reaching a conclusion, not everything has have a supernatural cause. Above all, be honest with yourself and others. Honesty promotes trust. Lying only does a disservice to you and your abilities, and to the community at large. As psychics, we fight an uphill battle against disbelief and cynicism from people whose trust has been violated by those who would fake abilities for attention, fame, or glory. Stand true to honesty. You may not be rewarded with fame and fortune, but I think respect is worth far more than superficial fleeting popularity.
Jackie and Michelle's Watcher Angel Tarot deck will be out October 2011 and will be available for purchase here. To learn more about Jackie, follow her on Twitter. She is also available for commissioned work.
Deonna Kelli Sayed is the author of the forthcoming book, Paranormal Obsession: America's Fascination with Ghosts, Hauntings, Spooks, & Spirits (Lewellyn, September 2011). Learn more about Deonna by visiting her Facebook Page.