by Shelly Mortensen
Flowers are especially sensitive to color reflection as witnessed by their many hues and vibrant displays. When the energy of flowers is fused with water to make an essence, it releases its ethereal patterning and shares its secrets for our health, spiritual well being.... and for instruction through watercolor painting.
While working with flower essences for my own well being, it was suggested that I try using the essences with my watercolor pigment. I had been doing watercolor painting with tap water for ten years by that time. The results of sketches using flower essences were very positive. There was a difference in how the watercolor pigment vibrated on the paper. I have used a dozen or more varieties to date with marked results.
This concept is not really as far-fetched as one may think; energy and vibration are how we see color. Technically, light triggers the functional activity of the eye. As a form of radiant energy traveling at 186,000 miles per second, light illuminates the way, making sight possible. When you think of light, you should also think of color. Ordinary visible light, the kind to which our eyes are sensitive, has a frequency of about 600 trillion waves striking your eyeballs every second.
George Seurat's pointillist painting, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, is a good example of the idea of color and vibrational qualities. After studying the theories of Helmholtz and Chevreul and the colors of the spectrum, the artist realized that by painting little dots of primary colors very closely together, the vibration of these colors would meld together -- juxtaposed when viewed from a distance -- into what would appear to be new colors. This concept was developed in the 1880s.
Today's common four-color printing is related to Seurat's method. Tiny dots of printers' primaries, along with black, are printed together in various amounts on white paper to achieve the effect of full color. There is an optical illusion by the vibration of their blending into new colors.
Results of Essences with Watercolors
Below are stories of my experience using watercolors and flower essences. It is an interesting experiment to take a moment to look at each accompanying painting before reading about its making and the essence that was used. What impressions do you get?
Bay Laurel Essence (painting at right): There was no hesitation on Easter morning when I climbed Trinidad Head to paint. I knew this special place was a point of departure for my new watercolor theory and work. The Trinidad area had been inhabited by Indians for hundreds of years before the Spanish erected their cross claiming Trinidad Harbor. There is a very strong grandmother connection with this powerful essence and this outcropping in the Pacific Ocean. A 500 year old bay laurel tree resides on the bluff overlooking the original Indian village.
Working with the Star Essences Bay Laurel essence is like a good, long, meditation. It takes you to places you are connected to on the inner planes. It is the light navigator that helps you to know your direction. It lights the path with the radiant light of your god presence.
This essence is no shrinking violet or wallflower. It puts it out there, right now, and goes straight for the top. I had to cool it down, on occasion, to get any subtle colors at all.
Forget-Me-Not Essence (painting second from top - click on image for a larger view): I was very impatient with the watercolor I did using the Forget-Me-Not. I wanted to be done and move on to the next one, but the Forget-Me-Not essence would have none of that. It was clear from the beginning that the pigment would not travel very far on the paper which had been soaked with the essence of Forget-Me-Not. The pigments stood fast under the pressure of the brush. When I thought I was done with the image, the forget-me-not essence "called" me back again and again to add detail and observe more. Finally it was done, but I will never forget being called back to finish, again and again.
Lotus Essence (image at top): What a surprise the Lotus Blossom was to work with. I really thought it was going to be very light, airy and fairy-like. I expected cotton candy pink visions with rose haze highlights, because that is how the Lotus blossom smells. What I got was the reality of the Lotus: MUD. Wonderful, rich, deep, soulful MUD. It prevailed no matter how careful I was to protect the light. It wanted to express its mudfulness. The dense thickness of the leaf and the sucking of the nutrients of the watery earth impacted me as I painted. I felt humbled before it. However, the painting did settle down to a very soft, pixie dust, cotton candy that I had suspected all along but was hidden in the mud. Now it comes through in a cloud-like glow. Soft, but dense like a mushroom, which grows near the mud.
Trillium Essence (painting at right and along left border of this page): This vibrational essence was made under a full moon during the Hale-Bopp Comet. On the paper, it was very focused, and the pigments did not move. Moving watercolor pigment and diluting it with tap water produces the varying tones of different colors. Even adding more water hardly fazed the pigment. That is why this particular depiction is so vibrant compared to some of the softer essence images. I took risks with water that I never took before, just to test it. Beautiful color mixes can be made with Trillium essence, as it is steadfast. Deeply rich colors expressed themselves, much to my delight.
The Trillium revealed another of its secrets: SAND -- it was like sand! It was porous like sand and dried out extremely quickly and hard. I was amazed when I looked at my palette after not having painted for a few days. It was very, very dry. Mind you, here on the North Coast of California, we have serious mold/dampness problems. Nothing dries out. It was also like sand when it was wet. It was not very moveable. It became grainy when it dried on my watercolor paper. I will admit I helped this by using pigments that lend themselves to this effect, but only after this essence showed me its propensities.
Flower essences gave me a way to express myself in watercolor that I could not obtain or achieve with tap water. The neutrality of the tap water makes it an excellent conductor, but for that very same reason it also constricts. With tap water's neutrality, I always had to take the lead. Flower essences open up the gateway to a myriad of expressions through their vibrational qualities. It is like going into uncharted waters on a guided voyage of discovery. Because it is subtle, this work is instinctual, quiet and profound. You must be willing to trust so the flower essence can instruct about its etheric patterning.
ART CREDITS: The images on this page are by Shelly Mortensen and are a part of her upcoming Flower Essence Calendar for 2003.