Okanagan Oracle Colour Study 1: Devotion

I was slightly disappointed that 12 of the 58 cards in the Okanagan Oracle deck were black and white photographs. I like black and white photography but I bought this to work with colour so it startled me at first. Wouldn’t you know that the first card I drew from the deck was a black and white one. The Universe laughs and says “Roll with it Judith.”

Cosmic Jude they call me, always ready to embrace universal humour.

I have several decks out for this. I wanted to avoid the obvious and not use my Secret Language of Colour Cards so I used other things to pick cards with matching colours. Suzy often shows crystals or gemstones in pictures of the cards and though I have a few stones I thought I’d use the Tarot of Gemstones and Crystals to augment this deck as well as random postcards from my collection and the Dreaming in Color Luman Deck.

I first did this exercise back in about 2005 with the Power card in the Dreaming in Color deck, which is a strong gold colour so I went through 20-odd decks and picked gold cards that matched the them and then wrote essays about them. This study will be a simplified version of that.

DEVOTION – Okanagan Oracle
DEPRESSION – Dreaming in Color Luman Deck
FOUR OF CUPS – MAGNETITE – Tarot of Gemstones and Crystals
DEATH – The Sandman Postcards
FLAMES OF JUDGMENT – American Radiance Postcards, Artist unidentified, 19th century, painted wood.


The root word(s) of Devotion mean “to vow completely” in Latin. So this is not just a gentle, little love, this is a deep, ardent, zealous sort of love. Much like the flames devouring the woman on the postcard.

The Four of Cups is the Ennui card as I call it, paired with Depression and Death, this montage speaks of getting too wrapped up in the darker things of the mind. I have had a struggle with that for several months but the Devotion card reminds me that we always have a choice about what we devote our thoughts to. The flames can envelop me or I can raise my arms to devotion of another type.

Magnetite is one of the oxides of iron, and being magnetic is used for many things including ancient compasses. If we have it in our brain, which apparently we do, does it allow us to navigate? Who knows but this also reminds me that you set a course with your choices about what you think about.





Walter Chandler Finds Out On His Way to Harlem

We are still dealing with snow and ice dam issues on the roof. The spouse has now joined me in the land of pain, so we are both hobbling about. My husband has a heart problem that has to be watched due to possible infection leading to heart damage, which also threw us for a loop last week. We thought it had settled down and it got worse. He has to see a cardiologist in three weeks.

What can you do but utter the magic sentence “It was a bad week” and get on with it? Hopefully a better week upcoming.

There is a new biography of Duke Ellington out but my library doesn’t have it so I’ll have to wait a year to order it in on inter-library loan. Who knows, we might not be in this town in a year’s time. Gregory Porter has a rather charming song out called On My Way to Harlem that they play on the jazz radio station, which mentions Ellington and poet Langston Hughes in the lyrics.

I first learned of Langston Hughes from the Poet’s Corner Knowledge Cards that I bought to go with my tarot decks. Many a fine draw I had pairing it with the Thoth deck back in the day when such juxtapositions were frowned upon by the in-crowd at the Jump the Shark Forum. Yes, cards taught this white Anglo-Saxon Protestant about the Harlem Renaissance. Let me reflect on the fact that Billy Strayhorn never got proper recognition for Take the A Train.

I am just not feeling up to chatter right now. Up and down, waves come and go.

Let’s have a visual at least…

Walter Chandler (1826-?)
Elizabethtown, Union County, New Jersey, 1850
Watercolor and gouache on paper, 2 3/4 x 3 1/4 in.


His son, depicted here, lived until 1924 but this is the only known work of Walter Chandler (senior) who was a farmer and whose father was a shoemaker.

This little boy grew up to be an insurance broker, commuting by train to Manhattan and eventually living in New York City for a time. He was a Mason in the Masonic Grand Lodge of New Jersey and maintained his ties to Elizabethtown all his life. Elizabethtown seems to have been the first permanent community in New Jersey and a base for people after the Revolutionary War. Business, the railroad, schools and churches grew, and made a nice little middle-class town, a comfortable place to have children and be settled.

A place where a pretty carpet in the bedroom made a cozy play area for a little boy, who grew into the next century and saw the first steps of the Harlem Renaissance.


Ingrained in Massachusetts

Daily Draw December 24th, 2012

I picked this randomly from my postcard collection last night.

Attributed to Deacon Robert Peckham (1785-1877), Fitchburg, Worcester County Massachusetts, c 1841
Oil on Canvas, 52 1/2 x 39 1/2 in.


I love the two little girls at the front, one with a cat, and one with a china-head lady doll. The boy seems to be holding…the metal handle of the baby’s pram. I thought originally he might be holding a hoop or scooter to play with, but no, he is taking his responsibilities seriously and keeping the baby safe in her pram, steadying it. It’s an interesting pram with a wicker basket and a large domed hood which looks like it is lined with velvet.

Obviously prosperous and living in a nice home with expensive wallpaper and rugs. They have nicely made formal leather shoes and the one girl’s shoes are blue. Imagine having the money for coloured leather?

Solemn looking children. perhaps they are trying to be good so Father Christmas will come? It is Christmas Eve after all. Sadly, The Farwell Children includes the portrait of a child who had already died at the time the portrait was made. It is the baby Mary Jane who had died in 1841. Perhaps that’s why her brother John holds so tightly to the pram and the children appear so solemn? I think so.

In looking up the town of Fitchburg, which is still relatively small although now a city of 40,000-odd, I find it was named after a man named John Fitch, who at one point in the mid-18th century, was abducted with his family by Native Americans and taken to Canada.

There is a huge rock, carried from the mountains by a glacier, called the Rollstone Boulder in Fitchburg, that was a landmark for centuries to Natives and settlers in the area. It is also home to Crocker Field, the baseball stadium built for local residents in 1918 that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. They have also managed to preserve the Victorian Coggshall Park with miles of trails, bike paths, a lake with a gazebo, and a lovely stone house and picnic grounds. They have many small museums, Civil War memorabilia and such; it looks like a wonderful town to visit.

Robert Peckham really was a Deacon in the First Congregational Church in Westminster, Massachusetts, which is near Fitchburg. He believed in the abolition of slavery and in temperance, and was actively involved in the Underground Railway for slaves escaping from captivity, and used his own house for such purpose. Eventually it caused such a controversy that he resigned his Deaconship and was excommunicated by his church eight years later. Later still, after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, he was reinstated in the church.

He might have known John Thurston Farwell, the father of the children in the portrait, through the church, as Farwell was a Deacon in the First Congregational Church in Fitchburg. Or the Farwell family might just have hired him to paint a commemorative portrait of their children, including the dead baby, because he was known for his charming portraiture of children. No one knows how they connected, but commemorative paintings of dead children were common, and more common still after photography was introduced. I spoke of these cabinet photographs of dead children in my review of the Graven Images Oracle.

Peckham painted several of these so-called primitive, naive portraits or folk art portraits, usually of children. I can see why eventually they attributed this particular painting to him as the clothing and faces are peculiarly like signed work that was long-known to be painted by him. He also apparently made wooden toys for his own nine children and seems, despite his somewhat rigid and radical (for the time) beliefs, to have been a nice Dad who was fond of children and felt much compassion for people in need. One of his boys, who fought on the Union side, died in the wretched Confederate Andersonville prison during the Civil War.

The National Gallery of Art has a downloadable PDF with more information on Peckham and an exhibition of his works they held in 2012. The essay on his life and information on his paintings is fascinating.

According to this essay, the carpet in the picture was probably what is known as an “ingrain carpet”which is a machine-loomed, flat weave carpet with no pile, that is reversible. Some William Morris carpet designs are woven in this way, and one side is a reverse of the other, including the colours. Examples of the Morris flat-woven designs can be seen in his home, Kelmscott Manor. In England they were usually made in the town of Kidderminster, and thus were called Kidderminster carpets.

They look a bit like coverlets woven on a Jacquard loom since the machine was the same. I imagine they used thicker wool in the loom for carpeting. They are not popularly available today but they still make them for historic homes or as reproductions for museums.

An absolutely fascinating draw today, full of the rich and sad history of people, political movements, and long-lost craftsmanship.


The Hullabaloo Jar from Bucks County

Daily Draw December 6th, 2012

December sixth, pick up sticks. I am having a time rolling tissue paper flowers—it wasn’t working so I read a couple of mysteries.

Artist unidentified. Probably Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 1790
Glazed red earthenware


This is an eye-popper. We usually think of the 18th century as a time of subdued greys, taupes and greens, but “Hullabaloo!” look at this jar. It’s a small jar of about 7 x 6 x 5 inches so didn’t hold much. Perhaps it was for flour or sugar?

Maybe I should paint flowers like that instead of trying to roll tissue paper?




Mica and Emma Jane, in Theorem

Daily Draw October 31st, 2012

This is from a new collection of postcards called American Radiance: Selections from the Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum, published by the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. Ralph Esmerian donated over 400 paintings, sculptures, watercolours, weathervanes, carvings, pottery, fraktur, textiles, samplers, scrimshaw, and furniture from the 18th and 19 centuries to the museum and these 30 postcards are a small sample.

Oooh, all the good stuff. I love books on craft history and museums. I had this on my wish list for well over a year and finally bought it. These little $13 treats add up, so I have to pull back but they are SO interesting.

Emma Jane Cady (1854-1933)
East Chatham, Columbia County, New York, c.1895
Watercolor, gouache, pencil, and mica flakes on paper, 14 3/4 x 18 3/4 in.

I suppose my head has been in the clouds, lo these many years, but I was not aware of the prevalence of mica in artwork. Being a natural mineral, it is archival, so is safe to use on paper and canvas. For centuries, people have used mica powders and flakes to enhance pottery and paintings. I have some Iridescent Medium by Winsor and Newton which looks to have mica particles suspended in a base solution. I bought it to paint a picture of birds and became disheartened because it was to go in a sample of my work for a Tarot person who seemed to be more interested in writing a book for teenagers than doing up a deck she kept talking about. My loss is that I thought she was taking me seriously, and I wasted 15 hours doing samples and digital prep work. My real regret is also that I didn’t use this goop which looks so beautiful.

Fruit compote is an old dessert of fruit in sugar syrup and various special containers were made for it. It may have been derived from a Byzantine dessert, so is a very old way of enjoying fruit. Compote is French for “mixture.” Emma Jane has put mica flakes on her glass compote rendering to suggest the sparkle of glass. The entire picture was done with stencils in an old technique called “theorem painting,” which was often done on white velvet rather than paper. There is some biographical information for her at the Museum’s web site.

Here is some more information on theorem painting by the author of a comprehensive book on the history of the technique.

Unfortunately, Ralph Esmerian has since had a few problems and is now in jail for fraud and embezzlement. He had some stunning jewellery in his personal collection, but I am disheartened to learn of his lack of ethics.

The American Folk Art Museum is in trouble too but has such wonderful items from history, that I hope they can keep it going.

So the lesson is: never let other people dishearten you, never give your time away to flakes, make your art anyway, using whatever materials you want, and enjoy the sparkle of creativity.

I must try this iridescent medium on something. I’m knitting a snake right now and don’t want to fragment my already fragmented mind, but I must get to this, if only in memory of Emma Jane Cady who made me glad to be alive today.