As the new year began, I felt the old pull to embark on some new art projects. I will post updates as I work on this set more. Here are my latest artwork in progress. Keep in mind some are just begun and will change drastically before they are finished. I thought it would be interesting to post them at this early stage to see how far they change…
Thank you for stopping by to check out my latest artworks in progress. I will be posting new pictures as the work develops. Check back in to watch evolution in progress.
When I make a design, I like to research the symbolism to really understand it. Recently, I designed a Rod of Asclepius; an ancient symbol most easily recognized from its symbolic use by the medical profession. Often confused with the Rod of Hermes or Caduceus which has two snakes wrapping a staff, the Rod of Asclepius has a single snake. Where did this symbol originate and what does it really mean? Well, I wanted to know so I did some poking around to find answers.
Who is Asclepius and what’s up with his rod?
Asclepius is the ancient Greek god of medicine and healing. He was the son of Apollo (the sun) and father of another famous doctor Hippocrates. As with many archetypal characters, there are several versions of the story of his mother but none end well for her and Asclepius was raised by his father. Apollo taught the young demigod how to heal using plants. Asclepius was so skilled that it was said he could even raise the dead. The gods felt he would upset the balance and had him assassinated by Zeus.
The Rod of Asclepius symbol is made up of a snake wrapping around a staff. Scholars debate over the meanings of the snake and staff. The truth is, like with most symbols used by mystics, their meanings are many. The most popular meaning of the snake is that it represents rebirth since it sheds its skin. Since healers in the old days had to travel on foot, the staff was also associated with the medicine man.
The magical snake of Moses
The Rod of Asclepius symbol seems to make a cameo in the Bible also. The use of a magical serpent on a stick by Moses would give this symbol an older usage than ancient Greece. In Exodus, the Hebrew God tells Moses to make a fiery serpent and place it upon a pole. When he does this, anyone who is bitten by a snake is magically healed by looking at it. I would really like to learn that spell! Moses also performed a neat little trick turning a staff into a serpent.
The Rod of Asclepius archaic roots?
I believe that the origins of the use of the serpent and staff date back to the archaic times. The Rod of Asclepius was made out of symbols taken from shamanism and the archaic medicine man. Let me explain.
The Shaman snake
Use of serpent symbolism predates our known history. Many archaic shamanic cultures have beliefs involving serpent symbolism. Some Siberian shamans tell ancient stories about riding the serpent rainbow into the upper world. They also spoke of following snakes into tunnels that lead to the underworld. The encompassing symbolism can be summarized to the best of my ability: shamans viewed the snake to symbolize the solar energy and path through the sky. It’s energy is the source of all life and, therefore, healing.
The Shaman Pole
My understanding of the symbol of the pole is that it connects the worlds. The pole is a simplified world tree. The world tree varies from culture to culture but is a sacred tree. It connects this world to the underworld with its roots and to the heavens with its branches.
Many shamanic rituals involve climbing a sacred tree. The shaman goes into trance and climbs the branches. As he climbs, he enacts different adventures at each level of heaven the tree leads him to. Anyway, they would strip the tree of most of the branches not needed for the ritual. Over time, many cultures ditched the branches all together and it became a pole.
The Universal Healer
The serpent on the pole is a symbol of a healer. A person who can harness the power of life represented by the snake. They are also a person who can ascend and descent through the worlds by climbing up or down the world tree into the underworld or heavens. In those ancient times, they knew that sickness was a spiritual battle. The archaic shaman was a healer who dealt in all of the worlds and understood life energy.
…And so I drew my own adaptation!
Below, you can see some of the work in progress. I will explain some of the choices I made in my version.
I went with the winged disc at the top of the pole to reiterate the solar connection. This was meant to particularly reference Egypt.
The snake is loosely modeled after a python.
Inking was completed with a Micron pen. Actually, that’s not true. This drawing took up about five Micron pens…
Well, after digging through some history and some of my own hogwash, here I am in a very comfortable shirt. Sign up for my newsletter and get yours for 10% OFF!
One of the more popular prints from the Closet of Mysteries is the hand drawn Deer Shaman T Shirt. Here is the story of how I developed this design.
The Back Story
Before moving to northern Arizona, I spent a lot of time venturing into the area for recreation. On one adventure, I noticed a metal sculpture of a deer headed man at a gas station in Flagstaff. After that, the image seemed to jump out at me every time I came to the area.
Since moving northward from Phoenix, I have seen this fellow quite a lot. Finally, while visiting a gem shop in Cottonwood, Cristina inquired about one of the metal sculptures of the deer headed man with the shop owners. They explained that he is a shaman and that is why you will always see him with a medicine bag around his neck.
After doing some research, I found that this particular motif of shamanism has been common around the world since ancient times; mostly occurring within tribes of people who, not surprisingly, sustain themselves by deer hunting. This is yet another example of the curious connection between cultures with supposedly no contact and separated by oceans yet doing the same things…
I decided to create my own hand drawn version of this character for a deer shaman t shirt design. Here is a sneak peek at the finished product:
Below are the various stages of the creative process through completion…
I like to work with a .5 mechanical pencil for most all of my drawings before inking.
I begin with the deer head since it is the main focus of the piece.
As I began to work on the body, I decided to give him a staff to aid him in his magical endeavors…
You can see that I started out giving him two of them but thought better of it.
I then added more detail with the fire resulting from his conjuring, the essential medicine bag, and lots of folds in his rough robe.
Once satisfied with my pencil sketch, it was time to do the inking. I use a waterproof acrylic ink and calligraphy pen to get the line quality and contrast I will need in order to get a good screen print image.
The Final Deer Shaman T Shirt Design
The final stage was done by scanning the drawing at a high resolution and adding some cool tribal elements to create a background to make my shaman stand out. At this stage, I am ready to turn this design into a screen printed deer shaman t shirt!
Thanks for visiting! Be sure to follow the Closet of Mysteries Blog for the latest and greatest in magical, mystical, ethereal, and always mysterious happenings from the shop.