I first got the idea for this painting in December 2015 while I was working a month long seasonal job at the post office. It was the worst job I've had to date, and I've moved furniture and done landscaping at a water reclamation plant (they smell like toxic poop) during the Tucson summer. Working at the post office entailed me coming in at 5pm and working a 12 hour shift in the mail handling warehouse. I was either outside in the cold pushing huge containers full of mail sacks that weighed about 20 lbs on average and dumping the contents into another container, mindlessly unsheathing letter trays and putting them on a conveyor belt for hours on end, palleting boxes filled with smaller boxes into a big machine that dumped them onto another conveyor belt (this was actually kind of cool), pulling mail out of said boxes with a pole, cutting open stacks of magazines and putting them in a sorting machine, or standing around doing nothing. This was a total system shock. I was used to sitting all day making art and I was now standing all night making no art. The first few days my legs and lower back would be in a good deal of pain from standing and bending over for 12 hours. I would pretty much wake up, remember I worked at the post office, hate my life, work, come home to eat and watch Netflix, then go to bed. This was the first time I didn't draw or paint for an extended period of time in years and I got pretty depressed. I had already been struggling on and off with depression for a couple years too. I really needed money though, so I sucked it up and worked. What's more is there were people that had been there for 40 years and that was their life, which I still can't really wrap my head around. I was pretty miserable for the that whole month though and my only solace was the Collective Podcast, audiobooks, and thinking of ideas for paintings.
I definitely had some sort of creative buildup and started getting much more involved in these fantasizing daydreams where scenes and scenarios started building up in my head that fit the music I was listening to. I kind of tapped into that mental space as an alternative to getting my jollies by actually making stuff and I started getting some really cool ideas, one of those being this massive painting. The original idea seemed to just flash into my minds eye out of nowhere like a muse came in and slapped my brain with a stamp of the picture, and the mood it gave off and how it looked pretty much floored me. I just knew I had to paint it. But that initial idea was so much different than how the painting actually turned out. I had an impression of all these different sized and bizarrely shaped figures, people with extra limbs that were twice their typical length, giant heads, etc... grouped around in a council in this overcast and moody outdoor garden type place. I had just watched Werner Herzog's Nosferatu and loved the clothing style and aesthetic of all the architecture, the horse drawn carriages and cloaks, etc... I imagined a magical traveler on the quest for knowledge, or delivering an important message, coming up to this council. The impression of him was of a Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain type alchemist climbing these steps and looking back ever so contemplatively. But after actually starting to flesh it out it got distilled and sterilized by my execution. I never really gave it much more of a backstory than a very general impression of some sort of allowance into a knowledge that had to be earned for the traveler, and worrying about being deemed unworthy for that knowledge by this council. I had also just started researching everything I could find on astral projection, I was so curious about it.
There's this idea that we can move our point of awareness outside of our bodies and interact with other "conscious entities" and exchange mental data. Due to our experiences and our own subjective interpretation of the way we see things, this data can be colored in a certain way that will fit with what you already understand. It can also be colored by your own projections of certain expectations and emotions, so what you're seeing is an amalgamation of a reflection of you and the data you're receiving. Normal waking reality actually isn't much different to this either, just much harder to notice. So I had this idea of this Black Magus on a hellbent quest for knowledge, and that he might not have the best intentions for using that knowledge- that he was going to use it in a self serving sense, but he was willing to put in the work for it. This scene could be him astral projecting to some far off mental landscape and consulting with some higher beings ready to either impart him with this knowledge or send him off based on his worthiness. All of the characters and scenery would be colored by the type of character and experiences either he or the viewer have.
This whole painting also seemed to turn into an ode to knowledge, understanding and overcoming fear. I did a ton of learning about myself and overcoming a lot of mental and emotional humps over the course of the year that I intermittently worked on it. On the Black Magus' hat there's the symbol of Keter, the topmost sephira in the kabalistic tree of life that signifies knowledge unknowable to mankind, divine understanding and complete compassion. On top of the Matriarch of the order of the Penetrating Eye (the central woman) she has the symbol of Thoth on her crown, and there's an Ibis, one of the animals that represents Thoth, at the feet of the council members. Thoth is the Egyptian of God of knowledge, the moon, measurement, wisdom, the alphabet, records, thought, intelligence, meditation, the mind, logic, reason, reading, hieroglyphics, magic, secrets, scribes, and writing. I felt like I had finally found a thread that I could follow that led to figuring out my thoughts and learning how to be content. So much of that was realizing what I was afraid of; and fear can disguise itself in so many different forms, taking that fear and figuring out why I had it, where it came from, and pulling it out by the roots. The easiest way to find your own fears is when they flare up in your ego. Any time you feel any negative emotion or get upset about anything you can trace it back down to some form of fear, belief, expectation, or assumption that led you to not understanding something correctly. Or you having some sort of want or desire which you may not even be aware you have, and you're either afraid you won't get that thing, or upset that you didn't get it. This process, and realizing it wasn't all about me, and that I'm an integral part of a bigger picture that has to contribute in order to be of any use, has helped me so much in finally starting to get my shit together. This whole painting was like a physical ritual that grew along with me. Overcoming so much of this really inspired me to help others get over similar problems. I want to almost scare people into being more courageous with spooky work, using fear as a catalyst to set you off on a path of growth.
There was a definite tipping point while I was working on this that I was unsure if I could even finish it. There just seemed to be no end in sight. But I had already dug this hole for myself and anything but following through just wouldn't make sense. After that hump the rest of the painting actually went pretty smoothly.
Here's how the entire thing unfolded. So much painting. Not a single photo was used and this has really made me reconsider using photos and textures to get a quicker result. But I'm glad it came out the way it did. Here's some progress shots for each of the characters and how they developed-
This painting was actually a sort of study to flesh out this character. I called him a Daemon implying or hearkening back to the idea that the Magus is consulting with a group of spirits.
If you'd like to see the progress of the knight on the right I have the entire thing recorded! It's in tutorial form though and is about 4 hours long. I go over just about everything I'm thinking as I do it. Here's a little preview of a good chunk.
Here's a link to closeups of all the characters at 100% resolution - https://www.artstation.com/artwork/kXKnA
I really hope you enjoyed this and that this can help in some way shape or form. I love making stuff and learning, and sharing that with people.
If you're at all curious about astral projection or the nature of consciousness please check out these books: Astral Dynamics by Robert Bruce, Journeys out of Body, Far Journeys, and Ultimate Journey by Robert Monroe, and the Phase by Michael Raduga. Just dipping your toes into this can lead to some really strange and interesting experiences.
Another book that's somewhat related but much more practical in a 'improve you life' sense is My Big TOE (theory of everything) by Tom Campbell. He actually worked with Robert Monroe in his lab studying altered states of consciousness. His work along with some awesome friends of mine have really changed my life for the better. Here's his youtube with tons of videos - https://www.youtube.com/user/twcjr44
As for what's coming up, I've been putting a ton of work into this new site and really like it. I'm working on uploading a huge archive full of all my favorite art and artists for you to download. It's gonna take a while though cause my internet sucks. I've also picked up a painting I started at about the same time as this one. Hopefully it won't take almost a year to finish...
Also here's some of the music I listened to a lot while working on the big painting if you want to get a deeper sense of the mood I was trying to pull off -