January 28, 2019
It was New Year’s Day. I was about to leave Toronto. I wrapped myself in a fuzzy blanket and said to my sweetheart, “I am in a cocoon. Until I fly away.” The metaphor of the butterfly seemed apt. I felt fragile and also beautiful. And I was ready for migration.
Before I left, I had my first art show. It was meant to prove something to myself. I rechristened myself with the title of Fine Artist. Surrounded by these works I loved so much that I didn’t care what anyone else thought, evidence proved that it was true.
Arriving in Brooklyn, I still needed two more weeks in my cocoon and I cried a lot. I’m going through the sorrowful process of confronting and comforting the parts of myself that are the most stupid and afraid. Admitting where I went wrong. And going places where I am alone and uncertain.
Reminding myself that when I was just out of school over a decade ago, I gave myself the title of fashion illustrator and for ten years, that’s what I did and everyone believed me. So of course I can become anything, just simply by giving myself a title while simultaneously proceeding to do it. That doesn’t mean becoming the version of myself that I was always meant to be is not scary to do. I guess I’ve finally arrived at a state where the alternative seems intolerable.
on becoming a high priestess
Even more audaciously than calling myself an artist, I have taken the veil of the High Priestess and placed it upon my head. This is tied directly to my actualization as an artist, and both promotions required me to do due diligence and address my own wounds first.
I’m no longer a handmaiden, and evidence also bears this out. I’ve now participated actively in several successful healings and seen many break through denial. These assignments were often paid for indirectly and only sometimes involved the Tarot. It’s a very interesting and odd role, which can be hard to describe to others, although if I am performing it for your benefit you will understand. High Priestess seems to be the best title as my work is of a spiritual nature and involves helping others come to their own realizations.
Although taking on a new title does seem like a graduation of sorts, being high doesn’t mean I’m much better than I was before. I still experience all the ups and downs and doubts and dramas, although I do deal with them differently now. I still have many realizations that I have yet to come to. I still have broken relationships that haven’t been resolved. I still find myself in error sometimes and in need of correction. Everything still takes time. In a way, I’m able to be of service to others because I’m not any better than they are, only slightly more practiced in recognizing signals and with the benefit of consciously experiencing a complete healing cycle. Of course, it’s their own intuition they are listening to, and my task is only to provide the confirmation of a witness.
It’s important to me not to trip on the mantle of the High Priestess, as I did several times in the course of my apprenticeship. Energy work is no joke, I’ve learned this the hard way. This means I must do the inner work to maintain a clean channel. I have to process every emotional blockage as soon as I can. I must be as honest and gentle as possible, above all with myself, or I’m of no use to others. I must be conscious of my internal state and refrain from priestessing when I’m in the shadow. I must remind myself to be more trusting of the signs, because I’ve repeatedly demonstrated myself to be habitually incredulous.
Further, I resolve to myself, and to you, to be aware and take care to avoid the pitfalls. There is the temptation to sell easy answers. False comforts are awfully popular and totally useless. There are more than enough people in that business and I don’t want to be a part of it. I resolve to resist the tendencies towards categorical or magical thinking. Nothing is simple and everything is contextual. To be continually in the process of study and practice, to access information from a wide variety of sources, to be willing to revise any received knowledge in the light of new evidence. To be wary of the ego trap of spiritual ‘achievement’. To remember that presence is more valuable and effective than any advice or ‘teaching’. Inevitably as I’m only human, I will stumble along the way. When I’m wrong I’ll admit it and take whatever steps are needed to return to being upright.
Above all, I commit to keep my eyes high to the sky. I only have the chance of transmitting divine insight when I trust that its source is far beyond me. Wisdom does not come from me, however it can pass through me, providing I get out of the way.
on becoming a fine artist
The work of being an artist is nearly identical to being a high priestess. It also requires me to get out of my own way and to clear as many blockages as possible. Following the signs is equally as important. So is becoming less involved. It’s a step beyond self-belief in a way, towards believing in the process.
Being a commercial artist is pretty straightforward; you draw other people’s ideas and do it in a way that pleases them, and so they pay you. It only requires slightly more faith than conventional employment.
Being a fine artist is a dizzying surrender to the unknown. It involves simply following your own ideas (wherever they come from?) and pleasing yourself. How you will be paid is a completely tangential thing; it only happens if people happen to like what you like. However this is incidental, because as an artist you must answer to yourself first. That’s what we love about artists; that they don’t compromise their vision to try and deliver what the market wants. They deliver what we never even knew we wanted; what we struggle to even describe. That kind of satisfaction that only occurs when we do something for no practical reason other than that mysterious curiosity we call inspiration.
Here’s the truth: I do find this next level of trust to be terrifying. And yet I know I can no longer be the fashion illustrator. I’m simply not able to be the obedient, eager to please young ingenue I used to be. The last few times a client asked me to adjust what I knew were exceptionally good paintings, I experienced a feeling that was nearly indistinguishable from pain, which then deepened into a temporary depression. After years of practice, I know that adding “just one more line” is the kiss of death for my work, turning it into overworked trash. That is, if you consider my own assessment of my work valid, which it seems I am finally finding the confidence to do. And yet of course I do not wish to argue with a client, so I feel conflicted.
It didn’t used to bother me, after all I would say, they are paying for it. Now, it seems like money is a very trivial reason for ‘fixing’ already good work just to fit into someone else’s idea of acceptable aesthetics. I can’t blame the art directors who are just doing their jobs. It’s really on me to start saying no to this type of gig, even though I’m in no way certain that I will be able to support myself on fine art alone. This strong sensation of aversion is something I have to accept and work around. My failure to willingly cater to the requests of my clients is essentially forcing me to risk everything and become a fine artist. At least that way I can say; this is what it is, if you love it, great, and if not, it doesn’t matter.
Change can be gradual for a while, until in one moment it has to be sudden and complete. The cocoon is left behind forever.
There’s no roadmap for this. Every artist is different and I’m no exception. I just know that this is what I am and I must find a way to do it by any means necessary. Realizing it requires a complete commitment to the work. A willingness to sacrifice everything to do it. The source of this unprecedented trust is a belief in the divine plan of the universe, that seems to have created me to do this, for reasons I may never understand.
A postscript: after I posted this I had a dream where I changed my name. and I woke and felt this was exactly the right time to do it. My new name is Danielle Final.