"Being an artist isn’t just a “right brain” activity---you must use ALL of your brain, body and spirit to create. When the creation is done, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts… and so is the creator." - Lyrae Perry

What’s that funny little symbol all about?

Writing is an art.  Egyptian heiroglyphics and Mayan glyphs took the art of writing to the highest level by blending drawing and meaning into symbols.  The Egyptian heiroglyphs were finally translated with the help of the Rosetta stone.  But there’s no such help when it comes to ancient texts for the Maya.

The latest studies tell us that Mayan symbols could represent the sound of a letter, a whole word or a complex concept.  The full meaning of the writing must include the context of the writing on the pyramids or steles.  Different author/artists used the same symbols, but there are slight differences  much like there are differences in handwriting styles from one person to the next.

The Maya writing symbols weren’t translated until fairly recently and the ongoing study of the Mayan culture through its word art, is giving us new perspectives on the daily lives of the people in this ancient society.  Their art is stylized and complex. Sometimes it’s hard to decipher what’s going on in the pictures and it makes you wonder how anyone could figure it all out.

I have some favorite word symbols and the  one I like best embodies the universal search for meaning and the journey we all take as living beings.  This is the symbol I chose for the Paint Excursions, Inc. logo….it’s the Mayan symbol meaning “spirit” or “way”.

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The little house or door at the bottom center has a round circle inside–this represents the person. The path represents the journey that person makes through life…between day and night, light and dark, and the Maya version of yin and yang–the complimentary opposites.  The sun on one side and the moon and stars on the other side represent the twin brothers from the Maya creation myth.  While this symbol is uniquely Mayan, the concept is universal.

There’s a really important book published on the Mayan myth…it’s called the Popul Vu, and it’s essentially the Mayan bible.  The Popul Vu uses story and metaphor in the same way other religions do – to tell the history of the people, the world and the universal creative forces.  It’s also a guide instructing the people on how to live a good life.  By current US standards, some aspects of the Mayan culture were cruel and violent, but the people believed in their religion and way of life and they flourished.  The Mayan people comprised one of the largest and most advanced societies in the ancient world.  They were masters of astronomy and created calendars that rival the accuracy of atomic clocks today.

I liked the “spirit” or “way”  symbol so much that I ended up creating an entire series of paintings around the design.  As the different Maya writer/artists put their own “slant” on the design, so have I.  Current metaphoric references have been brought into some of my paintings in this series.

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This version is oil on canvas, with impasto layers on the sun, moon stars and the “person” symbol.  I used iridescent paint in the yellow area around the sun. Each of the circles are covered in gold leaf, silver leaf or copper leaf.

I have to say that this has been one of the most satisfying and enjoyable projects I’ve ever worked on because it wasn’t about tight realistic rendering, which is a lot of  hard work.   Instead it was about creativity at the most basic level.  I had fun experimenting with variations on a simple design, and wasn’t fussed about perfection. I was focusing  only on the message and meaning I wanted to convey and the joy of using different techniques and materials.  It felt really good.  No, I’m not giving up on my wildlife art.  I’m just giving myself a creativity break…just for the fun of it!

 

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