Spirit of the North

"This isn't just about creativity in the arts; it's part of something larger. It's about living and working creatively every day. The creative process exists in all of us...Creativity is inherently human and not just for the 'artistic', and if nurtured and exercised regularly, it's an incredible tool." ~ Painting Your Way Out of a Corner; the art of getting unstuck by Barbara Diane Barry.

mixed media "Nuliajuk, Spirit of the North"

("Spirit of the North", Mixed media on 11 X 15 inch Canson watercolour paper).

Before I started this project, I had to think of an animal with which I felt a kind of spiritual connection.

To be honest, my dogs would have fit the bill. If you are a dog lover as I am, you will understand what I mean when I say that I do feel that special connection with them.

However, my dainty Maltese and Havanese just weren't impressive enough for this painting. I needed something regal.

The easiest part was the brainstorming on paper to finally reach a decision.

I thought of the beautiful snowy owl, but I had already used the owl in another painting last year. I wanted to try something different. I come from the land of ice and snow

Next, I researched the Arctic wolf; this animal's characteristics weren't appealing to me so I dismissed it very quickly.

The iconic polar bear inspired me with its symbolism, the folklore, and the myths associated with ursus maritimus. Finally, I felt I had something majestic that could work in my painting. At this point, I still wasn't sure of the story I could tell with this animal.

brainstorming as preparation for painting
what lies underneath the painting

I used words I retained from my research on the polar bear as a first layer in my painting; unfortunately, none are visible in the final result. Oh well! Still, I find it an interesting way to get a painting started, one I had not thought of previously.

What lies underneath Spirit of the North

Over the words, I spread dabs of three or four different acrylic colours and then decided that I definitely needed white to soften the look and to suggest snow.

I first used a stencil for the white swirls and then my fingers to spread the white acrylic in horizontal lines across the page. I rather like the effect since the streaks of white remind me of a blizzard.

Next, I worked on the figure which took longer than I expected.

Initially, the first figure I drew after the draft sketch was neither male nor female. The bear also went through several changes in colour.

To make the female figure appear more exotic I used the little dots around the face and under the eyes. I added glitter snow on the protective arms around the woman's shoulders.

Once I had her finished, I felt she was missing something. I thought of adding a snow globe. With more research, this is the story I wrote to explain the object she is holding.

Spirit of the North - a short tale from the Arctic.

Nuliajuk, Spirit of the North, wandered the barren lands of the Arctic during the long, dark days and nights of winter in search of Nanuq's talisman.

As the protector of all animals, and the mistress of land and sea, it was Nuliajuk's duty to find the tornaq, the spiritual talisman that was stolen from Nanuq many winters ago.

Since the tornaq had come into the possession of the evil shaman, glaciers had receded and the sea ice was melting.

With each passing season, food for Nanuq and her cubs was becoming more scarce. She wandered ever further afar from the southern tundra to raise and feed her young cubs. Her very existence was threatened.

On a bitterly cold night, Nuliajuk confronted the shaman taking the shape of his most feared enemy, the great white Nanuq.

Walking on her hind legs, she was a formidable opponent.

The polar bear's power

The shaman knew he could not fight the massive bear and her totem powers. For she had been gifted with endurance for the long winters, strength to fight off her enemies, acceptance when she felt weak from starvation, and surrender to higher spirits when she could no longer trek across the vast snow desert.

What the shaman had always refused to see was that Nuliajuk and Nanuq were one and the same. Although the shaman summoned all his magical powers, he was no match for the combined intelligence of Nuliajuk and the fearlessness of Nanuq.

Hiding beneath the imperial white pelt, Nuliajuk used her bear paws to claw at the evil magician.

The powerful gigantic claw took a final lethal swipe at the shaman and he dropped the precious tornaq.

Carefully, she cradled the delicate tornaq that, through its magical powers, would forever ensure that Nanuq and her cubs would find protection from the dangers of receding ice in the Arctic.

Nuliajuk removed her ursine disguise and returned to the land of her people.

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