Picturing Consciousness: Out of the Deep Waters by Katherine McDaniel

Exploring our inner landscape can be as challenging as exploring the world around us. How are these two worlds linked?

Out of the Deep Waters © Katherine McDaniel, 2014
Out of the Deep Waters
© Katherine McDaniel, 2014

My newest painting is called Out of the Deep Waters. It’s about the interplay between external reality and the unconscious that produces both life and art. I chose a limited color palette here, dominated by shades of blue, brownish reds and yellows. This color palette and the subject matter itself strike me as vaguely like those of some indigenous peoples, but I can’t quite place them.

photo 3 There are two fields in this painting, the underwater realm and the realm of the sky, separated by large waves of sea foam. Below is the deep blue ocean, darkening into black and peopled with various shapes. Near the surface is a strange vessel, perhaps a shell, or, in my mind, a piece of ancient pottery or basketry. It is just barely beneath the waves and seems to help shape them. Lower down, an angel fish swims gracefully past, followed by an unusual figure that appears to have a head, fin, and tentacles. A fish tail and body dive away from our eyes, plunging deeper into the darkness and off the side of the painting. Is this a whale, a fish, or a mermaid? We can’t get deep enough to tell. In the bottom lefthand corner lies a shining treasure, which we also cannot comprehend. Is it something floating there, or is it the ocean bottom?

Emerging from the water is a tremendous figure that dominates the picture. This creature represents the Self. Its tail remains in the water, but most of it rises majestically into the rusty reddish air, a shining kite like shape with branched arms that come from its sides. The creature’s right side is yellowish, perhaps illuminated by the sun, pictured here as a large sunflower. The creature’s left lies in shade and is a dark reddish brown. At the center of the being is a small blue chevron which looks rather like an upside down heart. The blue chevron reminds me that the center of my being is the subconscious, which is akin to the great blue sea of unconsciousness below it.

photo 2 Next to the shadowed side of the Self, a paintbrush drips into the water, dripping a dirty yellow on to the fish tail below it, which swims away, anxious to stay unrevealed. The brush is draped with a deep blue cloth that blows in the wind. It is interesting to note that items in the water echo the red color of the sky, and items in the air that of the blue water. This, for me, represents unity and the mystery of interconnection between inner and outer worlds. Art is of both realms.

photo 4 The yellow shades I interpret as illumination, which comes from an exterior source, separate from the air and water but present in both, and indeed, in every figure here. The sun is yellow, but contains a darker center, similarly the buried treasure is not only comprised of brilliance, but of the ordinary (brown).

As always, I practice automatic painting, which means I do not plan before I begin applying color. That means my subconscious is very deeply involved in what appears on the canvas and that I frequently miss things that it is trying to manifest. So, if you see something that speaks to you or recognize a symbol I may have missed, please let me know about it.

4 thoughts on “Picturing Consciousness: Out of the Deep Waters by Katherine McDaniel

    • katmcdaniel Reply

      Thank you so much, Michael!! How are you? I need to get over to your site and see what you’ve been up to. 🙂 This Fall has been quite busy and exciting for me.

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