“We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.” -Hermann Hesse
The spiral design is one we’ve all drawn or doodled at one time or another. When I share with others the joy of drawing, we often start with drawing ‘tornadoes’ – a repetitive round and round and round type motion that helps us adjust to the pencil as well as slowing down our thoughts in an almost-hypnotic approach. After going around and round countless times, it’s almost effortless to then – with the same light touch – draw an ellipse.
Many times I find myself drawing spirals in that same easy-going style; not thinking of anything, I draw those flowing lines that spiral from outside to in – or inside to out. It’s like a form of meditation – no thought involved, just relaxed and soothing lines, a bit like watching a ballet or tapping into the natural flow of music. Sometimes a second set of lines wraps inside the other. There are times when my mood or life is less relaxed, and the fluid movements are replaced by geometric grids and cross hatching, as if my internal computer is analyzing every pixel while searching for the ones that need attention! I’ve always enjoyed the maths and the challenge of drawing complicated spirals – a bit like patting your head while rubbing your stomach! The blue/green and black spirals in the painting below illustrate ‘designs within designs.’ They appear simple and can be semi easy to paint but are much more difficult to draw!
My friend Barb ‘caught’ me once while focusing on the design of the lines. With one finger I follow the direction of one color while following the other color with my other hand.
Spirals have been with us since man first scrawled on rocks, pottery and cave walls, and probably more often in the sand and soil! Over the centuries we stumble upon remaining relics and marvel with wonder. Who drew that design? Was it drawn with a light and happy heart, or with intense concentration? Did others help, or was it a one-man/woman creation? Do the designs tell a story of celestial events or were they intended to represent infinity or....
They were surely used as symbols at times, but I think that many times they were scrawled in the same way that they are often born from my own psyche. Pick up a pencil or pen and draw a spiral – it’s easy! Take a stick and draw a spiral in the sand; easy! They just happen! No pre-planning is involved – with pencil or crayon, a spiral is a very comforting design drawn with almost-effortless motion. Our brains naturally grasp the form of timeless spirals, and replication of those designs gives us pleasure. The provide a way to get in touch with what’s brewing in the center of our souls…
“Contact with the sacred occurs in the stillness of the heart and mind. If there is any real destination to the spiritual quest, it is this point of silence, the middle of the spiral, the center of the self. … The only map that does the spiritual traveler any good is one that leads to the center.” – Christina Baldwin
Several times over the past few months, I recalled a dream from long ago. A spiraling whirlpool was in the dream – a true whirlpool, and a friend and I were caught in the vortex. He, a very talented artist, was on one side of the whirlpool and I was on the other. We were kicking /swimming hard – trying to swim away from the vortex that was sucking us both toward what appeared would be our deaths. Like in a cartoon, I suddenly received the ‘eureka’ moment, turned and swam away from the whirlpool, reached the edge of a swimming pool, climbed out, walked to a breaker box and threw the breaker! The whirlpool stopped instantly, and I walked away.
It was a no-brainer for me – ‘Throw the breaker. You don’t need to be kicking against the current. Just throw the breaker!’
My friend, the high-strung artist, sometimes continues to kick against the current. When he sends me images of his work, I can easily tell by the colors if the current is about to consume him, or if he’s thrown the breaker! I also have other methods to dodge those challenging moments – besides ‘throwing the breaker.’ I shared that story here: Inspiration: When the World outside my Window goes Insane.
Those challenges help us to become stronger people, though at the time we can feel isolated or distanced – but later we look back and realize the positive lessons we learned.
If you’re kicking against the current, it’s sometimes hard to find your way out of that negative vortex. Stress is very bad for one’s health; drop the ego, let go of negative issues from the past and focus on what’s positive. Throw the breaker!
(This is another post written offline and will hopefully be published later in the week. Thank you for such kind and positive response to my recent posts; I’m still ‘in transit’ while trying to corral my personal items and transport them to my new home – hence the thoughts about my dream and spirals and throwing the breaker! Love, Z)
Christen Lynn said:
Life comes alive with the vibrancy of your Art!
‘Throw the breaker. You don’t need to be kicking against the current. Just throw the breaker!’ I am going to remember that Lisa when I find myself fighting against what is happening in the moment. Great post!
Sue Dreamwalker said:
Dear Lisa, what a beautiful inspiring post, such depth of your philosophy of life and that dream sequence with your artist friend fascinating.
So loved your art.. Spirals have always been significant from those early cave drawings. And loved the quotes too, you have posted..
I love the one by Christina Baldwin “The only map that does the spiritual traveler any good is one that leads to the center.”
Loved all of your photos.. Enjoy your travels Lisa.. Take care.. and enjoy your weekend.. ❤ Hugs xx
Rosaliene Bacchus said:
Lisa, your work is forever vibrant and uplifting 🙂 I love the spiral. It draws us to the center of all things.
Ohhhhhhh! You bless me with your posts.
I do love those begonias…and your use of spirals in your art…so many great examples here, from the mundane object to the beautifully finished acrylic.Lavish!! One of my favorite spirals is the traditional labyrinth, made for walking. When it’s in a big enough space and it’s not crowded, walking a labyrinth is an indescribably rich experience – your whole body calms and centers, taking your mind along with it. But your description of a negative vortex is very real too. Sometimes it’s hard to hear the voice saying “Just throw the breaker!” It doesn’t get through as soon as we’d like. Clearly the spiral is a rich symbol, and I like your description of how drawing spirals, or circles, can slow the mind down and free one from all the distractions. I see a large curve recurring in my photos, and feel it in my body sometimes – like the outside of the spiral, just that swing of energy 🙂 Happy curves to you!
What an appropriate post for me at this time. I hope I can find the switch!
Your spirals are inspiring. I don’t often doodle spirals but I do write rows of mindless cursive, which is semi-spiraling. 🙂 Hope there was time for a little Thanksgiving.
We are complex creatures that belong to a world that we rarely understand. Our mythologies are embedded in our DNA and call us to recognize we are connected with the past and future, but can only act in the now. Now is when we are the most creative – the time when we are most fluid and able to act with clarity and confidence. I love Leonardo da Vinci’s thought: The painter has the Universe in his mind and hands.” We live finite lives, but understand that we have infinity in our hearts.
What a dream that must have been. But isn’t it the coolest when we can surface enough in our dreams to throw the switch and solve the problem? And, btw, I agree with Christin. Life comes alive with your art.
marina kanavaki said:
Oh, I love this post Lisa! Spiral is my favorite shape to draw and always beginning from outside moving to the center but what’s interesting about them is that they can work both ways! Hope you’re having a lovely weekend. Hugs and love and wishes for a great week ahead. xxxx
SoundEagle concurs with Marina! Thank you, Lisa, for “collecting” spirals in this post to share with us. Of course, the only natural spiral is that of the begonia leaf, as shown in the first photo above. You can enjoy more of begonia spirals at one of my horticultural websites:
It’s so interesting how you can see when your friend is kicking against the current based on his art. I know you can certainly see it with yourself too. Those reminders are everywhere– we just have to see them. I often notice it on the road (blame this on city living!!). Oddly enough, when traffic seems to be working against me, I find myself fighting it more, and it gets worse. When the light bulb goes off, and I notice how I am being sucked into the conflict, all I need to do is remind myself to slow down and relax. Instantly, everything starts to flow better on the road and in my thoughts. I’m sure it is more my responses and reactions than what is actually going on around me, but when this happens on the road, I believe it is symbolic of something I am fighting against in my life in that moment. It’s amazing how it works to allow me to chill out and go with the flow. Life is so much easier when we can be in the flow!
Your art is so beautiful. 🙂
Such vibrant colours and as you say looks simple but is actually quite complex. Inspiring post. Take care my friend.
So beautifully done. Love the colorful design!
Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua said:
I absolutely love winding through your philosophical wanderings of spirals and art. You have inspired me in so many ways. I’ve been thinking about spirals lately and petroglyph patterns. The bulldozer pushed several large boulders on our beach as a type of retaining wall. But, the lake rose so high, the boulders are almost covered now. When the lake recedes once again, I am going to use my glow in the dark paint and paint petroglyph spials on the boulders. They seem to be begging me to do it. Lol
There are so many spirals in nature (the jimson weed bud,the snail shell, on up to the galaxies) that it seems little wonder we’re drawn to them — and draw them. Long ago, I traded in the “learning curve” for the “learning spiral” — coming back to the same place, over and again, but always at a deeper level. Eliot got it right in “Little Gidding” :
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Speaking of spirals, look at this tendril from a passionvine. I don’t know what’s caught in it. Us, maybe!