Dancing Mugwort

In this article I would like to share something about the way I come up with the ideas for my drawings and the techniques that I use.

It all starts with the inspiration. The first sketches aim to capture the vision I perceive in front of my mind’s eye. From the sketch I develop an ink drawing that is then coloured with water colours. For the “Dancing Mugwort“ image, my inspiration came from an experience with the Mugwort plant.

At the beginning of May my partner Kathy and I attended Animystics in Ireland, and participated in a series of shamanic workshops. One of the 3 workshop days was entirely dedicated to Mugwort and we observed the effects of the plant in form of tea, tincture, essence, distillation and smoking on our body and minds.


Different uses of Mugwort

  • Mugwort has been used as a sacred medicinal herb worldwide since the early stone age.
  • Many mythological stories are connected to Mugwort, some of them in relation to the summer solstice.
  • It has a broad spectrum of medicinal qualities, however is well-known for it’s benefits for women.
  • In traditional chinese medicine (TCM) it is used for Moxibustion.
  • It assists digestion.
  • The plant helps to make dreams more clear and therefore increases the chance of lucid dreaming.
  • On the energetic-emotional level is increases mindfulness, helps to realign and protect against negative influences.
  • Mugwort can be smudged to prepare sacred space for ceremony.

In a guided trance journey I met the spirit of the Mugwort plant and saw her female essence dancing in my imagination. I could feel the soft swaying movements quite strongly in my body. Interestingly about a quarter of all participants shared that they have had similar experiences of dancing with the plant. It seems to be one of the plant’s inherent qualities.The picture of the “Dancing Mugwort” refers to this experience.

I will now share more about the processes I use to bring the inspiration to life:

1 – The sketch

A blank sheet of paper can feel overwhelming at times. When I do my sketches I allow the lines to flow freely so that the picture can come through me intuitively. At this stage, the more I let go of control the easier the lines can flow. When observing the lines I see many potential images and at that point I start to make decisions, by reinforcing some lines and excluding many others. In this process of decision-making my experience and intuition play an important role.

2 – The ink drawing

From a variety of sketches, I select the ones I like the most and that best convey the inspiration I received. The ink increases the contrast and makes the different forms seem more stable. Now that the rough outline is on the paper I start to focus on different parts of the drawing individually and fill in more details and patterns, which makes the drawing become more alive.

I slow down the actual drawing and spend more time looking at the headdress, the cape or the shoes, in order to imagine different variations. The challenge at this point is to find a balance between lines and open spaces. Drawings can look overloaded quite quickly, but a lack of details might make it seem unfinished.

3 – The colouration

Before I apply any colour I spend some time looking at the picture and imagine different combinations of colours, in order to find a combination that could work well with the message of the picture.

In this phase of the work I like to go out for slow walks in the forest and look at new combinations of colours. In nature every piece of bark, every puddle and every little leaf can give us a glimpse from the source of all creativity. When I have the feeling that I have absorbed enough colours I sit down with my water colours and brushes and start to apply the paint to the paper.

For this image I decided to leave the background white, so that the focus of the observer stays with the dancing figure.

In my workshops participants will get to know themselves and nature more intimately, through the exploration of their own creativity.

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Thank you!

Yannick Dubois