It was a lonely and quiet Seattle morning, perfect for calling in spirits. I sat in my studio with a hot mug of coffee and the music turned up. I began a free-flowing method of gestural drawing to call one of the spirits into the room. The lamps burnt and the candles’ flame warmed the space as rain fell on towering pines outside; their forest scent broke through suburbia and empowered me to trust the interconnectedness of all things. I touched the pencil to paper and let the music guide my first marks.
My whole body moved across the 9” x 12” sheet and the lines turned into a dance. Soon I saw a figure — an owl – this much I knew. But the sketch’s magnetic pull told me what the animal did. A hand cupped the air and feathers unfurled around a pair of eyes as my coffee got cold.
Over the course of ten years, I made a series of paintings in that way — some were drawn in cabins deep in the woods and others from flimsy airplane tables. As my collection of watercolors grew, I framed and sold them at galleries and curiosity shops across the West Coast. I spoke about my prints with intuitive people at festivals; they saw meaning within the pictures and many already knew that this invisible world existed. It became clear that my guides spoke to others and had a life of their own, long after they were first created.
We swam in rivers, formed bands, and built fires that raged. Strong friendships were built, but we also said our goodbyes. My painting slowed while my writing emerged. Alone, I heard the voices of the folks who impacted my perception of my art. The past rushed in as I studied the animals and recalled where I was when they first made themselves known.
The present moment guided me as I studied the scenery of the fantastical worlds – the homes of the animal guides. I listened to these creatures, and they gave me clarity; I peered more deeply into their lives and was given a mystical experience.
The process felt like an awakening of my childhood self. When I was a young teen, a family friend gave me a book about Tarot. As I turned the pages, the images and texts had a frequency which fed my mischievous nature. The impromptu ghost tales told in treehouse slumber parties and times I played make believe by a moonlit tree were validated in a strangely familiar way. I read books on druids and visited shops steeped in nag champa incense. I searched for something I did not know was called magick.
The hours I spent at the local mall’s New Age shops and Hot Topics; the afternoons I talked to clouds as I laid in the grass; and the nights I watched countless Disney movies likely influenced the creation of my Secret Creatures. The early stages of an artist’s studio sprung up in my parents’ basement. I finally had my own space to practice magick with charcoal and Alizarin crimson.
Drawing has an inherent power that blows me away. Just sitting and scratching with a pencil for one hour can usher one’s entire imagination into existence. I learned to draw by watching my father: he taught me to perfect the eyes. At the time I did not know I drew the soul, but eyes were always prominent. My brother and I sat together and sketched from comic books. A little sibling competition helped make my marks bolder and faster. As I grew up and decided to attend art school, I excelled in the drawing classes — but my ideas were too strange for the contemporary art world.
For years I felt out of place and therefore focused on my graphic art portfolio. But then, on a particularly bleak mid-winter morning in Seattle, I discovered Joseph Campbell’s writings… and a new journey came into focus.
When I entered the woods of Northern California, I found a community of homesteaders, artists, and world wanderers. I no longer worried about paid off bills and rather, lived simply with the intention to just create. My travels in Europe and conversations around campfires seeped into my watercolor. I captured the most intriguing stories and secrets in esoteric pictures. The animals begged for a place to belong, so I gave them the Secret Woods, their perfect home. For those who come to find Secret Woods, they may see themselves as more creature than human; or they may hear the earth speak secrets to them as they study the medicinal plants and symbolic animals.
In childhood, we instinctively find meaning inside a walnut shell and whisper our secrets into the cherished nature we cup in our hands. If we live in a city surrounded by concrete, we can still connect to that spirit and access our inner woods of imagination. Reading books, visiting museums, writing, and creating are all excellent ways to enter this magickal state of mind.
The process of submitting a title for a publisher’s consideration is a courageous path. There is often a long string of rejections followed by bouts of frustration and the occasional forfeit. I lived in this cycle for many years, and my next attempt always came down to the people who encouraged me to continue. Without those voices, I might not have gotten as far as I am today. On the morning I received an email from REDFeather wishing to publish Secret Woods, I rejoiced, wept, danced and high fived. It is true that nothing happens the way you imagine it will.
Nothing materializes in your life as a straight line: it comes by way of switchbacks, labyrinths, and pencil scribbles.
My new oracle deck, Secret Woods, would not be the gorgeous package that it is today without the collaborative efforts of the REDFeather team. The box is small enough to tuck it in my little backpack and take with me to Europe — but I can also expand it across a table to share with visitors in my home. The entirety of so many experiences seem to have concluded, yet it is only the beginning. Now I can hear from so many others how Secret Woods has inspired them. I wish you the best of fortunes.
Kelly Patton is an artist and illustrator who has connected the spirit world through her art since she was a child. From a young age, she began to explore her interests in the supernatural by illustrating a Tarot deck and writing and painting pictures for children’s fantasy stories. She earned her fine-arts degree, traveled throughout Europe, and lived alone in the woods, all the while recording her stories and lessons learned through her paintings. Kelly recognizes her characters as talismans who have the power to attract positive change and transformation in to one’s consciousness. She works from her home in the beautiful Grass Valley, California.
Tell Kelly your thoughts on Secret Woods: firstname.lastname@example.org