By Marjorie Morgan
Ken is my personal guide, and I met them through a beautiful and mysterious process: a creative channeling that extended over many months.
The tool in my right hand moves across the slick surface like a knife,
spreading color instead of butter,
curving and swooping as my wrist leads my hand.
I work quickly, and wipe away as much luscious color as I apply.
Each time I remove paint, a ghostly shadow of it remains.
I have coated a canvas with marble substrate,
and the pigmented oil satisfies the thirstiness of this chalky surface.
It gets partially absorbed, drunk in by the dryness,
becoming a part of the foundation for whatever image might come next.
Working with a palette knife is new to me, but I am loving it…
the dance, the lack of control, the surprises.
I move into some blue, and swoosh!
A horizon line.
I connect with darker colors, and slash, slash!
There are bodies of land.
I take a step back and look at this lovely but eerie space that has asserted itself.
In January of 2018, I wanted to start a new series of what I intended to be abstract paintings. I was working with different materials and tools than I was use to, and a surprising thing happened:
A landscape revealed itself.
The image was dreamy and evocative… a far-away horizon defined by a pink and yellow sky over blue water, two dark blue landmasses closer by and a blaze of light blue in the upper left corner (Rain? Blue sky trying to come through? A color burst distorted by the sun?). Whatever it was, it was not at all what I was trying to create. I wasn’t so sure how I felt about it. It seemed as if someone else had painted it.
I showed it to my partner and they were fascinated. They encouraged me to just keep going. So I did. I was still committed to my stubborn agenda of abstraction as I began work in my studio the following day. The paint didn’t really care at all about my agenda, and the landscape revealed itself again. It was a bit different from the first one (only one land mass on the left, farther away, and the sky was lit up with a beautiful swath of yellow and orange that was reflected in the water), but it was from the same place, I felt sure of it. I was stunned, confused and, to be honest, a bit overwhelmed.
I had no idea what this was, what or why I kept painting it. It was so insistent and it stirred something inside of me. It was like painting nostalgia.
So I just let go (of my abstraction agenda, my sense of overwhelm and confusion) and I stepped into the flow. And then I started enjoying myself.
Over the next 10 months, I painted this same landscape over and over again. And the more I painted, the clearer the landscape became.The landmass on the right insisted on being some type of cliff and the one on the left wanted to be a gradual slope. If I didn’t paint it like that, it just didn’t feel right. I started playing with more weather, clouds and light patterns in the sky. And I started experimenting with curved lines in the the water. These lines somehow felt important and each painting seemed incomplete unless I included them. A motif had presented itself. And, in a way, this is a painter’s dream. Having a motif (or a muse, even) releases an artist from spending energy on figuring out what to paint. I just had to figure out how to paint it. So I committed to this motif, my landscape muse. I surrendered to the impulses and painted with great focus, energy and intention.
At some point in this process, I started sharing images of the artwork with others. The response was quite strong. People thought they were beautiful, mysterious and interesting.The paintings were selling at a rate that was almost hard for me to keep up with. I became attached to each painting. The work was intimate and dear to my heart; and they were difficult to let go. But I could sense that they wanted to move out of my studio and into the world, so I released them and just kept painting more.
Solving the puzzle of how to best render this imaginary landscape became my favorite part of each day.
It was work that felt personal and also beyond my comprehension. I worked at a fast and furious pace for ten months and created thirty separate works.
And then, that fall, I had a dream.
In the dream, I was high up in the air and was looking down on a coastline. For some reason, I decided to engage. I said, to whomever might be listening, “What is this?” And, much to my surprise, a voice responded and said, “This is what you’ve been painting.”
I was shocked. I asked a follow up question: “Where is this?” And the voice said, “The Amalfi Coast.” I had never heard of the Amalfi coast. I had no idea where that was. I woke up the next morning and I asked my partner if they knew anything about this place. They said, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s in Italy.”
And they were right. The Amalfi Coast is indeed in Italy. This was fascinating to me because I had been to Italy before and had felt a strong connection there. I had spent some time in Tuscany and Umbria, and had even written a strange, somewhat long and beautiful poem about the Wolf of Gubbio. As is typical for me, I had a rush of creative energy and wrote the poem in just a few days. Or rather, the poem just flowed out of me, as if someone else was writing it. And now, Italy had connected with me again by way of these paintings.
I told an artist friend about the dream and the paintings, and she got really excited. She had actually been to the Amalfi Coast, and had even bought a pendant in the town of Amalfi, not really understanding why. She gifted me this silver pendant. The image on it is an old Celtic design related to the infinity knot (which symbolizes eternal life). And she encouraged me to find the exact location of my beloved motif. I didn’t have great confidence that I would be able to find it, but I decided to just do a quick image search.
And within a few minutes, I had found a landscape so familiar, it took my breath away. There was the cliff, the horizon line, and the sloped landscape.
However, the photo I was looking at was not from the right perspective.This online photo was taken by someone on land. It suddenly became very clear that what I had been painting was from the viewpoint of being on the water. So I dug a bit deeper to find out exactly where this photo was taken.
On the island of Capri, there is a long and steep set of outdoor stairs (921 of them, in fact) called The Phoenician Steps. They climb from the port of Marina Grande in Capri up to Anacapri. The online photo was taken somewhere on these steps. With this information, I was able to determine that the cliff in my paintings was the edge of Mount Tiberius, a small but steep mountain on the edge of the town of Capri. The sloping landscape is on mainland Italy, just outside of Sorrento. I sent the photo to my friend, and told her all that I had discovered. She replied, “Well, now you have to go.”
In the meantime,the voice from my dream had become available to me during waking hours, or rather, sleepy hours. When I was drifting off to sleep or just waking up, I would ask questions in my head and gentle answers would follow. It was not really a voice, per se. It was more of a “knowing.” I have since learned that this is telepathy, and that all of my conversations with this “voice” were really telepathic communications. This voice and I would just chat about little things. I found these sweet and brief conversations relaxing and illuminating, and I started looking forward them. At one point, I asked the voice if it was a Spirit Guide. I’d been doing some research about Spirit Guides because I had a hunch (and some hope) that this was what was going on. The voice clearly responded, “No.”
I was confused, and a bit taken aback; but I decided to follow up.
“Then what are you?”
It said, “I am a guide, and of course I’m a spirit. So calling me a ‘Spirit Guide’ would be redundant. It’s like saying ‘Angel Healer.’”
Ok… so apparently I had a guide who was either a stickler for proper word usage or had a great sense of humor, or both.
My relationship with my guide started to deepen, and I wanted to know their name. I asked my guide what I should call them. I’d been reading even more about guides (“Spirit Guides,” hahahaha) and it seems that many guides have elaborate and beautiful names.
What shall I call you?
I have several friends and acquaintances with the name Ken or Kenny and, interestingly enough, they are all pretty wonderful humans. But I was expecting something different… something more unknown and less like the name of the male partner of my beloved childhood doll, Barbie.
I told another friend about the chosen name of my guide; and she said, “Well, wait a minute. Doesn’t “Ken” mean something really cool in old English? Something like ‘intelligence?’”
And so back to google I went, and I found this from the Oxford Language Dictionary:
one’s range of knowledge or sight.
“such determination is beyond my ken.”
And such determination is unequivocally not beyond my Ken. My Ken has all kinds of determination. So much so that he has determined that I should call him Ken!
And so my relationship with this guide, Ken, deepened even further. We began to chat (telepath) very regularly, and those communications gave me new insights and great perspective. And he started to train me in the ways of intuition and spiritual agility. We even started to astral journey together from time to time.
Shall we go to Capri?
And we move, quickly, through the air, through clouds and sounds and things I don’t understand.
And suddenly, we are on the water. It is choppy, cold, maybe in the winter.
The water is a steely grey/blue.
In front of us, far away but clearly visible, are two landmasses:
a cliff on the right and a slope on the left.
I feel so much love and connection inside… and a longing that almost hurts.
Have you ever been to a place that feels like home, even though you’ve never been there before?
Have you ever seen a landscape in a movie, or read a description of one in a book, and felt your heart move in a mysterious way?
What parts of yourself cry out for a connection with land, with places on this amazing planet we live on and which sustains us?
I did, in fact, travel to Capri. I went with my partner the following spring. I was a bit nervous about going. What if unknown forces were conspiring to bring me to a place where something horrible might happen? What if they were leading me to my own death? What if I was also dragging my partner to their own death? I confided in my partner. They did not at all seem concerned and suggested that I check in with Ken, which I did. Ken explained that being in Capri would be beautiful, like living in my paintings. And, as usual, he was right. The minute our ferry from Naples to Capri started heading in the direction of the island, I saw the two land masses. And I spent over an hour scampering around the boat, rushing from side to side in an attempt to find the best view. The landmasses just got closer and closer until we took a sharp right to head into Marina Grande and the cliff of Mount Tiberius was looming overhead on our left. I had found a small apartment to rent that gave us the view of my motif from it’s little balcony. I was in heaven.
My love for the landscape and understanding of what I had painted deepened with each day, each hour almost. The imposing clouds and changing weather (apparently not common at that time of year in Capri) were so familiar and comforting. The shifting colors of the sunsets mimicked the faded rolls of monoprints that I had recently made. And being on the water was absolutely magical.
I was remarkably calm and gently happy for our whole stay in Capri, which was amazing because it is a very busy tourist attraction. Cruiseships and ferries arrive every morning into Marina Grande and dump boatloads (quite literally) of people who scamper about all day until they re-board in the evening and head off to their next port. The island breathes humans in and out every day. In my “regular’ life, I live quietly and my alone time is precious to me. But on Capri, all of this activity just delighted me. I loved watching the boats coming in and out of the port, and even loved being amidst all of my fellow travelers. One time, when I was witnessing the hum and buzz of the marina from our little balcony, I had a startling realization. I suddenly understood something about the paintings. Those curved and swooping lines that I felt must be a part of each piece with an insistence that I never fully comprehended… those lines were wakes! And I was now watching them appear and disappear in real life, in real time as I viewed the boats carve through the water. Incredible!
Each day was like that… a new knowing, a new delight, a reintroduction to a beloved place that I know in my heart and my soul.