Monday, January 31, 2011


Just a little lesson in checking for proper paper registration before pulling your print.
There is definitely a learning curve on this silk screening business, but we are getting better with each mistake!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Art Spotlight: “Thank You” Special Edition Serigraph

“The winged heart, at center, symbolizes Love, Freedom and Rising to Full Potential.  Above, the spiral flame represents Passion and Creativity.  Below is the Japanese kanji character for "Gratitude" flanked by stalks of wheat, which symbolize Abundance.
Thank you for helping me follow my dreams!”

This design was created as a token of appreciation for those who contributed $30 or more to our art booth fund raising campaign
Twenty-nine Backers pledged over $1300, allowing us to get ourselves set up to sell my work at art shows and festivals.  We were overwhelmed with the generous show of support.

Each print is hand-pulled in shimmering gold ink and each one has a unique hand-painted background in purple and mauve tones.  Each print comes with a description certificate, which can be matted and framed with the print, if desired.
The print run was limited to 21 prints – 18 of them going to our munificent Backers, one artist’s proof for me to keep…and one each for my Mom and Dad, who have supported my artistic endeavors since I could hold a crayon. :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Symbol Spotlight: Circles and Mandalas

Ouroboros; mystical symbol of cyclic nature
The 11-ring labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral
Circles have a long history of spiritual significance all over the world.
A simple circle is essentially a single line with no beginning or end.  This attribute links it to the concepts of infinity, completion, wholeness, unity, immortality, the Whole of Reality, and cyclic systems such as reincarnation, the Circle of Life, the astrological spin of the stars and orbiting of the sun and moon, the cycle of the seasons and the concept of circular time.
 It is considered by many cultures to have sacred, holy, auspicious and protective qualities.

a Medicine Wheel
Circles are found in many cultures and mythologies as integral elements of sacred art and ceremony;  Buddhist mandalas (Tibetan) and yantras (Hindu), Native American Medicine Wheels and sand paintings, the Aztec Calendar, the Taoist yin-yang symbol, the pagan pentagram and sacred circles for spellcasting, Stonehenge in England, and other stone circles around the world, fairy hills and fairy rings, Greek tholos (circular temples) and labyrinths, Christian rose windows, African drumming circles, the alchemical symbols for the Four Elements, the wheel of the Zodiac, Australian Aboriginal Bora rings, sacred sun symbolism and communal ritual dances as old as human society itself.

Kalachakra thangka painted in Sera Monastery, Tibet

“Mandala" is a Sanskrit word for “circle”.  It has come to generally refer to sacred art in the form of a circle.
“Sacred art”, as I understand it, is art that is intended to uplift the mind or express a spiritual concept.  It is not merely decorative or entertaining – it has a functional purpose such as teaching, focusing the mind or creating a certain atmosphere or mindset.
Creation and/or contemplation of the image can help one enter an altered state of consciousness.

A mandala is a visual mantra - a tool that helps one cultivate mindfulness and focused awareness.
Jungian mandala
Carl Jung , an innovative psychoanalyst and contemporary of Sigmund Freud, saw the mandala as "a representation of the unconscious self."  He believed the act of drawing a “personal mandala” could connect the inner and outer segments of one’s being and express the state of one’s Self.  He used these mandalas to help him identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality.

"Aum Awakening" by Cristina McAllister
When I began making my symbol art, the circular mandala format was an intuitive place to start.  A round design lends itself to reflective symmetry, naturally creating balance and repetition to form harmonious patterns.

My mandalas are intended to help us be mindful of the subject matter, as represented by the various symbols within.  They are visual meditations, invitations to mindfulness and artistic celebrations.

Further Reading:

Mandala art of Paul Huessentamm:

Mandalas by Clare Goodwin:

A look at the visionary mandalas of Hildegard VonBingen, a Christian monastic nun in the Middle Ages:
Information on using mandalas as meditational tools:

The Mandala Project:


Sunday, January 23, 2011

True Life Story: Cat is HELPING!!!

It's no mystery why the Cat rarely fails to appear as I'm unloading the dryer.
She cannot resist the allure of freshly-laundered clothes, all warm and staticky.  Not only are they pleasant to lay upon and snuggle under, but covering them in hair (which adheres beautifully to the static) is particularly satisfying when they are so newly pristine.

When I sort the laundry for putting away, I toss the socks into a pile on the far side of the bed, from whence they get scooped into their proper receptacle (which is an old plastic mail bin from the post office that has this printed on it: "WARNING;  Maximum penalty for theft or misuse of postal property $1,000 fine and 3 years imprisonment (18USC 1707)".  We live dangerously.).

When the Cat materializes, I attempt to shoo her away from the pile of clean clothes.  Sullenly, she flops down onto the far side of the bed, right smack in the middle of the sock-tossing area.

Thus begins what has become a beloved ritual in our home.

I begin sorting the laundry and tossing the socks at her. Or, more accurately- on her.She mrowrs and complains (as she is want to do) but she doesn't bother to dodge or shake them off. Sometimes she lays placidly as the pile swells to envelop her.  Sometimes she wanders around the bed with socks draped over her and trailing behind.
It's become a game to try to toss them so they line up along her back, or cover every remaining visible bit of her.  I've gotten pretty good at it.
I find her willingness to be pelted and buried in clean socks hilarious (and oddly endearing).

In fact, I have come to enjoy putting the laundry away with her assistance, and I am saddened on the rare occasions when she does not show up to help.  I'll actually try to find her and call her in to assist.
It's just not the same without her.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Art Spotlight: “Tribe Of Us”

'Tribe of Us' by Cristina McAllister

This mandala was designed as a sort of logo for a group of close friends.
The central flower-like shape is made of overlapping, interweaving hearts. The figures are alternating male and female.

The symbols surrounding are (starting from upper left):
  • Claddagh - an Irish symbol of friendship, love, and loyalty
  • Spiral flame - passion, creativity (there are also several fire-performers in the group)
  • Our Cup Runneth Over - abundance and celebration
  • Yin-Yang - Chinese symbol for balance, interconnectivity, interdependence
  • Añjali Mudrā - gesture that is a sign of respect and greeting
  • Peace Sign - originally designed as a symbol for nuclear disarmament, it has come to represent peace, cooperation and understanding

Friday, January 21, 2011

Art Spotlight: “Soul Mates”

"Soul Mates" handmade serigraph by Cristina McAllister
This piece celebrates the notion of “soul mates”; two people who feel a deep connection to each other, whether they are close friends, lovers, partners or family.
            At center are two hearts that intersect, cradling a single soul (represented by an ankh, an ancient Egyptian symbol for “life force”). The two hearts also share a pair of wings – a winged heart made of two entwined halves. The winged heart represents the freedom to love, to feel, to courageously rise above the mundane and reach full potential. It is a sign of joyful optimism and a representation of the free spirit.  In this case, it signifies that together these two connected souls can soar to new heights. 
            Above, a Celtic knot weaves the hearts together, representing a steadfast bond.  Below, their roots mingle and embrace, suggesting a shared history and deep connection.      
            Ivy vines, which intertwine as they grow, represent friendship and loyalty- the twists and turns of long relationships that form lasting emotional ties. 
Below the ankh is a swirling flame, an image of warmth, vitality and light.

This piece is a wonderful gift for someone you feel especially close to, as well as a very special wedding gift.

Digital prints of this design can be purchased here:
"Soul Mates" digital print by Cristina McAllister

Fundraiser Success!!!

Our fundraiser has been a smashing success!

Our goal was to raise $1200 to prepare for an art show in Beverly Hills in May called The Affair In The Gardens.
Thanks to the very generous support of our backers, we've secured the funding and are feverishly working to get our stuff together for our application to the show.
That includes ordering a new commercial-grade booth canopy, building display panels, getting started with producing my art prints, and socking some $$ away for the booth fees, among other things.

We are very excited (and a little anxious, as the application deadline is coming up quick!)!!!
 Here's the link to our Kickstarter project page:

A description of the special edition art print (shown above) I've designed exclusively for the contributors can be found here:

Much love and gratitude to those who supported this cause and helped us take things to the next level.  I am blown away by your generosity and faith in me.  :)

If you have a creative project you need funding for, I recommend checking out as a possible resource:

Art Spotlight: “Heart of Wisdom”

After my exploration into symbolism while working on “The Garden” (see THIS POST for more info), I was inspired to further develop the idea. I had formed a deep connection to the image of the winged heart, and while working on a design of a winged heart with spiraling swirls, it struck me that it resembled an owl.

detail from "Heart of Wisdom by Cristina McAllister

Owls are generally thought of as wise creatures, an association going back to Athena, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, who was often shown accompanied by an owl, and was represented with an owl symbol.

Ancient Greek coin with Athenian owl
This sparked the idea for my first “message mandala”, a circular design that incorporates symbols from around the world and throughout history, as well as my own personal visual lexicon, to express a concept or theme.
I began to research symbols and imagery associated with Wisdom, gathering ideas and sketching and creating a harmonious design.  The result was “Heart of Wisdom”.
'Heart of Wisdom' by Cristina McAllister

At center is a heart (the seat of emotion and Self) made of swirling forms, sprouting a pair of wings (freedom, divinity, aspiration). Together they visually suggest the form of an owl – an animal sacred to Athena, ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, civilization, foresight, strength and strategy. 
Owls have been revered throughout the world as messengers of sacred knowledge, insight and intuitive awareness, as well as scholarly pursuits. Their large, sharp eyes seem to see all, even in darkness, and their seemingly stern and serious expression suggests the gravitas of a sagacious elder.

snake detail
Below this central heart/owl figure twines a pair of snakes. These creatures signified wisdom to the ancient Egyptians, Jews, Gnostics, Eastern Indians and Chinese.  The notion of snakes being wise was based on observations of their behavior.  When hunting, snakes appear to think deeply and consider every move before acting. They are masters of blending into and working in harmony with their environment.

shaman's eye detail
At the top, a Native American shaman’s eye offers wisdom and protection. In many tribal cultures, shamans serve as intermediaries between the human and spirit worlds.  They interpret omens and offer insight through mystical, as well as practical means, in effort to protect and guide their people.

'Sankofa' adinkra symbol
Below this is a West African adinkra symbol shaped like a heart with roots. This design, called sankofa, or “return and get it” represents the ability to learn from the past – retrieving lessons learned from previous experiences and prudently applying them.
'Nyansapo' adinkra symbol
 Another adinkra symbol, nyansapo, or “Knot of Wisdom”, is at the bottom center. This symbol indicates intelligence, wisdom and cleverness. "A wise person has the capacity to choose the best means to attain a goal. Being wise implies broad knowledge, learning and experience, and the ability to apply such faculties to practical ends."*

“Heart of Wisdom” is a visual meditation, an illustrated mantra of the concept of wisdom.

 Digital prints of this piece can be purchased here:

*  W. Bruce Willis, “The Adinkra Dictionary”.
 Adinkra is a system of complex symbols whose origin is traced to the Asante people of Ghana and the Gyaman people of Cote' d'lvoire (Ivory Coast). Each symbol has a name and meaning derived either from a proverb, a historical event, human attitude, animal behavior, plant life, forms and shapes of inanimate and man-made objects.
I will be doing a more detailed article on this fascinating symbol lexicon in the future.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Symbol Spotlight: Winged Heart

The winged heart, an image I’ve become quite fond of, has many associations.

The heart has long been a symbol for the soul, the seat of emotions, our inner selves.  It can mean sincerity, truthfulness, charity and mercy. It has also come to represent Love, both romantic and platonic.

Wings represent speed, freedom, elevation, aspiration, divinity and transcendence. They are also associated with mystical and magical beings – fairies, angels, dragons, Pegasus.  To the alchemists, wings connoted achievement of a higher state of being.  There is also the mythical theme of “earning one’s wings”, an achievement gained through heroic efforts or bravery, valor and service.

Heraldic crest of the Scottish Clan Douglas
Combining these two powerful symbols, the winged heart represents the freedom to love, to feel, to courageously rise above the mundane and reach full potential. It is a sign of joyful optimism and a representation of the free spirit. 
Sufi symbol
It is the symbol of the Sufi religious movement, an Islamic sect dedicated to seeking truth and facilitating understanding among people.  They believe that the heart is the link between the body and the soul, hovering between the realms of matter and spirit.  The winged heart indicates the heart’s desire to rise toward heaven, borrowing the ancient Egyptian’s association between wings and spiritual transformation and transcendence.

A popular motif among tattoo enthusiasts, it is often etched with the name of a loved one. The name of a lover on a winged heart can symbolize a transcendent love. It can also be a memorial for a deceased loved one, symbolizing their ascension to heaven.

Detail from my "Heart of Wisdom" design.
For me, it has become a favorite symbol that expresses my desire to uplift and inspire with my art, to fulfill my potential and live a life of freedom, filled with joy and love.

References and further reading:

Calliope, Part VII: Adventure!!!

Apollo and Calliope @ Burning Man 2010

Towing Calliope along behind our Jeep (which we named Apollo, after the Greek god of light and the arts, who hung out with the Muses and was one of Calliope’s lovers), is an interesting experience. While it does slow us down a bit (speed limit for vehicles towing trailers is 55mph), many of the folks breezing by us do so with smiles and thumbs-up signals. It’s pretty fun.

Calliope was designed to be as light as possible to conserve as much fuel as possible. Dore estimates that she weighs about 1200 lbs, and he can manhandle her down the driveway by himself. She handles well, and Dore’s a master at maneuvering Apollo and Calliope around, even in tight spots. Occasionally, she’ll start swaying a bit on the road, shaking her ass like a sassy wench, but she’s never gotten out of control.
Calliope's maiden voyage to the Elysium festival
She does bounce quite a bit when she’s empty, though. Our longest trip so far with her was to Burning Man last year, and loaded with all of our gear, food and water, she rode pretty smoothly. If we’re traveling without a lot of ballast, she can get shaken up a bit. We’re constantly improving methods of battening down the hatches and securing cabinet doors, the stove grills, curtain rods, stowed gear and whatnot, which tends to get tossed around on the road.

Calliope is a work in progress and probably always will be. We’ve got decorative details to add still, occasional repairs and improvements to make, etc. We’re beginning to collect souvenirs from our travels to put up inside, building her history and making her a true Home Away From Home.
Greeted by a double rainbow
She’s served as our cozy, virtually setup-free campsite in forest and desert. She’s also great as a mobile crash pad – we don’t need to use up one of our host’s guest rooms – we bring our own! She also serves as an extra bed at our place if we have guests. There’s a gypsy sleepover in the works with my niece.
She’s weathered rain, wind, blinding dust storms and extremes of heat and cold and held up beautifully. Her grand entrance to Black Rock City was serendipitously greeted with a double rainbow, which has special significance for me and Dore. We took it as a smile from our Muse.

She’s everything we wanted – comfortable, functional and most of all, FUN. People love her. She makes them smile, she inspires them. I have to admit, it’s a lot of fun showing her off. We’ve displayed her at one local arts festival and got a great response. We have plans to set her up as part of my art booth at upcoming art shows and festivals.
In the meantime, she sits comfortably in her driveway berth, covered in a protective tarp (where the Cat has claimed her porch as a favored napping spot), awaiting further adventures.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Calliope, Part VI.2: We Do Even More Stuff

The construction continues, sometimes delayed until we manage to scrounge up funds for the next wave of necessary supplies. We are funneling every spare cent and minute into the project. It's become our Baby. Or perhaps we've become obsessed?
Naaaahh. Just dedicated!

The front porch is built with recycled decking material, and Dore builds a toolbox on the other end of the trailer, which also houses the battery that powers the electrical system. When we're parked, a solar panel set on the roof charges the battery. He cleverly rigs the toolbox with a little light that comes on when the lid is opened, just like in the refrigerator!
We spend the Lowe’s gift certificate my Mom gave us for our anniversary on expensive, iridescent glass tile for kitchen area backsplash. It’s like we’re building and decorating our dream home, but on a teeny-tiny scale. I learn that installing tile is kind of a pain in the ass, especially when you’re working in a tiny sweatbox in 90 degree heat.
Dore builds a nifty medicine cabinet into the wall with a mirrored door and vanity light and hooks to hang up my jewelry. He installs a row of switches that control the various lights and ventilation fan. He modifies the pair of $12 votive candle lanterns I find at Home Goods to LED lamps that plug into the electrical system but can be taken down for travel. They look really cool.
The roof is constructed of wood topped with resin-soaked fiberglass fabric and spray painted with heat-reflecting silver. Dore installs a ventilation hatch and fan. I get the idea of having an ornate Victorian pressed-tin ceiling, but discover its way too expensive and heavy. Then I find some embossed wallpaper ($7 a roll!) that has a similar pattern. We spend a challenging (and rather comical) couple of hours wrestling soggy, drooping, slimy wallpaper onto the ceiling. This involves lots of climbing around each other and dipping and stretching and spreading and twisting and rubbing and sweating and cursing. Dore paints it with hammered silver spray paint and it turns out awesome.
The futon mattress salvaged from the original camper is manhandled into place. Sliding doors under the bed are adorned and installed. We get a cheap frosted glass ceiling lampshade from Home Depot and I decorate it with Sharpie marker and glue acrylic jewels to it.
Dore builds a round-topped door and we put in a church window frame that used to be some weird thing my Mom gave me years ago that was wrapped in fake ivy with a candleholder attached. I paint some more faux stained-glass to drop in behind it and paint the door with a design that incorporates the name “Calliope” mirrored in an elaborate decorative font.

To give the exterior some cohesion (as well as a whimsical old-fashioned look), I envision the lower half of the walls swathed in multi-colored shingles all the way around. We spend 3 days doing nothing but cutting and painting strips of faux shingles out of Luan. We nail them on in overlapping layers and finish them with a strip of decorative molding.
I design ornate “wings” to flank the porch. Dore somehow uses a combination of power and hand tools to shape these curving, swooping shapes that frame the porch. We top the porch posts with “crystal” balls stolen from the ends of our bedroom curtain rods.
Dore rigs up the brake lights and mounts the license plate on the back. We are road ready.

(Concluded in Part VII…)

Calliope, Part VI: We Do A Bunch More Stuff

Dore peeking out the "bedroom" window.
The interior starts to take shape.
In the meantime, under the Costco carport that serves as our construction bay, Dore is working his own magic. Welding sturdy wall brackets to the trailer base, he frames up the walls, which are made of 2 layers of plywood sandwiched around foil-wrapped insulating foam. The bed platform with storage space beneath) materializes, cabinetry begins to form, partitions and window frames and moldings and shelves take shape under the skilled guidance of his work-roughened hands and wailing power tools.
Plexi-painted rose window

I use glass paint and plexi to make a faux stained-glass rose window and Celtic knotwork-accented kitchen window. The window over the bed is unadorned, but can be opened with a nifty crank handle for ventilation.
View of wall insulation.
Dore scours the web for cheap RV accessories and obtains a 3-burner stovetop, a toilet seat, a round stainless steel sink and 9-gallon water reservoir and a 5-gallon propane tank. We use the original hand-pump-action sink from the Coleman and he converts the round steel sink into a toilet bowl (#1 only, we decided we didn’t want to deal with #2) that drains into a collection jug (which he scavenges from his office’s castoffs, and which, mysteriously, bears a printed label that says: “Mr. Chupacabra”). A doorbell button (chimes silenced) is connected to a pump, which runs a bit of water from the sink reservoir around the bowl to flush the peepee down through the trapway in the pipe to keep things tidy and odor-free.
The kitchen starts coming together.
I get to know the paint guy at our local OSH and pester him with weird questions and custom paint mixing jobs. I learn that the best finish for painting murals (which is sort of what I'm doing) is satin finish. Matte is too vulnerable to dirt and scuffs, gloss is too slick for multiple layers of paint to adhere to.
We start collecting various bits and bobs; decorative wood accents, cabinet knobs, hooks, switches, wire baskets, a full-length mirror, decorative lanterns, curtain rods, bungee cords, latches, fabric, wallpaper, linoleum.
Mitchell helping with priming.
I sew curtains; Dore upholsters the bench seat storage cover.
As soon as a wall is finished, it’s primed (sometimes utilizing free child labor when my stepson visits) and I start painting. I use a grid to enlarge and transfer my digital drawings to the walls, and discover a technique online that uses tulle fabric to help me keep the mirror-image elements symmetrical. Dore builds me a painting platform to stand on to reach the upper parts of the walls, because the ladders and stepstools are scary. I do a lot of climbing up and down, which my thighs object to for the first couple of days.
It’s hot work in the summer months. We are both usually covered in sweat, paint, sawdust and wood glue. In the close quarters of our construction bay, toes are stubbed, elbows are banged, hips are bruised. Occasionally blood is spilled in sacrifice to our Muse, blessing our heroic endeavors.
(Continued in Part VI.2…)