a meditation on Water & inspiration for a painting If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. ~Loren Eiseley

"Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash." ~Bruce Lee


The Red One, The Pearl in an Emerald Sea, The Water Palace.

I recently returned from a month-long trip to Spain where, among many other amazing places, I visited the Alhambra in Granada. It is a stunning world heritage site due to it's history and the vastness of artisan effort that went into creating the palace and grounds. It is here that the seed inspiration for two of my most recent paintings was found.

The Alhambra is covered in magnificent arabic writing, mostly proclaiming "There is no victor but Allah" thousands and thousands of times repeated.

From the ubiquitous arabic text to the doors within doors within doors we are reminded of infinity there. The repetition of the devotional words reminds me of the impermanence of life and of our own need for reconciliation with our own mortality and the universe that awaits us all - we are all waiting for a higher power victorious (or at the least our mortality), each in our own way.

The city of Granada where the Alhambra sits is also magical, full of pedestrian alleyways, a winding river, and the rich perfume of woody incense. The Alhambra itself is perched on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is a paradise inside paradise.

Overlooking Granada.

But what has stayed with me from my experience there, unexpectedly, was the sound of water. As one travel blogger describes of the Alhambra, "water is the binding thread that ties everything together". The sound of running water embraces your senses throughout the palace and grounds, in every courtyard there is a fountain, and aqueducts follow your footsteps across gardens, stairs, and roads. It draws you into moments where nothing matters but the peace in that sound. I'm not sure if the architects of the Alhambra desired to elicit this response but it is what I felt and what I carried away.


I cannot look away from current events happening right now. I returned home from travels in Spain with the sound of beautiful tinkling water in my mind and it seems the world has gone mad. One issue regarding water happening now is the Dakota Access Pipeline and protests. While I've found it hard to find undisputed facts from either side regarding the full history of the project and all the legal ramifications, what I do know is that throughout the history of this nation, 'white man' policy has been worse than awful to our indigenous peoples and when they stand up united to fight for something they feel is infringing upon their rights, safety and the small amount of land they still control after we destroyed them, our leaders should pause and take time to reconsider every angle. And our leaders should do the right thing.


It reminds me also of other recent fights over water safety. Such as water contamination issues in Flint, Michigan targeting low income communities and how politicians still are reluctant to take ownership of the problem, water scarcity in the western U.S. states and wealthy home owners' disregard of water restrictions, and the ongoing fight in my own state regarding the proposed Pebble Mine and the problems it could potentially have for the largest wild salmon fishery in the world and Native Alaskan communities dependent on subsistence in Bristol Bay, Alaska. So much greed at the expense of others, (why) is this human nature?

Not to mention the trash piling up in the ocean, on beaches, the plastic particles that fish are ingesting, the droughts in places like Syria that preceded civil war and exodus... Water, clean water, is essential to all life on this planet and we are all connected here by the earth and waters that sustain us.

Found: A small sailboat toy made of beach trash on the Galecian shore.


The symbol of gold is Au, from the greek word aurum, which means glow of sunshine. The english word gold comes from the words gulb and ghel referring also to the color. It is the only metal of this color. The gold's characteristic yellow color is due to the arrangement of its electrons. When alloyed with other metals like silver and copper it has different colors, according to the percentages of the alloy. Gold has the highest corrosion resistance of all the metals and it is corroded only by a mixture of nitric and hydrocloric acid. Gold is a noble metal because it does not oxidize. The mentioned characteristics are enough to make a very useful and desired metal; thus, a very valuable one. (source)

I was invited to participate in a group art exhibition during the month of December, 2016 at Well Street Art Company. It is called the Gold Show, aka, Au: The Northern Element. It will be the shiniest thing in town, as 40 artists have been invited to submit artwork involving gold. In preparation for this show, I have boosted my supplies of gold leaf and paid special attention to gold leaf painting and gilded decorative technique in Spain, especially in the Prado.


"You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." ~ Jane Goodall

Background image of Gold Creek, Juneau. I spent years of my young life living on the edge of this creek, which flows out of Perseverance Valley, the site of a major gold mining operation in the early 1900s and where most of the city water has come from since 1959.

Marrying gold leaf and my recent thoughts on water has been my aim over the course of the last month as I create artwork for the Gold exhibit. I created two works for this show, both involving water, this is an overview how one of them was created.

My first step was to think about what I wanted to paint. Shortly after returning from Spain, amidst the turmoil of current news stories, I had a very intense dream of sitting very close by a rocky stream, as I looked up, I could see the algae on the rocks that were many colored, it was so beautiful and peaceful and I awoke with the image in my mind and my heart pounding. I could still hear the tinkling of water.

These are my sketches in preparation for the painting based on my dream.

To the left, water contour lines drawn off of photos downloaded from the Internet. To the right, conceptual sketch with rocks in a flowing stream and another image printed from the Internet and enhanced with gold ink.

The next step was to remind myself of the properties of gold leaf and some historical methods of working with this tricky medium. I watched several YouTube videos on application techniques and read about gold leaf properties and gilding. Somehow I have accumulated 10 different types of gold and silver leaf and, not knowing how they differ, I made some test panels to find out.

Test panels with 8 of 10 brands of gold composite leaf, 22ct gold leaf, and composite silver leaf with different 'bole' background colors and overlay materials.

I then prepared my canvas, a 2' x 3' board. Gold-ground is a technique where the background of the painting is created in gold leaf, which was introduced in mosaics in Early Christian art, and then used in icons and Western panel paintings until the late Middle Ages. The bole or background color I used for this painting is close in color to the terra cotta clay color originally used in this technique.

Application of (faux) composite gold leaf and burnishing is a messy process and you always end up with a grid when using sheets of gold leaf.

Texture was scribed into the surface allowing the background red to show through.

Outlines were painted in.

First layers of blue gouache.

More colors added.

Contour lines and water overlay added.

finished piece

With gold as a means to monetary security, I also like that the meaning of this piece can be interpreted depending on the preconceptions of the viewer. Because, it is true that we all rely on a system that values gold as currency and we wear gold jewelry, we use computer parts that require gold to operate, we hold gold stock for our retirement - and all of these things we rely on for our standard of living. Yet we find this gold near rivers and waterways that supports life, sometimes adversely affected by these types of industrial operations. It is a balance we must seek to both protect life and seek progress.

In the balance, my heart aches more for people who are taken advantage of, for the animals who can never be at fault, and for the natural environment we need and that connects us all together here. So, the finished piece is titled "Water Is Life". And if it sells, I will donate my profits in some way to protecting clean water.

Join us if you can for the show opening, Friday, December 2, 5-8pm at Well Street Art Co. With 40 artists participating, it's going to be the shiniest event in town!

To see more of my artwork or to contact me, please visit my web site: http://jmossart.com.

Created By
Jennifer Moss


Credit for some images used: qimono - "water drop droplet" • alubavin - "Вода"

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