Archive for Etching

On the Kindness of God

The dark night has at last ended
I have now seen You.
Inside the depth of my heart.
I do not know what magic abides
Inside me.
Around me is the desert,
Yet I am not parched with thirst.
-Sri Chimnoy

Today I received more instruction on detachment and following Divine will. I had planned to go on a day trip with family and friends. It was a one time deal, and something that had been planned for several months. I couldn’t because of the cold. I felt really devastated about it. I was overwhelmed with sadness.

My experience of the Divine is one of infinite kindness & I have been amply prepared to deal with grief. So I cried and cried. I embraced my sadness because I will not allow grief to stop up my well. I cried it out, I emptied myself and was still. In stillness I found the Divine again.

You might ask how this is kind? There is nothing my heart desires so strongly as closeness and service to the One. I know that the Divine is giving me my instruction in the kindest possible way that I am able to hear. In my early work, none of my figures had ears. I could not hear and my lessons were severe only because I wasn’t listening. Hence 11 shocks to my heart! Now all the figures in my art have ears. I do listen and my lessons have become easier. I am learning to trust, today was a lesson in detaching from my own will and trusting the Divine.

Self Portrait by Sybil Archibald
Early work without ears
Etching by Sybil Archibald
Recent work with ears

Say not in grief that she is no more
but say in thankfulness that she was
A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
but the putting out of the lamp
because the dawn has come.


Today I am grateful for:
1) My friend Miriam
2) A good dinner
3) My dogs

Etching Completed

Eching by Sybil Archibald

Vijay Kumar: My Etching Teacher

Today was a great day in etching class mainly because I got so much help from my teacher Vijay Kumar. Making the plate is the easy part; printing is a whole other story. I understand it completely on an intellectual level but, as usual, my mind fools me into thinking I know what I’m doing when I really don’t. The physical is a whole different process from the mental. And I definitely haven’t even begun to master it. Vijay is an excellent teacher and a wonderful artist. See his print below.

Vijay Kumar Print

It is such a blessing to have the eyes of other artists to push you further and more deeply into the creative process. I’ve worked in isolation for a long time and my interactions with the other students in the class and with Vijay are like honey. They are moments of sweet connection which allow me deeper access to the Divine well of creativity from which all art springs.

Courage or Hubris?

Etchings: Annunciation & Virgin Birth
Annunciation by Sybil Archibald Virgin Birth by Sybil Archibald

So yesterday I had a deadline for a juried show I wanted to enter. I had been trying to get some good photos of my pieces all week but it just didn’t materialize. So Saturday I got up nice and early to get the photos done and the application submitted. I’ve never had so many things go wrong. Every single thing I tried to do had complications. My new camera wouldn’t work, my old camera’s battery was dead. My CD-rom drive stopped working and on and on. I must have run up and down the stair 20 times. But I kept at it and I actually got the photos done and submitted at the 7th hour. It felt great, like a huge accomplishment because of all the difficultly (even though the photos weren’t great). I submitted the two etchings above.

Today I am utterly spent and exhausted. Now my question is, did I valiantly fight through the obstacles or did I display enormous hubris in forcing my will? I believe in following the energy. I think it is the Divine’s way of guiding us. Probably when I kept hitting obstacle after obstacle I should have surrendered my desire and waited. Then today I would have spent making art inside of resting. But maybe I’m wrong. Any ideas?

Art & Adventure

my life is mirrored in
a morning Glory.
Arakida Moritake (1473-1549, member of the Shinto priesthood)

Making art is such an adventure. Yesterday at the etching studio I thought my plates were complete but when I printed I was surprised that the images needed so much more work (see draft print below). It’s hard to know until you print, like a mystery unfolding.

Etching draft by Sybil ArchibaldToday at the ceramics studio one of my pieces was out of the kiln and ready for glazing. Once you fire your glazed piece there is very little you can do to change it. It’s scary & I’ve heard many people say they always ruin their pieces in the glazing. Glazing requires a blind leap of faith. So much can happen over which artist has no control: Dripping, interesting or unpleasant interactions of color or texture.

This illustrates one of the ways in which art is a spiritual path. In glazing, the artist must face fear. If this is done with consciousness and the intention to grow, the act of glazing is an act of spiritual transformation. By facing fear, it is released and then there is more space within the artist to hold and transmit the Light.

Skipping Etching

I have to skip my etching studio time again today. It’s frustrating but I’m trying to breathe with it. It’s a continual process understanding who is in charge. It’s not me. Most people have the illusion that they control their own lives. I don’t have that luxury. But luxury can be deadening, connection is of much greater importance.

Hildegard of Bingen Sculpture

A couple of people have asked me to post about Hildegard of Bingen, 12th century German mystic and visionary. Today I’ll post about some of my artwork she has inspired; tomorrow I’ll write about Hildegard’s life & why it’s is so important to me.

About 20 years ago (Now that in itself is crazy!!) I made sculpture of Hildegard. I was recently looking for the documentation of it and it’s vanished. So, I’m going to describe it here.

The sculpture was of Hildegard undergoing a mystical ecstasy. She was standing naked, writhing in that sweet agony- somewhat akin to this etching detail.
Etching detail

I rigged a door in her stomach which when opened, played Hildegard’s music. Inside were stashed my Hildegard drawing series. But the door was locked with a padlock. I placed the key inside her womb. You had to reach up into her birth canal into the womb to get it.

So, I arranged a trap. I briefly attended Mount Holyoke College, women’s college. Probably a good school, but I was trained to be such an elitist at my high school (Crossroads) that I couldn’t interact with the other students. They hadn’t read Rimbaud, man was I a snot! Fortunately, I am nothing like that now. Also I wanted art school, but promised my Dad to get a liberal arts education. Anyway my trap:

I invited my Medieval Spirituality professor along with my class to view the sculpture. I asked him to open the sculpture. He accepted and found himself sticking his arm up to his elbow into Hildegard’s birth canal in front of a group giggling girls. He was beat red. It was a beautiful thing! Everyone was thinking about sex all the time, but no one ever said anything. The only men were the professors and it was kind of like turning the tables. When the stomach panel was finally unlocked and opened, the sound of the music was shocking. Music entered a charged space. Very dramatic, but also a lot of fun.

UPDATE: I want to say a little bit more about yesterday’s post. When I had that professor stick his hand up into Hildegard’s birth canal. It wasn’t meant as a sexual moment, although it obviously has those overtones. That professor was afraid & self conscious when he did it. He didn’t know what he would find and he knew he was being watched by his class.

Hildegard’s womb in the moment of a mystical ecstasy is charged with the Divine. It is the microcosm of the Divine womb, the source of all creative energy. Remember the mystical rule, as above so below. So I meant to evoke the terror that we feel when approaching God: the fear of the unknown and the fear of annihilation. Squatting down and reaching up into an unknown darkness, all the while feeling you are being watched and judged. To me that sounds a lot like entering into the mystical path.

Interpreting Hildegard #4 (c) Sybil Archibald
Interpreting Hildegarde # 4

Interpreting Hildegard #8 (c) Sybil Archibald

Interpreting Hildegard #8

New Etchings

Etching was great today. My rest was really fruitful. These are in progress:

An Artistic Time-Out?

Maybe I’ve been spending too much time with young children lately, but it seems like recently the universe gave me a time-out. I have one day a week in the etching studio. So every time I go in, I push like crazy to get as much done as I can. The problem was I spent so much energy trying to “do,” I was stealing from, blocking the Divine creative flow. I was trying to control something which can not be controlled.

So, the last 2 weeks I became ill on my etching day and couldn’t go in. In the past, I would have tired to push and go in. Now I am trying to live without control. So I stayed home and waited. Then I waited some more.

Today I felt compelled to pick up my dry point, in preparation for my studio time tomorrow, and it was as if a wall had dissolved. I have a freedom and flow that was absent before. I’m a grateful that I trusted the experience that was sent to me instead of trying to control it. There is merit in waiting.

Tomorrow I will post some of my prints.



Making art is an act of spiritual surrender. It is stepping out of the way to observe while the natural creative process flows through. For the past 10 years I have tried to control the outcome of my art. No more. I am embarking on a great adventure with no known outcome. The journey back inside, tracing the roots of my creativity to their source, the fundamentally generative nature of the Divine.