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The Creation of “Portal of Grace”

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

The Process Unveiled

Welcome to my new The Process Unveiled Blog sharings.  In these I will feature the process of creating my art, the inspirations, trepidations, and illuminations that lead to a creation. Visitors to my studio can sometimes get a rare glimpse of a work in progress.  This is the first time I have shown a work in progress online. Previously I thought that it would take the mystery away from the final art. When I asked my husband about this - he likened it to watching the "making of" the Lord of the Rings movie - and asked me if watching that took away the magic of the movie... I admitted it does affect one's awareness of what goes into the movie - but not the final effect... so I am inviting you all to experience the creation of "Portal of Grace"... 

It is amazing trying to look back at the process of a painting. Like a train of thought it is difficult to break down each step. Which thoughts did I have first? Which lines did I draw first and what led to what?

The creation of Portal of Grace was a complex evolution of creative thought and imagery.  It started with the intent to portray a Soul Essence Portrait of Grace, a Tennessee Walker mare owned by Sandra Wallin. Grace is a healer who works with Sandra in her Equine Guided Development practice Chiron’s Way

Like Grace, this is a painting that has so many layers of meaning, and though the interpretation has personal meanings for Sandra, the artwork speaks to others in an invitation to their own untapped potential.

In my Soul Essence portraits, I meditate with the horse and ask them how they would like their spirit to be portrayed and if they have any special messages or imagery they would like me to create in their portrait that portrays the connection they have with their owner. Sometimes I will invite the owner to participate in the meditation. Sandra is also a gifted visionary and she welcomed the opportunity to participate in the meditation process. We scheduled a day and time to do the meditation in our own homes, and then we arranged to call each other afterward and share what we saw.

Sandra described Grace as:

She has been like a guardian angel. A divine nurturer, healer, teacher, and friend/mother/sister to me. Connected to Gaia, deep dark wisdom, unafraid to go into darkness to birth the light, she walks and travels between the veils. She is mother earth, maiden, mother, and crone all in one. She is Goddess, Druid, Enchanter, and yet so completely grounded at the same time.

Meditations with Grace

Excerpts from my vision of Grace:

I see an infinity sign of horse hoofprints and human footprints, walking the figure 8… horse prints turning into human and back again…

I then see this image from the point of the Grace seeking out Sandra, the perspective of the horse’s sense of the human footprints as patterns of colored energy. Turquoise blue and light green intermingled colors like diamond or patterns that looked like eyes of a wave and light.  Grace follows this energy as if it is familiar, and when she meets up with Sandra — it is as if the energy is the same in both of them.  It is soul connection. There is no part where they are separate, in fact I can’t see their forms as much as the colors of energy.

Excerpts from Sandra’s Vision of Grace:

I am shown a gateway into a mountain like the one going into Moria in Lord of the Rings — there was carving in the stone about the door and at the top of the door. The door changed into a cave/opening into the mountain, and Grace walked out of it, her star shining subtly. She headed straight toward me – it looked like she was walking through a shallow stream that wound its way to me — and there was a swan swimming in front of her — and she had a triskele on her chest.

Around her the trees — ancient trees filled with blue and green fairy lights — rose up on each bank, and then their branches formed together making two horse heads — one white and one black — they joined and formed a heart which then became the centre of my vision

We together were ONE, yet a trinity. This lifetime is about learning to integrate the wisdom of the black (earth wisdom) and white (higher consciousness) horse.

We emerge from the woods where the stream enters a lake. Across the lake, rising above a forming mist, is a tor, atop which sits 2 rings of stones. They form a very plump/round infinity symbol — like the number 8. In the centre of the 8, where the two rings share stones, there seems to be a concentration of energy. This is where Grace and I are now standing. On each stone is a carving — carvings that match the ones on the cave entrance. I look down at the bottom of one of the stones and there is a trillium. It is white.

Sandra and I were fascinated by the differences and also the amazing similarities in our meditations — namely the colors of energy.  Sandra’s meditation was so rich in imagery that I decided to incorporate most of her imagery into the drawing.

As we talked on the phone, a design of Celtic knot pattern that I had on my computer came up on my screensaver, and it contained the colors of blue and green that I had seen in my vision that represented the energy of both Grace and Sandra!

This synchronicity seemed very significant so that was a starting point. Then I did another meditation with Grace for more detail for my drawing:

I see and feel the presence of Grace. She is a shimmering dark silver form of a horse.  She leads me upstream into the mouth of the cave Sandra described.  Inside the cave the reflected light is the same shimmering dark silver that she is made of.  I feel the cave is part of her.  On the cave walls are suggestions of cave paintings of ancient connections between human and animal.

Through this experience I could see and more importantly, feel — Sandra’s vision more clearly and it gave me the vision of my own for the painting. I began a sketch, and I envisioned a portal or entry to a cave with a celtic pattern woven into the stone and within the stone emerging from the cave, an image of Grace.

Sandra’s photo of Grace in the mist

The drawing of Grace just flowed without any thought.  I didn’t even look at the  photographs Sandra had sent.  In fact I think when I drew it I didn’t think it would be the final drawing but just an idea of how she could be there, but it came out so perfectly that I realized it was her all along.

Sketch for Portal of Grace

From within the cave as described in her meditation, I drew water flowing out, with the swan emerging.  As I drew it, I realized that the celtic design needed to continue down past the stone arch and could turn into water, how perfect!

Then I flanked the stone with two trees reaching up to entwine together as two horses and a heart.

I did quite a bit of research trying to figure out what to do with the celtic design in the center of the arch. Not many of the two strand designs I saw had a solution to that challenge but I finally figured it out. 

Celtic designs are complex and for a right brained person – can be very confusing! Here are is one of the celtic designs that helped me.  (In future I will include links to these images – photos are copyrighted, so if I need to use a photo as a reference in the art I pay for the use of stock photos.

The celtic knot merging into lines of the water

An inspiring archway


The Night Sky

Going with the Flow – Changing the Original Vision

Originally I envisioned the entry as an opening into a cave and I planned to create it in similar colors and effects as the idea of the door to Moria Sandra had shared.  My first thought was of a night sky at the top.  I looked at my pastels and chose the color of dark blue. As I started painting the sky I envisioned looking through the trees, and as I did so I realized the problem that posed, as I realized from this perspective how would one see the night sky if the portal was a cave in the side of a mountain? And was the entire painting going to be night?  I could imagine how the glowing celtic pattern could look, but I also knew that the interior of the cave, which I had seen in my vision as a dark sparkling pewter, would perhaps seem too dark with the other imagery that was to be included.  I left the piece that night not knowing the answer.

When I next sat down to work on it, I didn’t know what to do next. This feeling was unusually strong, and I struggled with it for a time. In that process I had to let go of any preconceived image of what the painting was going to be. If I stayed with the vision of the door of Moria in the side of a mountain — I was stuck in that interpretation. It would be easier to go with that as I could see it on the photo I printed out, and I could just copy the effects that were there. But I had a feeling that was not what I really wanted to paint.

Dusk and Dawn

Then at some point the vision came to me, the idea that on either side of the stone arch there were two colors of sky — one on each side representing dusk and dawn. Blending at the top in to the blue night.

I completed that, then looked at the trees… what to do with the trees? I didn’t know, and again stopped, to wait until I did. So instead began working on the stone archway, dark to light in layers of pastel, covering it with random layers of color and roughness, making it look old and weathered with lichen. I would add the celtic pattern later.

Birch trees and the four seasons

Learning to Ask the Art

The next time I worked it was easier now — asking the painting itself what direction I was being led in rather than expecting to know.  I looked at the trees and instantly the answer came.  We are birch trees.  And we are all four seasons.  Oh my — now I could see a pattern…

Dusk and dawn… four seasons. A place of all time and no time.  I looked up the meaning of birch trees and the meaning seemed significant. Also I realized that I thought the trees in my meditation of the woods where young Sandra and Grace meet in that other realm, must have been birch.

I researched the meaning of birch trees and discovered they were uncannily relevant to Sandra and Grace. I found photos of birch trees in all seasons, and I began to draw the trees.  I drew them slightly differently as each tree was in different light — one dawn, one dusk.  And then it made sense to me — this is how the white and black horse in the heart were to naturally appear as light and dark for one was dawn, and one was dusk.  The next morning I noticed that the trees in the local park landscaping were birch trees which are rare around here.  How fun to see them for real!  And to notice how the bark peels from the dark areas.

The trillium and the faeries

I began to draw the celtic pattern in the stone with iridescent blue and green pastel. The effect was subtle and magical.

Then I needed to place the trillium and I realized it should be on the Spring side rather than the fall/winter side. I decided to create moss rather than grass. I realized that the horizon line by the trees should slant down as if on a slight hill. As I thought of the distant horizon beyond the stone, I realized suddenly that the stone was free standing, an no longer an entrance to a cave. This standing stone was like Sandra’s vision of the stones at the top of a hill or tor.

As I drew the moss in layers of color from dark green first — topped with lighter greens, and the seasons adding a touch of gold to the moss for Summer… the application to make the texture of the moss was a stipple effect. As I applied the gold green color I thought of faeries sparkling with golden light and drew their wings in the same colors. One leaving a trail of faerie dust behind her that turned into an infinity sign.

The Faery with the fall colored wings – you can see the sparkles in the iridescent pastel of the water – she is about 1/8″ tall!

Now it was time for the inside of the stone — in the color I had seen in my vision of dark sparkling pewter.  Throughout the time away from the painting I had seen in my mind’s eye that Grace was to be a light pale blue green, sort of a mix of the blue and green of the portal.  I wasn’t sure whether this color would appear clearly enough from the dark sparkling pewter, but I trusted the vision.  I drew her eyes last and was thrilled that the rich black showed up so precisely, with a tiny sparkle in her eye.  I was tired that night, as if I had been doing energetic work.

Grace in the Portal with sparkling iridescent silver pastel

The River, the Swan, and the Stones

Then how to paint the water just coming up to the edge of the moss? How does the portal stand just placed on the moss? Oh there must be stones, and so there were…Now the most challenging parts were done, I could relax into painting the flowing water in the same iridescent blues and greens… with tiny eye shaped patterns of light I had seen in my meditation. I drew a few rocks under the water. I made choices about how much detail of water to show behind the swan. Much time had passed and I almost left it to finish for another night, but I thought all I have to do now is the swan, I can do it… and so I stretched myself a little, and I did.

So it evolved. What a fascinating journey. I am used to letting the art lead me, and with this painting even more than usual, I had to trust that spaces in between were as important as the actual drawing.

I’d love to hear how you enjoyed reading my new From the Studio Blog – I hope you enjoyed reading and viewing the process !

May the Horse be with you ~ Kim

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