Mary McBeath

Spirals Inspired

Senior Project April 2014


The most widespread shape in the natural world is the spiral.  It forms the shape of our galaxy, DNA, embryos, and hurricanes.  Plants rise and bloom from the ground toward the sun in a spiral motion.  Smoke from a lit fire winds itself in upward curls, its shape responding to the interaction between air and heat.  By definition, a spiral is “a plane line or curve generated by a fixed point while consistently receding from or approaching it.”  A spiral’s spin can expand outward growing larger, or become smaller by tightening inward.   One example of the use of the spiral can be found in early ornament started by civilizations such as the vessels and wall paintings of the Myceneans, as well as in the Early Celtic Christian insular art.  It is also a symbol of multiple dualities: ascent/descent, evolution/involution, increasing/decreasing, expanding/contracting, offering/receiving, revealing/hiding, just to name a few.  This duality has also been recognized as a symbol of personal transformation of psychological, spiritual, or natural journeys through life.

Throughout my personal journey through the art program at FGCU, I have changed schools, and majors, ridden the waves of life outside the academic world – and all of it has involved dualities of nature, both positive and negative.   This journey of personal growth with my Art has traveled in the motion of a spiral.  The process of creating art has helped me reach inward to grow outward, and while reaching out, it has helped me refocus on the most important points.  In particular, the Celtic spiral resonates with me, due to my primary ancestry leading back to the Britannic Celts.  Compass in hand, like the Celtic scribes, I am taken into a creative time warp, guided by my tool to undertake a new drawing; its destination: unknown. Starting at a single point, the compass seems to guide my hand in different directions, every step following an organized method, every curve a rhythmic pattern, until a spiral is born. Each spiral, shape or color intrigues me, and as I add more layers of detail and color, following this magnetic method, it is as though I dive into the mysterious force of the spiral itself.

Spirals are products of sacred geometry and number equations within universal language.  Therefore, in this series, I will draw eighteen spiral drawings, as 1 + 8 = 9, and the number 9 itself is shaped like a spiral.  I enjoy working on a smaller scale of 5 x 7, on 300 lb Arches cold press paper.  I initially sketch the drawing in pencil, layering it then in watercolor paint, following with more layers and shapes filled in with mainly watercolor paint, incorporating some acrylic paint. Each painting was inspired in a different way – some by color, idea, mood – but all are related by the spiral shape.  I hope to invoke primarily a sense of Fun and enjoyment in my little paintings, and possibly a new awareness of the mysteries of this simply complicated shape and directly gentle energy, which exist around and within the peaks and troughs of the wave every individual is currently riding.

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