Do you ever get an idea in your head that you can’t let go of? I’ve given myself numerous reasons why I shouldn’t follow up: It’s not something I would normally paint; I don’t want to promote a religion or have others think that I do; It’s a big undertaking, and I’m not sure it will work.
On and on, I reason with myself while the project sits in my mind un-executed. The idea came to me one day as I saw a small shadowy figure on my bathroom floor made from water marks and smears.
“Whirling Dervish,” I thought to myself. Then I had to look it up to be sure I had the right term. At first, I thought it was a Disney character. YouTube educated me as I found several videos of this unique and unusual religious lifestyle.
I also conjured up images of modern day Shriner's who adopted Mason and Muslim symbols in their costuming. Originating in Turkey, the “Whirling Dervish” is a sect of Islam. They are taught to love everything and participate in a physically active meditation of whirling known as Sema or Sama that brings them to a state of ecstasy.
My purpose as an artist is not to judge, but to observe. I was intrigued artistically not only by the challenge of trying to render this scene on canvas, but by the colors I envisioned in my mind. Combining these elements with the Shriner's, I could see various shades of yellow in the background, moving to subdued red orange; using Arabic lettering and other elements imprinted in black on the paint.
What intrigued me the most was the red fez of the Shriner's; the same style as the black or red hats of the Sema. I couldn’t get the red, yellow and white images whirling on a yellow canvas out of my head. The scimitars the Shriner's use also appeared in my first quick sketch (8.5x11 paper is much smaller than actual canvas). Ideas are born in the most unusual ways and if we try to bottle them up, they have a way of bubbling back to the surface.
Curiosity and imagination are compelling tools that often give birth to unique and unusual ideas. Some ideas grow and flourish like a fountain that constantly gurgles and lives. Other ideas never get past a second or third review. They fall by the wayside because there’s no substance for development.
Don’t put a lid on good ideas. If they come back again and again, they are probably “keepers.”