Archive for August, 2017


Spirit Animals & Visionary Worlds

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

2017 Spring Trimester

with Li Lian and Daniel Mirante


During the start of the trimester we found ourselves enjoying the warm sun with the blossoming of Spring here in Vienna…

This trimester also marks the completion of the Academy’s fourth year – a year in which we have fully grown into our new space in Vienna’s alternative 7th district (having vacated our old premises in the Palais Palffy just one year ago). Although the new space is somewhat larger than the old one, fresh plans are already underway to triple our existing space and expand into the neighbouring rooms facing the street and courtyard of Döblergasse.

Joining us newly this trimester is Li Lian, a very gifted painter known for her exquisitely detailed portraits of animal and plant life. In a quest for healing, she was drawn out of British city life and into the Peruvian jungle, where she spent five years living a simple hermit’s existence, undergoing medicinal plant treatment with the local shamans. During this time she also studied painting with the Peruvian visionary artist Luis Tamani, who transmitted to her his knowledge of painting animal and plant spirits from Nature. Now an artist and healer in her own right, Li Lian shares her experience and knowledge of craft with others. This trimester marks her debut as a teacher at the Academy, and we feel very fortunate to welcome her here.


We also welcome back one of the founding members of the Academy, Daniel Mirante, who is well-known for his monumental Mischtechnik works offering contemporary enactments of mythological visions. His paintings possess the same dignity as the Renaissance masters, yet are undeniably the product of a contemporary mind, speaking a visual language deeply in touch with our current spiritual narratives and civilisational struggles. Daniel has taught at least one trimester per year since the founding of the Academy, and has remained one of our most popular teachers.

Helena Artureza and Daniel Mirante


Both teachers are experienced meditators, and under their guidance, a variety of meditative techniques became part of daily lifestyle. Every morning we sat quietly in silence together, following the occasional Tibetan Buddhist instructions from Daniel (or sometimes contemplative Hebrew instructions from our student Emma Marie) and we also spent 10 to 15 minutes each morning improvising simple mandalas with pastels on paper. This little exercise was helpful to get us in the habit of expressing harmonious shapes and colours, elaborating a piece of art in a short amount of time. It was also a wonderful group activity – drawing us together in silence to draw together.

For Li Lian’s painting, the theme was to depict one’s own spirit animal in acrylics. In this case, “spirit animal” refers to a set of energies, attitudes or characteristics – the qualities symbolically related to certain creatures, whether on a personal level or on a cultural and ancestral level. The teacher guided us on a powerful visualization, during which she sang medicinal songs in the Shipibo language – an ancient tribal language from the Peruvian jungle used in shamanic healing ceremonies. The images and experiences arising from this visualization became the basis for the student’s acrylic painting, executed under her watchful guidance over the course of the 9-week trimester. Li Lian also showed us how to order and prepare the acrylics on our palettes, dividing them according to value and hue, so as to render forms like feathers, skin and fur with great delicacy and accuracy.


With Daniel Mirante, the theme for the students’ work was to create a cohesive inner world. Using examples from different points in history, he gave many interesting presentations on the creative process, with a particular emphasis on JRR Tolkien’s theory of ‘sub creation’ – building a cohesive imaginary world with its own language and mythology. Over the course of his various lectures, Daniel also laid out many practical approaches to painting, both in terms of materials and technique, and also one’s psychological and spiritual attitude towards the work.


Under Daniel’s supervision, we also created a large batch of purified linseed oil – more specifically “Sun-Refined Linseed Oil” – a painting medium that has been filtered and cleansed with salt and ethanol to remove its impurities, making it more-refined and easier-to-handle than the mechanically-processed and store-bought oil of modern times. We used methods inspired by Tad Spurgeon’s epic painting manual The Living Craft, a book that offers a mixture of practical and historical techniques in the creation and use of painting materials. Each student now has a large bottle of this specially-prepared oil (the closest possible to the oil used by the old masters) which we will dry in the sun over the course of the summer months to further purify and clarify. Once it is sun-dried, the oil should lose most of its colour, and so should not yellow in the future, which is a typical problem with most linseed oils.


This trimester we also took a trip to the beautiful mountains outside Vienna, to visit the studio of Peter Gric, a well-known Austrian Visionary who studied under the Fantastic Realist Arik Brauer. Peter Gric’s monumental paintings depict “biomechanoid” figures in visionary architecture and futuristic landscapes. He spent most of the morning in an intimate discussion with the students, talking about his work, his philosophy and the process of creating his art. He also demonstrated a variety of approaches to applying the acrylics in his works.

Trimesters at this the Academy tend to be rich experiences with many different activities. Students also went Live Painting at The Tree of Life Festival, a music and arts festival in the forest in Kauzen, and at The David Avocado Wolfe Event at the Dancing Shiva Superfoods restaurant in Vienna. We also made a number of trips to the nearby Kunsthistorisches Museum, the museum of fine arts in Vienna, to practice drawing the face, hands and figure, copying from Old Master paintings and sculptures. The Academy Director Laurence Caruana gave a series of lectures on Anatomy, Figure Drawing and Art History, as well as the “Alchemical” side of painting, offering rare spiritual perspectives on painting to enrich our understanding of painting as a historical and sacred art.

We give our heartfelt thanks to Daniel Mirante and Li Lian, and to all the students who made this Spring Trimester so special. Each class at the Academy is truly a co-creation, an experience made up from the unique presence of each individual person here. Thank you all for making it such a soul-enriching experience.

Our refined linseed oil, being purified in the sun

Our refined linseed oil, being purified in the sun