The members of the Athenæum Azostos have carefully collaborated on a series of 13 interview questions in which to ask the always enchanting and entrancing Red K Elders. Red is an accomplished and talented Otherwordly graphite artist and body worker, among many other alluring titles. After being introduced to Red’s art via her first HEKATE, the Athenæum members began following and falling in love with her work. When we heard Red was releasing a new print on the Dark Supermoon, aptly titled LILITH, we knew we had to reach out.
Ms. Elders obliged, and we are pleased to present such generous and intimate answers. Red has given us – and you – a deep glance into her sorcerous and skillful devotion by means of art, movement and written word… her gifts, her genius, and her daring abilities. We know you will feel as utterly indulged and honored as we do.
The Athenæum has chosen to present this and future Interviews in written form so that we may honor, if not return, the power of and to the written word. Moreover, the questions and answers in written form allow translatability in all its forms for our readers – and for you.
As we are the Library of the Ungirt we have to ask: which books, either historical or occultic, have inspired your art? Which have inspired your craft/practice?
Elders: You know, I only really came to Western mysticism these past few years. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life deeply immersed in Eastern traditions. So I really don’t know very much at all about the classic occult texts that everyone knows and I’m only now just discovering.
On a structural/somatic level, the many works of Hua-Ching Ni, and then Mantak Chia shaped a lot of the foundations of who I am as a creative-energetic-spiritual being. Also Esoteric Anatomy by Bruce Burger. There’s also a particular book I worked with deeply for a couple of years from my Tibetan Buddhist practises, though that one isn’t available to the general public.
Robin Artisson’s amazing book An Carow Gwyn was really my way into Western practises, and Jack Grayle’s incredible The Hekatæon continues to be hugely influential, along with The Greek Magical Papyri (PGM) translated by Hans Dieter Betz.
But also, so many other books! I live in a tiny old cottage that is packed to the rafters with books, and there’s quite a wildly varied mix. I’ll pick a few at random:
- The Wolkstein and Kramer translation of Inanna lived within me for quite a while, as I did a lot of deep movement journeying with those ancient texts. Similarly Descent to the Goddess by Sylvia Brinton Perera.
- Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm by Stephen Harrod Buhner helped to validate and put into words a lot of strange experiences I have had through my life.
- Offering From the Conscious Body by Janet Adler, as a companion to my movement practises, helped me navigate through some wild inner terrain.
- Of Water And the Spirit by Malidoma Patrice Somé – and also the novel The Famished Road by Ben Okri. Both are just astonishing in giving rich insight into ritual and spiritual practises in African culture. So much of it feels so right in my bones, and it brings me the revelation of spirits living very closely, alongside and with us – and a deep grief that my own culture has largely lost connection with this wealth and power.
As an artist and practitioner, do you have a Patron of Art? If so, how does this Patron play a role in your creative and magickal endeavors?
Elders: On an everyday level, I’m just enormously grateful to anyone who has ever bought any of my prints, and there are some very kind and generous people who continually support me in this way. I’m greatly indebted to them, because their patronage enables me to devote days to going so much deeper in my work.
There are also several patrons from unseen realms, who I feel hugely blessed to be connected with, and continually humbled to be touched by Their presence. Cultivating and tending my relationships with Them feels fundamental to everything. There is never a day I don’t express my gratitude in some way, and every drawing day involves a great deal of ritual work in propitiations to these ones. I have them to thank for any success. I feel very tiny in Their presence.
You have mentioned publicly that you picked up drawing again due to the pandemic. This is fairly recent! What inspired you to create magic-infused graphite (and we must know, how did you come to choose graphite?) portrait drawings of Old Gods and Mythic Beings? Did you begin with the intent of creating this body of work?
Elders: I was creating an oracle set in Robin Artisson’s ASKION course offered through the Blackthorne School. That was where I also met Jack Grayle, whose work would also become very influential to my drawings. It was a very potent oracle making!
Robin asked us to make some drawing or representation of Hekate to help consecrate the oracle. I hadn’t done any drawing at all for about three years; my mode of creative expression for quite some time had been writing. But I picked up my pencil and this simple drawing of Hekate just flowed out quite effortlessly and astonishingly. I was amazed to see the lines still so very strong, clear and graceful. I felt again through my whole body the ecstasy of drawing and became instantly addicted once more.
I work with graphite because I love the barely perceptible sound of it sliding over the tooth of the paper. I feel that resonance in my body. It is a delicious fingernail down my spine. I adore the impeccable precision of the finest sharpest pencil point. And also – graphite is rock, and I come from rock people. That is deep in my ancestral blood.
I didn’t have any intention about creating any body of work, it really just evolved organically into this theme. After that first Hekate, I looked back to the last body of drawings I had done several years previously, where I was fusing figures with sacred geometry. My two most potent drawings from that time were of some mystery goddess named RUNE, and also ORPHEUS. I couldn’t find any information about RUNE and I didn’t know much about ORPHEUS or any of the Greek myths, so I began reading and researching. Then a drawing of VENUS emerged, followed by ZAGREUS.
There were some animals and child portraits and animal-human pairings and hybrids for some time. Then some first very simple drawings of Hermes and Artemis, then Persephone, so there was clearly already a theme developing around the Greek Gods that was becoming fascinating to me. I began researching into their myths and histories.
I was also continuing to work with Robin Artisson’s writings and some of his ritual work, and one day I carried out a ritual of his to connect with and honour a body of water. I went to one of my very sacred places out on the salt marsh to make an offering to the sea there, which felt very powerful.
The next day everything shifted in my drawings and a whole new piece came called INITIATION. It was like everything flipped and I went underground. My drawings had been very clean and white, but for the first time, this one had a dark background, which felt much more complete and right.
After that I found myself drawing some of the spirits I was connecting with through Robin’s work. LUCIFER came next, and CERNUNNOS, followed by GREAT GRANDMOTHER, THE CAILLEACH, ANDEDION and DALIX. They all demanded much more depth and focus from me and the level of detail They were asking for forced me to start working with real models.
Do you have plans to implement any other types of mediums in future pieces? Have you created artwork in other mediums like paint or sculpture? (If so, may we see?)
Elders: I have a quiet longing to make oil paintings. I have experimented with painting in the past and I know I have skills there too, but oil painting feels like a whole new world to learn.
About fifteen years ago I was exploring working with clay and that always draws me back. Clay is so sensual, ancient, and permanent. I love the thought of creating future ancient relics. Yes, I do have a photo of a series of little porcelain pieces I was making from around that time.
Twenty years ago I was running my own successful graphic design and photography business in London, mostly working for the city’s top hotels and restaurants. But I was also creating my own art through photography. I was fascinated with the magical and telekinetic powers of adolescent girls and the latent Gods in men. I’d assemble a team of highly skilled stylists and assistants and create an entire shoot making darkly-lit portraits in sacred places such as disused Masonic temples hidden beneath the city (which I only discovered through working with the top hotels and restaurants). It was a lot like ritual, really. I was trying to draw forth the hidden mythbeings laying dormant in the heart of my subjects. There was a feeling of grace when everything suddenly flowed together like a gorgeously choreographed ballet and I clicked the shutter at just. the. right. moment.
In many ways those photographs were the precursors to my drawings today. I was quite surprised when I revisited them recently to see this strong thread running from then to now that I hadn’t even noticed. I do still have a yen to set up whole big gorgeous scenes in ancient temples again.
But I also feel a deep belly pull downwards to just to stay focused with the pencil drawings that are currently moving me most, and become absolutely masterful with that.
Would you please share some of your tips/tricks/life hacks on how to stay focused and motivated on artistic production – and also as a woman with adult responsibilities in a world ravaged with digital distractions? Moreover, if we may ask, how do you balance adult responsibilities with artistic endeavors and a spiritual/magickal practice? Any words of advice for the hoards of us also juggling more than enough?
Elders: My biggest impediment to creative work is also my greatest help. I have two daughters, aged 13 and 9, and I just can’t drop into the space required to work when they are around. So I have arranged my life to give me three full days each week where they are not with me. Those three days are so precious to me and thus I become incredibly focused, with zero procrastination. There are certain rituals I always engage in on those days, that release the tension of the previous days, reset my body into creative flow mode and open the seams for the Gods to flow.
I feel extraordinarily lucky to have those sacred days every week, which I’ve now built a ring fence around, to keep protected. I absolutely do not do any everyday chores or tasks in those days. The rest of the week I’m an ordinary middle aged solo mama, finding it quite a challenge sometimes to manage everything that mundane life throws in our path, whilst always secretly yearning and plotting and preparing for my next days alone to give myself to my Muses. Like probably every mother, I feel guilt and regret not being able to give my daughters more of myself, more of what they need and deserve.
So even though I have engineered this situation where I can immerse myself regularly and fully with the strange sirens that sing out to me, it also comes with a sense of loss, to not have a more wholesome and healthy family system for my daughters to be held by, nor a greater community and cultural support structure in general that respects and values both mothers and artists.
Regarding balancing digital distraction, that’s hard, as I rely on social media to promote and sell my work, so most evenings I have to be online to do that. I just think of it now as part of the work, but I do have to set limits for myself. I rarely scroll the Facebook feed. As soon as the question comes up: ‘What can I look at next?’, I’ve made that a trigger for me to: Switch. The. Damn. Thing. Off.
If I’m ever distracted during an art working day, by picking up my phone or such like, I become acutely aware of being watched by the Gods who I may have been propitiating that very morning. I immediately feel guilty, like I’m doing something extremely disrespectful, squandering this sacred time that I have carefully choreographed and created with Them. I feel Their negative judgement bearing down through my whole body. If scrolling screens is what I choose to do with sacred creative time, then why should They honour me with Their presence? It’s imperative to maintain my end of the deal if I want Them to keep theirs.
I don’t have TV, rarely watch films and never do gaming. I watch videos of lectures and courses I’m doing as research for my drawings, in the evenings. I think I must be quite boring, really! On the nights my girls are with me, we sometimes watch the lectures together. My nine year-old is loving Jack Grayle’s video presentations of his readings of The Iliad from his totally inspirational GodSong course!
Anyone who follows you on social media will have seen glorious photos of your native landscape and the intimate body work that goes into gathering inspiration for your art. Clearly this process is deeply spiritual and complex, but if you could indulge us, we would love a peek into your processes and/or ritualistic creation. How important is this work to the overall outcome of the piece?
Elders: It’s a strange thing, this deep eros I feel with the wild places in the land. I spent a lot of time in a vast ancient wildwood when I was a child, feeling safe and connected, protected and energised by that place. Later I lived in a shack in the woods for nine years with no electricity, feeling again that deep care from the tall pines that held watch all around. They were the midwives that helped me birth my daughters. So it feels natural for me to always be feeling into establishing these kinds of relationships with the land.
The wild places cleanse me; something of the land seems to rush all about me like a flurry of handmaids and wash all my stresses away. I soften into the process, let myself be held and moved by something unseen. I just go with it. It looks like dancing, but it’s really some kind of unblocking, opening, loosening, clearing process. I feel myself being filled with this immensity rising up through my roots, that seem to extend infinitely downwards. I don’t know really what it’s all about but I feel enormously humbled by it. I become like a newborn babe, all glowing. Receptive. That’s a good place to be when I pick up a pencil. Then the drawing just comes, and doesn’t stop… for six or eight hours or more.
If I don’t go and connect with those wild places regularly, then the drawing just doesn’t flow as easily. It comes in stuttering, small chunks, or I get distracted.
Which artists (either in the traditional sense or a more ambiguous definition) have influenced your artistic work, your creativity, and your praxes? In a similar vein, which of your pieces is your personal favorite and why?
Elders: I adore the German choreographer Pina Bausch. Her contemporary dance theatre pieces are bone-throbbingly powerful, extraordinary, raw, primal, beautiful. They speak to the human condition, with all its tender hopes and losses, its grief and wonder. Pina has sadly left this mortal realm now but I was lucky enough to witness her grace in one of her pieces many years ago. She annihilated my sense of self. I have always said if I could choose my life all over again, I’d have joined her Tantzheater Wupperthal company as a dancer.
In visual arts, I’m always drawn to the darkness of Caravaggio, and in a similar vein, the contemporary paintings of Roberto Ferri totally twist my guts.
So many other incredible artists too! Off the top of my head: William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Leonora Carrington, Zdzisław Beksiński, Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha and Art Nouveau in general. I’m also totally obsessed with Russian landscape paintings, especially Arkhip Kuindzhi whose work makes me cry.
And then, Russian landscapes in films… Tarkovsky’s Stalker was hugely influential on me, as was his Andrei Rublev. Several of Terrence Malick’s films also speak to me of that mystical union of landscape and being.
Of my own drawings, I’m always rapturously in love with whichever current drawing is coming. I have to be, it really is a devotion that I crave to be with. When I have to put a drawing I’m working with aside for my days of being “mama,” it’s some strange torture that I have to try not to think of.
I can’t get enough of Jack Grayle’s offerings. He produces the finest kiln-dried tinder for my creative fire. His courses on Hekate and the PGM, and currently his year-long journey of readings and discussions with T. Susan Chang on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, are all absolutely fundamental to my work with the Greek Gods and Goddesses. I’m enormously grateful to him for his support of my work, and for generously sharing his extensive knowledge in such eloquent and accessible ways
Before drawing did you have any other creative outlets that you integrated with your spiritual path?
Elders: I have had several periods of writing, which twines really well with my movement practises, where it becomes witness, or helps me to keep some grounded witness presence within myself even as I let myself go fully into the void.
When my children were young it was harder to find any moments of aloneness, so my creativity was expressed through creating a woodland based community group which ran for six years where we’d explore handicrafts such as knitting, sewing, weaving – and also singing and storytelling, all out under those watchful pines. That was a magical time, where I really felt creating and holding that space for all those many families was feeding the land there in a very deep way. All the elements seemed to move harmoniously in unison with our endeavours. We’d be gathered in a circle round the fire and I’d be singing seasonal songs to the earth and elements. I’d sing a love song to the wind, making elegant gestures with my whole body, and the wind would come and swirl around us and be with us at that fire. It was a very special feeling of being at one with the universe, and some great mysterious unfolding.
Ostensibly it was a group for children, but I loved seeing the parents who would not otherwise have been out there in the woods, being touched and moved in some very profound ways. They still talk about it now. I like that.
As Hekate devotees ourselves, we love the artwork that you have created for the Goddess. It is through Her that we were introduced to your talent. In what way has Hekate influenced and/or changed your art and praxis?
Elders: A few months after the transition in my drawings from light to dark, Covid arrived and put a stop to my regular work as a deep bodyworker and massage therapist. I had no other financial support and rent and bills to pay and two children to feed, so it was pretty scary.
By some kind of divine timing I had just begun Jack Grayle’s in-depth 13 week course on Hekate, also offered through The Blackthorne School. The practices we were doing to connect more deeply with Hekate – Goddess of transitions, of liminal places – were absolutely fundamental to me staying sane and grounded as my only income literally disappeared before my eyes.
Early on, Jack reads “Document to the Waning Moon” from The Greek Magical Papyri. It was incredibly powerful for me. I had several very clear strong visions and one of them was of another drawing of Hekate. I also felt a huge compulsion, a directive even, to really push and promote my drawings in a shameless way that I never would have dared before. I needed to survive, and my drawings were the only asset I could see at the time to make that work, as we were in full lockdown and I was home caring for my daughters.
I really felt Her presence, holding this totally unknown transition for us all. I was immensely grateful and started giving more honouring to Her, setting up a shrine in my house and making heartfelt urgent prayers to Her for continued support. I was amazed when the drawings started to sell, enough to just about support us, and enough for me to realise that my drawings were something I needed to take seriously for the first time in my life, and devote proper and full attention to. Still, She made me wait several more months before granting me the opportunity to draw Her again. I had a lot more learning and research and prayers and offerings to make first!
It is so beautiful that you gather inspiration from real human beings. How do you go about choosing models for your work? How did you choose the model for your newest piece – LILITH?
Elders: Social media really has been fantastic for meeting and creating mutual support with a whole community of other artists, and an excellent way to find the models I have been working with. I follow a lot of great photographers and models, and the process seems to happen in a couple of ways:
Sometimes I have a vision for a drawing and then I will search for the right model – or I come across a model and then have a vision of them already in some finished drawing. In those cases, I will ask them to pose for me, I’ll send them sketches of what I see, and pay them to make a specific photograph of the pose that I need.
Other times a photo will appear on Instagram that immediately seizes me and I see something more in it. Then I contact the photographer, and often the model too, and ask for permission to work with their image and change it into something else. Sometimes its not much of a change – like in Lilith, which is really very similar to the original photograph of model Ellia Brightmoon, made by Blas Photographer. The original photo focuses on her body, and does not include the whole left arm. But I saw that whole left arm, with a snake twining round and sliding up to her heart, with the golden geometry of the sun illuminating behind her.
Fascinatingly, when I contacted Ellia to ask how she felt about being Lilith (because that also feels absolutely important that the model and photographer are giving their blessing to the drawing), she was astonished. She does theatre work, and Lilith is the artist name she uses; Lilith is one her own Patron Goddesses.
Also, I posted a video clip of the drawing process with music by a band called Archive that I had been obsessively playing while making the drawing, and it transpired that Archive is her favourite band.
These things do fill me with wonder, at how we are mysteriously brought together in these synchronicities and resonances through creative processes, for deeper reasons sometimes that we may never know. I feel some kind of strange kinship connection now with the models and photographers I’ve worked with in this way, many of whom I have stayed in contact with, and who have opened the doors to more curious places.
This Lilith piece is breathtaking. What elements were you aiming to capture? What inspired you to choose these elements and portray them as what registers as so poignantly and hauntingly Lilithian?
Elders: It’s funny, I’m almost ashamed to say that I really didn’t know ANYTHING about Lilith when this drawing appeared. I was working with the Greek Gods, and felt that was my focus at the time. But I randomly saw that photograph and had this strange clear flash of vision and had to sketch it: a sensual woman with left arm outstretched, eyes rolling back in her head, the snake sliding up that arm to bite in her heart, all in the ferocious glare of a mystical sun. As I was sketching I was hearing ‘LILITH, LILITH, LILITH’ over and over, so I had to find out: Who the hell is Lilith?
Through some research I connected with Idlu Lili Regulus, who has been writing an immense tome on Lilith for several years (called She Of The Night, to be published by Theion Publishing in 2022. Recommend!) Idlu was incredibly generous and helpful to me in sharing information and supporting my understanding of the drawing of Lilith. I now see the snake as the embodiment of the divine pairing of Lilith with Samael. The huge golden sun burning down on their union in the desert, molten with the sacred geometry of all mystical union.
Now I also feel this kinship and mutual support with Idlu Lili Regulus that otherwise would not have existed, so these drawings also are bringing me into relation with other humans in this world and that feels mysterious and precious too.
What is next for the great Red K. Elders? We would love to hear what you have planned – esoterically, cunningly, and innovatively – for the remainder of 2021.
Elders: Well, as is often the case when following the subtlest of shimmering threads, the way I keep thinking things are going to unfold keeps rapidly shifting. I think that’s a sure sign we are on the right path, when we encounter the trickster that riotously upsets the table just after we have all politely sat down to tea.
My fascination with the Greek pantheon of Gods continues, as does my research and praxis with them, and I had planned to make a book in this vein. I have several clear finished drawings in mind, I even have the models and have already shot the reference images for the next two drawings which are ready to go. And yet, that inner flame I feel for that project has curiously just recently diminished somewhat, and I have a strong demand from some other wild dark female Goddess who wants to come first.
I quite like that, because Zeus was next in the queue, but sorry Zeus, you will have to wait while this other dark feminine force takes centre stage. That’s what I’m working on now, and She’s coming very clear and fast so She may even be complete in the next few weeks.
Beyond that, in 2022, I’m certainly feeling a book of some sort will come. I have acres of writings, but need to sift through it all for the gold and merge it well with my drawings.
Many people have been asking me to teach them drawing but I don’t feel I can do that as I never went to art school. But I can teach people about the processes and practises I use to get into creative flow states, the movement bodywork and the rituals I work with. So I’ll be doing just that by hosting a weekend residential retreat in England next Spring called ‘Conjuring the Mythic’.
And following on from that, I’ll be hosting an online course on the same subject, perhaps in Spring too.
Lastly, I’m courting a few galleries to have my first exhibition. The majority of my print sales go to the USA so it seems likely that’s where my show will be.
If you’re interested to be kept informed about any of my offerings, feel free to join my mailing list.
If you could recommend one book to neophytes or potential artists, what would it be and why?
Elders: I have a gorgeous huge volume: The Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection which documents the collection of artworks in a wonderful art gallery that just happens to be fairly close to me here in Norfolk (we don’t have many big galleries here so it’s quite a wonder!). As well as gorgeous works by Francis Bacon and Henry Moore, the collection includes a great many folk artworks and objects spanning 5000 years of creativity from Polynesia, Alaska, Western Africa, Mesoamerica, Japan, and the Cyclades.
There are so many objects of power and beauty in the collection, made without artifice or pretention, that still seem to house some magic of great immensity. Even the tiniest hand carved walrus tusk is utterly exquisite. I always feel totally aflame when I am in the presence of such artistry, and even the book still conveys that.
So for anyone starting out with art, I’d recommend exploring that, feeling that presence, letting it seep into their bodies and then begin to wonder: How can my art also be a house for Spirit?
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