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“The Journey”

30” x 40”

Acrylic on Canvas

  “The Journey” expresses a personalized biographical portrait. It communicates a sampling of interests, personality and philosophy. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but for the sake of the reader, I will endeavor to describe this painting as briefly as possible and let the pictures do the actual talking.

The first step to understanding this visual biography is to solve a riddle. Just as the sphinx of Greek myth asked a riddle of travelers, the key to beginning this journey is found in the upper left corner of the painting. Nine dots of various colors form a square. The solution to the riddle is to connect all nine dots, using four straight lines, without retracing any lines or lifting your pencil. The riddle of course, is located in the intellect section of the painting where our subjective programming often determines our perception. If a clue will help, I can only advise that it helps to get outside of the nine dots.

I divided the canvas into four main parts, each representing the four basic natures of mankind. Each nature contains a dominant personality trait such as analyst, leader, supporter, and advocate. The four natures are also known as: water (emotions), earth (sensuality), air (intellect), and fire (idealism). Throughout history mankind has been associated with animal symbols. In scripture our natures are portrayed as human, lion, eagle and bull. Since this is a self-portrait, I included my personal animal totems: the Hawk (a spiritual messenger), the Cobra (the third eye, life cycle/rebirth), the Dolphin (playful water creature, teaching awareness), the Panther (leadership, courage, power, and balance), and the Dragonfly (carefree, whirlwind, swift and active).

             The four basic parts contained in “The Journey” starting at the top and moving in a clockwise position are as follows: 

Twelve o’clock

Three o’clock

Six o’clock

Nine o’clock









Hawk, Cobra


Panther (lion/sphinx)






 “The Journey” contains multi-dimensional images (optical illusions) interacting with each other that transform as the viewer changes perspective.

  • The portrait dominates the left side of the canvas.
  • The canvas is divided into four main parts (Spirituality, Emotional, Physical, and Intellect) or, Fire, Water, Earth, and Air.
  • Notice the rainbow progression of colors from red, to orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and violet, representing the seven colors of the chakra and their relative positions from bottom to top, from the physical realm upwards to the spiritual realm.
  • Focusing on the center light where these four sections unite we may feel as if we’re looking into a tunnel.
  • Beginning at that point of light a geometric spiral of blue winds toward us.
  • A secondary spiral of stone steps in earth tones angles downward, or upward depending on your perspective… 
  • From a bird’s eye view looking down, that same point of light becomes the top of a pyramid.
  • Standing at the base of the red and looking up, we see a Mayan pyramid with stone steps.
  • Red, orange, yellow, and green appear to be individual steps, again depending on your perspective, the steps are either going up or down.
  • In this lower field, representing earth, red, orange, yellow, and green, lead us backward through time from a highly evolved civilization to when we learned to take our first steps as humans.


Lower Quadrant

The Physical Body:

·        The basic shape of the stepped pyramid is the “Primordial Hill”. The ancients believed that during creation this hill rose out of the sea of chaos to create dry land.

·        In the violet area at the base of the canvas, Egyptian hieroglyphs inside three Shenu, or cartouche (the shape representing a loop of rope in which a name is written, a protector of that name) which spell out: (1) Aquarian woman (2) Sharon (3) Talley.

·        In the red area just above that are two sphinx, which loosely represent my panther totem (the panther, or black leopard, is one of the earths most deadly hunters)

·        The creature on the left represents the masculine sphinx of Giza with two pyramids standing behind him.

·        The one on the right represents the feminine sphinx of Greek myth (wearing an Egyptian headdress). The main pyramid of Giza stands behind her.

·        It is possible that two such sphinx exist, sitting back to back from each other, one facing east and the other facing west.

·        The sphinx may also contain a secret passageway (hence the doorways in each of them showing a person) that leads to a vault containing ancient writings of an unknown language, perhaps from Atlantis.

·        On the left side of the orange area lies the replica of a 595-foot geoglyph etched into a mountainside in South America overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is thought to be a depiction of the tree of life, or like many geoglyphs, a signpost for ancient astronauts.

·        Right of that lies three pictographs: (A) the outline of my hand (left hand indicating the feminine) and (B) the symbol for the sun (masculine) and (C) the moon (feminine), painted in the style of pictographs found in America’s Southwest.

·        Above that in the yellow area are two human footprints, similar to ancient footsteps found in Africa, imprinted in volcanic ash before the time of recorded history.


    Left Quadrant

   The Intellectual Mind:

  • The intellect, where wishes and hopes are born in the “Air” element of Aquarius.
  • According to ancient myth, four pillars support the sky…
  • A spiral staircase leads us upwards into the heavens (perhaps the tower of Babel).
  • The blue planet Uranus, with axis tilted sideways and multiple satellite system.
  • Reflections of a spiral galaxy glimmer in both her eyes…
  • The Dragonfly, it’s gossamer wings and body spiral, a carefree, spiritual creature, is a whirlwind, swift and active. Important to Zuni legend, Dragonflies are shamanistic creatures with supernatural powers.
  • 1953 (the year of my birth) is also the Chinese Year of the Dragon.
  • The spiral represents travel from this life to higher spiritual forms of cosmic energy.
  • The riddle of the nine dots is to remind us to look for solutions rather than get stuck focusing on the problem.


   Right Quadrant

  The Emotional Soul:

  • Water, the primeval matter from which all creation began.
  • Water is the perfect example of life, death and rebirth, as it changes from solid, to liquid, to gas, reborn time and time again.
  • The spiral of life’s oceans lifts us high upon its waves into the heavens.
  • The dolphin, one of nature’s most intelligent creatures, bridges man to the ocean. It brings us teachings from the water, breath control and awareness. Smart enough to enjoy each day without punching a time clock. Gentle and compassionate, this creature is also capable of killing a shark with one swift blow. (Insight into the artist’s personality “with a wink and a grin”)
  • The lotus flower, symbol of creation and rebirth. At night the flower closes and sinks underwater, and at dawn it rises and opens once again. 


  Upper Quadrant

  The Spiritual:

  • From the top down, the first symbol is the Egyptian Winged Solar Disk. * Myths of winged creatures exist in nearly every culture and the most common is the myth of the Phoenix, a bird that lives 500 years then builds a nest of spices, dies in a blaze of glory, and from the ashes a new Phoenix is born, depicting life, death, and rebirth.
  • The wings of the solar disk represent my animal totem the “Hawk”, a spiritual messenger and observer. Swiftest of the air creatures, its vision is keen and long range.  The sun-disk is usually portrayed with a Shen, a loop of rope that has no beginning and no end, symbolizing eternity.
  • Cobras (representing insight, royal spirit, healing and wisdom) stand beside the sun. Cobra means “third eye” which is why it is often worn center of the forehead.
  • Under the left wing, is a circle within a circle representing God.
  • Under the right wing, is a three-sided rectangular shape called “Ka” which means “soul” or “spirit”. The ka comes into existence when an individual is born, and when they die they “meet their ka”. A persons “ka” lives on after their body has died.
  • Below the Winged Disk, is the cosmic sky, held in place by “Pets”, the symbol depicting the sky or heavens.
  • Just below the first “Pet” are several raised symbols. From top to bottom, and left to right, they are:
  • The Awen Symbol, also called the Three Rays, symbolizing on the right - the male forces in the material world, on the left - the female forces in the material world, and in the center - the ray of Awen, for the balance nature enforces on these two competing aspects.
  • The Yin/Yang symbol for Male/Female balance and harmony.
  • A variation of the “triquetras” which is Latin for three-cornered. This is a symbol for the Trinity, without beginning and without end, woven together as one.
  • The triple spiral found in several cultures across the world, represents the cyclical forces of nature and the cycle of life, death and rebirth.
  • Positioned midway between the intellect and spiritual is a variation of the “sun wheel” or “ring cross” symbolizes the bridge to other worlds and higher energy and knowledge.
  • The single red dot reflects the third eye positioned between and above the physical eyes.
  • The Ankh symbolizes “Eternal Life”  “The Breath of Life”, and the union of male and female sexual symbols.
  • Near the center of the canvas is a Celtic symbol called the “Wheel of Being” consisting of four circles united by a fifth. The Druidic universe was patterned as Four Powers or Elements unified by a fifth Balance.
  • The center point of this Wheel contains a pearl, symbol for all that is pure and of great worth.
  • This pattern is reflected in the main theme of the entire canvas, with four natures united by a single point of light.



Because of my varied interests including art, philosophy, science, ancient history, and myths, I once spent quite a bit of time thoughtfully pondering which path to take with my life.  Without doubt, art held the highest position in my quest for purpose. I have since learned that I can explore and express all of my interests through my art, because, as Zen teaches us, “all paths lead to the same place.”

This painting is neither a complete representation of my entire life, nor a reflection of all of my interests. It is simply meant to demonstrate the varied aspects of a person (myself in this case) that often go unnoticed at first glance, but can be better appreciated when one takes the time to look beyond the surface. This technique can be custom tailored to fit others interested in presenting themselves beyond a standard portrait, as a means of expressing who they are, their interests, and what they most want to say about themselves. It is simply put, a visual expression of communication, a personalized biographical reflection.



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Sharon Talley

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