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  • sharmondavidson

Dakini: Visionary Painting

13 JULY, 2018

She's been with me a long time, this dakini. This mixed media visionary painting is a piece that I was vaguely dissatisfied with, but at the same time, I liked it enough that I couldn't bring myself to tear it up for scrap. It is a monotype  (monoprint) with added media.  A monotype is a one-off, handmade print, which cannot be duplicated. Here is a post that explains in more depth exactly what this means. (If you scroll down you'll see a heading that says, "what is a monotype?".) I then add other materials after the print is dry, including colored pencil or crayons, acrylic ink, and sometimes collage elements. That's why mixed media art is so much fun; you get to make up your own rules! So, she was put aside, and basically forgotten. But when looking through some older work recently, I was inspired to try again. After considerable thought and experimentation, here is the new version of Dakini:

monoprint painting of white winged figure surrounded by flowers and symbols

Dakini, monotype with mixed media, 22.5 x 15 inches

ingredients: Rives BFK heavyweight printmaking paper, lithography inks, Caran d'Ache crayons, watercolor pencils, acrylic ink

Sky Dancer

I'm not really sure where the idea for this piece came from. It's one of those instances where I looked at the monotype with my eyes a bit unfocused, and the image just seemed to appear. I guess you could call it a visit from the muse, a visionary experience, or a strange coincidence. If you do any type of creative work, you've probably had similar experiences. What do you call them? The figure was just there, as they say, out of the clear blue sky. The sky, as it turns out, is exactly the right place for her to come from, as the word 'dakini' means 'sky dancer' in Sanskrit. Here is the first definition I came across: "Dakinis are energetic beings in female form, evocative of the movement of energy in space. In this context, the sky or space indicates śūnyatā, the insubstantiality of all phenomena, which is, at the same time, the pure potentiality for all possible manifestations." (Wikipedia)

I don't know about you, but to me, that doesn't clarify much of anything, so I kept researching.

bronze gilt dakini figure from Tibet

Dakini, bronze gilt, Tibet 16th c.

What is a Dakini? According to, "A dakini (Sanskrit: "sky dancer") is a Tantric priestess of ancient India who "carried the souls of the dead to the sky". This Buddhist figure is particularly upheld in Tibetan Buddhism. The dakini is a female being of generally volatile temperament, who acts as a muse for spiritual practice... Dakini are timeless, inorganic, immortal, non-human beings who have co-existed since the very beginning with the Spiritual Energy." That's a pretty succinct definition, compared to many other things I have read. If anything can be said about dakinis, it is that their exact nature is difficult to pin down: "When seen clearly, she is described by those who witness her as beautiful, but this beauty does not necessarily follow established norms. She may be tall and comely, short and broad, fair or dark. She may be gentle and melodious in her communications, or sharp and harsh. She may be sixteen years old, in the full bloom of youth, or she may be gruesome and wrathful, initially inspiring terror. When she is seen clearly, her power is very definite, penetrating, and even threatening in its directness. This power comes not from conventional magic but from wisdom, and her fierceness is not emotional but is the sharp energy of wakefulness...” ~Judith Simmer-Brown, “Dakini’s Warm Breath"

bronze metal statue of dakini crushing a demon under her foot
Dakini crushing a demon, Tibet, 13th c

bronze dakini figure dancing
Dakini, bronze, Tibet, 13th c.

Visionary Painting

I can't pretend to know where my image came from. At the time, I had heard the term 'dakini', but knew little about them except that they were spirit beings spoken of in the Tibetan Buddhism traditions. I don't think I had seen a picture of one at that point. Some of her features, such as the fact that she's dancing, and that her face appears to be as much male as female, are purely coincidental. And she is dancing, apparently, on no solid surface, as if walking through the air. I don't try to explain these things when they happen; I just accept them as a gift from the universe, and consider myself blessed.

painting of a dakini with naga from Sera Monastery by Craig Lovell

Dakini with Naga, Sera Monastery, Tibet

black dakini painted on black background in gold and blue

Throma Nagmo, black dakini from Nepal

painting of red dakini source unknown

Red dakini, source unknown

Blessings to you all, my friends, and as usual, peace, love, and art.


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