Spring Renewal: Stepping into the Flow

The focus of my art workshop at last weekend’s Spring Renewal annual Women’s Retreat was on exploring how four ancient archetypes live, work, and play through us. These are the archetypes that we focused on:

  • The Queen of Nourishment
  • The Midwife of Transformation
  • The Divine Warrior
  • The Sacred Lover

We collaged intuition cards to use as tools in our daily lives to call upon these powerful energies as needed.

As we dove into the process, a beautiful silence swept through the Eureka Retreat Center.

Part of my work is to create experiences and atmospheres that are conducive to FLOW STATE experiences. This magical space of timelessness allows artists to peel away layers up pent-up creative energy and tap into the quite calling of their intuitive inner voice.

My amazing friend and colleague in collaboration Brietta Leader, participants we led through dance integrations that were seamlessly woven into the theme. Brietta’s focus is on embodying healing through movement.

Infini: A Journey in Collective Creativity

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Since January, I’ve been teaching one  ‘Sip and Paint’ class a month (typically on the first Thursday) at a new studio gallery downtown Sandpoint called Infini, run by artist Kris Dills. The classes have turned out to be both invigorating as a teacher and inspiring as an artist.

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I’ve learned to condense lessons into concise two-hour workshops with a focus not only on technique, but on specific themes as well. I look forward to seeing my fellow artists each month as we catch up over a glass of wine and a palette of paint. I’ve witnessed my students master painting skills and come away with a sense of community that simply can’t be found on YouTube in a how-to video. Although it is true that one can learn just about anything they desire from the internet these days, it just isn’t the same as being part of a human collective and sharing together in beautiful and unexpected ways. I look forward to the next six months of Sip and Paints, and I hope to see you there!

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NW Yogafest 2014: Shakti Awakened

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Our earth altar at Alexandra’s Tree. Sticks and pinecones formed a first chakra four-petaled lotus around the base of the tree.

When it comes to summer festivals, I gravitate towards intimate and connected experiences, rooted in spirit and nature to feed my thirsty soul. I need to feel the earth under my toes, witness the stars falling, and take time to notice the subtle differences in the way light plays in people’s eyes.

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Rob revealing his sparkle.

I also crave time away from my technology obsession, my fancy for wine, and my affinity towards slow-smoked meats. With a full power and water outage due to a freak summer storm, as well as the gift of a ‘food ceremonialist’ as our vegan chef (Kariann Neal), I was in position for a mid-summer full body/mind/spirit reset. The NW Yogafest successfully awakened my shakti, and I returned filled with a sense of gratitude, aliveness, love, and inspiration. Upon reflection, I realize that my greatest joy came from the heartfelt connections I savored and fostered throughout the weekend.

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Here I am with my new friend, Krishna. I’m pretending to be Radha..

One of the highlights of my weekend was reconnecting with my friend Jennifer Isaacson who has been wanderlusting around the world for the past year leading retreats in succulent places like Bali and Sayulita. Her unique style of yoga is a blend of spirit-channeled wisdom that can only come from thousands of hours of devotion, with a splash of humor that sets everyone at ease.

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Jennifer assists with an adjustment while light pours through the Garden House windows.

Another Yogafest blessing, was having the opportunity to work alongside shaman Shakti goddess Cosetta Romani creating sacred altars, and witnessing her ability to create magical spaces and transformational experiences.

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First chakra human mandala ceremony, guided by Cosetta Romani.

Sharing my own gifts during the ‘Intuitive Painting Playshop’ was a soothing experience that brought my group spontaneously to the beach, where we set up an outdoor studio in the grassy shade. We stepped outside of time to create colorful abstract scenes embedded with ancient symbols. This experience reminded me how important it is to be connected with nature in the process that I’m developing, and I made sure to reserve a time slot at the beach for next year’s workshop.

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Intuitive Painting Playshop participants dive in to water and watercolor at Garfield Bay.

Sunday afternoon brought another opportunity for creative integration with a timeless rock painting session along the quiet and peaceful shores of Green Bay.

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Rock painting decompression session Sunday afternoon at Green Bay with the crew.

Dancing with my Gypsy Diva sisters as an opening ceremony to Cosetta’s (amazing) trance dance was the personal highlight of my weekend. Our dancing group was founded over 7 years ago by Brietta Leader, best friend and soul sister. We’ve performed to a variety of genres from Bollywood, belly dance fusion, yoga fusion, tango, flamenco, even Burlesque. This particular dance was choreographed by Hallie Owen. As we stood before the beautiful crowd of glowing, radiant yogis, we felt held by a group of witnesses that transported us to an earthy, ancient realm from which we emerged. The dance itself felt like a dream amidst the backdrop of Alexandra’s Tree.

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Gypsy Divas setting the tone for the trance dance.

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Hallie Owen, Brietta Leader, Holly Walker, Julie, Lili Waldrup

Now it is over. My goddess costume has been put back in the closet. The altars have been dismantled. The earth has begun to reclaim her temporary sculptures. I am left with a deep sense of aliveness. In the book I’m reading, Awakening Shakti, Sally Kempton speaks about shakti as a creative life force energy fueled from within, and sparked by the essence of ancient deities as they come to play in our lives. NW Yogafest was abundant with opportunities for such encounters. So much gratitude.

~Namaste~

P.S. I am grateful to Steve and Yvette for cultivating such a beautiful piece of land, and having the ability to work together side-by-side, even through many life-altering changes.

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Reserve your sacred spot in next year’s Yogafest July 24-26, 2015.

 

Northwest Yogafest: Dream Catchers and Chakra Painting

The fast blast of summer in Sandpoint seems to fill up before it arrives, but I have no reservations in saving the weekend of July 25-27 for my fourth annual retreat at the Northwest Yogafest. I long to soak up the beauty and stillness of the Eureka Center, dive into an array of yoga practices, sing and dance under the moonlight, surround myself with inspiring people, and to share gifts of creativity with my tribe.

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Each participant wrote their dreams onto feathers that they attached onto our collective dream catcher.

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Larger-than-life dream catcher collective installation from Yogafest 2013

I feel so much gratitude to have found a niche to share my creative teachings at the Yogafest. Last year’s art workshop was focused on the chakras, and it was a powerful experience for all involved.

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Paintings created by 2013 Yogafest participants

 

There is something magical about unleashing the creative flow in an open-air studio space, with a group of people who are devoted to bringing peace and clarity into their lives. The sweetness of life becomes tangible.

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Painting the flower-of-life mandala for the yogafest

I look forward to this year’s event, and the opportunity to bring creative juices to the community in new ways. There are only 100 spots for this special retreat, and I can’t wait to see who makes it their priority.

To reserve your spot at this year’s event, click here. When you register, let them know that I sent you, so that the circle of connection continues.

~Namaste~

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Heart chakra painting inspired from last year’s Yogafest chakra workshop

 

 

Sun Fire-Soul Fire

SunFireSoulFireI recently took a one-year hiatus from dancing with the Gypsy Diva’s, a local dance performance group that I’ve been dancing with for five years. I needed to regroup and reorganize my time-structure. It was important for me to step back from the demands of rehearsal and witness the beauty of the group from a new perspective: audience member.

However, the time has come for me to dance again! I’ve been feeling the joy of rehearsal with a new and invigorated sense. Our performance will be Sunday, Dec. 15, at 4:00 p.m. at the Sandpoint Event Center. I hope to see you there.

I consider myself something of a Renaissance woman, and living an artful life means finding joy and beauty in the many facets of creativity. I don’t believe that there is just one! But I do believe that it is important to give ourselves the breaks that we are called to honor. A good artist knows the gift of shifting ones perspective.

I am so excited to be performing with this dynamic group of amazing women once again! I’ve been creating costumes in my studio as well as painting the design shown here that will embellish commemorative t-shirts. You can order your t-shirt for $15.00 here.

Celebrating the Bloom!

Last night was a magical celebration for 15 women who participated in my Sacred Garden summer art workshop.

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My friend Jill Kahn said it well today in her Facebook post:

“…We attended an Art Opening last night, of brilliant pieces generated by students in a summer painting class taught by my friend, Holly Walker. The energy crackled in that space, as the corks popped and beautiful women poured in: such talented, spirited, lovely women! …The gallery was filled with a rich tapestry of colors last night, on the walls and on the bodies of the procession of extraordinarily creative women who make Sandpoint their home.”

momI love to celebrate the culmination of a focused body of work. I think it is such an important part of the creative process.

Throughout the summer we worked, we laughed, we cried, we let go, we planted seeds, we sat with nature, we changed our perspectives. We courageously stepped into the beautiful mess called painting. Here are some highlights from our class:

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We collectively sold eight paintings last night. Many of the artists had never sold a painting in their lives. What a beautiful experience to share.

Here are a few snapshots of our vibrant celebration.

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Many women asked me last night when the next workshop will be, and I have to be honest; it might take me some time to put together another series with as much juicy goodness as the Sacred Garden had. I am swamped with planning for the new school year and seeing my first grade son and fourth grade daughter off to a good start of their own school year. But with grace and luck and magical timing, I have been offered the opportunity to be a Flora Bowley Bloom True affiliate, which means that I will receive a commission each time I find a perfect soul-match to take Flora’s amazing Bloom True e-course. As many of you know, Flora is an inspiring mentor of mine, and it with joyous enthusiasm that I recommend her e-course to anyone interested in diving in just a little deeper. Her e-course was (without a doubt) the pivotal turning point in my painting career. Click here to read more insights about my Bloom True experience. Click this link to sign up!


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As a supplement to her e-course, I will be offering three lab sessions in my studio classroom throughout her next five-week course that runs September 30th-November 1. The sessions will be October 12, 19, and 26th from 10:00-1:00 for $20.00 a session. Click this link to sign up for the supplemental studio lab sessions:

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Thank you for your continued and growing support! I am deeply grateful to pursue a path that feels so true to my purpose.

The Gift of a Mentor

I have spent much time on my journey thus far finding my own way towards purpose, meaning, and relevance as an artist. I have fed a hunger that seeks beauty and truth and authentic expression. I have wandered through the desert in search of visions. I have been on shamanic journeys that have inspired insight. I have set up ramshackle studios on the patios of desolate casitas. I have been to the Guggenheim, the Met, the MOMA, the PAM, the SAM, the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay. I have practiced techniques. I have made a hundred bad paintings (probably more!) I have sold my paintings in coffee shops, on sidewalks, at yard sales, to my mom..

Of these things: I never tire.

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Patio studio outside my bungalow in Bali

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Patio studio in Sayulita

So, when I took Flora’s e-course last year, I began to buzz with a new frequency. More recently, when I followed up my e-course with Flora’s live workshop in Bali, I realized what a gift it is to have a mentor. A person whose work and philosophy you respect so profoundly that it propels you along your own path.

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Photo: Denise Daffara

Flora commands a presence that makes you feel like you are being initiated into a special kind of sisterhood. She activates each new lesson with a juicy and often unexpected exercise that brings everyone into full presence. She strongly conveys her belief in her students’ ability to express themselves authentically. Flora knows you are capable, and it inspires you to bring forth your own magic. When she teaches, she is 100% available to her students, as a guide to their unfolding process. She creates a calming and soothing atmosphere, even when students might be coming undone. Her experience has taught her that ‘coming undone’ is a natural and expected part of the process. She takes her students to their edges, and lets them hover there.. facing their fears. She encourages courage, bravery, vulnerability. She is so engaged in each moment of her teaching that she knows just the right moment to ask everyone to pause and watch a demonstration, or when to remind them to step back and look at their painting from a new perspective. This guides her students towards natural success.

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Photo: Denise Daffara

These reasons and many more are why I would recommend Flora’s e-course first, then following it up with one of her live workshops to anyone interested in taking their painting to the next soul level.

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The Mystique of a Lotus

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“Just as a beautiful lotus flower blossoms out of mud, happiness can blossom from suffering. You can not grow a lotus flower on a marble surface.”

–Thich Nhat Hanh

As I sit in my living room three weeks after returning from Bali, I softly tell myself, ‘It really did happen. It was real.’ There are a few relics (proof) scattered here and there. A small statue of the buddha sits in my windowsill. A strand of prayer beads patiently waits for me. There are pictures on my computer, new friends on my facebook. But there is something else I brought home with me that is much more complicated to define.

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I’ve been fascinated with lotus flowers for many years. I love the metaphor of the crown chakra as the ‘thousand petaled lotus’. I’ve painted and doodled all kinds of lotus flowers. I’ve spent plenty of time on google in search of the perfect lotus. The lotus represents many things for me when I bring one into my artwork. Expansion, enlightenment, peace, beauty, love, awareness, openness. But, rarely in my life have I actually gazed upon a real lotus. The only time I can think of was once in Thailand over a decade ago, in a small concrete basin outside of a restaurant. Even so, much of my inspiration has been fueled by the mystique of a lotus. Image

So, for a woman like me, with an obsession such as mine, to sit before an entire pond of lotus flowers is, well, life-changing. Riveting. Overwhelming. Those rare times in life when we have the chance to transform a long-held idea of something from two dimensions to three… they change us.

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Is seeing a lotus in ‘real life’ more real than seeing one on a computer screen? is it better? More inspiring? Can we nurture our dreams with illusions of things as easily as the real things? Easier? Less expensively? Less impact on the environment? Does it matter? What’s the difference?  Image

I’m not sure what the difference is. Maybe when I breathed the air surrounding that pond, lotus air, perhaps I became even just one molecule more lotus than before. And maybe that was enough to inform me on a whole new level of the life and stillness, opening, closing, breathing, patient, graceful, awareness.. all that it is to be a lotus. In all the years of my two dimensional lotus obsession, I’ve never really known what a lotus was, until now.

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And yes, photographs have a way of capturing things in an exquisite way. So, why paint something if we can render it so beautifully in a photograph? Is there more to a thing than it’s ‘thing-ness’? Is there depth and unseeable insight that can be recorded in textures and layers and colors that aren’t really there? Yes, I believe so. The irony of being an artist is that one must fly halfway across the world in order to see things clearly, only to paint them other than how they actually are!

Here is my scene at the lotus pond.ImageImage

Thank you, Flora Bowley, for inviting me to paint in Bali. I am forever changed.

Bali Dreams

Over ten years ago, I remember getting swept up in fantasy by the way a good friend descried her experience of being in Bali. Everything was sacred. Little offerings everywhere. Temples, beauty, kindness, food. It sounded like my sort of utopia. And years passes.. I fed other dreams. I became a mother, a painter, a teacher, a homeowner, a gardener. I satisfied my ongoing travel bug by migrating to the Baja peninsula every winter. My fascination with God in other cultures was nourished.

Yet somehow, a thread of Bali dreams continued to run through me. I created altars in nature. I made offerings from stones and grass.

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I turned forty this year. My best friend and I planned for the past five years to go to Bali for our fortieth birthdays. Our birthdays came and went and each of us were too engrossed in our lives to pull it off. Neither one off us were more disappointed than the other. We are both dreamers, and the reality for dreamers is that you often generate more dreams than realities. Sometimes the dreams themselves are fuel enough. Together we led a 2013 Dance/Painting fusion workshop focused on illuminating the year ahead. During that workshop, I had the vision for these paintings:

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Dreaming Garden

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Sacred Mountain Temple

I kept seeing lotus flowers falling from the sky and stone stairways leading to temples. There were sacred mountains on the horizon. Meanwhile, I started research for a commission for a friend’s villa in Bali. I noticed temples and stairways.. My visions began to merge with imagery.

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Bali Dreams

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Ancient Ruins

There is a certain energy when painting a dream. There is hope, longing, fantasy, illusion. Foreshadowing. Nothing is quite clear. It’s like trying to make out objects on a distant horizon, or finding my way on a path as darkness sets in. Faint glowing edges appear at first. Without having been to a place, and only relying on images built in my mind from books, descriptions, and online searches, the image becomes distilled and often repetitive, like a symbol. Maybe if I create the mark enough times, the universe will understand my message?

Sometimes dreams of a place or thing or experience far outweigh the reality. But I know in my core that the reality of a place has a depth that I long for. The smell, the humidity, the sounds, the color palette, the air quality, the water.

A few weeks ago, I was deep into web research on Bali, when I just couldn’t bear to look at one more little computerized images on the screen. I set off through a rainy afternoon to the library. I picked up the only six books in the entire library on Balinese culture, and Southeast Asian art. Holding a book felt more precious than holding my laptop. I felt one step closer to a distant reality.

The next day, I received an email from Flora Bowley saying she had a last-minute cancellation in her upcoming yoga/painting retreat in Bali! I will be leaving in two weeks.

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“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
became greater than the risk it took to bloom.”
-Anais Nin

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Temple Offering