Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The evolution of an artist and a forever work in progress.

The gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form. 

Since my art journey began, many moons ago, my art has changed, transformed, and evolved, and so have I.  As I look back on past creations, I am reminded how far I have come as an artist and the evolution and development it has taken over the years.  Not only have I witnessed my art evolve but through art, I have evolved as a human and grown in ways that were unimaginable at the time.  It has taken a lot of hard work, showing up for myself when I wanted to hide, PATIENCE, acceptance, and practice.

This past year has been the fastest artistic growth I have seen thus far.  Words will be an inadequate description of the year I had painting under the gentle guidance of Flora Bowley but I will do my best to convey the beautiful experience I had.  This experience caused my seed to crack open and bloom into a magnificent creative flower.  If you read my last post, I had no choice but to bloom, then you know what happened and how I stumbled into the world of Flora Bowley.  From this post, you also know, that this experience was life changing and my creative lens was adjusted to see a whole different world, one that enhanced the unique and beautiful world I was already seeing.

I turned 40 in February 2015 and it has been by far, the best birthday yet.  I was surrounded by amazing friends who I love and came together to celebrate my life, wishing me well in the year ahead. Although my soul sister couldn't attend she gave me the gift of Flora.  An amazing, life altering gift that took me down a creative path I had not yet been on, lighting a fire no one will ever be able to extinguish.  The best gift EVER!

Although I'd love to go into a crazy amount of detail about Flora's wonderful intuitive painting E-course, I don't feel that it's right for me to do so.  What I will do is explain what each week meant to me and how at times it was painfully joyous.  The course was exactly what my soul needed and the timing perfect!  There were so many times throughout the course that I felt the course was carved out just for me.  It was as if Flora knew exactly what I was thinking and feeling, a sure sign that she is a messenger and vessel of spirit.  Each time these beautiful moments happened I smiled and thanked the spirit world for bringing me exactly what I needed and thanked Flora for saying just the right things at the exact time so I could heal and crack open.  So, here is what this gift meant to me.....

Let's be honest...  if someone tells you that soul work is easy, they are not doing something right or not being truthful with themselves.  I have found that anytime I work on my life, things I want to get better at, or areas I want to focus on to be a better person... it is WORK.  Soul work is work too.  Progress.  Improvement.  Work.  Onward and upward, right?  Some days the work is harder than other days and I have to gently remind myself that showing up each day to do the work is step one and worth verbally praising myself for doing so.  We are our own worst critics and it's astonishing how abusive we are to ourselves.  I have listened to the brutal voice in my head for far too long and as I make attempts to silence her and listen to the other voice that says, "I am worth it, I can do this, I am loved, and I am supported" I am finding that the world is in fact brighter and opportunities abound.

Flora's E-course began the last week of January 2015, however, I didn't really "start" until after the course had already been underway for a few weeks.  I really started to dive in the first week of April and it took me a little while to clear my head space to start, as well as being able to emotionally and physically give it my all, because of the heavy life circumstances I was experiencing I needed a little clarity before diving in.  Seriously, the course was concluding and I was beginning, so I was VERY grateful that Flora left the e-course up for us to access for 6 months after the conclusion of the course, so people like me were able to finish the course, as well as, do it in our own time, at our own pace.  Flowers don't bloom and grow at the same pace and neither do we.  Being able to complete this course on my terms became one of the biggest blessings, and the fact that I had permission to do it as I pleased, allowed the magic to really happen.

Each week comes with a theme and during the week there are a series of creative exercises to do based on the theme.  I found each exercise Flora presented, gave me a deeper understanding of the theme, and allowed me to open further which gave me a more enriched life experience and creative journey.  The exercises are completely voluntary and you can do as much or as little as you like.  Even though the soul work and showing up for myself to do the exercises was extremely hard at times, I was always excited about what was next and the information being presented.  I was a sponge that absorbed it all and when I thought I was full, I realized I wasn't.  :)  I found the course to be PERFECT for the established artist and the beginner with no experience.

I have always been fairly intuitive and felt connected with the spirit world around me.  I'm a seeker and because of this I am always searching for answers and connecting to the mystery around me.  As I dove into week one, Intuition, I found myself connecting even more with the spirit world and nature.  I loved being able to make a connection between my art and my intuition.  Intuitive painting was a scary concept for me.  To stand in front of a canvas with no concept, theme, or idea about what to paint raised all the flags of fear imaginable.  But I embraced it and I did so with courage and eager anticipation.  I found that as the lessons progressed I was completing them in perfect alignment with what I needed in my personal and creative life.  The stars continued to align in a magical dance the entire course and the magic didn't stop once the course was over.

Week 1: Layer 1 &2; Week 2 : Layer 3, 4, & 5; Week 3: Layer 6 & 7; Week 4: Layer 8

The hardest week I had during the course was week two...  Letting GO.  This week's lesson I needed the MOST...  on all of the following levels- spiritual, emotional, physical, mental and creative.  I believe that each of these levels are intertwined with each other and when one is out of balance it causes an imbalance in the other.  Our systems are quite remarkable and will cooperatively work harder to bring the other system in balance before reaching an imbalance itself.  I love that about our bodies.  Week two was where I did the most work and spent the most time in my soul and my art.  I stayed in this weeks lesson for 2 months and didn't move on to the following week until I felt ready.  It did cause me to have to rush a little towards the end but I felt that I needed that too.  What I needed most always presented itself exactly when I needed it.  Learning to let go of my ego and the fear I held on to regarding my art was a tremendous transformation.  Each day that I did the soul work regarding the theme of letting go, I could see myself morphing into something beautiful and the transformation I felt was uncomfortable and incredible...simultaneously.  The most powerful transformation I had during this week's lesson was embracing the words, "I AM AN ARTIST" and letting go of the thoughts that I had bouncing in my head shouting that I was not and the detrimental thoughts that my art wasn't good enough, I wasn't good enough.  I haven't completely purged myself of these limiting thoughts but I am working on it.  I can see that because I'm not holding on to this limiting view, my expression through art has radically changed.  It has opened a flood gate of creativity that was waiting to be released.

Week three...  Your inspiring life, felt light and airy.  I enjoyed taking a look at the world around me and concentrating on the micro and macro details then doing a fast sketch based on what I saw.  It was in this week that I realized how powerful fast sketches can be.  When I think of myself as an artist, I will be the first to tell you, I don't draw well.  I have loved drawing since I was a small child and remember soothing my soul's pain with drawing and music.  Over the last few years I have quieted the voice in my head that told me I couldn't draw and did it anyway.  During this week, Flora made sure to say aloud that we had PERMISSION to draw without the attachment that they had to be good.  This was so liberating for me and the fact that someone outside of my being gave me permission to have a crappy drawing allowed me to feel free.  It sounds so silly now but I realize how shackled I had become to the idea that what I drew had to be good or recognizable to someone other than me.  The days that followed I drew more and I needed that.  I also really enjoyed finding what I loved to draw and seeing through a different lens.  My peace absolutely comes from enjoying and seeing the natural world around me.  When I took my sketchbook out with me and stared at macro and micro images, it was as if the world exploded around me.  In this week I also gave myself permission to paint the images I LOVE and feel connected to, even if they were the same images I had been jotting down for eons.  Another very powerful lesson in week 3 was entering "THE AWKWARD TEENAGER PHASE" with my art.  My painting was exactly that, I felt it and at this stage I really hated my painting.  When this phrase came out of Flora's mouth, it was as if the stars aligned and I could move past it knowing this awkward teenager phase would pass.  It allowed me to not become stuck and allowed the fear of "will this ever be good?" or "can I really paint something beautiful?" to leave.  Since this remarkable class, I have entered the awkward teenager phase with every single one of my paintings and every time the fear arises I chuckle, and gently remind myself that this too shall pass and the result will be something beautiful, to be patient, and allow my voice to emerge.  I surrendered to the process and really learned to trust myself, my abilities, and that my creative voice would emerge without me having to force it.

Week 4: Layer 9; Week 5: Layer 10 - 12;
Layer 12 - 16 was applying everything I learned in the course and getting  everything right

Week four...  Being BRAVE!  In this week my soul emerged with courage and bravery and left my ego behind.  This was absolutely necessary especially when being in the awkward teenager phase.  As my ego tried to take hold and convince me that I wasn't an artist, I wasn't good enough, or riddled my being with fear, my soul gently reminded me that I was safe, my creative voice was beautiful, and to be brave and step into the light.  When I took the step and embraced the courage to do so, fear was left behind and my ego was quiet.  My soul stood firmly and my creative voice was heard loud and clear.  Love emerged and with love, my painting emerged too.  Beyond my painting, I began to have the courage to share my artwork more.  This brave act was so liberating.  The response to my artwork from those that I shared it with was remarkable.  I finally felt like I had arrived.

All of these layers were adding the finishing touches to my painting.
These layers were really a continuation of week 5 and allowing my authentic voice to emerge,
giving my painting a voice and my brush an opportunity to speak.

Week five...  Finding your authentic voice.  Truth is by the time I got to week four and five I had to go a little faster because the online availability of this dynamic course was drawing to a close.  It wasn't because there wasn't enough time to access it, it was because at the beginning I allowed fear to conquer me, life's circumstances were way too heavy for me to take on anything else, and the demons screaming in my head that I wasn't going to paint anything beautiful were deafening.  So, yes I had plenty of time to get to week five, but the reasons I just stated AND the fact I had spent nearly two months in week two letting go of many of the negative ideas and beliefs I held as well as the limitations my mind framed around me, caused me to rush a little towards the end of the course.  The truth is, I believe I needed that too.  Because I had to "rush" and didn't have time to "think" or listen to the demons, I was in a beautiful state of spiritual and creative awareness.  It was here that I embraced the idea to be brave and "BE" in the moment and I was able to paint from a place of complete freedom.  It was there that my authentic voice emerged.  I realized that for years now I had been developing my style and trying on different things creatively to see what was my fit, my voice.  I had been testing the water for all of it and it took courage to do that.  We are our own worst critic and sometimes we cause the magic to stop as a result.  I realized I had done that too.  But by the end of week five, magic was in the air and on my canvas.  My soul was filled with joy and my energy was vibrating at a frequency I can't describe in words.

This gift was the second best gift I have ever received in my life, the first being motherhood.  The experience was incredibly HARD because soul work is hard, and at the same time when I stepped into the flow and just accepted the magic, it was also incredibly EASY.  That in itself is a lesson.  This e-course is so much more than a painting class...  it's a lesson in spiritual awareness, awakening, self-esteem, empowerment, accepting that we are divine and beautiful, LISTENING to our inner voice and the voice of the world around us, and acceptance.  If you are thinking...  I'm not an artist nor do I know anything about art... that's okay, you don't have to be an artist or know anything about art to take this online course.  If you are thinking, I'm an established artist and don't need another painting class or instruction on how to paint...  I am here to tell you that this is not just a painting course, it's more than that.  If you want to give yourself a true gift, buy this class for yourself.  It will be the greatest gift you give yourself and I PROMISE it will be worth every penny you spend on it.  Or maybe give it to someone else...  I'm glad Karin gave it to me...  Best gift EVER!

As I said in the beginning, when I look at my art over the years, I realize how each moment has led to this one.  I can see how much I have evolved and transformed.  Each stage of my life different just like my art.  Flora's e-course allowed me to crack my artistic seed open and sink my roots into a new belief.  The belief that I AM AN ARTIST and what I create is MY VOICE and it is beautiful.  It doesn't have to be beautiful to anyone else because my creative voice is enough and says what my creative work is.  Even now as I look at my finished painting on the wall, my inner critic has come out a few times stating the various areas my painting could improve and I've had to stop the voice.  I believe this voice can be helpful or it can be hurtful.  The voice can push us to be more than what we are or stop us from becoming.  I became something beautiful.  I bloomed beyond my dreams.  I have evolved and I will continue to do so because I am a forever work in progress.

Just like the pure joy emitting from the face of "S" skeleton,
my heart felt the same.
My art hanging in my home next to my
daughter's art... pure joy.  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I had no choice but to bloom

  Okay, I had a choice.  Each of us have a choice, but there was something inside of me that said...  It's time to bloom.  You have to.  You CAN.  This is the only choice.  Do you know what I'm talking about?  You know that moment when we have a choice to show up or shrink,  run or stay, be big or stay small, shine or hide?  It was scary and I wanted to run but my feet planted into the ground with a stance that said, "You got this!"  My ego was violently shaking its ugly head no but my soul was screaming yes...  "you are loved, you are supported, and it's time to shine."  So...  I had no choice but to bloom because it was my time to shine, to step into the light, and bloom.

Let me back up.  2014 went out with a bang.  The unraveling began in September 2014 and it seemed to only get worse as the months went on.  My employment was in jeopardy.  I'm a single mom who is self-employed, so as you can imagine, this caused an initial panic inside me that I can't describe.  I had to remind myself several times that I am supported and loved by the universe.  Again my ego went into overdrive raising the red flags of self-doubt, fear, and anxiety but all the while my soul calmly waited for me to get centered and to trust that there was a plan in place bigger than me.  There are a few things that I am VERY passionate about, my work as a life skills coach is one of them.  I know that I won't do this work forever, but right now I am where I am supposed to be and I love the work.  And I'm really good at it.  So as I waited to hear whether I could still be a self-employed mom, who is available to her children, another bomb dropped....

My step-father died.  Hello October.  Thanks for your warm welcome.  Glenn had been a part of my life since I was a small child.  My parents divorced when I was five and my mom married him when I was seven, so yes he was a large part of my life.  It wasn't always love, sunshine, and rainbows though.  Maybe I'll leave that for another post, but what I will say is this...  it took me a LONG time to love him and he patiently waited.  He loved me dearly and I'm grateful that he waited for my love because the feeling was mutual.  Death is so hard...  it's a reminder to love madly, live in the moment, and hug the ones you love everyday because tomorrow may never come.  While still grieving this huge loss another bomb dropped...

"Toni, I have cancer."  What?  Really?  Are you sure mom?  I hadn't even made it through October when this enormous bomb dropped.  Is this really happening?  November and December were a little bit of a blur...  mom had surgery, was in and out of the hospital a few times before the year ended, thanksgiving, Christmas, grief and loss.  It was a hurricane and I was being swept up in its fierce winds.

I wanted the year to end and I welcomed the new year with open arms hoping for something better.  For the time being I was still able to do the work I loved and feel passionate about, so that was a plus.  Then I received an email from my BFF, Karin, on January 18th.  A little over a year ago now.....  wow time flies!  The subject line read:  "It's your lucky day, my dear!! xo"  When I clicked on the email I had NO idea what was in store for me or how drastically my life would change in the upcoming year.  Karin had entered my name into a drawing to win a free on-line intuitive painting course with Flora Bowley.  I had no idea who she was as an artist and I had no idea the journey I was about to embark on.

Initially, even though I was really excited that I had won something, my body and mind became riddled with fear and self-doubt.  I can count on one hand the times I had won something.  So my thoughts were, "seriously, I had won?  Karin are you sure?  Go back and check..."  Then came the thoughts, "Are you sure you can do this?  What happens if I'm not any good?"  But yes, I really had won and it was right before my 40th birthday.  My soul sister and loving friend, provided me with gentle encouragement and love to give me the boost I needed, all the while stating that I deserved it.  She reminded me that I am supported and loved by the universe and that this would be good for my soul and my art.  To assist my journey and celebrate my 40 years on this planet, Karin made sure I was set with the supplies I would need for the course, and sent me on my way to embark on this transformative journey.  So now it was up to me...  choose to bloom or choose to stay a seed.  Choose to shine or choose to hide my light.

This five week course started at the end of January and even though it ran for five weeks, I had access to it on line for six months from the time the course concluded.  Sweet!  This was perfect for me especially since my life was in upheaval at the time of winning this beautiful gem.  And to be honest, it took me a little while to wrap my head around the fact that I had won this, whether or not I was capable of doing it, and whether or not I deserved it.  Yes, I said it...  did I really deserve something so wonderful?  It took me a little while to answer these questions and when I did...  the magic happened.  I went on the site, read, re-read, and then started doing small things to get myself prepared to start and to push away my so called friends, fear and self-doubt.  All the while I was still dealing with a very sick and grieving mother, who was in and out of the hospital numerous times until the middle of March 2015.  In April, mom started to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually which also assisted me with my own healing.  In mid May, I received an email stating everything would remain as it had been with my self-employment, so I was no longer sitting in limbo regarding my job status waiting for another bomb to drop.  I could breathe a little easier and worry a little less.  So it was time to start to show up for myself.  No excuses.

If you are like me and have never heard of Flora Bowley or her art, please for the love of God go check her out....  only after you finish reading this blog post of course!  Her art is amazing, her gentle and loving spirit so inviting, and her approach to art refreshing.  It was EXACTLY what I needed to transform and bloom.  Ironically, the 5 week course is called Bloom True.  Great, how appropriate.

I have struggled with the words, "I am an artist" for as long as I have been creating.  I was never really able to own the words and it definitely affected my creative life.  It wasn't until the conclusion of the online painting course, that I realized how much it affected my creative life.  Thankfully, despite the lack of owning these words, I still showed up and created.  My soul in many ways overpowered my ego, something I am grateful for.

Other than the gift of being a mother to my beautiful children, the painting class with Flora was by far the best gift I have ever been given.  There was a shift that occurred in my being while taking this online painting course that I find difficult to put into words.  The light and guidance that Flora emitted was hard to hide from and made me want to rise and shine.  My small seed opened accepting the light she radiated and the inner growth I experienced was magical and deep.  I allowed myself to grow, transform, and shine instead of staying small.  At times it was so hard to stand in front of my canvas and allow the magic to happen but I'm so glad that I did.  I'm glad that despite my fear I showed up for myself each day and allowed the light to enter, causing this great shift inside of my being.  When I let go of all the negative words that held my soul captive and really believed in myself as an artist, it was there that my voice emerged.  This voice was so beautiful and the art that has come as a result leaves me standing in awe.  Sometimes I stand in disbelief of what I have just created, asking myself, "Is this really mine?".  Yes, Toni, it is and it is beautiful.

I have had a few difficult years and last year was certainly one of them, but this painting class transformed my life and I will never be the same.  And neither will my art.  It provided a safe haven for me to grow and heal.  It helped my creative vision and assisted with finding the courage to show up each day for myself creatively.  I see the world through a different lens now, everything is a little different and the world a little brighter as a result.  Although the painting class was 5 weeks online, it took me the entire time I had access to it online, to get through the lessons.  The painting that I did during the course took  almost a year to finish.

The painting below I completed after the painting course ended and I was still working on my painting from the class itself.  I started this painting for an art show I was participating in and the night I finished it was magical.  I stood in front of the painting with tears in my eyes, a fire in my belly, love in my heart, and a disbelief that this was mine.  I created it.  ME.  And it was beautiful.  I had let go of the fear and self-doubt that had muffled my voice and instead chose to rise allowing my seed to be cracked open and my voice to emerge triumphantly.  My voice sang a creative music I longed to hear and I owned every bit of the sentence, "I AM AN ARTIST."

I chose to bloom and I'm so glad that I did.


***Stay tuned for my post about the class and the picture of my completed canvas....

All of the photos used in this blog post were taken by me in the Spring/Summer 2008