I remember thinking over the years that “artist in residence” opportunities out there weren’t particularly suited to my painting process. Instead of painting, I would want to spend all my time experiencing the new location with and without my camera. In fact, I’ve always been more comfortable with the logistics of painting in my own space, since my painting style doesn’t usually involve exterior references. My mostly abstract work comes from an internal connection to Source after invoking my team of guides and angels to help me be fully present with both the universal energy and all my artistic materials at hand. I was never really drawn, therefore, to artist in residence programs.
As you already know, however, I had booked this trip to Assisi in Italy to attend a workshop with Rassouli, an artist I’ve admired for years. When it was cancelled, I decided to go anyway. I already had my plane ticket, had been strongly guided to go in the first place, and Dana Lynne Andersen, the Creative Director at the Academy of Arts, Creativity and Consciousness, invited me to come paint for a week before her workshop on Quantum Creativity. Well, I’m happy to say that being here made a huge difference in my creative process. Whereas I used to think my art wasn’t influenced by my physical surroundings once I got in my zone, my entire experience at both the Ananda Center and the Academy across the street definitely influenced my painting – the seen and unseen.
Art for Self-Realization:
I’ve already shown you the many foundation of layers of this week’s project in a previous post. At that point, I had no idea where this huge painting was going. I prayed for guidance and listened. The images started infiltrating my mind during yoga, meditation, meals, walks, etc. I’m also reading a book this week by Kriyananda (the founder of the Ananda communities) called “Art as Hidden Message – A Guide to Self Realization”. I resonate deeply with much of what he’s written – about the role of art in both creative expression and appreciation. He elaborates on how art is a meditation, a language, an expression of energy and a tool for self-realization. To clarify, he’s talking about art that encourages expansion and connection – my kind of art. He explains that if the artist is already in such a state, the art that he/she will create will reflect that and draw those to it that resonate on the same level or aspire to grow into it. Needless to say therefore, that as my soul expanded this week due to my surroundings, so did my art.
Indeed, being here has definitely affected my inner state. Beauty in its many forms has lifted my soul. The focused intentions and shared aspirations of those who are attracted to this community fill the space with love. The joy that is invoked through the various practices awakens my every cell. I feel nourished here on many levels, including from the abundance of healthy food designed to enhance body, mind, and soul. All this is coupled with the sacred energy so palpable in Assisi, home of many saints.
The most evident is the effect of gazing upon the bella vista of the Umbrian hills so many times a day – from the dining room, from my bedroom, on my walks to the studio. Their undulating curves and atmospheric conditions (the shades of paleness as they recede) have sung their song on my canvas. If you’re familiar with my art, I don’t usually paint landscapes, except for symbolic trees. So the hills were definitely new.
I’ve also been in awe of the sunsets here, even when masked by clouds. In fact, the weather in general has penetrated my work – both the sunny skies and daily showers. Can you see the drips in the background and on the left? The rainbow I saw one day at breakfast influenced my choice of colours – each mountain being primarily one colour of the spectrum. Those are the most obvious references. There are more though.
The graphic style of the painting was partially influenced by the stained glass windows ever so present in the plenitude of Catholic churches in this part of the world. The figure that came to me very much captures the bliss I felt during the first stages of the painting. Remember my dancing slideshow? More than that, it captures for me the Saint Francis energy– my strong love and appreciation for nature and especially for all the birds here. I have been strongly moved by their songs, especially when meditating at Ananda or during the vespers at San Damiano last Sunday. So although many wouldn’t see the connection between Saint Francis and my woman dancing with the birds while turning to the sun in gratitude, it’s there. She represents the essence of love, kindness, compassion and connection within the heart and soul of all beings – perhaps it’s also Saint Clare.
I’m sure there are other subconscious references (like moving up the chakra colours and the various states and stages of specific consciousness described in our Quantum Creativity workshop this morning), but this is enough to show that both the location and the vibration of those within my environment this week have definitely had an effect on my work. Shanti, Amen.
A Supported Process:
So was the entire process blissful? No. I am who I am, and so old patterns came along with me on this trip. When my painting came to its awkward teenager phase, it became hard for me to love it … or myself (like mental hiccups – not a prolonged state). I had been so happy with it before as it was growing and filled with possibility. But after covering the hills up with the rainbow colours and stepping back, my heart sank and my words followed. Luckily, Dana – who I am so glad was almost always in the space– was very helpful. Not only did she offer poetic and philosophical insights on my process and its results, such as “The destination is dissolving through the path of the journey (when I started shaping a world on top of my background), but she also gently guided me out of my occasional negative self-talk. In fact, she often offered alternative ways of framing my experience. For example, yesterday afternoon she reminded me that there is no better or worse, there’s only change. How true. Sometimes that change asks for further changes, and sometimes not. It’s about authentic expression and coming from a heart space of love and joy. Anything else creates obstacles for both my Self and my art. Dana is very perceptive, insightful, and helping people unleash their creativity is both her and her academy’s purpose. Through her several programs and certification courses, she helps them awaken higher states of consciousness and create from their center – from the inside out. Her philosophy is so in line with my own – that in itself was very refreshing. I can be a very open, loving, trusting being when I paint, but I can definitely let the doubt and self-criticism creep in “Oh why did I do that? It was so much better before! It’s ruined!…”
Fortunately, the morning after my awkward teenager came into being, our yoga was followed by a purification ceremony very similar to what I had experienced in the shamanic world. The temple was quite full that day as many from the community had come for the Thursday 2.5-hour meditation. I was partaking in a shorter session of yoga/meditation/chanting downstairs. After that, however, we joined the others. We wrote down a negative pattern we were ready to let go of on a piece of paper, asked God for help in releasing it, invited a channel to help us do so by opening ourselves to the Grace of God (he/she placed a finger on our heart chakra and conducted energy through a blessing of the masters – sort of like communion). We then burned the paper while bowing in thanks. Beautiful – I knew exactly what I was meant to let go of. After all, I had invoked God, the spirits of the place, and my celestial committee to work through me on this painting, and so judgment emanating from my lack of faith could only impede the co-creative process. The blessing ended with the statement that we were free. I could feel it – much lighter. Having returned to a state of non-attachment and trust, it was much easier to feel (not through drama, but through calm intuitive knowing) what was being called for next with every layer. The experience became much more joyful then and my process felt very supported – on many levels.
When you consider that it took 5 days to create this huge painting (and a lifetime to bring me to this point of course), I’m absolutely thrilled with the results.
Getting it Home
By the way, I never worried about what I was going to do with it once it was done. Again, the experience of creating it was the most important thing for me. I’d even considered leaving it behind since bringing it on the plane would incur significant additional costs. Total non-attachment. I’d surrendered to all possibilities and felt no need to control the details (believe me, that’s not always how it is being a super organizer with a very strong left brain). Early on in the week, however, a solution was presented to me that felt perfect. One of the guests, Helmut, prolonged his stay and is now leaving today after Sunday service to drive to a business meeting in Munich, Germany passing by Salzburg in Austria. I’ll be joining him for a drive through Italy (yay! road trip! Plus I enjoy his company, so it will be great) and am welcomed to stay at a previous guest’s house near Salzburg for a night, so I can spend time visiting that famous and scenic city. Truth be told, I had been singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music” since arriving in Umbria and even thought, in the week before, that it would be nice to visit the beautiful filming location of that movie before my return to Canada. I just didn’t know how to make that happen with less than a month before my departure and so much to do). Regine was here at Ananda when I arrived, but left earlier this week. My new plan feels quite magical and Helmut’s BMW has a special feature that allows for skis to go from the trunk to the front – perfect for my long roll of canvas! From Salzburg, I can easily take the train to Vienna and there’s no extra charge for the rolled up painting. I also avoid having to take the train or bus back to Rome. I may be forfeiting my return plane ticket, but there won’t be any additional costs. Again, wonderful manifestation.
So – would I recommend the artist in residence program here? Absolutely. The whole set up both at the studio and at Ananda were in line with my personal, artistic and spiritual aspirations. The setting is so conducive to creativity (see previous post). How could I not create something that resonates with my soul’s calling. I would definitely come again if the opportunity presented itself. I may even end up going to the Awakening Arts Center Dana is opening in Portland, Oregon as part of the Ananda Center at Laurelwood. I’m open to the possibilities.
Thanks to all those I met here at Ananda for contributing to this work of art. You’ve made a difference!