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  • Thomas Brasch, Artist Spotlight

    Thomas Brasch (B.A., B.Ed., MBA) has devoted thirty years to education before embarking on his second career as an award-winning photographer and visual artist. Completely self-taught in the discipline, he is able to showcase his perceptions of beauty, turning the real into surreal. He has had several solo shows in Toronto and has been in several group shows internationally. His style of abstraction is multi-layered, providing an underlying statement to the aesthetics. Thomas is the Artist in Residence 2022 at the Clark Centre for the Arts at the Guild Park and Gardens in Scarborough Canada. Thomas, welcome to Moonflower Art! How long have you been a photographer? A very interesting question. If I had to be honest, I’d have to say almost life-long. I’ve had a few breaks in-between. I became a little more serious about my practice about 30 years ago but then career and child-rearing took over. It was within the last 10 years of retirement from my career as a secondary school teacher that I became a serious fine art photographer. I was able to transition smoothly into what has become a second career. I think you’re born a shutter bug and you always have an eye for aesthetics! Have you worked in any other mediums? I haven’t. I literally took a stab at painting, and it was abysmal. My first experience was so embarrassing. I have such an appreciation now for painters, as well as sculptors and potters. However, as my practice develops and due to the nature of my images, I am toying with the idea of creating 3D images and this would naturally imply some sort of sculpting. I’m most intrigued with glass blowing but doubt I would do that. I’m most taken with the work of the late Iranian artist, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmain. She has created some amazing mandala like sculptures using mosaics and mirrors. We can commemorate a horrible event, but we don’t always need to show graphic triggering photos. Half of us have become immune to horror scenes while the other half cannot bear to look at them. By creating these unique healing mandalas, I’m able to bring up a difficult topic in a sensitive and appropriate manner. What is your favorite subject matter and why? My favourite subject matter would be the idea I have behind my series Out of the Darkness – namely commemorative art. I stumbled upon this idea just by chance. We had just missed being victims of the Barcelona van attack by 4 days as we had left on August 13, days before. (On August 17, 2017, 13 people were killed and 130 were injured during a van attack on Las Ramblas in Barcelona). Then I thought of all the places I had traveled to and how at each location, there was some act of terrorism or some act of senseless violence. I wanted to commemorate those events but also provide a transition to healing. It was at this point that I started producing my images on a black background. The black was representational of the despair and grief that occurs after such a horrible event. The orb, the mandala, was to be the light piercing that darkness. I knew I could adapt my digital manipulation techniques to develop this new genre. We can commemorate a horrible event, but we don’t always need to show graphic triggering photos. Half of us have become immune to horror scenes while the other half cannot bear to look at them. By creating these unique healing mandalas, I’m able to bring up a difficult topic in a sensitive and appropriate manner. I was inspired while in Oslo at the 22 juli memorial (for the 77 lives stolen). As I walked through the museum, reading the timeline of events, and looking at the artwork on exhibit, I discovered an additional purpose for my images. In Oslo, I discovered that we need these memorials and museums to educate and create acute awareness in our communities about the dangers of conspiracy theories. The Oslo memorial museum was so appropriately done that even children could attend. The Iron Rose Garden outside of the Oslo Cathedral as well as the photo exhibit, called Scar, inside the museum was proof to me that art is not only an integral part of healing and therapy, but as well as education. We must stop thinking of “art therapy” as a simple activity that happens at an individual level in hospitals and psychiatric offices. Any art form is necessary for the soul, whether it is purely for enjoyment or for a restorative function. Art serves the individual as well as the community. We all benefit. On a personal level, I’m also proving a point to a few critics who thought that my work would never fly. Aesthetic art (and photography) can have a greater function than just interior design accents. I’m taking on this new initiative of making connections between abstract aesthetic art and social commentary. Again, we do not need the horrific imagery of bloody victims or crime scenes to make a “documentary” statement about violence. My method involves delivery with subtlety. We want to invite people into the conversation and not scare them away. Your art show at the Clark Centre for the Arts “How to be human” (view the virtual gallery here https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=KvoAJekKJoH) is both thought -provoking and beautiful. How did the concept for this show come about? I knew that I had a lot of wall space to cover for this show – three floors! Naturally, I was going to include images from my series Out of the Darkness. However, I also realized that I needed to pay tribute at the local level to the new Clark Centre for the Arts and the historic Guild of all Artists. My latest series, Enlightenment, also had some powerful imagery that I wanted to share with a new audience. It was a challenge to meld these three separate themes into a one cohesive idea. It must have taken me months of thinking, researching, percolating before I came up with the commonality between these three. It was the “humanity” we share. This then became the seed-word for the title: how to be human. The lower case in the title was intentional. Partially it was for stylistic reasons but also, I thought it lent itself to the idea of how small we are as individuals within this larger grouping of humanity. I’m not sure if this even was noticed. The three sub-themes to “how to be human” then had corresponding titles. “we are more the same than different” was used to showcase my pieces from the Enlightenment series. I specifically selected imagery that reflected some of the ethnic communities in Toronto. As one visitor pointed out in response to this theme, during these multicultural festivals, we always focus on the differences between our cultures. He insisted the focus should be on the similarities. We should be looking at the fact that all these cultures have common traits within their religious or cultural practices: love, kindness, goodness, benevolence. In so many cultures, when you are a guest, you’re given food, you are invited in to sit and enjoy the hospitality. I had recently experienced this myself. I stumbled upon a Sikh temple in Etobicoke. It was quite a find for source images. I was busy taking pictures of the exterior when two young Sikhs invited me into the temple for a tour. After the tour, I had a chat with the members. Suddenly, I was astounded by the fact that I was sharing tea and in a discussion with a group of Sikhs – old and young. We were discussing the cultural similarities we had in common. I was no longer an outsider but a guest and made to feel part of the group. “we are all connected” was used to showcase my original series, Oculus, as well as come custom site-specific pieces. I wanted to pay tribute to the original concept of the Guild of All Artists, which was an art community started by the Clark family that owned the property that was eventually known as the Guild Inn. The idea behind this Guild was to incorporate the surrounding nature as part of the inspiration for the artistry. The Guild property was to be a refuge as well as an artist colony. Currently, the property, consists of the traditional grounds, connected to the Scarborough Bluffs conservation area, as well as the City of Toronto’s new art centre which is to be a focal point in art production and education for the surrounding community and, the city. Hence, I used my nature-based pieces as well as the custom pieces of the Greek Theatre and the Clark Centre for the Arts to make these connections. "wewillnotlethatewin" was used to showcase my pieces from the Out of the Darkness series. The hashtag, originally coined by the Pulse Foundation, was used to commemorate the 49 lives that were taken during the Pulse Night Club shooting in Orlando. I felt it was appropriate to use it for this portion of the exhibit. The pieces I selected for display were all Canadian based, except for the one, Orlando 01. We must put an end to these acts of violence which are driven by irrational hate. Refuse the hate. Take the next step of brotherly and sisterly love. The concept of love versus hate was also evident in Oslo’s 22 juli Museum. There was one quote by a survivor of the Utøya shooting, Helle Gannestad: “If one man can cause so much evil – imagine how much love we can create together.” (Twitter, 22, July 2011) The act of creating these mandalas is extremely cathartic. I find that by working on creating these complex geometries, I can not only find personal serenity (from my own mood and anxiety disorders) but I also reap new historical information which contributes to my self-awareness. I become a more educated and enlightened individual. What is it about the mandala structure and geometry that captures your imagination? My style has evolved from the original series, Oculus. At that point, I was working with basic symmetries in still life and nature source images. The geometry was already evident at this point, although less complex. There was no layering and photographic elements were evident. The circular shape of the pieces was also purely coincidental at first. Then when I started with architecture, I began to work with layering. These architecture based circular pieces have multiple layers, superimposed, and it is only upon close inspection that you can see the photographic elements. The narrative and the reasoning came slowly as the work developed. I would come across different ideas and adopt them as part of my story or my process. There is the idea that the circle is almost a perfect shape – it is a line without beginning or end. (In my new series Enlightenment, I am exploring the use of different shapes – squares which can frame or triangles which in themselves have many different symbolic interpretations) Once a portfolio reviewer explained to me the idea behind some Buddhist mandalas which I promptly adopted into my narrative. They are mind or memory palaces in which we use spatial memory to memorize information, coded by significant symbols and images placed in the mandala. That completely fits in with the series Out of the Darkness. I’m invoking introspection and memory at the same time. The complex geometry creates a portal of discovery. At the top layer, there is an appreciation of the aesthetics. One layer down, the viewer can isolate the photographic elements. Beneath all of this, there is the historical event which needs to be commemorated. Beyond this we have the importance of memory – to never forget the victims and the responsibility of preventing future occurrences through education. Furthermore, and on a personal note, the act of creating these mandalas is extremely cathartic for myself. I find that by working on creating these complex geometries, I can not only find personal serenity (from my own mood and anxiety disorders), but I also reap new historical information which contributes to my self-awareness. I become a more educated and enlightened individual. The images remind me of the concept of the “golden spiral” and the effect that has on the human brain. We can’t look away, can we? They are mesmerizing and hypnotic. In their abstractions, we all see something different. My interpretation is based on my personal experiences and may be quite different than your perception and interpretation of the image. A spot of colour may symbolize a certain emotion while a specific line may impart an idea of fluidity and movement to you. The best part of this art practice is the opportunity to interact and talk with different viewers. In sharing interpretations, I learn more about the viewer’s understanding of the world, and how that may coincide or differ with mine. I also discover new ideas or relevant facts that I was totally unaware of before. But regardless, I enjoy sharing the aesthetic elements with the audience. What exhibitions/shows are you currently participating in? I just finished a group show called the 10x10 Photography Project. This was my first and very successful attempt of using my seminal style for portraiture. The annual project involves 10 queer photographers taking 10 portraits of queers in the arts. This was the 10th and probably last year. I was pleased how the portraits turned out. I was able to convey subtle messages about each subject through the use of specific-to-the-subject imagery in the background of each portrait. As well, the faces of the subjects conveyed the personalities. The use of the individual’s eye as the centerpiece of each portrait told an intimate and private mysterious story. I’m also currently in the Second Annual Juried Show at the Art Gallery of Mississauga which runs until October 23. My piece Convivencia (Coexistence), from the Enlightenment series, is on display. At the end of this month, I am participating in portfolio reviews at Fotofest in Houston, a biannual event, that has been postponed long enough due to COVID. As well, one of my pieces, Toronto 01, from Out of the Darkness, is in the Toronto Reference Library’s art collection and can be found in the digital archives online. (Link: https://digitalarchive.tpl.ca/objects/378723/toronto-01?ctx=4c359fe55a348dea60933e2287dd638a019d0af1&idx=0) This piece was selected as it was Toronto based and current. The perpetrator of the van attack had just been convicted and sentenced. Toronto 01 commemorates the victims of the Toronto Van Attack in North York. Any upcoming shows that we can look forward to? Next year, I have another large solo show at the Dal Schindell Gallery at Regent College in Vancouver. It is a private divinity college on the campus of UBC. This will be a very exciting exhibit when it comes to conversations with the divinity students – we will discuss the ideas behind Out of the Darkness and Enlightenment. My new images from my recent trips to Scandinavia and to Israel (October 2022) will be featured in this exhibit. The portfolio reviews in Houston might produce additional shows. I’m trying to expand my audience (and buyers) into the U.S. as well as the European markets. To view further work visit: https://www.instagram.com/thomasbrasch/

  • Dr. Mohit Bhandari, Artist Spotlight

    Dr. Mohit Bhandari is a Distinguished University Professor – an honor held by less than 2% of Faculty at McMaster University, Canada. He is also the Chair of Surgery, and Research Chair in Surgical Innovation. Dr. Bhandari is a recipient of the Order of Ontario and more recently inducted into the Order of Canada. He has authored over 1,000 scientific papers and is among the top 10 most cited orthopedic fracture surgeons in the world. Today we welcome Dr. Bhandari as he joins us in a discussion on the importance of the role of the Arts in scientific endeavors and the development of a creativity mindset as the cornerstone of invention and reinvention. Welcome to Moonflower Art, Mohit! When did you start painting? I loved drawing as a child but really started to explore painting in Grade 8. We all have a teacher who inspired us to try something new. Mr. Crawford was my Grade 8 art teacher and introduced me (on the school lunch breaks) to oils. We spent many afternoons painting and I’ll never forget his kindness and attention. While I’ve formally never taken any art lessons, I have experimented a great deal with different forms and landed on watercolour as a medium of choice. I love the complexity of watercolour and the immediacy and unpredictability of the process. I’ve had some of my best ideas come from seemingly short 60-minute painting sessions. Ideas that have led to important answers to complex problems I’m facing in my work. People inspire your art. When did this subject become the dominant focus of your artwork? I largely gave up my love of childhood painting and drawing to pursue a career in medicine. In 2018, while taking a short detour to hike during a work meeting in India, I came to the realization that I’d spent a lifetime [I was 50 years old] working at the expense of building my creative mindset. I decided to focus intensely on rebuilding my creative mindset with the belief it would have a great impact on my work, and my life. That day, I picked up a tin of watercolour paints and a small sketchbook and began painting. I chose figurative and portrait art as my focus of work for two reasons. First, I was always nervous to paint people because it seemed too difficult. Refocusing on a creative mindset meant trying new things, taking some risks, and never fearing failure. Second, in my work and life, people are the source of my inspiration. Each face tells an infinite number of stories. What motivates you to create? What is it about the creative process that moves you? I believe deeply that creativity drives innovative ideas—and ideas are the currency of the 21st century. Great advances have always come from great ideas-and engaging in creative activities allows me to remove the noise of my day. During the process of sketching and painting, I let my mind wander, and use any inspirations “of the moment” to guide the colours and the strokes. It’s a liberating experience, every time. I’ve had some of my best ideas come from seemingly short 60-minute painting sessions. Ideas that have led to important answers to complex problems I’m facing in my work. Who are your greatest artistic influences? My art doesn’t necessarily show it now, but the work of the impressionists fascinates me. I don’t work in oils but the idea of “plein air” and “being in the moment because the moment is all we have” is a fundamental defining aspect of why I love painting. The idea of creating impressions with paint is one I’m slowly working towards. Moving away from realism to impressionism is my goal. I’ve been working on painting what I feel rather than simply painting what I see. You work primarily in watercolour. What is it about this medium that inspires you? While I’ve formally never taken any art lessons, I have experimented a great deal with different forms and landed on watercolour as a medium of choice. I love the complexity of colours, the immediacy of the process and most of all, its relative unpredictability. Are there any other mediums that you have been curious about and that you’d like to try? I had the privilege recently of watching two local Master plein air artists, Michael Brennan and Peter Cheung. I would like to give oils a try. And by the way, the art community is an amazing one. Neither Michael nor Peter knew me but were so gracious to invite me to a plein air session at a local park on a cool winter morning. I will never forget that day. Art and Science are inextricably intertwined. My career as a surgeon and scientist has been enriched by art. What effect does art have on your life? On your work? I have taken a pledge to T.H.I.N.K. Try new things Have fun Invest in the 20% of things that give me 80% of my life’s joy Never fear failure Know its okay to start again. My art has become a cornerstone of my ability to T.H.I.N.K. each week. Art provides all the elements that make my life meaningful-and in turn, has resulted in greater advances in my work. Art and Science are inextricably intertwined. My career as a surgeon and scientist has been enriched by art. A study published in 2008 found that Nobel prizewinners were more likely than other scientists or members of the public, to have creative hobbies. These scientists were about 1.5 times more likely to actively pursue arts and crafts than were members of the US National Academy of Sciences. Whether painting, poetry or playing the piano—art is a building block of creativity for their work. Creativity is the cornerstone of invention- and reinvention. For me, the message of building a creative mindset is fundamental to being able to take on the challenges of the future. In your role as president of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association, you frequently give presentations that also touch upon the role that creativity plays in life and success. Why would you recommend to others that they take up a creative pursuit? In my 40s, I focused on speaking about research and the importance of ‘thinking Big.’ In my 50s, the only message I wish to share with my peers and students is “it takes courage to look in the mirror and say I’ve wasted enough time. Today, I change. Today, I begin my journey to find my 20%.” For me, the message of building a creative mindset is fundamental to being able to take on the challenges of the future. The truth is, there is one certainty—the world in the next 20 years will be nothing like it is today. So, we all will have to develop the skills to reinvent ourselves. Creativity is the cornerstone of invention- and reinvention. In 2020 the Art Gallery of Ontario offered a program to overworked doctors on the art of looking deeply at works of art as a way of managing stress. In your own experience, how beneficial do you believe this kind of programming to be? Two words. Extremely beneficial. And quite frankly, I wish we could have started this years ago. Every human is born with a creative spirit. We all look back at our childhoods and remember the things we used to love to do but gave up in pursuit of something—whether education or work, or both. The truth is, everybody has the creative spirit but for many, this light is dim. Programs that reinvest in art are undoubtedly going to re-energize countless doctors to rethink their way of life—and if for a moment, imagine a different way of living. ------------------- To view more work by Mohit Bhandari visit https://www.instagram.com/mobhandari/

  • Rovena Tey, Creative Paper Artist

    Rovena Tey is a science- inspired, creative paper artist who studied Molecular Biology at McMaster University in Canada. She fell into paper crafting by accident one day while trying to recycle a lab manual cover. Although she did eventually find that science job, creating chemistry cards and other novelties soon became a passion that later morphed into a full- time, creative business venture. Rovena, welcome to Moonflower Art! So Science + Math = Pun (and Fun, I would add.) How did this all begin? My education background is in science and I also love maths! When I went to school, it was during a time when professors used chalk and chalkboards and students had to write their notes with a pen on paper. And so I (even to this day) doodle all my notes and ideas in an actual notebook (the paper kind). In the beginning, my notebook probably had about six designs that would make interesting cards. I made these cards just for fun and tried selling them at a local craft show. People loved them! After graduating university and eventually finding that science job, I continued jotting down my designs and ideas that only got wittier and “punnier” over time! Have you always been very creative? I have been creative ever since childhood. I can remember always having so much fun making things with my hands, whether it was doing arts and crafts, cross-stitching pictures or baking in the kitchen. I also enjoy coming up with unique ideas to express my thoughts and finding innovative (different and atypical) solutions when it comes to problem-solving. Creativity is still very much a part of my life to this day! What is a “creative scientist"? A creative scientist is what I call myself because I’m a creative person by nature and I’m immensely curious about the world. My education background is also in science. My creations are all about expressing seemingly complicated science and maths concepts in a creative way using vibrant colours, humour, and thereby simplifying them and making it less scary, easier to understand and fun! When you say that science is artistic by nature what do you mean by that? Specifically, I think of chemistry when I realise how artistic science can be. The way that molecules are drawn with lines (for their bonds), shapes (like hexagons and pentagons), and dots (in Lewis structures or radicals). This makes each one of them tiny little pieces of art. As I was so accustomed to drawing chemical structures by hand during my school days, I feel that I have a greater appreciation for art within a chemical structure and this is what planted the seed for the concept of The Chemist Tree. When did you decide to combine your love for chemistry and language to create this wonderful business? People who’d seen my earlier designs loved them so much and really encouraged me to keep going and grow it into a business. Eventually my collection of “punny” chemistry designs grew so much, I had to bring all these unique ideas to life with my creations and share it with the world through The Chemist Tree (at chemisttree.com). It offers fun science and math-themed designs on stationery (cards, notebooks, stickers) and home decor (tea towels, coasters, pillow covers). Other than chemistry, what else inspires you? I am inspired by the colours in art and nature, and other creative things that evoke my senses like looking at breathtaking scenery, eating a delicious cake or listening to an amazing song. I’m also fascinated with archeology and stories from the past that can help guide our future. I am most certainly also inspired by other creative people, their passions and their creations. Have you ever created in any of the typical artistic mediums? I screen-print tea towels with fabric paint, which I have for sale at chemisttree.com. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to play with clay and I made some pottery pieces (bowls, plates and mugs) for my kitchen. You carry quite an extensive product line. From cards to notebooks to buttons and stickers. Are there any other items brewing in your creative imagination that you would like to make a reality? Since having a go at making my own pottery, I’ve had some ideas on creating some fun and functional pieces that I’d love to share with the world. It might be a reality one day-- if only I had a bit more space and a kiln, of course! Visit the chemisttree.com

  • Anna Lovind, Author Spotlight

    Anna Lovind is a feminist writer who believes in women’s creative freedom and the power of their voices and stories. She left a career as an editor at a major publishing house, moved to the deep forests of Sweden and set out to build a business that supports her own and other women’s pursuit of a meaningful and sustainable creative life. She has also coached bestselling authors, helped launch solo entrepreneurs into orbit, and guided creatives from all over the world to go from dreaming to doing through her courses and workshops. Anna is the author of The Creative Doer - A Brave Woman's Guide from Dreaming to Doing. Anna, welcome to Moonflower Art! Thanks! What are some of the biggest barriers creatives face? We have plenty of names for all the inner blocks and resistance we face as creatives, but most of them boil down to fear. We fear failure, judgment, being seen, NOT being seen, loss of control. We also fear discovering we don't have what it takes, or losing the dream. The key to dealing with these barriers is learning how to handle fear differently. Not by fighting it or overcoming it, but by learning how to cultivate a sense of safety so that we can move forward fear and all. Because the truth is that fear will always be along for the ride. Then there are other barriers that aren't always in our control to change. This is about access to resources. Some people have less resources in terms of money, time, energy, support and this will affect the capacity to create. It doesn't mean we can't do anything, but it helps to recognize this, take the blame off yourself, and then get real about what you CAN do with the limited resources you have available. If 15 minutes a day is all you have, then that's what you work with. And if you truly commit to your work, you'll be surprised at what you can make happen in 15 minutes a day. What are some of the common roadblocks on the path to creative fulfillment? A big one I see all the time is that we bring our fucked-up relationship to productivity and striving into our creative work. Sustainable, joyful creative work is not just about doing it, it's about HOW we do it. If we're pushing and striving, draining all the joy out of the process in order to deliver and produce, as if we're machines, then what are we even doing? That's not what drew us to our creative work to begin with. Rather it was a desire to explore, to express ourselves authentically, to experience the joy of flow and co-creation, right? In order for the creative process to stay alive, nourishing and wild, we need to unlearn most of what we've been taught about how to get things done. We need to trust the timing of our work - even when it's slower than we'd like. We need to trust who we are as creatives and the particular gifts we bring - even when it doesn't look like what other people are doing. We need to trust that if we take one step at a time we will get to where we need to go even if we can't see the end goal. We need to be present for guidance along the way, for adjustments and course-corrections. We need to be willing to fail and pursue dead ends in order to find our way. And so on. Are these roadblocks self -imposed or are they societal? Both. They start as external, societal norms and messages that are so all-pervasive that they have become what we consider normal, just "how things are." Eventually, we internalize them and begin to uphold these behaviors and practices ourselves, often without even being aware of it. Why are creatives so incredibly hard on themselves? Because we've been taught to be. School is one long lesson in not making mistakes, not fail, not do or say the wrong thing and not to deviate too much from the group. Most of us have also grown up in homes that have also enforced these values. Same with the majority of workplaces. No wonder we keep ourselves on such a tight leash. We expect ourselves to excel at what we do (preferably even before we've had a chance to learn it) otherwise we've failed. Equating mistakes and wrong turns with failure is one of the worst things we can do as creatives. In order to find our way to our true expression we need to try and fail a million times. There's no other way. Then we can also carry individual stories of unworthiness and perfectionism and so on, that plays into this inner harshness, and that is something for each of us to explore and heal. Therapy is a good help, if that's available to you. But a good support network is also incredibly helpful. We are not meant to do this alone. Do you have people around you that are on a similar journey as you? Can you find some? It makes such a difference to be able to share these challenges with others on the same path. It makes us feel less alone and also helps us see that it's not just us - there's nothing wrong with us, we're just doing deep and vulnerable work and it will always be challenging. I think of creative work as a co-creative process. We step into relationship with the work that wants to be born through us and our job is to be a good, trustworthy partner to it. What are some tips to get creatives motivated and back on track in terms of defining dreams and starting the process? I think of creative work as a co-creative process. We step into relationship with the work that wants to be born through us and our job is to be a good, trustworthy partner to it. How does a good partner behave? They show up when they say they will - or they let us know why if they can't. They do their share of the work. They are open to listening and changing their mind, when called for. They stay in touch - they don't just ghost the work for three months at a time and then come back and wonder why the flame has gone out. And so on. Looking at it like a relationship helps us understand what is needed for our creative work to flourish in the long term. Short term productivity hacks usually only work in the short term. What we want is to find ways to do our work that we are able to stay with over time. And, very important: Expect to get sidetracked, to forget your commitment and lose touch with your work. It's inevitable and the less time you can spend on beating yourself up about it, the quicker you'll get back on track. Our job is not to never get lost, our job is to come back to our work - to our relationship with our work - over and over again. What motivated you to focus on creativity as a life path and to help others? The Creative process is just the most fascinating thing! To take something from idea to form. To bring something that doesn't exist into existence. I mean really, what a ride! And aside from wanting to learn more and dive ever deeper into the creative process, I also see a massive imbalance in our world today. The work, voices and contributions of women are overlooked. They are made invisible and irrelevant on so many levels and with such dire consequences. I want to help correct that imbalance by supporting women to step into their creative power and do their work. Your book the Creative Doer is a must read for female creatives. What was your process in the writing of this book? The Creative Doer actually started out as a course. I created it in a rush of inspiration back in 2015. Most of it concepts and teachings I definitely didn't live or embody yet. But I started teaching it and eventually grew into it and a couple of years in, I wanted to update the content with all the new thoughts and perspectives I'd gained and decided to do this in the form of a book. I figured this would be a quick thing, just edit the course content a bit! I ended up writing about 50% new content and rewriting all the rest but the book came out true and beautiful. I still feel that it is. Once it had been born, I updated the course content to match it as well and these teachings now exist both as a book and a course. Any upcoming work or books on the horizon? I'm working on my second book but it's too early to share anything about it yet. Soon, I hope! Apart from that I keep sharing my teachings through The Creative Doer course, and I've recently started a brand new, beautiful thing called Ignite. It's the simplest kind of membership. It’s for creatives who are tired and busy and overwhelmed and don't' need another course but still want that regular dose of inspiration and re-connection. It’s simply an ongoing series of live councils with a simple purpose: to help us stay connected to our work and ignite that creative fire inside of us, over and over again! Visit Anna's website at https://annalovind.com/

  • Jodye Beard-Brown, Artist Spotlight

    Jodye Beard-Brown is both an artist and fashion entrepreneur. Jodye's beautiful work and iconic subjects inspire both art lovers and fashion enthusiasts alike. This former Paris fashion model has worked with some of the greatest designers and fashion icons of our generation. Jodye's work is inspired by the social justice movements of the USA. Her choice of art subjects not only inspire change and hope but make an indelible mark on our own social conscience. Jodye, welcome to Moonflower Art! Thank you so much for the opportunity! Your artwork is truly awe-inspiring and beautiful! Thank you so much! Your journey is a fascinating one. From model to artist to fashion entrepreneur? How does each role inform the other? It’s been an incredible journey and an interesting one because none of these things were planned, especially the modeling. My dream was to go to New York City when I graduated high school and dance with a company like Alvin Alley or on Broadway. Unfortunately in my senior year I was broadsided by a drunk driver leaving a basketball game that I had just cheered at. I was driving alone in my little used (but new to me) car. The driver wasn’t going very fast but didn’t slow down at all. I was in the hospital for three weeks and out of school for two months. I had fractured my pelvis in three places and had a hematoma from a torn liver and bruised heart. I was released from the hospital in a wheelchair, and I had to learn to walk again using a walker. As a form of motivation to walk again, my mother entered me into a Miss Young Texas Pageant. I told no one about, it was just me and my mom. Well… out of 100 girls, I won that pageant, and I was approached by two judges who were modeling agents in Houston. I decided to sign with Neal Hamil agency, and I still graduated on time with my class. When one door closes another one opens and seven months after graduating from high school, I was off to Paris, France to give modeling a try. My first show was for Chanel, I was chosen by the one and only Karl Lagerfeld for the pret-a-porter press show in 1986. That year turned into eight years total in Europe. I lived 6 years in Paris and two years in London. It was a wonderful time to be coming of age. My mindset was I wanted to learn the French language regardless of whether my modeling career worked or not. And if I could return to the states fluent in French, I didn’t waste my time! I learned the bulk of my French working as a Mannequin de cabin (house model) for Yves Saint Laurent. Little did I know then that working for one of the greatest colorist and designers in the fashion world would plant a seed in my heart for color and texture later to show up in my own artwork. During my final year in Paris, I began taking drawing and painting classes with Les Atelier des Beaux Arts, a few times a week. When I returned to the USA, I continued to paint, to improve my skills and later began to show my work in coffee shops and small venues. What inspires and motivates your beautiful and diverse themes? Life, music, people! Often I’m creating paintings of people and things that I love, and it’s fantastic that others seem to love these same things. I want my work to also inspire or be informative and convey an important message. The subjects that inspire your work are iconic! From Martin Luther King to Jimi Hendrix to Frida. What impact have these extraordinary human beings had on your own life and work? All of these individuals I admire and I’m so grateful for the legacy that they have left behind. Martin Luther King is one of my most painted people. I’ve painted him four times within the last five years. He represents Hope to me and I believe to others as well. These last few years I’ve wanted to communicate: “Be hopeful, hang in there, we will get through this together.” He is a perfect reminder of this and so many other positive attributes. The quote by John Lewis comes to mind and is perfect: “We have come a long way in America because of Martin Luther King, Jr. He led a disciplined, nonviolent revolution under the rule of law, a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas. We've come a long way, but we still have a distance to go before all of our citizens embrace the idea of a truly interracial democracy, what I like to call the Beloved Community, a nation at peace with itself.” I used this quote when I shared my last painting of Martin Luther King “We Shall Overcome.” Jimi Hendrix is so legendary. I painted him along with five other musicians Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Billie Holiday -- all legendary and unfortunately all died too young! I was raised with diverse music and want young people to know about it, and older people to remember it through my art. Frida Kahlo is such an iconic representation of beauty, strength, and determination! Her accomplishments during a time when there were so few women in the art field is truly extraordinary. She is my most painted artist and hands down my MOST painted person…I just can’t get her out of my system (laugh). I have to remind myself there are more subjects and people out there to paint! Your wearable art is quite extraordinary too. How did this journey begin and how has it evolved? When I had the opportunity to put my designs on clothing, it felt completely natural to explore art and fashion together! Le Galeriste saw my work on Instagram and reached out to me via email. After reading about the company, their sustainable products and then experiencing the great quality, firsthand -- it seemed like a no brainer to me. I enjoy working with the graphic designers to showcase my artwork. It’s so unique and fun! It’s truly like wearing a painting, it’s wearable art! I came up with my own tag line “It’s Art So COOL you WANT to Wear it!” It’s been about two years and I love how my work is evolving and the company is also growing, giving me more opportunities to do even more with my wearable art! I plan to travel to Montreal this summer to meet the Le Galeriste team and to experience where the magic happens! Your mosaic work is fascinating. What inspires this work? I started with painting but I was intrigued with mosaics so I taught myself how to do them. I was really enjoying creating mosaics and for a while I was only making mosaics, but then I would create a painting again and I felt like I was cheating (laugh). This went on for a several years and about three years ago I had a lightbulb moment. I decided to paint on wood instead of the traditional mosaic material. This is a perfect way to use both and it really feels like me too! It’s like I’ve finally found my artist thumb print! The subject for these works varies from portraits of Frida with mosaic flowers in her hair, to faces that were inspired by the Henri Matisse black and white drawings. Where have you showcased your work? The most exciting place to have shared my work was this year at the Houston Intercontinental Airport for Black History Month! It was so awesome to share my work with many travelers, but I think what was even more rewarding was experiencing the excitement that others shared with me! I also did a collaboration for Kendra Scott at the Baybrook Mall store, were I created a painting of Frida wearing the spring collection Kendra Scott earrings. Twenty percent of the sales during a four-day period went to my charity of choice. I have done a few pop ups which is great for sharing art and especially my wearable art. I have shown work at coffee houses such as Art of Coffee, Starbucks, and Epoch Coffee in Austin Texas. I have also participated and shared my work in group shows such as Raw Artist Houston, Conception Art and The Raising Tide. Are there any other artistic pursuits that interest you and that you would like to explore? In 2018, I was chosen to collaborate with a Hurricane Harvey recovery project with The Red Cross called Spark Academy. Using art and play therapy-based curriculum for children who were experiencing trauma as an after math of the hurricane, we were able to provide healing to kids from kindergarten through 5th grade. I felt very passionate and fortunate to be able to help kids overcome trauma through art. Art is an expression that is powerful. It has the ability to educate, heal, and beautify all at once! I don’t take being called an artist lightly. It is something I feel called to do. Last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which was thankfully detected early during my annual mammogram, making it early-stage cancer! Being a Breast Cancer Thriver, I would like to use my art to educate, inform, and inspire women on cancer prevention. My butterfly painting was the first painting I created during that time. It’s called I CAN (crossing the cer OUT). I wear it proudly. Any upcoming shows or other events that you would like our readers to know about? I am working on a few commissions at the moment and I plan to return to West Elm in Rice Village on Rice University in Houston for a few pop ups this summer. I am also creating pieces that I hope to have on display as a complete work in the near future. To view more of Jodye's work, please visit her instagram at https://www.instagram.com/jbeard_art/ Le Galeriste fashion page at https://www.legaleriste.com/en/jodye.beard-brown

  • Sabina Laura, Poet Spotlight

    Sabina Laura is a writer, poet and illustrator based in the UK. After completing a degree in English Language and Linguistics, she published her debut book Moonflower, a collection of poetry about growing even in darkness. Sabina's second book is called, All This Wild Hope and her most recent project includes a poetry journal titled, A Little Sunshine and a Little Rain. Hello Sabina and welcome to Moonflower Art! Your debut poetry collection is titled Moonflower. (A very lovely flower, if I may say so myself). Would you explain why you chose that title and the significance of that flower in your work? I chose the name Moonflower for my poetry collection because moonflowers bloom at night, and the overall theme of my book is learning to grow even through darkness. I thought it fit perfectly! You are both a writer and a poet. What first drew you to poetry? I discovered ‘modern poetry’ in 2018 via the community on Instagram and really connected with it. Since a young age, I loved writing and did so regularly, but I hadn’t tried much poetry. Discovering modern poetry gave me a whole new outlook on what poetry could be, and I began writing and sharing my work in late 2018. Who and what are your main sources of inspiration? From a poetry perspective, some of my favourite writers include Blake Auden, William Bortz, Wilder, Chloe Frayne, and Trista Mateer. I also take inspiration from nature, and personal events and feelings. What is your writing process like? Are there any rituals or routines that are followed? I don’t really have a specific process to be honest! I just aim to make a little time to write most days. How has social media affected your career as a writer and provided opportunity for you? Social media has definitely provided opportunity as a writer. It was only once I had gained around 30,000 followers on Instagram that I found the courage and self-belief to publish my first book. I was also lucky enough to be asked by Quarto Publishing to create a guided poetry journal, and they found my work through Instagram. Although it does of course have its downsides, social media provides a great way for more people to discover and connect with your writing. One of the common threads here at Moonflower Art, is the concept that art has the power to heal. Poetry is no different. How does poetry heal both the writer and the reader? Absolutely. Writing poetry is like a form of therapy - it forces you to look deeply at whatever topic or emotion you are writing about. Reading poetry is also very healing. A sad poem may help you put into words something you feel and remind you you’re not alone, and a happier poem may brighten your outlook and allow you to take a positive message from it. I believe that poetry and visual art have a lot in common. Poets use words. Painters use paint. Some poets even paint and vice versa! If your work was a colour, what would it be? That’s a difficult question - I think I’d have to say a rainbow! I love writing about different topics and emotions. Other than writing poetry, what else gives you emotional sustenance and supports your overall well-being? Spending time with loved ones, reading, listening to music, and connecting with nature. Would you tell us about any upcoming work that we can look forward to? I’m currently working on my third poetry collection, which I’m hoping will be out this year! Read Sabina poetry online @sabinalaurapoetry and @growyourpoetry. All books available at amazon.com

  • Mark Boccuzzi, Generative Art Spotlight

    Mark Boccuzzi is a research scientist and artist who utilizes data and algorithms to create both beautiful and thought-provoking art. This fascinating process allows the creation of a medium known as Generative Art. He also employs generative art techniques to create 2D images, virtual reality, interactive experiences, 3D animations, soundscapes, musical scores, 3D printed sculptures, AI-generated poetry/spoken word, and to choreograph the movements and interactions of robots. Mark, your Visualizing Intention: Art Informed by Science, project is fascinating. What inspired this work? Thanks! This is really a convergence of several projects. I'm a research scientist by day, so I work with a lot of data. Over the years, I have been experimenting with different ways to explore those data beyond the typical statistical analysis methods. This has included various computer-based visualization techniques. The devices I work with for research and creating these images are called Random Number Generators (or RNGs). These devices use quantum-level effects to produce truly random strings of numbers. Typically, during research studies, the output data from the RNGs are statistically analyzed. However, in my art projects, I use specialized software I created to transform those data into 3D images. What is the process for collecting images? This project leverages the effects produced from a coherent consciousness field. The field is created when a meditator (or meditators) focuses on a specific idea or goal. An RNG collects data in the background. The generated RNG data are then used to create the image. The final image is called a PsiForm. Would you describe a typical session? The first step is to agree upon the focal point of the meditation. This can be a goal, an idea, a wish, or simply asking for guidance relating to a specific problem. Some sessions have included "Sending Unconditional Love," "Receiving Universal Healing," and "Protecting Gaia." Once we have a focal point, each meditator writes it out on a paper placed in front of them. A session timer is set for five minutes, and the meditation begins. At this point, I also start collecting data from an RNG and record it on a laptop. When the session ends, each meditator can take a few moments to write down any sensations, images, thoughts, feelings, or other experiences they may have had. I then process the RNG data through the visualization software using the workstation in my lab to produce the PsiForm for that session. The meditators are then provided with a copy of the rendered image as a keepsake of their experience. What feedback have you received from participants who took part in this process? This has been one of the most exciting parts of this project. Often, the meditators will report seeing some feature in the image that corresponds with their experience during the session. It has been fascinating to read their post-session notes and see how they are expressed in the images. Of course, the scientist in me has to acknowledge that all this is highly subjective. Still, I find this connection between the image and experience intriguing, and it is something I'm exploring further. As a scientist, I can deploy artistic representations of these data to promote public engagement and, hopefully, inspire others to explore these topics further. How does art impact science and vice versa? Speaking for myself, my research affords me access to a wide range of data. For example, I can be working with brain wave (EEG) data one day and reading personal accounts of transformative experiences the next. As an artist, I can draw from this palette to further explore the underlying themes and processes. As a scientist, I can deploy artistic representations of these data to promote public engagement and, hopefully, inspire others to explore these topics further. Are you also a visual artist? While I do produce visuals, my main focus is on Generative Art. That is, I use data and algorithms to create art. The fun bit is that once I have the data, I can develop software that allows me to present it across a wide range of media. What other mediums have you worked in? I mostly employ generative art techniques to create 2D images, virtual reality, interactive experiences, 3D animations, soundscapes, musical scores, 3D printed sculptures, AI-generated poetry/spoken word, and to choreograph the movements and interactions of robots. All that being said, when I'm feeling a bit burned out by technology, I'll pull out some acrylic paints. My wife, Julie, got me a set for my birthday a few years ago, and I really love them. I work a lot with a palette knife, and I enjoy the physicality of the process. Art also lets me push outside of the often rigid constraints of science, allowing me to explore ideas and technologies in unconventional ways. How has art impacted your life? Learning new techniques and creating with different media really brings me a lot of joy. Art also lets me push outside of the often rigid constraints of science, allowing me to explore ideas and technologies in unconventional ways. I always feel grateful after having created something, even if I'm not 100% satisfied with that creation. -------------------------------------------------- To purchase Mark’s work please visit: https://fineartamerica.com/art/windbridge For a free copy of the Visualizing Intention: Art Informed by Science book please visit: https://windbridge.org/books/VIBookBoccuzziREVIEWCOPY.pdf For more information on the work of Mark Boccuzzi and his life and work partner, Julie Beischel, please visit https://windbridgeinstitute.com/team-2/

  • The Enchanted Easel, Nicole Esposito Woodall

    Nicole Esposito Woodall is a painter and surface designer with a passion for creating whimsical, “enchanted” floral gardens and botanicals. Abstract blooms, organic shapes, exquisite blossoms and gardens of imaginary flowers, are subjects that are captured by this talented artist's work. Nicole, the concept of the Enchanted Easel is perfect. How did you choose this name? Or did it choose you? Hi Maria! Thanks so much for asking me to be a part of your wonderful art blog. To answer your first question, the name for my business, “the enchanted easel” was inspired by the easel my grandfather made me while I was attending college for fine art. He was an amazing crafter, with his own successful sculpting business. Everything he touched (and constructed) turned into pure magic. That easel is one of my most prized and treasured possessions to this day. You have a strong presence on social media. Your Enchanted Easel account on Instagram is wonderful. What are some of the pros and cons of staying connected to other artists and the art scene in general by social media? I think staying connected in such a modern age is a double edge sword of sorts. On one hand, it’s wonderful to be able to connect via social media in ways we may not necessarily be able to otherwise. In other ways, it sometimes can leave those connections feeling a bit clinical and cold. In keeping with that train of thought, I believe it’s one of the reasons I love being a traditional artist in such a digital world. Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of respect for digital artists who create in their own unique way. For me, however, I need to see, feel, touch my work. My tools are sacred to me. There’s an unexplainable level of exuberance that builds in me when I think about prepping a sheet of paper or a canvas for my next floral garden. I honestly can tell you I have no idea what’s going to evolve on those easels until it does. I’m able to stay connected to both myself, and others around me through the passion I have for my work. I live and breathe to paint. I’ve never looked at painting the same way as I did after August 2010. Things like this change you, for the better, or for the worse. I like to think it’s changed me for the better--given me more of an attitude of gratitude, and an eternal appreciation for the love of my art and craft. How long have you been painting for? I’ve been an artist all my life-in some form or another. My maternal grandpop was a sculptor, and my paternal aunt is a successful fine artist. Growing up, I would love to go to my aunt’s house on the weekend. It’s where I got my first taste for this life. All the Senneliers, all the collage papers, the endless tubes of paint. I never wanted to leave that attic studio and would live endlessly for when I could return. That’s the feeling I get to experience now every single day in my own studio. It’s surely in my DNA, but I also think it’s a choice whether you choose to nurture that gift. As much I love being a painter, it doesn’t come without pain. Back in 2010, while I was in the throes of teaching, I found out I had a severely slipped disc in my cervical spine which just happens to control my painting arm, hand, and shoulder. One surgery turned into three, and I’ve been left with a boatload of arthritis pain, a long titanium plate, screws, and rods…all holding this petite brunette together. The pain I experience is in my painting arm, hand, and shoulder. Each surgery required a very hard plastic neck brace (worn 24/7, yes, even while sleeping), no driving, and you guessed it --no painting. You can’t even imagine the misery I was in. Not because of the physical pain of having incisions on both the front and back of my neck, or the swallowing issues and loss of part of my right vocal cord, but the lack of painting was what made it so much worse. I felt like I had zero purpose. There were days I honestly didn’t want to get out of bed, but I decided I wasn’t going to let all these physical obstacles stand in my way. It was just a matter of adjusting to my new normal. People are always amazed that I paint every day with a bad arm and hand, and still have an almost maniacal sense of passion for it. I’ll tell you though, when you have your livelihood and life passion threatened not once, but three times over, you find a way! I’ve never looked at painting the same way as I did after August 2010. Things like this change you, for the better, or for the worse. I like to think it’s changed me for the better--given me more of an attitude of gratitude, and an eternal appreciation for the love of my art and craft. What is it that most attracts you to the images that you choose to create? While I have a great amount of adoration and respect for the photorealistic painters of the world and the old masters, I’ve always been attracted to the more whimsical, imaginative types of art. When I was young, my aunt gave me my first fine art print by the artist Joan Miró. Oh, my goodness, I was in love. All that blue, all those organic shapes, the expression of the line work and the imagination. Utterly and completely hooked. I also recall going to an Arshile Gorky exhibit with her one day. It was fantastic! I remember getting to buy a new art book every other weekend (and I still have them all), and the excitement that went along with turning the pages was off the charts. Full color, glorious images that jumped off the pages would entice me to pick up whatever supplies I had laying around (be it a Crayola crayon or a piece of Play Doh) and just create. While all the other kids in the neighborhood were riding bikes and socializing, I was in my room listening to some sort of classical piano, and drawing/painting/sculpting/collaging. I’ve always been attracted to images that look like one thing but could really be something else entirely. I love the magic, and the wonder! A few of my favorite artists (besides Miró) are Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and the great Picasso. The print “Girl Before a Mirror” by Picasso hangs in my studio and is a constant inspiration each day, along with all those Mirós. I choose to create flowers that are abstract, yet still recognizable as floral/botanical because that’s what’s in my heart. Flowers never get old for me. I never tire of painting them. Yet, I’m always searching for new ways in which to do so. It’s so awesome to constantly be evolving in my own work. I always look forward to what the next lesson brings. With each painting, I’m always learning something new. My personal color aesthetic tends to favor the “moodier” side of the spectrum. I love the look of a dark grey floral accented with sweet, blush pinks. I also love mixing up vintage type palettes that evoke nostalgia for me. Would you describe your process? My process is quite methodical. I think that’s the graphic designer in me. I’m incredibly organized and my palettes are well thought out. I’m not one of those artists who can work amongst the chaos. My studio is neat, and orderly. I find that’s when I create the best. I’m most free when my tools are in their rightful places because when I’m in my zone, the last thing I want to do is scramble around looking for that no. 12 filbert, or that Payne’s Grey tube of paint. It really does help me in keeping with the flow of a painting. While my florals are completely intuitive, I do carefully plan out my color palettes. I’m a mixer. Very rarely will you ever find me using any color straight from the tube. I enjoy mixing my own colors and combining them in unique and innovative ways. Some of my social media friends jokingly refer to me as the “queen of color mixing.” I think when you paint one subject for a living (by choice), the best way to tell your narrative is through color. My personal color aesthetic tends to favor the “moodier” side of the spectrum. I love the look of a dark grey floral accented with sweet, blush pinks. I also love mixing up vintage type palettes that evoke nostalgia for me. Sometimes I’ll be mixing a palette when I’m somehow reminded that I’ve seen this color story somewhere before and then off goes the lightbulb, and I realize it was in the drapes in my grandparent’s house growing up. These things subconsciously play a part in my color choices. While I do prefer the more muted tones, I’ve been known to throw a pop of crimson or cobalt into a mix. Oh, and how I love a blue floral! I love helping propel other creatives forward, no matter where they are in their painting journey. It’s why I always say just show up! Show up every day. Even if it’s only ten minutes in your sketchbook. Just show up. That for me is the difference between someone who is painting as a hobbyist, and someone who wants to build a life around their art. What would you say to someone who is just starting to paint? I’ve been teaching art via Zoom these last few months to some wonderful ladies who are looking to up their game as far as painting/color mixing goes. I’ve been a teacher for most of my life, yet it wasn’t something I was going to consider. But the requests were abundant, and I figured, why not? It’s humbling when someone wants to learn from you and wants to take in all the information that you have to offer. It really forces you to look deep within and gather all the knowledge that you’ve accumulated over the years, all the experiences you’ve shared with others in the classroom, and then really put it all to good use. Like the great Picasso once said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working." I love helping propel other creatives forward, no matter where they are in their painting journey. It’s why I always say just show up! Show up every day. Even if it’s only ten minutes in your sketchbook. Just show up. That for me is the difference between someone who is painting as a hobbyist, and someone who wants to build a life around their art. And I’m not saying things happen overnight. Quite the opposite. It takes work. Real work. A lot of work. There are days I spend 18 hours in my studio, pushing forward for the next goal because no matter how much time/money you spend in art school perfecting your craft, they sure don’t teach you the business/marketing ends of things. That is a full-time job. Am I tired some days? Yes. But I show up. Every day. That’s the best lesson I could give to anyone who wants to make a living from their love of painting. I’m not quite there yet, as I’m always learning new things myself, and constantly evolving, but at the end of the day, those three words remain the same: just. show. up. Like the great Picasso once said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” Indeed, it does! Where can our readers find out more about your work? I can be found through my website at theenchantedeasel.com, as well as on social media via Instagram instagram.com/theenchantedeasel and Facebook at Facebook.com/theenchantedeaselfineartfloralsanddesign. I also have an Etsy shop at theenchantedeasel.etsy.com, and a soon to be Spoonflower shop which I’m so excited about! I’ve spent the last year working like a mad woman designing some surface/textile patterns with my watercolor florals. It’s been a dream of mine for a very long time, so I can’t wait to really get them out there. You can find out more on website. Thank you so much for engaging me, Maria. I surely hope your readers are inspired and delighted.

  • The Creativity Midwife, Susie Stonefield Miller

    Susie Stonefield Miller is an intuitive creativity coach and an expressive artist who is passionate about the healing power of creativity. Susie’s own experience with the power of art journaling lead her on a path to help others make that journey to self and healing. Susie, your Instagram name is fantastic. The ‘creativity midwife’ is a perfect choice for what you do! Thank you! I’m so glad you get it! Long before I decided to work with the heart through creativity, I had a dream of being a doula and lactation specialist. I was a birth coach for my sister and several close friends, and the birth process was something full of awe for me. Along my life path I decided to guide people in intuitive art making. Ultimately, I realized that the work I was doing was still aligned with a birth process. I saw that I was assisting my clients in the birth of their inner artists, their creative voices, a part of their souls that was often shuttered away or shut down. So, the term “creativity midwife” feels like it speaks to how I facilitate this work for my clients. What set you on the path to do this work? I first found art journaling myself when I needed an outlet—that wasn’t talk therapy—for my anxiety and obsessive worrying. I was immediately hooked. Process-oriented art, in other words, art you make for the process not the product, is such a different experience than what I was used to having been a fine arts major in college. Intuitive, process-oriented art is not about pretty or the finished product, it’s about getting your feelings onto the page. There is so much catharsis in that practice. A few years after becoming an avid art journaler I had an opening in my life to teach it to others. A friend had begged me to teach her how to do it, so I started a class, which led me to teach more classes, which led me to renting a space full-time and building a business. Unfold Your Creative Spirit Studio was born! (It’s since closed down due to the pandemic and Unfold Studio is now exclusively online). At some point I looked back on the paths of my life and realized that everything I’d done led me to this place. My entire adult life I was an artist, circle builder, teacher and curriculum developer, and heart-tender. So, it wasn’t a dream that came true but an organic unfolding that led me to my calling. You are helping people connect to their creative core and express emotions in ways that they had not thought would be possible. Sometimes they even experience release in the sharing of that emotion either to themselves or others. Would you describe what that process entails and the journey you lead your private clients and workshop participants on? I think that there are four keys to connecting with that creative core as you call it: 1. Trusting the process. 2. Letting go of expectations. 3. Making room for our intuition. 4. Having fun! Trusting the process means that we trust that there is an unfolding, an awakening, and a journey that needs to be engaged in. This work is not just boom boom boom, finished artwork, you’re done. No, this is something that can be hard, can be messy, can be delightfully satisfying. But when it gets hard and messy and we get uncomfortable it’s important not to abandon ship. When we don’t know where we’re going it’s important to trust that we will make it through, even if in the end we still don’t know where we are, and that’s ok. Even if it’s not clear to us at the end of a session, that’s ok. Sometimes the insights come later. We need a little distance, a little time, for it to feel less precious. Maybe we need to be less in the work to understand what it is trying to tell us. As long as we trust the process, we can see that this is all part of the work, and we can stay with these feelings Letting go of expectations means we let go of all the things we bring with us to the work: the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and who we are not, about what this is supposed to be (a work of art) or not be (ugly), and our plans for the piece. Letting go of expectations means we continuously are putting down the thoughts that intrude and the limiting narratives that arise. We let go of these thoughts so that we can stay with the moment, with the paint on the page, and see where it takes us rather than continuously think about our plans: what we are trying to accomplish or create. Letting go of expectations, like trusting the process, is a practice, something we have to bring ourselves to over and over. Our intuition is our deepest knowing, our true wisdom. Our intuitive voice has so much to say, but usually we are talking over it, afraid to let go of our control of the situation. Making room for our intuition means that we get quiet and listen. We make space for the voice within to speak. We stop directing the process and let ourselves be led by that heart voice. Sometimes that feels like: “I don’t have any idea why I’m painting the page green” or “I just felt pulled to these images of sharks, but I don’t know what they represent yet.” Sometimes it feels like following breadcrumbs in the forest. Sometimes it feels like an impulse or inner knowing. The more we get quiet and let go of control during the process, the more space our intuition has to speak up and guide us. Having fun means exactly that: Have. Fun. Playing is how we take risks, learn, explore, and expand. As adults we just don’t play enough. We don’t allow ourselves time to do something for the joy of it, for the experience of it. We are so determined that every minute of our lives has some productive outcome or it is not valuable (this is a message ingrained in our culture from white supremacy and capitalism). So, enjoying the process without measuring the value of the time and materials spent is a way to upend this destructive societal and cultural narrative. The connection with our emotions comes when we get out of our own way enough to be fully in the process, our hands covered in paint, the table and paper splattered. It sometimes takes a big, deep breath and a dive deep into our shadows, the dark places in our souls, to create what is true for us, but once we have done that, we can feel that it is a place that is so important to go to. And we long to go in again and again. I work with my people online either in a group class, Creative Life Raft: Art Journaling Through Troubling Times, or in private one-on-one coaching sessions. In CLR, we gather together, check in to establish a personal connection and then I offer an invitation, also called a prompt, about a topic for the session. I like to say I’m giving them a shovel which they can use to start digging deep into the fertile soil of their emotions, thoughts, and experiences. Then I lead a grounding meditation and set everyone free to explore all of that with art supplies. We come together about an hour and a half later to share our work, witnessing each other’s stories and insights into the process. In creativity coaching sessions we talk about whatever is up for the client, I give them an invitation, or prompt, to take into their process. I lead a grounding meditation and then the client dives into the work. While they work, I sit and witness (observe without judgment or a running internal narrative) their process. I record the session for them to watch later, an inspiring experience. At the end we look at their work and share insights. It’s an incredibly impactful process to be witnessed. I’m so honored to be present for these sessions. How does the creative process heal? I suppose I’d like to back up a little and say that so many people feel that they are not creative. Maybe when they were little someone was critical of their art or told them that they couldn’t carry a tune. Maybe someone else in the family got to wear the “artistic” crown. Maybe it’s been a long time since they were creative, and they are nervous to try again. Anyways, so many people are shamed and wounded by this kind of thinking and story. But every person is creative. Being creative and being an “artist” may be different things but being creative is human. We don’t need to be an “artist” to own and exercise our creative spirits. When we can use the creative process for deep and honest self-expression we feel the release, the catharsis, the transformation that comes with that. Intuitive, process-not-product-oriented art making is a full body experience. It takes an amount of courage to allow ourselves space for creative expression. “I’m not creative” is just a false narrative that we wear as protection, like a shield that keeps us from feeling scared and vulnerable when we actually want to expose our hearts. Yet, our soul longs for creativity. Our wordless heart yearns to express itself in images and colors and textures, in scribbles and drips and scratches on the page. It’s incredibly important that we do the work to let go of the shame and negative thinking around whether we’re creative or not in order to make room for our creativity to bloom. When we can use the creative process for deep and honest self-expression we feel the release, the catharsis, the transformation that comes with that. Intuitive, process-not-product-oriented art making is a full body experience. We let go of what I call the “directive, controlling brain” in favor of something deeper and more kinesthetic and spiritual. We learn how to trust the process and allow things to get messy. And through all of that emerges our truth, the things we’ve held onto that need releasing, our stories that are full of joy and pain, our fears. When we can do that, we feel the healing that comes from that release. It’s immediately apparent, immediately a sense of relief. And it calls you back over and over because nothing else feels just like that. What are the prime benefits of art journaling and what exactly is it? Art journaling is one way to engage in the expressive arts. Art journaling is using a sketchbook and mixed media art supplies to make art. Art journaling is also a combination of imagery, words, colors, texture, and pattern and—at least if you do it with me—art journaling is not about the finished product, but about the process. The power of the art journal to me is that it is in a book that you can close and put up on the shelf when you’re done. There’s never an artifice of it being a painting on a canvas that needs to match your sofa or that’s going to be hung on the wall. The power of the art journal is that it is private, like a diary, and is only for you unless you choose to share it with others. That difference is really freedom to fully express oneself. The Inner Critic is always hovering around our consciousness, keeping us concerned with our outcome, the final painting or song or story, how it will be received and understood by others. The focus is on “How will this be when it’s done?” and “Is it worthy of being considered art?” or “Am I worthy of being considered an artist?” The expressive arts—and there are many modalities of expressive arts including sound, movement, verbal, visual, etc.—is important because it’s about exploring the human condition without concern for the finished product through personal, raw expression. (Also, expressive arts is not art therapy though it’s often confused with that.) Let me talk about what I mean by “the finished product.” Artists create works of art. Usually, there’s some focus on the final outcome with that whether it’s to be displayed or sold or consumed in some way by others. As soon as an artist begins to work on a “work of art” the Inner Critic shows up with a message (or two or three), loud and clear: “This better be good!” or “You can do better than this!” or “You call yourself an artist?” The Inner Critic is always hovering around our consciousness, keeping us concerned with our outcome, the final painting or song or story, how it will be received and understood by others. The focus is on “How will this be when it’s done?” and “Is it worthy of being considered art?” or “Am I worthy of being considered an artist?” With expressive arts we are concerned not with the end result but what happens from the moment we begin the work until the moment we feel complete. Within that is a full story with so many chapters of emotions and thoughts and experiences. Within that is a facet of one’s self-portrait. Looking at a finished art journal page or other expressive arts “product” is clearly not the whole story and not the end goal. It might be beautiful. It might be brutal. The expressive arts is a way to explore our experience creatively without a narrative or narrator, without a planned outcome. We don’t need to worry about whether or not we understand what we have done because we are in the moment, in the process. And we surely don’t need to worry about if anyone else understands what we have done. It’s such a personal and ultimately private process. What topics are frequently encountered in your classes and private sessions? In my Creative Life Raft classes, we have spent time on themes of longing, transitions, loss, anxiety, connection and isolation, and finding the light in the dark, etc. as well as political topics such as the pandemic, the rise of fascism, white supremacy, the patriarchy, and more. The topics that arise in that program are largely supportive of this idea: How do we use creativity to survive tumultuous and troubling times? Private sessions are somewhat different in that each client has their own individual focus that arises and is explored in our time together, such as grief, feeling creatively blocked, family stories we are trying to shed, life turmoil and change, self-worth, and vulnerability. Would you describe how your session participants experience the classes and any notable experiences that your participants have had in past classes? Creative Life Raft participants have expressed over and over that the program has been a lifeline for them throughout the pandemic. First of all, feeling connected to an ongoing community during a time of isolation is grounding and satisfying. Second, being witnessed by a non-judgmental, open-hearted community is a powerfully meaningful experience. It’s a way of being held, seen, and known. Joining a compassionate circle to make space for creativity where you trust that the space is sacred and there will be no “artistic critique” is essential. I’ve been told “Your classes saved my life” and “This is better than two years of therapy!” The truth is this isn’t about talent or skill or being an artist. This is about using art supplies as the language for expressing from our hearts and souls. What I want for my clients is to get out of their heads, into their hearts and onto the page. In my private sessions, clients talk about the depth they are able to go to with me one on one. The rich conversations that arise at the beginnings of our sessions feed into the invitations I then offer them. I hold space in a particular way during these sessions, practicing what author Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen calls “generous listening.” Then, as they work, I sit in stillness and witness their process. It’s the birthing space, an intimate and holy space, in some ways. When in our lives are we held that way, witnessed in a birthing process? Not often. The feedback I get from my private clients is that the work is transformative for them. The insights they have into their truths are unexpected and liberating. The feeling at the end of a session is of being lighter, clearer, and more open. One client told me after her very first session that she felt like it was the first time she’d exhaled in two years. What do you say to people who don’t believe that they are artists or talented in any way and find the topic of art journaling intimidating? The truth is this isn’t about talent or skill or being an artist. This is about using art supplies as the language for expressing from our hearts and souls. What I want for my clients is to get out of their heads, into their hearts and onto the page. Where can our readers find out more about your workshops or creativity coaching sessions? My website and Instagram are the best places to find me. Website: www.susiestonefieldmiller.com Instagram: www.instagram.com/creativity_midwife Also, I’d love to offer your readers a special discount which can be applied to workshops, their first private session with me, any of my ebooks, or online self-directed courses. MOONFLOWER10 will give them a 10% discount.

  • Carrie Schmitt, Artist Spotlight

    Carrie Schmitt began painting in 2009 after being diagnosed with a life- threatening allergy to heat. Bedridden and unable to go outside for months, one day she heard an inner voice telling her to paint. Thankfully, she listened and painting became both therapeutic practice and an act of tenderness amidst the darkness. Today Carrie is a full-time professional artist, entrepreneur, author, and much beloved art instructor. Carrie, you are an artist with the soul of a mystic and heart of a poet. The journey that led you to art was very similar to the journey that many mystics take. You had your own dark night of the soul that led you to the path of the artist. Would you share how that process impacted your creativity and work and placed you on the path you are on today? When I was in my darkest hour dealing with a debilitating medical condition that left me bedridden and barely able to move, I heard an inner voice telling me to paint. Thankfully, I listened and began to paint in bed. Creativity saved me. Because of this, I have nothing but love and devotion to the creative process. I will never disrespect my art by judging or criticizing it. I will only love it as it has loved me. In your beautiful book the Story of Every Flower, you share concepts that are both important and crucial to the artist. Art goes beyond technique. It touches the soul. It unites. It heals. What is the role of love and connection in the creative journey? George Carver Washington said that if you love something enough, it will tell you all its secrets. I believe this is true when applied to creativity. When you love your innate creativity, you will be given gifts beyond your imagination. Creativity is the greatest love affair of my life. It is my primary relationship, and the most fulfilling. I once read that until you have a healthy relationship with the divine, all your other relationships will suffer because you will be looking to others to give you what only the divine can. This has also proven true for me. I experience the divine, which I call the Creative Spirit, through my art. This fulfills me completely so that I can be in relationship with others and not demand that they give me the type of all-encompassing unique love and fulfillment that only the spiritual world, the Creative Spirit, can offer. Like creativity, magic is always happening around us. We have just been taught not to call it magic. Seeing magic and miracles to me is a choice to open ourselves to the beauty and wonder and sacredness in each moment in life. What’s your definition of creativity? Creativity is what is happening around us, and to us, and within us, always. You couldn’t escape creativity even if you tried. It is the essence and breath of the universe. I do believe there is conscious creativity where we are aware of our creative abilities and non-intentional creativity, where we create without awareness. To me it has been critical that I pay attention to the world I am creating for myself and others, including the belief systems I choose to repeat and create. What role does intuition play in the creative process? Intuition to me is listening and surrendering to the deeper wisdom within me that I call the divine aspect of myself. The divine spark that lives within me. When I listen to this, I am in flow with Creative Spirit. I am in right relation to the process, and I understand my role. I think for a lot of us, the difficulty and resistance we experience in the creative process is due to not understanding our actual role in the process. We think we are in charge and control, and often we are not. We think our job is to judge, and it is not. We think we can bend the process to what we desire, and often we cannot. The sooner we understand our role in this process, the easier and more enjoyable the process is and the least resistance we face. You write a lot about magic and its important role in our lives. How does magic manifest itself in your life? Like creativity, magic is always happening around us. We have just been taught not to call it magic. Seeing magic and miracles to me is a choice to open ourselves to the beauty and wonder and sacredness in each moment in life. How can it all not be magic? Maintaining child-like wonder to me is key to being an artist and spiritual being. Magic is always there for us. Our ability to see it just depends on the lens we choose. Flowers play a strong role in your work. Your exquisite paintings pay tribute to the role of flowers both in nature and psyche. How long has this connection to flowers and roses been a part of your life and art? Flowers are part of my family lore. Roses connect me to my ancestors. I believe they communicate with me through roses. My grandfather used to give my grandmother a rose every month so she could enjoy her favorite flower all year long. In 2017, every day I gave a rose to a stranger, in honor of them. This became the most transformational year of my life. It is when my relationship with creativity deepened because we were co-creating these miraculous moments each day with strangers through the simple act of giving away a rose. I believe our surroundings are in constant communication with us, including flowers, when we choose to listen. Have you always been a creative soul? Yes, since the beginning of time. To me the soul is intrinsically creative. Without creativity, nothing material or physical could exist. Who were your earliest mentors? My parents are the most influential people in my life. They are very creative in their own professions and also have very strong work ethics. They believe in miracles, beauty, and gratitude. They have taught me to see the wonder in all things, and to have abundant gratitude. Your new book A Flower in Her Heart, looks exquisite. Tell us a bit about this book? A Flower in Her Heart is a picture book that tells the true story of my journey as an artist. It is a story of resilience, hope, listening to one’s heart, and making the most out of the challenges we face in our life. My pink mobile art studio bus, Rosie, is in the story of course, and she is always a crowd favorite. I hope it inspires children and adults of all ages to listen to their hearts too. Are you currently offering any courses or workshops? I’m launching many new offerings on Patreon in February 2022, including a new monthly art class called “Flower Painting Club.” It’s going to be packed with everything I have learned in the last 12 years as an artist and entrepreneur. My offerings start at $5 per month, you can check it out here: www.carrieschmittdesign.com I’m active on Instagram @carrieschmitt and my website is carrieschmittdesign.com which has my store, gallery, books, online classes and more! Thank you, Carrie!

  • Ella Hamilton, Poetry Corner

    Ella Hamilton is an emerging and award-winning, Canadian poet. We are pleased to feature poetry and images from her current collection at eunabellagiornata. Dopo la tempesta I may be irrational, but darling join me and we can dance around the dark side of the moon. December 18 I don’t like the winter. But I like how the snow rushes down from the heavens, icing the roof’s of the cities' homes. I like the romance of the barren trees and how they still persist their story through the ice ridden drought. And I like the look in your eyes as we dance around the illuminating Christmas lights. It’s frigid out, yet you make my bitter heart feel almost warm. 5:30 Bus Something about the 5:30 bus, how it hustles down the glimmering road. Electrified with turn signals and Christmas lights. And the windows are frosted with droplets of melting snow. It’s such a romantic sight. 6 months to 76, all existing in this condensed, moving space. We’re all so close yet we’re all in our little worlds. For this brief moment in time, there is a drift in reality. Combined existence with a million different stories; a million different places to go. On this bus, we give up our control. We just sit and hope we get where we’re needing to go.

  • Peter Cheung, Artist Spotlight

    Peter Cheung is a multiple award-winning artist from Southern Ontario, Canada. His work strongly reflects his love affair with sailing and his deep appreciation for the environment and the wildlife of the west coast of Canada. Peter is a true master whose work is highly influenced by the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters of the 19th-century art movement. Peter, how long have you been painting for? I have always gravitated towards the arts and I found myself busy exploring my artistic talents during my free time. During the past 7 years, I made a career change and I have been working as a full-time painter and art teacher. Who are your major artistic influences? My work is strongly influenced by the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters of the 19th-century art movement. The technique of light and visible brush strokes allows me to create Contemporary Life artworks that not only influence the viewer’s experiences as they interact with my art, but also transforms their emotional state. "The goal of my work is to create art that can evoke the viewer’s emotions in unique and surprising ways." When have you been your happiest painting? My happiest moment is every time I stand in front of the easel with a blank canvas. I nicknamed my studio “The opium den.” When standing in front of the easel, I have an opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learned from each of the artworks I have created in the past. Each finished project provides new layers of knowledge and understanding that I can tap into for my new projects. What inspires you (both art and non art) and how does that affect your art? I am mostly inspired by daily life, past or present. For example, my recent piece, “Home for Christmas,” captures a simple event in a unique way. It is open to interpretation with its potential for a double meaning. Is the family in the painting returning to their own home for Christmas, or have they just arrived at their destination? I enjoy painting landscapes (both painted out-of-doors and in studio), cityscapes, portraits, leisure scenes, etc. What motivates you creatively? I am motivated both externally (calls for competition or commission requests) and internally (driven by my personal interests, exploring new boundaries and commitment to the pursuit of excellence). What is the goal of your work? The goal of my work is to create art that can evoke the viewer’s emotions in unique and surprising ways. How has your style evolved over time? My style has not changed much over the years. When reflecting on my previous artworks, I can identify the similarities in both design and concepts when comparing them to my new works. However, my technique has changed (i.e., the application of brush strokes, the thickness of paints, colour selection, etc.). Could you describe a "dream" project made reality? To date my dream project was being selected to create a 40in x 60in commission piece for a retiring doctor. I embraced the challenges of creating a non-traditional portrait. It was an opportunity for me to recreate the story of a doctor teaching his students while in the operating room. This piece will be showcased at a hospital in Hamilton, Canada. What do you consider your best work? My best work is my next piece (the one that I have yet to create). It is my best piece because I will bring to it everything that I have learned from creating all of my previous artworks. Could you tell us about any future work in progress? My future projects include working on a series of landscape paintings titled, “Sky over the Great Lakes.” I completed small sketches during the summer and fall of 2021. Soon they will be brought to life onto large canvases. Peter Cheung contact information: http://peterc.faso.com/ IG account: petercheungart http://peterc.faso.com/