The Mystic Artist

Art as a creative, spiritual experience

If you’ve been following along for some time, you’ll have noticed that I’ve veered off track from my original blog format. I’ve gone a long way from the “how I created this piece” to life stories to philosophical musings to where I’ve now landed… in the land of spiritual awakening.  My art tells the story of my inner life and this is where I am right now, deep into a blossoming of my heart. A few weeks back, I propped up a painting I thought I finished only to amend it with Posca markers and finally create the image I wanted all along. The Hamsa painting turned out so well, I did it again with the work shown below. While working, instead of my usual music, I listened to podcasts of Ram Dass and Alan Watts along with a few more “out there” interviews with people travelling rapidly on their spiritual paths… it was inspirational! I included the “before” image so you can see the change. If it looks familiar, I used this painting on a post from July.

move the slider to see the before and after image
Stilling the Mind

Lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about how the actual ACT of creating art lends oneself to the spiritual experience.  That art and spirit are linked in a deep way beyond what we see on the surface.  I’m starting to see that the action of creation is fundamentally and profoundly an action of divinity. When one creates something from nothing; see’s something organized where before was only chaos, that this action is like THE cosmic creator and links the artist to the creative and energetic force of the Universe.

Thus, the artist hears inspiration and in answering the call of spirit, is transformed into the vessel by which the song of the Universe pours forth for all to hear.  And so is born the Mystic Artist. Through which poetry and music flow, imagery reflects the real and the imaginary alike.

Merkaba Meditation at 3F Jack

2020 has been quite the ride. The energy of the planet is shifting and I feel something vast and profound. Now is the time to remember who we are inside and to foster love, compassion and kindness. Honor your heart and hold onto the light. We will weather this storm together, I’m sure of it!

Beyond sharing what I am hearing and then painting, I set out a challenge to you all: take the time to draw or create something every day… it doesn’t have to be time consuming, just create every single day for a month.  This small act will change you.  It will ground your energy, connect you to something larger than yourself and expand your mind.  And to back up my belief in the transformative powers of creation, if you do this, and then write to me about it, I will send you a signed card or print (5×7) of ANY painting on this blog (your choice) for FREE.  Write me about your experience ( and include a photo of all you created (a group shot is best) and tell me how it’s transformed your life. I’m sure it will! Great stories will be featured on the blog, maybe even some of your work.  This will be an exciting experiment; I’m looking forward to hearing from YOU!

Namaste dear souls ❤

Time is a funny thing

I only say that because I am learning how much I do not know about time and how I am realizing there is no time.  Just now.  Always now.  I mean, I remember the past.  And I can think about the future but neither one of those things really exist.

I used to be fascinated by the concept of time travel.  I loved thinking about how you could change the past, or influence the future. One of my favorite books is Audrey Niffeneggers’ The  Time Traveller’s Wife.  Such a great story and so well written.  We zip back and forth in time and as a real fantasy treat, they play the lottery, win (of course) and pay for their lives without toiling “for the man”.

BUT, the more I read and learn and think the more I agree with Eckhart Tolle, there is nothing but the now.  I’m coming to see time travel as what happens when you revisit old memories or project ideas into the future.  Suddenly one wakes up and realizes they pretty much left their body behind as they fantasized or maybe even tried to influence a past event by saying the things they wished they had said.  Well, we all know you can’t change the past… that’s the time travel paradox.  Now is where it’s at. So I go around and say things like: Learn from the past, Plan for the future but LIVE in the NOW.  And then I write it on a sticky note and post it somewhere prominent.  So strident of me!

I write this post because it has been 5 years since my mom passed and today I finished her portrait.  I’m not much of a figure painter… I didn’t think I was very good at it and frankly, I hardly ever try. In my life as an artist, I’ve done maybe a half dozen works with people and then a huge mural of the entire OSU baseball team after they won the World Series, (it’s in the Gallery under murals if you are so inclined) but I still thought I wasn’t very good at it.  However, this painting was to be a personal memorial by which I would embed Mom’s ashes into the image itself. It wouldn’t matter if it was poor or badly rendered, it was for me and I felt compelled to put a part of her into something more meaningful than just a little container on my shelf.

I’d like to think I was granted a stroke of genius with this idea, but I Googled it and I’m not the first.  Apparently though, there is a world of “funerary art” to choose from ( I especially like the ashes being made into glass sculpture, those are cool). And no, I don’t think it’s weird or morbid or even odd.  People put up huge stone markers and mausoleums to their loved ones, a portrait seems quaint by those standards.

Well, I perused the old photos and found this one where she is holding onto my toddler self on a cold fall day.  The leaves are gone, the sky is bluer than blue and she looks chic and stylish and oh so very young.  I love this image, even though I never really knew her like this.  I did know her well enough to know that if she could choose an age to be for eternity, provided she was still Claire, with all her personality traits and memories, if she could choose, she would choose to be this age.  With that face, hair and body and looking like a model on an exclusive photo shoot.  She did like to look nice.

I cropped myself right out of the picture… that would be an odd thing to include while I was dabbing ashes into the piece.  As I worked on it, I listened to her favorite music and some new stuff I’m pretty sure she would have liked.  I thought about how she was now adding texture to her portrait as well as becoming part of the sky and the trees.  I had a few “circle of life” thoughts and even shed a tear or two as it emerged better than I could have hoped.  My muse really came through for me today.  She looks awesome.  I think she would have approved.


Golden Hair Claire

Thanks mom, for giving me your strength and courage and bravery.  I’ve taken them farther than you ever did… I know because you showed me your fear every time I went beyond your comfort zone.  And even though you were scared for me, you still encouraged me to explore. Thanks for rooting for me and for always, ALWAYS wishing the best for me.  You may have had a hard edge at times, most tough women do, but I knew your love was unconditional.  That is a precious thing because that is what real love is all about.  Thanks for teaching me that a mother’s love runs deep and true.  I became a better mother myself because I knew this. I love you, Mom. Always. Timelessly.


Post script:  A few days after publishing the above, I journaled about my experience, just as a way to record it for myself.  But what emerged was lovely and I’d like to share it with my readers:

Dec 5, 2016

It took painting a portrait of my mom as someone she used to be,

seeing her as a spirit that existed in a body

in a fleeting moment captured on film,

to teach me to remember what I really am.

Such is the nature of reality,

images captured on a sunny day-

a moment that passes

a now that is preserved

a ripple in time

where there is no time

only now.

By recording the moment we only preserve a  memory

but we never can capture what actually is.

We distort our memories

with these static images

and turn our present into flat,

2 dimensional realities.

Whereby we miss the essence and truth,

that we are more than what can be seen or felt or witnessed.

More than can be captured on film

or paper

or canvas

or even our memories.

We are more than can be imagined.

In the Eye of the Beholder

Though the artist must remain master of (their) craft, the surface, at times raised to the highest pitch of loveliness, should transmit to the beholder the sensation which possessed the artist.

~Alfred Sisley

I’ve pondered these ideas… is the art in the eye of the beholder, or in the artist’s rendering of that thing, that image, that concept?  Is it both or neither? Is it, as Sisley suggests, a vehicle of transmission?  Art being the thing that carries the sensation, the feeling of the artist to the viewer who can then somehow share in what it was that possessed the artist?

Well, lots to think about there.  And many have.  For me, art is a very personal thing… you, and only you, know what you like.  Sometimes you know right away, and sometimes it grows on you, but regardless which way you fall in the spectrum of like or dislike, no one should tell you what to like.  It’s up to you to decide. For me, I gave up a long time ago trying to please my audience, because that’s an impossible task really, and so, I decided to please myself.

The other side of that same coin is, sometimes, in my own personal work, I may not care for a piece.  If I hate it, I will paint over it so I can get some more miles out of a canvas.  (Most artists are into recycling… even the old masters did it, it’s not a new concept.)  Or I will stash it away as a reminder that not everything I do is gold… far from it!  I really should get rid of some of the old crap, but I’m rather nostalgic about the old stuff… even the bad old stuff.  So, I keep it for me, and show it to no one.

BUT, one day, a friend was in my studio and she gushed over an unfinished piece that I happened to think of as bad enough to recycle. There it was, propped up against the wall waiting for a coat of gesso so I could stop looking at it’s horribleness.  I really disliked it.  However, much to my surprise, she loved it!  Something about the colors spoke to her and when I gave it to her she was thrilled.  I made her day with something that meant very little to me, but meant so much to her.

Now, rather than focus on the part about me handing over something I had no attachment to (as if that makes my gesture less than noble and then less than worthy) focus instead on the part about Maria.  She loved it.  She was happy.  She was so pleased to adopt this little wayward canvas and give it a home.

This was the third time this happened to me.  It took this happening three times before the significance of the act held any meaning.  And that was this: for me, even as a creator of art, am not the sole person to judge the value or beauty of my own work.

While I am making it, while I paint and create, I get something intangible.  And if, at the end, that thing pleases me, then great. If it doesn’t, then that’s ok too.  I still got something from the process.  BUT that thing that I don’t care for aesthetically does not mean that it’s bad.  In fact, someone else may love it.  More than one someone… maybe even lots of someones!

Case in point,  Purple Repose:

Purple repose

Purple repose

I hated this painting.  In fact, I was planning on recycling it but while I was waiting for the paint to dry I changed my mind.  My husband saw it and liked it, so, with a shrug, I kept it.  I hung it in the house and after a while, it grew on me too.  I came to like the blue colors, the broad strokes, the way the horse’s shoulder bumped out.  Later that year, I included it (as a print) in a series of blank greeting cards.  It became one of my best sellers.  People loved it!

The same thing happened with Walker Pass, only in reverse:

North of Walker Pass

North of Walker Pass

By reverse, I mean, this is by far my absolute favorite painting (right now).  I LOVE this piece.  It only got a couple of dozen Facebook “likes”.  Granted, this painting has yet to make it out of the house, but still… my dog snapshots get more “likes”.  I didn’t take it personally, because I truly believe in my heart and soul, that art is a personal thing.  I may take it personally if you tell me you hate it and why it’s awful and say other mean things about the thing I love, but hey, I’m only human and that kind of behavior is mean spirited and small.  You are entitled to your opinion, just keep the details to yourself if you hate something (or someone!) I love.

On the other hand, my next piece, I just didn’t love so much.  It’s not recycle worthy, not by far… you’d never see it if it was.  And I still wouldn’t post or show any piece I found embarrassingly bad, or trite or derivative or unworthy.  So, just because I don’t love it, doesn’t mean I don’t like it.  I may just think of it more as a second runner up.

But, it was a challenge.  I worked hard on this one.  The drawing was complex, the details, intense.  It is the 3rd in my series of images from the wilderness, photos taken by women hikers on the CDT or the PCT.  I’m calling the series, The Wilderness Of Women.  Now, here is where I love social media.  On Facebook, I asked women hikers if they would share with me (for the purpose of painting) photos from their hikes and I got an amazing outpouring of images to choose from.  So, choose one I did (thank YOU, Judy Flexer) and got to work.

Sketch for Spectacle Lake

Sketch for Spectacle Lake

I thanked Judy online and somehow, I don’t recall how it happened, but Judy kindly sent me a high resolution image of her photo.  I thanked her politely, but inside I was worried.  All those details… how was I going to block out all those details?  “Oh, buck up, Sky… you’ll be fine!” I told myself.  But I was worried.

And so, I bucked up and promptly fucked up.  It became a horrid mess of tiny, detailed, muddy strokes of paint.  Not the sure and swift flight of color that signified I was “in the groove.”  I bravely soldiered on, slogged up one muddy hill and down the next… madly mixing, swiping, swooping, adding, subtracting and aaarrrggggg!!!!  Nothing was working.  I was in utter despair.  So I did the only thing I could do.  The thing I have never done before.  I almost couldn’t believe what I was doing.  I took it off my easel, laid it flat, and poured turpentine over the entire painting.  I took a rag and wiped it clean.  All of it.  Even the sketch.  Gone.

I waited two days to go back into the studio.  I just couldn’t bear to look at it.  I had never scrubbed out a canvas before, it felt like a failure.  But two days later, I was ready to get back to work.  I followed the faint leftovers of pencil lines that were under the first orange outline and redrew the sketch.  Instead of the high resolution image, I went back to my original Facebook clipping.  That picture, I altered to be bolder, more saturated in color than the photograph Judy had taken.  I made it small and took off my glasses to blur the details.  I needed to see blocks of colors, not every single rock and tree.  I put on a favorite CD and lost myself in Spectacle Lake.

This second go round was tricky… I still had some issues and some personal demons to slay, but it finally came together and I was satisfied.  I signed it today, so that pretty much means it’s done.  It may not be a favorite, but it’s good, I’ll say that.  And when I posted it to the woman hikers page on Facebook…. well, it got 75 likes, right off the bat.  Goes to show you… beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Oil on Canvas 14x16

Spectacle Lake on the PCT
Oil on canvas, 14 x 16




Horse Art

After completing the chair, I spent the day tinkering about the place.  I tidied up the studio too and thought now is a good time to drop in a gallery of work.  So here is some of my horse art.  There’s quite a bit of it… yeah, ok, so I like horses!  And yeah, probably more than the average person.  Maybe not more than the average horse person, but still… a lot.  Enough that at one point, I got sick of making landscapes and creating work that may be marketable and really focused on painting what I love.   I kept at it until I had quite the collection of horse paintings.  I make greeting cards out of many of them and sell them at fairs and horse shows which just about pays for my horse activities.  Not quite, but every little bit helps.  Enjoy the gallery!

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