After the amazing collage encounter the other day, I had another realization.
I credit SoulCollage© for launching me into this whole art making direction and this is a story I'd like to share.
As I've mentioned before) up until about four years ago I simply did not make visual anything. I did not believe I could draw. Or paint. Or play, artistically. I had never taken one art class in my life. I did not believe I could express myself in visual mediums of any kind. I didn't even know I had the desire!
All I knew about my own creativity was that I was very crafty as a kid and enjoying sewing (and in fact actually went into sewing frenzies during finals in college to relieve to my stress.) I have been intensely attracted to art and creative people all my life. I have always been aware of this huge, undefined yearning to create.
I spent a lot of years trying to scratch that itch like it was a mosquito bite. I scratched circles around and around, trying to relieve the itch, but nothing worked. The itch was still there. I wrote stuff and built stuff and created DIY home projects. It never occurred to me that I could or even wanted to create in the visual and tactile realms.
Yet intuitively of course I knew. Why else did I get so darn excited every time I visited an art museum or art gallery, an art faire or just when I’ve wandered around New York City? How much did I love DIY design shows (like The Christopher Lowell Show back in the day or Project Runway or any of these shows now)? A lot.
When I found Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way over 10 years ago, I recognized myself as a shadow artist and this yearning to a create as a spiritual impulse. But I still operated on the assumption that I was an unrealized writer.
Years went by.
And then in a series of astonishing and transforming encounters, I discovered this thing called SoulCollage©.
First Meeting—I mean, Meetup.
I saw a posting for a SoulCollage© Workshop on meetups.com about four years ago. I had no idea what that was exactly, but I clicked on that “will attend” button like a moth. I was just drawn to it.
Several days later I was stepping into a small community room and I have to admit that when I looked around my heart dropped. Several tables for four were set up in a square around the room and most of the seats were already taken. Worse, I took a swift glance around and made an instant judgment. All women. Seem kind of…crafty. “Not my people.” I sighed when I sat down across from the woman in her eighties dressed in black. “Of course I get the old woman.” (shame on me!)
The workshop leader, I think her name was Susan, soon gave us a quick overview, including the work of SoulCollage© founder, Seena Frost, and explained that she (Susan) was a licensed facilitator.
My ears perked.
Next, we got to work. I completed my first SoulCollage© card but I was filled with fear and uncertainty every step of the way. I worried that I was doing it wrong and that I didn’t have intuition.
But I made the card anyway – which I have since misplaced or I’d show it to you. From what I can remember, that collage featured flower pots on a ledge of a window in the background lush trees and a cat sitting on the path.
I was relieved that it didn’t look too bad (despite Susan’s repeated warnings that it didn’t matter what they looked like). Still, I thought the other cards at my table were much better.
Yes, I looked and compared.
Next, we were given paper and pens and we were asked to consult the cards. This as I explained the other day is a matter of letting the card “speak” by sitting quietly in front of it and completing “I am one who…” statements from the point of view of the image(s) in the piece. The trick is to keep repeating the statement and to record whatever comes up until it feels complete.
I wish I had that card and my statements. All I can remember now is that what came out totally surprised me…especially at the end.
“I am one who” left the keys on the ledge.
I looked again. All that time I had failed to notice that the image of the windowsill had keys sitting on it.
I was shocked. I had to ask myself what other keys have I left or overlooked?
(aside: I think I have a better idea now then I did then.)
I was deeply moved by that experience, but as it turns out the final activity that night made an even greater impact.
The Russian Beauty
As a final activity, we were all asked to stand up one at a time, hold our cards out in front of us, and read our statements. And right there all those women in that room – the ones I judged so harshly – one at a time they shape-shifted before my eyes. No matter the images on their cards (babies, plants, animals, children, adults), as they read their statements I no longer saw them as they looked on the outside—baggy clothes or grey hair or a lot of make up or whatever. I suddenly saw…who they really were, I think, each a beautiful being.
It’s hard to describe. But here’s one example. The older woman in her eighties who sat across from me? Her card featured a dark haired young woman in a red cape and hood, and as she read, I suddenly I saw her as a young and beautiful Russian girl.
Afterwards we talked and I felt real regret that I hadn’t made more of an effort or had more time to get to know this raven beauty. She was delightful! And nothing like a tired old woman I imagined I saw in the beginning.
I left that workshop totally stoked (as we used to say). Immediately, I got online, learned more about Frost and her work, and ordered and read the book. Then I jumped back online to see how to become a SoulCollage© facilitator. I know it sounds crazy. After just one workshop I wanted to lead others through the process.
It just felt really important to immerse myself in this thing, whatever it was, that somehow married creativity and spirit. I’m not sure at that point that I was yet convinced that my intuition was alive and kicking, but I should have been.
Second Encounter—with myself.
Just months later, I found myself at a weekend facilitator training in Santa Cruz, California, and this second experience transformed me—but not exactly how I would have expected.
The training was thorough and thought-provoking. Seena Frost presided over the group of about 40 women and it was a huge honor, really, to learn from this elder woman with such a deep background in theology, psychotherapy and creativity. SoulCollage© is truly a process to “tend soul and explore psyche” and boy, did I ever encounter myself that weekend.
First, I felt entirely intimidated by the other trainees—all women who all seemed to be artists or art therapists (in actuality, some were, some weren’t). I instantly questioned my qualifications to even be in the room.
Second, as we made cards, consulted them, shared them in small groups and then debriefed with the larger group (for benefit of learning facilitation skills)—I came up hard against my own walls and insecurities, and especially my uneasy relationship with my intuition. I questioned whether or not I could help others until I worked out a few of my own issues.
But more than anything...as I coaxed my inferiority monster back down to pint-size...I realized that I. Wanted. To. Make. Art.
So many of the other women did make art and – to my surprise – few as professional artists. As I talked with more attendees as the weekend progressed I learned that a whole lot of them just created stuff in their free time.
Imagine that! Collage. Sketches. Postcards. Sculptures. Mixed Media pieces. Quilts. And of course SoulCollage cards for their growing decks. There was one woman, particularly, who made a big impact. Liz Monaghan made art journals—something I had never heard of before—and she had one to show me.
And I was astounded. I wanted to do that.
So that’s how SoulCollage© launched me into the art making world. After the training, I continued to make cards (although I have not yet facilitated workshops). Also, Liz was kind enough after that weekend to invite me to join a group of other women who did both SoulCollage© and made art in their spare moments near where I lived.
While I moved away shortly after, the stage was set. It would take me another year or so to make my first art journal page, and a few more years of delight-filled exploring to get back in touch with my intuition and find my way into art-making. But SoulCollage cracked me wide open to the colorful world of art making and the creative and spiritual electricity to be found there.
I think the best way to describe where I’m at now is in blissful scratch.
***** So what about you? How did you get into art making? I'd love to hear in the comments below or if you posted your art making story on your own blog already, give us a link in the comments section and we'll check it out!
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