First some background: Flora Bowley's Bloom True Art Workshops (there is also an e-course) are for artists of any ilk or skill level. Flora has developed a style of working with paint and canvas that is an intuitive process - one in which the artist approaches the canvas without any preconception of what might enfold. You can read all about it (and much more) on her gloriously beautiful website: www.florabowley.com.
This retreat began with ritual. Flora is a bit of an alchemist and I think of her as The High Priestess of Permission. When I walked though the front doors of her studio I was immediately aware of the light smoky sage she had burned prior to our arrival. After a few introductions, I made my way past a table of chocolate and oranges (a very good sign, indeed) to a circle of chairs with a coffee table at the center. The table was made into an altar with candles, a bowl of water, a meditation bell and a host of beautiful images. Flora used this as our initial gathering place and again throughout the workshop as a place to share information.
Our first day was filled with lots of thoughtful instruction, demonstration painting and free time to paint, journal and process new techniques. A few meals were catered in-house and the Bloom True Team kept all of the participants nourished and hydrated. The food trays below were provided by Shannon Sims. Everyday we feasted on gorgeous snacks and warm refreshments.
I should also mention that my father attended this workshop. We've had a difficult year with my brother's death and a host of other family issues. My Dad and I have also had a rough time connecting over the past decade or so and I thought that this might be a good opportunity for us to center ourselves and reconnect. My pop is an artist in his own right and so I invited him along for the ride. I'm so pleased that he accepted my offer. Here he is (above) assessing his new work.
But let's get to the juicy part, shall we? What did this workshop really mean to me? Sure, I was very interested in the techniques and the process work. As an artist, I'm always looking for new ways to express myself. And Flora delivered on all fronts. She possesses a great deal of generosity, curiosity and a desire to connect and share with other artists.
But more intangible than technique or how-to instruction, was the open, spirit-centered time that Flora made for exploration. How did she do this? First, the luxurious length of the workshop is four days. That's a lot of time. Second, she created a mood of inward seeking through music, guided movement and creative exercises. And lastly, she gave us permission to follow the threads of our thoughts and desires - something in which most people do not indulge.
My biggest take-away from Flora's workshop is TAKE THE TIME IT TAKES.
Take the time it takes. Do not allow for distraction. Do 100% of the activity you are engaged in. Are you having tea? Then sit down and enjoy your tea. Are you cleaning the kitchen? Then simply clean the kitchen. Are you exploring a new paint medium? Then do that and take all the time it takes to do it. I'm not talking about clearing hours of uninterrupted time that you do not have. I'm simply talking about distraction. Put your phone down and stop thinking about your to-do list. It will wait. Focus on what is actually in front of you and you will change your whole world. I'm talking about enjoyment and QUALITY.
As a person whose mind is always attending to four or five different lines of inquiry, this is a difficult state of being to achieve. But I'm getting better with practice. Facebook can wait. PTA can wait. Almost everything, when you think about it, can wait. Self imposed deadlines are just that - self-imposed. Take the time it takes. Be free.
This workshop was just the thing I needed to kickstart 2016 in the studio. I can feel the flame of my inner life in everything I'm doing - attending to my children, talking to my husband, writing Christmas cards and painting. Flora's class is a fire starter.
Thank you, Flora.
And to the wonderful Bloom True attendees I met, thank you.
You are all spectacular people.