Art is a reflection of how we live our lives. How we approach our art or painting is how we approach other parts of our lives. Flora Bowley (my painting guru), said, ““Often, how we live is how we paint.” What we do when being creative transfers into our daily lives and visa versa. In this blog, I am going to use Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as a metaphor for painting and how this translates to daily life.
Aslan is a mysical lion in the movie called, 'The Chronicles of Narnia'. He is a strong and powerful figure of transformation. The Chronicals of Narnia is a move which outlines what Joseph Campbell calls, 'The Hero's Journey'.
My Hero's Journey Through Painting is just one story of how the process of painting becomes a metaphor for life.
The Call to Adventure: The Call to adventure is the first stage of the hero's journey. At this stage, the hero is asked to embark on a mystical journey of transformation.
When I begin a painting, it is like the Hero’s Call to Adventure. I am called by the canvas and the paints to come on an adventure of painting and self-discovery. Although I am excited about this call… I initially begin to think of all the reasons why I cArt is a reflection of how we live our lives. How we approach our art or painting is how we approach other parts of our lives. Flora Bowley (my painting guru), said, ““Often, how we live is how we paint.” What we do when being creative transfers into our daily lives. In this blog, I am going to use Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as a metaphor for painting and how this translates to our daily lives.
The Refusal to the Call: In this stage of the hero's journey, the hero refuses the call. He/she denies the call to stay with the familiar and the safe.
I say to myself, I can’t… It’s too cold outside to paint and I don’t like painting inside; I don’t feel like getting out all of the materials; I have to do this or that. These refusals is my way of avoiding what my soul is asking of me, to be creative and to discover my true path through my painting. But then something in my day will open up, the sun will come out and now I have no excuses… I must paint.
Crossing the Threshold: At this stage of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, Something happens in the hero's life that prompts him/her to take the leap and embark on this journey.
Once I take initiative to paint, I begin to feel excited inside. I start in everything I do loose and free. In the initial stages of my painting I feel free and spontaneous. My arms are long as are the strokes of my brush. I hold the paint brush with ease and grace. I move the canvas around and around to get new perspectives. I have music playing as I move my body to the sounds of the beat and these musical vibrations reveal themselves in my choices of color and my easy lines and marks on the canvas. I feel free and wonderful.
(Aslan in his free and early stages.)
The Mentor & Helper: Once over the threshold of the journey, the hero meets a mentor or helper who will be there to assist the hero along the journey.
In the hero’s journey, the hero meets a mentor or helper who will help them on their journey. In this scenario the Mentor is Flora Bowley, and the Helpers are my painting groups called: Bloom True Team Oct. 2014; Bloom True Level Two Portland and Bloom True Team Jan. 2015. Flora brings messages that light the path into the abyss. She reminds us to, be loose, dance with the paint to music and allow our entire body to move fluidly to the music as we paint. She encourages us to be brave and to make bold moves using losts of contrasts. And most importantly, she continually reminds us that if we cover up something we like, that we are the maker of the marks (the creator of our world in my interpretation), and we can always make more marks. My helpers are two teams of the most wonderful supportive people on the planet. All of whom are there for each other with encouraging comments that help replace those left In our minds by the ‘INNER CRITIC’. I have never experiences such support and encouragement from so many directions all at once. It is like a positive family intervention, but instead of calling one out on something negative, they all you out on what is positive. (It really is beautiful.)
(Here is Flora Bowley in her teaching studio, Portland OR, Dec. 2014)
The Abyss (Death & Rebirth): This is the stage where the hero must face his/her demands. Face those fears and perceived limitations and the things that keep the hero from being in their full power.
Once I embark on this hero’s journey of painting, I begin to submerge into the dark abyss. This is where I meet my monsters and it gets scary. All of my issues come up before my eyes on the canvas. This is where my ego gets involved. As I become more attached to an image or an idea, my process changes. I become more rigid and controlling. What once was fluid and enjoyable and fun begins to morph into something I don’t like. My willingness to rotate my canvas stops and
I begin to keep the canvas stationary. I begin to hold my brushes with a tighter grip and my marks become for structured ~ less fluid and free. My paintings become static and gives the appearance of being stuck. They lack the movement and ease they once had. With this comes body, thought, and emotional responses.
In my body I become tight. My stomach feel tight, my shoulders tighten and then I sit rather than stand freely and move with the music on my canvas. I become more aware of my physical symptoms than to the music and the color and the movement. My body stiffens and becomes rigid.
Mentally I begin to worry about how things will turn out and if I will like it when I am done. My inner critic kicks in and takes a front row seat whispering things in my ear that I believe about myself deep down. All those negative thoughts come to the forefront: “you’re not good enough”, “you’ll never be a real artist”, “this is horrible and I hate it so just cover it all up. I allow that critical inner voice into my space because on some level, I believe it. Negative thoughts swirl and swirl, and I am now lost in the abyss. My task at this point is to put that voice to death and become rebirthed.
Additionally, when we descend into the abyss of our own lives, emotions, memories, we are able to release those things that we keep trapped there. These trapped memories and emotions are blocks to our creativity. These blocks prevent us from feeling creative. But through the process of art-making we can release these blocks and free up our creative energy. This translates onto our canvas and into our daily lives. Flora calls this "lowering the water level". Revealing and releasing those things that keep us from being fully creative.
(Aslan - or me - in the rigid and stuck place.)
Transformation: Finally, the hero faces his fears and limitations and transforms into the sage. At this stage the Hero realizes their full power and potential and is able to give back to other's on their journey.
At this point, I begin to realize that the old ways of doing things are not going to get me new results. I then allow the words my mentor (Flora Bowley) come to mind, “When you feel like you are stuck, take a break from that canvas and work on another.” WHAT a concept. I would have never given myself permission to do this. Other words that may ring in my ears are, “you are the maker of the marks, you can just make more marks.” And, “Work with what IS working,” or “Make a BOLD move.” (all quotes of Flora Bowley). These new thought begin to drown out the sound of my inner critic. I begin to just move in a new direction with my painting and POP ~ new things begin to happen.
With the release of blocked memories and painful emotions, with the drowning out of the inner critic, we are free to create. This allows our healing spirit to surge through our body/mind and heal us on many levels.
Image is the language of the Soul. Images, colors, shapes all contribute to the messages brought forth through our higher wisdom from within. If we take the times to explore them, these symbols bring great messages of love, healing and transformation.
(Aslan in his free and transformed rebirth. Aslan has taught me to be Strong; Bold; Free & Spontaneous.)
The Hero’s Return: When the Hero returns back to his/her normal world they return changed. They have embarked on this journey of transformation and now will be that new self in the world.
Just this morning I was in my kitchen getting ready to paint. My son was engaged in some task in the kitchen and alerted me to a problem with what he was doing. He was stuck on a task. Spontaneously, without thinking about it I said, “No worries, just do it another way, you can always try things a new way.” And I suddenly realized that I was saying to him, “just make more marks, turn the canvas and look at things from another perspective. And, if you don’t like the way it came out, just make more marks.”
What how we create art, is how we live our lives.
Yvette Lyons, Ph.D., C.E.A.T.
If you are interested in classes with Flora Bowley you can find them here: