Why I Paint
The process of painting, of doing art is fundamental for me. It is a natural movement. It is an enjoyment. But that does not mean that it is fun. Having fun is not my intention when I paint. Painting is a life-practice, as are all of my creative efforts, a life-discipline. The resulting artwork is the product of that effort.
My intention is to bring love into life with my paintings. Love is the most profound motive one can have in my estimation. That is not a romantic or sentimental notion. It requires a fierce and resolute disposition to love in the face of all that we confront in life, in ourselves. It is my intention that the process of my art serve my own heart in that purpose. It is also my intention that it serve the hearts of others.
The “practice” of painting requires that I relax the body and engage the breath. The breath has a profound effect on the flow of energy in the body. It literally affects the flow of paint from the brush. The use of breath and the conducting of energy in the body also stills reactive emotion, which in turn, frees energy. I also relax the mind. I don’t engage in random thinking or subjectivity, but I stay focused in the process of painting, simply keeping my attention free of distractions.
All of this is a part of my practice. It is what I choose to do whether or not I am painting. My practice of making art is a part of my life-practice. At its core I do it to support my life-intention. It is also my intention to create beautiful, compelling images. The process is the art. The painting is the result of that process.
I was born into an ashram, a culture of spiritual and life practice. My entire practice of art is informed by the instruction of my spiritual master. He spoke at length about the cultures and traditions of art in the world, and had this to say about artists:
"The deepest duty confronting artists today is to bring forth symbolical utterances emanating this really human spirituality. This can only be accomplished if artists themselves are tuned to their own spiritual centers, only if they become incarnations of God within. These artists, like the alchemists of old, must be willing to work 'unceasingly' and honestly toward the mastery of the material of their own lives."
A Revelatory Moment
I remember vividly when I committed to painting. It was a warm summer afternoon. I was ten years old, and I was in an art class with my teacher, Lydia DePole, a very creative and expansive artist. She gave me a few minutes of instruction about painting with watercolors, and then told me to paint from my imagination. I had been living in Fiji for a long time, so the first image that sprung to mind was a wave crashing on a beach with a palm near the water’s edge. I painted the wave with quick expressive brush strokes. Suddenly, before my eyes, and without knowing exactly how it had happened, there was a scene on the page. The wave actually looked like a real wave with motion and everything. It was magic. I was hooked! And that was the moment I began my artistic training with intention.
Life and Training
I was born in a cabin at the Mountain of Attention Sanctuary, in the remote mountains of northern California. I was also born into a spiritual community founded by my Guru, Adi Da Samraj. From my earliest memories Adi Da was the happiest being that I ever encountered, and I wanted to be around Him as much as possible. He was the most engaged, fun, humorous, and giving person. He taught me what it was to live a life of happiness, to give and receive love, to have a feeling for the mystery of all. He showed me how to feel, breathe, and radiate to infinity.
I was raised in a community setting, living and learning with many people. It was a village, an ashram. I spent my first ten years living with Adi Da and his family in California, Hawaii, and Fiji. The amenities were often primitive, but the heart was full, and life was adventurous. During those years art was a constant in my life. There were always group projects to join in. I loved participating in these art projects, learning from the adults, then sitting around together working and creating something beautiful. I learned sewing, weaving, rug-making, tie-dying, rudraksha and flower mala making, beading, mural painting, rangolis (sand art), and many other creative expressions. I was involved in an organic process of learning the skills it took to create.
During my teen years I was involved in many more forms of artistic discipline and expression; silk screening, sculpture, ceramics, airbrushing, gold leafing, miniature painting, theater set design and makeup, and jewelry design. I also apprenticed with the Dawn Horse Press and learned graphic design and layout. I was managing art director for a children’s magazine, a challenging job that went on for several years. I was given the opportunity to spend much of my time practicing my “sacred art”. Sacred in that the art was not being done for self expression, but as a sacred practice and as a gift.
I returned from Fiji in 1999 and enrolled in classes at local colleges, getting further foundation knowledge in technical aspects of painting. When I was twenty my focus became watercolors, and this has been my primary medium ever since. I developed my own style, drawing inspiration from Japanese painters, wood block, and silk screen artists. O’Keeffe, Klimt, and Monet are western painters whose work I love. I have loved Rajput and Mughal painting since childhood, and I marveled at the skill of the monks of Tibet and Nepal who created sacred images in thangkas, bronzes, and repoussé sculpture. I was fortunate to be exposed to the traditions and arts of many cultures in my youth.
In early adulthood I avoided instruction and outside influences, wanting to let my own unique style develop. This has evolved over time, but always, it is about composition, line, and vibrant colors.
I have been painting for many years now. I have been steady in showing my art in galleries, special events, and competitions. I have often given my art to charitable causes. I have sold many pieces. I have been living the life of an artist. It is not always easy, but it is what I love to do, so I stick with it no matter what else is happening. I love the creative process. I love creating images that bring happiness and delight to others. I love color, and I love nature. I love the disposition of giving. I love the painting process, and being in a space of real feeling while I work, so that something of that feeling is communicated to you, the viewer… art from the heart and for the heart.