Creative Process

healing shame and painting true stories anew


Under the new under-painting on this board, lies a painting I haven't been able to look at for a few years now, because of an offhand comment - that was meant to be a joke - by someone I love dearly…

work-in-progress, painting over a painting (musing at blog about healing and transforming through art), Hali Karla Arts

In my family, it is always said that "laughter is medicine"... and this is, of course, true. At times.

But not in the wrong dose, at the wrong time. Not when the jokes or comments poke, minimize, or completely distort something that actually holds deeper value or is personally connected to someone else in the room, or their struggles, experience or process.

Am I sensitive? Absolutely. Too sensitive? At times, sure.

AND - sensitivity is the root of my strength as an artist and healing+caring soul, too. But it took me years to see that. Years to be told, to see for myself, and to believe that this is why so many say they feel seen by me. Because I see what others miss, overlook, neglect to consider.

I’m an artist - we see. I’m a healer, of the soulful sort - we get pain points. Because we have seen and been hurt and have had to transform, again and again.

In order to feel like I belonged, was lovable and wouldn't be abandoned or rejected (again) as a kid, I felt I had to laugh at what wasn't so funny to me (even if it was about me), deny my own hurt when others were insensitive or unaware or unable to see beyond their own perception/experience, let myself fade so others could live and think and laugh undisturbed, and hide my true feelings, interests, desires and needs. I have a fire in me, and this wasn’t always easy….

We all have some story like this, some variation of changing or denying ourselves in some way to fit in with the environment and people we grew up with.

This, on top of some truly shitty traumas in my childhood, was a recipe for some serious Shame. About who I am, what I've been through, how I did or didn’t respond, the weight I carry, what I'm worthy or capable of, have a right to want, and what I create.

I'm now ready to transform this painting in the right ways, for the right reasons. The perspective shift had to come first, though. And that took a few years, with this painting turned toward the wall of my studio, while I left the art piece to investigate what it had triggered in my life.

While the comment made about this painting was really more about the insensitivity of someone else's humor, it became an invitation back into a raw feeling I needed to revisit, remember and recognize as still untended - to get back to the root of unconscious conditioning, pain and disempowerment.

To Be With that Little Me, hiding away, feeling misunderstood and unseen, and in so much pain.

To get mad and NOT bury it… and then, by the gift of grace, forgive.
To bless, and not blame.

To disentangle from what was never my shit to begin with, and pick up what I always had a right to call my own and to feel.

To lay rest, set free, and rise up once again, a little bit lighter and true.
It takes time, and it takes the time it takes.

Painting over her now - the one who is peeking through on that board - is not an act of covering up or hiding in shame, in the ways I did to get by before. Or how it would have been if I had just covered her up in the wake of the comment that burned. Instead, it is composting what served its purpose, to grow a new story once and for all - my story, my laughter, my perspective and truth… with all my creative needs and vital sensitivity, too.

So, I say to the spirit of the first painting as she begins her metamorphosis: Rest in peace, sweet+unexpected instigator of healing, with your downcast eyes. Your creation story is much more than I imagined, and ready for its next life-cycle of becoming.

To you, dear reader, I say this: if you are a sensitive or intuitive soul, it is no accident or defect. This is how God made you to be, in this time. It is a medicine the world needs more of, and adds depth and attentiveness to your creativity. It is the maker of true strength and compassion. Do not doubt this power you’ve been gifted. Use it to see, feel, guide, express, engage, empower, challenge, heal and know others and Life beyond the superficial. Use it to transform every story or coping behavior that ever held you back or down or put you in hiding or unhealthy cycles of shame. See and Be Seen. Do not be afraid.

~ h

the spirit of creativity: seek, stay, share | Creative Practice Care (with new painting)

Creative Practice Care & Encouragement | Hali Karla Arts

Shortly after the first blue drip asserted itself on the page - an unplanned, but true-to-process happening - I stepped back, I had that feeling that I’d met this painting before. As if that even makes sense. Which it didn’t. Until it did.

Long before digital filters and effects made it all so mind-numbingly easy, I used to shoot 35mm photos of landscapes, sift through the hundreds, and then meticulously piece chosen ones together in new ways in the darkroom, and then eventually with various software - into double exposures, mandalas or mirrored images. It was a tedious project, looking back on it… but also a meditation of sorts.

This piece began in that old way of seeing and being. First, out in nature with my camera. Then, with the help of some more modern tools to expedite and play with effects and contrast until I felt inspired. The end point was never going to be the digital photo, though. That was just the beginning.

Then, there was sketching - the sound of graphite and pastel scratching on a lightly gessoed page. Then a pause.

Then ink and paint, layer after layer, with many moments of non-doing... maybe even more than the doing moments, ya know? But the painting hung out, a presence. She stayed, I stayed, until timing was right.

New painting + musing at blog (image: painting steps in-process, Hali Karla)

While I love a good energetic expression and lightning moments of gratification, I also love slow art-making. The being of it. The relationship that couldn’t be without that time invested, that shared space. The listening and tending and seeing it through. Maybe it is even the contrast of the two approaches in my practice that interests my creative spirit most. That’s likely.

There is spontaneity in both ways. Whether initiated by me or otherwise. Like that blue drip. It just happened, my mind was initially disappointed… but then, at this point in the game, I know to go with the flow. Quite literally, in this instance.

One became two, and I kept playing with the harmony.

{an emergence of spirit} prayer painting, mixed-media on bristol. 11”x14” Hali Karla

{an emergence of spirit} prayer painting, mixed-media on bristol. 11”x14” Hali Karla

I eventually remembered where I had seen or experienced that blue drip before in my art, and when I found that painting in the studio, that came long before this one, I was struck by the similarity in colors, as well. I’m using different paints and supplies altogether, mixing my colors more, it was an entirely different process approach - but even the core of the palette re-emerged in this very different painting, eight years later.

You can see that first painting HERE, an intuitive one, with a poem you may very well need to read right now if you have a moment. It seems to strike folks at just the right time.

As for the paintings, See the resemblance? It’s funny to me - and maybe only obvious to me - but not so surprising.

You see, you don’t have to find your style or voice or aesthetic. You just have to keep creating. It is already in you. It will take on new forms and voices in different iterations… but you can’t be removed or absent from what you make… because your creative energy and expression is unique to what makes you You. You can stifle it at times, for sure, with imitations or efforts to be what you think you should be or more like someone else. Sometimes it may be quieter as you learn new skills or methods or simply rest without trying so hard.

But ultimately, you are you… and your voice, style, mark-making (on art and life), aesthetic (what you love and have a knack for combining), and the way you see and bring light and connection will emerge and emanate in whatever expression your creative practice takes.

In truth, I find, it is really good for the soul to just trust that, and to let your roots reach down into the heart of today’s practice or focus, whatever form it may take right where you are at, without worrying so much about how the growth may look awkward at times on the surface or whether or not the fruit will appear and ripen in season.

So today’s Creative Practice encouragement is straight from my process to yours, a breadcrumb trail of reflection, including the painting above and then some.

Here is the take-away for your Creative practice Care, encouragement and reflection:

May your curiosity, heartbreak, love and deepest longing guide you when you SEEK. Don’t dismiss those potent calls from Creative Source… see where they lead.

May your attention and devotion help you STAY awhile when you land on something that resonates and asks you to be with your Creative Spirit. Whether it is spontaneously energetic or deliciously slow, trust the rhythm that makes you feel alive and all-in with your process each time you come to your practice. Don’t mistake impatience or frustration for spontaneity, or hesitance or fear for the richness of resting in slow, deliberate expression. Find the rhythm you hunger for in this season or project.

May your heart and hands SHARE generously what you see and discover in your process, as life allows and invites. Your creative practice is for you, yes - but not just you, love. Because it forms you, dwells in you, it moves outward from you. You can’t help that. See what you see, love what you love… even keep the art or writing to yourself, perhaps… but do let the creative spark it ignites speak into your life, choices, relationships, and the next direction you find yourself heading toward.