Holistic Creative Life

April in 8 ways - monthly {re}View

landscape study, mixed-media, Hali Karla

Today, on this last day of April, I offer a glimpse at a reflective practice that makes a wonderful habit for seeing creative connections coming to life or closure - or inviting you in for further exploration moving forward.

Join in for your month of April, if you like.

Here’s how: Flip through your art, sketchbooks, journals, planner pages, IG photos, book highlights, etc. for the last month or so - and acknowledge the moments and threads of connection that seem to speak to you today, as you softly welcome in the month of May.

I like simple approaches, and lists with an end in sight, these days.

So here’s my public April reView peek…

8 ways i’m being moved somehow this month

sketching, creative practice, Hali Karla
  • My art this past month has had a focus on the ever-healing subject of landscapes and dreamscapes. A returning focus for me. A blend and dance between studies abstracted, and abstractions with hints of reality. To ground in nature is an ultimate Source of connection and healing for me. To glorify, contemplate and explore her beauty and curiosities in my art-making practice is much the same. On one hand it is fun, messy textures, patterns and color experimentation; on the other hand, it is communion and witness that transforms something in me.

    I have some goodies to share here in May…

  • That said, I have spent a great deal of time this month creating video lessons and fun explorations of related things, that I can’t divulge much else about just yet. I love being able to create, encourage, teach, learn and share in this way, though - and can’t wait to tell you more about what’s cooking.

dream-catching, art journal creative practice, Hali Karla Arts
  • From a journal page: Am I a practitioner of anything at all if I’m always changing my approach? Or do I have a wider view to offer for that very experience of seeing and trying so many ways of exploring, expressing, finding, serving?

  • From another journal page, a capture. Not my words, but I tend to agree:

    The problem is when ritual takes the place of recognition and relationship. Yes, I feel that. I love a good ritual, but may we never forget how the ritual is intended to point us, to steer our steps toward presence with one another, our true self, our service, our Source.

landscape sketch study, acrylic painting on paper, Hali Karla Arts
  • So very thankful for precious in-the-flesh visits with soul-deep friends these past couple of months. Who have their eyes not focused on judgment of others, but set to discover Presence and transformation-invitations in their life and relationships. And their hearts set on becoming better, more loving humans as best they can.

    Thank you thank you thank you for all the good people of this world doing their self-awareness soulwork

  • Tomorrow is Beltane. And in April we ended another season that includes welcoming in the cycles of life, creation and relationship… Lent has moved into Easter. I have gone to an Easter vigil service in the dark of the morning for two years now.

    In many ways it takes me back to times around the sweat-lodge circle, felt truths about how we are all so much more alike than different…. There is fire outdoors and prayers and song, and recognition of light in the dark, and what it means to choose hope and live in reverence and gratitude for the gift of life. There is the moon, and then the sun in the sky above. I love this sort of observance and ritual for what it points to, and how it can anchor us in seasons, God’s love and intentional connection.

    I also made the mandala prayer circle below for a Lenten devotional this year. It came about in a contemplative painting session I enjoyed very much, and this month I received many warm words about the little touch of beauty it brought to the 40 day prayer lives of others.

prayer art mandala meditation for a parish lenten devotional, Hali Karla
  • Despite some resistance in this new season of my creative business, I decided to practice what I teach and trust my intuition come what may - and quietly opened registration for a live-online Creative Practice Circle, beginning May 29. There are some seats left to claim - i hope you’ll join us!

  • that’s 8 already? See how easy this is. There’s so much more - sometimes it’s enough to just see that.

    Let’s end with a few sources of inspiration and interest for me this past month.

    Perhaps they hold something for you:

    • The Creativity Habit podcasts hosted by Daphne Cohn - I don’t know who Jesh de Rox is, but his interview was full of gems, and that was my gateway to the rest of the podcast guests, which I’m still exploring

    • Did you know that there are 8 ways of Aboriginal learning? I woke up one day with 2 words in my head… 8 ways. So I googled it later that day. I do not pretend to know why that little breadcrumb trail showed up for me and I’m not oging to overthink it… but I resonated with the visual on that page immediately. Maybe it has something to do with the freaky large blue-cat in my dreams last night…

    • Want to remember things better, connect with them more, listen closer? Draw a Picture

    • Asia Suler - a local herbalist here in Asheville that some of you may know online (she taught in my program Spectrum a few years back) - recently spoke to why she rarely gets intuitive readings anymore, and her words resonated so deeply with why I have steered a bit away from astrology - which has been a big piece of my offerings the past two years.

      Right now, consulting the celestial placements is an unnecessary step in the practice of trusting my intuition.

      It has helped me greatly in the past with healing, and in building trust, awareness and acceptance for myself - and I do adore giving birth chart readings to those who want to explore one-on-one! It’s fun and really does awaken a sense of connection, life-awe, validation and challenge - and encourages expression and development of our truest selves.

      But for now, for me, I’m just not reaching for my own chart and transits anymore. I can feel the moon’s rhythms, and that’s plenty.

      I am practicing a deeper patience and surrender to my life experience, intuitive sense (of Spirit) and trust in a greater unfolding (knowing very well by now that my chart holds a reflection of even that).

      A season for everything, I suppose…

painting on panel wip, acrylic mixed-media, Hali Karla

As you end this month…

…you might also give a moment of quiet recognition for those in your life who are struggling or in times of grief or transition.

On my heart, in a wider sense, are prayers for all to have religious freedom and be able to worship and pray together however they choose, without fear. For those with no land or home, with desperation, trauma and uncertain futures and hungry, tired families to be welcomed, as worthy as any of us to the land of this earth we call home, but truly do not own at all.

April was rich, hard and full of beauty. One of those months where there was definite shifting within, even more than I can put my finger on. It’s an ongoing cycle after all, this creative path - not an arrival point.

I think I’ll continue to put my ear to the life and people in front of me, help when I can, choose trust and love, do my work and keep painting worlds about it for a bit…

How about you? Gratitudes, prayers, intentions? Feel free to share…

why does art even matter on days like today


There are some days when you wonder what good is art and art-making for. Why does it even matter? Really. How does it help this world be a better place, in this time?

A normal day can have this question floating around on the periphery anyway, thanks to a culture with backwards values or families/friends who don't get art, can't relate and think you should have chosen something different/more financially sound/more clearly of service or 'helpful' or understandable to society (whether they say that out loud or not).

And then there are those days when, on top of that, the hate and bigotry of the world comes crashing in loudly, when the suffering just lands a little more palpably on your heart, for whatever reason.

Picking up a paintbrush to make something can feel deeply insignificant on days like that. Days like today for me, with news of the New Zealand shooting.

I am an artist who paints and prays most every day, and yet how does that really matter in the face of religious bigotry and murder… an issue that enrages my mind and completely breaks my heart…?

Ultimately, though, I believe this unsettledness and questioning as an artist is a good and necessary thing.

Here are a few reasons…

It can move us to the action and connection that we are able to take and make, to learn more than we knew yesterday about 'others,' using the voice we do have to speak up and out and for the causes that break our hearts in the world.

Also, we get the privilege to choose to pick up the paintbrush (or what-have-you) anyway, because there is still This, Now, Right Here for Now... and to feel our smallness in that, and our sense of helplessness moving us into the life before us, and the complete blessing of that breathing, living moment to choose to do what we have been called to do.

And because art gives hope and beauty and expression to the despair AND the interconnectedness of our souls. Sometimes in process, sometimes on our wall, or on a doodle we kept from 20 years ago to help us remember who we are.

Sometimes the art is for the artist, sometimes for the {audience}.

This is the Mystery of Creative Spirit and the creative process moving through our lives, if we let it have time and space to be seen, to bring perspective to the precious moments.

As long as we are not using our creative activities to bypass or just numb-dumb out to what needs to be felt and given attention, but rather as a means to feel whole, to re-activate, to feel more deeply all that We are… then maybe it is not so insignificant after all, to pick up a paintbrush and move into heightened states of processing and awareness, witness and focus, at the altar of Being.

Being part of this messy human family.

It can all feel so utterly destructive and hopeless some days, like today - or any day you stay tuned in to the news lately, it seems… but after picking up my paintbrush anyway this afternoon, I remembered something else.

I believe art and creative expression are part of the ancient lineage of medicine for all of that.

Some of us are called to it, even though its place in the healing and function of this world is not always clear or ‘productively’ measurable.

It’s even part of how we can connect more deeply to the suffering, loss and the inconceivable, to what is needed or missing moving forward, to our part in it all… while keeping our channels open to what is sacred, beautiful, hopeful, connective and healing.

And that is the kind of creative energy that gives momentum to meaningful change, perspective and relationships in our lives.

Update: You can see the process video and musing for the painting I worked on, on this day, right here.

why art matters on those days when it seems like it just doesn’t (Hali Karla Arts)

how you interpret your creativity through time forms you | Creative Practice Care

How You interpret your creativity through time forms you | Creative Practice Care with Hali Karla Arts

It can be extremely nourishing and revitalizing to your creative practice and process to take the time to revisit and reflect on what you have created in the distant past and not so distant past. Markers in your own creative timeline, so to speak.

If you’ve taken a creative practice class with me, you know we often reflect at all points in the process to remind us who we are, who we were, where we come from, where we are right now and how we’d like to move forward.

When we finish filling a journal or art journal or sketchbook - it can be insightful to flip through and identify what themes, patterns, interests or subjects keep coming up for us, for instance. Or what colors, textures, shapes, media and imagery.

One thing leads to another… and how we root (or uproot) our focus really does matter. By doing a little conscious retrospecting, we can often see what has been right under our noses, so close… too close sometimes to bring into focus unless we do so intentionally, with a posture of openness to surprise.

Because it is so common to forget or lose sight of those inherent things that make each of us who we are, or to find our focus and energy diverted while those parts of us go unnourished.

Or to interpret our journey so critically or one-pointedly, or from such a big picture, that we fail to see the shining golden threads of who we are (becoming) woven into our ordinary marks, encounters, perceptions, makings and scribbles of our daily life.

Even in those stolen moments that can so easily feel like ‘not enough’ at the time, but are part of the bigger tapestry of our creative energy emerging and forming into something yet unseen.

How we see our practice and process matters.

Every act of interpretation
is also an act of formation.
— (unknown source)

So today, I invite you to take some time soon to recall and reflect on what you have created in your practices and life - in the distant past, the not-so-distant past, more recently… and what you’d like to remind yourself moving forward.

Don’t search too hard or make a big ol’ project out of it, though - I want you to actually get to it! You are worth it, I promise.

Just look around, flip through some of your boxes, stacks, photos, books or what-have-you, to trigger your memory. See what wants to be seen again, to be remembered and acknowledged.

Maybe you have a lot, or a little… just give it a go.

Notice what you finished, what felt good or not, what surprises or resonates now, and what wants to be picked up again... or what new leads you get just from considering. And always feel free to thank and release anything that does not serve who you are moving forward. Marie Kondo approved.

As you do this, don’t discount all of the creative energy that you put into the art of showing up and engaging with your actual life and relationships either - this is not just ‘art’ or craft or productive results we’re interested in, but in how we see creative spirit alive in all aspects of our lives, backward and forward in time.

Below, I share just a few of the paintings I was revisiting and reflecting on in January to center in the New Year cycle. They range from awhile ago, to more recently.

Then I share a reminder about guarding the tenderness of beginning and bringing something to life in our creative process and awareness.

This first is from seven years ago, not long after I made my way back into art-making…

mixed-media prayer painting on paper, Hali Karla

This painting rests on a top shelf in my studio in a large cardboard folder, with some other pieces from a gateway time of returning to art after some intense years in grad school and end-of-life nursing.

What I found when I returned, unencumbered by the weight of art school and 'fine artist' connotations that weren't helpful for my path, was an unleashing of creative energy in connection to healing, joy and intuition, and a grounding, sometimes trance-like zone or state of prayer.

This is still a strange thing to put words to... words will never touch it. Nonetheless, in the midst, I woke one morning with a sort of 'directive' in that state between sleep and waking. To ask for prayers... to listen, trust, pray, surrender... and paint what came of it. So even though it made me nervous as heck, I asked a very small readership online at the time if anyone wanted to submit a prayer from their life, for me to hold with them and pray over, and to add to a collective prayer painting.

And much to my surprise, over 40 women responded with in-depth stories and prayers.

I printed out those prayers and prayed for every one submitted, collaged them onto this 18x24" paper and began to paint. This is what came of it.

Some of you may remember this, or contributed, or may have one of the limited simple prints from that time. If so... (((thank you))).

It is just one intuitive painting, but it is a collection of prayers given lots of love and something visible to show for it, and it was a resonant turning point within my heart and direction.

Something in me began to see more clearly, wake up a little more, to parts of myself I had lost touch with and denied or had yet to express, to trusting that inner voice within, Holy Creative Spirit herself.

{this was my musing from day 11 of Tara Leaver’s #21daysinmyartworld challenge in January}

Here is another, a piece from 2017:

a commissioned intuitive birth chart mandala, mixed-media, Hali Karla

I sort of stumbled upon making these intuitive birth chart mandalas a few years ago because I was translating more birth charts than ever before for people.

(If you're not that familiar with astrology, it's not just memes, fortune-telling, cookie-cutter horoscopes or personality descriptions at all. It is a nuanced and dignified language that speaks quite well to the human experience and our interconnectivity with all of creation and Creative Source. Some call astrology the parent of modern psychology.)

Anyhow, I was in my head space with the analysis a lot, and needed an intentionally creative, intuitive approach to drop into my heart process with the bigger picture and get out of the way of what really wanted to be seen and shared via the tool of the chart.

So I would make these mandalas for each chart I was looking at. I didn't think much of it, but then when I shared them with others, people really seemed to like them, so occasionally I offered custom orders and sets for individuals.

They feel like little surprise 'celebrations' of each beautiful, unique, wonderfully made person that the respective chart speaks to. Each is one-of-a-kind, by the nature of my process with the chart that inspires it.

This one was a custom order.

{day 18: "celebrate" in #21daysinmyartworld}

And another, finished at the beginning of this year:

mixed media prayer painting on paper, Hali Karla

creation and contemplation. transformation. presence and seeing. withness. listening.

the moment of connective resonance, forgetting myself just long enough to be moved beyond myself and into the rivers of participation, emergence, expression, insight, unity.

inspiration (the noun) IS everywhere as our senses and associations delight and respond accordingly to what is before us in our inner and outer experiences - backwards, forwards and right here right now... we know inherently that everything is connected.

but INSPIRE is a verb... and this is what fills and fuels me most. the breathing of it - to be inspired, a reciprocity of sorts, between the observer and the observed - no matter the object of its incarnation.

i am inspired when i remember that all life and love done well and given our all is a sort of prayer like this. and that creative practice and prayer or contemplation is so often, for me, the ground where stillness breathes honestly, no more and no less, vibrating with the whisper of creation and Creator, into the moment of my own participation and activation.

the layers of inspiration and wholeness and engagement are infinite... what a gift to be alive to this.

{form day 8 #21daysinmyartworld challenge, over on Instagram}

Finally, a reminder for your practice and process, just in case this is the balm or nudge your creative heart needs today:

Creative Practice explorations with Hali Karla Arts

Your creative process, practice and art is first and foremost a sacred gift between you and Creative Source, worthy of healthy boundaries in honor of just how precious its incubation, first expressions and initial moments of formation can be.

Get a feel for the energy and relationship before you invite outside perception, perspective and distraction in. Let the true message or revelation of the encounter show itself.

I learn - and have to remember to remember this one - again and again, and find the dance to look different in different seasons, but mostly I feel best when I treat the whispers of my ordinary practice or unfolding creative vision and work with great care and respect, no matter how excited I might get to share in the early stages.

{from day 13: #21daysinmyartworld}

How you SEE and interpret your Creative Practice and energy matters, my friends. Backwards and forwards in time.

Who you let see and interpret your creations - and when - matters as well.

We get to learn about this with trial and error, as we figure out and evolve our own personal WHY for what we feel called to explore, experience and breathe life into.

How do you keep your creative heart, eyes, mind and spirit guarded with the care it deserves, and yet still wide open to what wants to be seen anew or for the first time in your process and life?