In October of 2013 I attended a 4 day painting workshop with Flora Bowley called Bloom True Boston. I will attempt to adequately describe my experience and subsequent transformation that occurred during this magical retreat, held at the gorgeous Hitched Studios in Charlestown, MA. Can you see how joyfully content I am in the above photographs?
Being that my days are typically centered around my kid’s schedules, I was psyched to have 4 full days to indulge in the creative process with a fantastic group of like-minded people. The studio space was perfect, nice and large, and bright and filled with warmth. The vibe could not have been better. I was immediately greeted by Flora as I walked in the first day, and if you follow her blog or have taken her online workshop, she is just as she presents herself online-warm, confident, and open.
We began with setting our intentions and sharing them with the group while placing a rock into the bowl of water on the alter. Then after a few words of welcoming and introducing ourselves, Flora began the first layer of her demo painting. Take a look at the progress of that painting below. She sure makes it look easy!
Flora is a truly inspired teacher, and I can honestly say that she has impacted me more as a student than any other teacher I have had. And I have completed graduate school, so that says A LOT! The reason I say this is because she taught me how to create in a manner that allows me to find joy in the process of painting. I used to be very self-critical and tended to put too much emphasis on the theory or concept behind my work. As a result, the creation process became more of an internal struggle and battle, and it did not feel good.
Flora teaches a method of painting that is very forgiving, allows for spontaneity, experimentation, and mystery. It is about letting go and not setting out with a particular notion of what the final painting should look like.
And then it was our turn to paint! We were each given 3 canvases and told that they were not really ours, and that we would be working collaboratively with 2 partners of Flora’s choosing. It was unknown which canvases we would actually go home with. Wow- that is both scary and liberating! I took this as a huge opportunity for a lesson in letting go of what what my canvas looked like, and decided that I would focus on learning from my fellow painters instead.
We all quickly connected with one another, as such an open environment tends to foster a strong sense of community. Emotions were running high and intense, as we all went though various stages of joy, self-doubt, bliss, contentment, criticism, and hope. It is all a part of the process, but what Flora tries to cultivate is a positive and affirmative realm, free of negative feelings and filled with a sense of wonder, fun, and playfulness.
Ok, so it feels a bit vulnerable to show you my artwork because for me, none of it is done. They are all works in progress, which I have continued to manipulate over the past 2 weeks. When they are complete, I will show you the final results- promise!
If you are interested in taking a class with Flora, you are in luck! She regularly travels the world teaching workshops (Bali, Ireland, or Mexico anyone?), but she also offers a fantastic online class that is incredible. In all cases, get on her mailing list for announcements and register early because spaces fill quickly!
We spent many, luxurious hours, actually painting. There was a natural rhythm that our days took on. Beginning the day with a group gathering for a lesson and demo by Flora, and then a collaborative ‘duet’ painting experience, a break for lunch, then more independent painting and chatting while grooving to some great tunes. Oh- and we took regular dance movement breaks too- so fun if you can let go of feeling self-conscious. Our day always culminated in a final gathering while Flora left us with some pearls of wisdom.
The final day ended with an impromptu gallery showing of our accomplishments. As we all packed up we promised to keep in touch. It has only been a couple of weeks since the workshop ended, but so far we are very much engaged with and supporting one another. I hope it will continue for a long time.