I was thrilled to get an email from The Teahouse Studio in Berkeley, CA to let me know that a place on Flora Bowley’s workshop had become available and would I like to take it. Yes was my reply done in seconds. I was thrilled, I was on a wait list and so wanted to experience a Flora workshop. I had read so much about her workshops and love her work however every workshop I was interested in was sold out for just about the whole year – wow, I was disappointed until I got this spot.
The Workshop was called “Bloom True – A two day Adventure with Flora Bowley”. Some of the description was: “Let go. Be bold. Unfold. Letting go of expectation and allowing your art to unfold. The emphasis is on finding your own true voice and allowing your personal expression to bloom and grow with flow and ease. There are no mistakes here”. Well that sounds pretty amazing and I am all in.
I shipped all my paints, sponges, palette knives directly to the studio with a return label already printed inside along with tape for the return journey. I felt super organized and didn’t want to deal with all my art things in my checked luggage and therefore could travel only with hand luggage. Flora provides two large 30 x 30″ canvases for you to work on.
Flora’s process and teaching was fascinating and a contrast to what artists are usually taught to plan you composition, sketch it and to have expectations how it will look. Instead she suggests that this approach will just get in your way. She suggests you paint in layers and see what organically appears and work intuitively, or should I say rather PLAY intuitively. Stepping back from your canvas often, turning it around, upside down and just trusting the process and following your heart and seeing how it unfolds. She calls it spiraling in and spiraling out. Should you feel stuck she suggests you find an area on your canvas that is working and add more of those colors to the rest of your canvas.
As we painted in layers it was important to have the two canvases as you would let one dry as you worked on the other. First we just got a layer of colors on the canvases to cover the white canvas so it was not so intimidating. A lot of the attendees had never worked on big canvases before and were nervous to work on such a large white canvas. I love to work on large canvases and do so often so I actually found the canvas small!
She had us work with a warm palette, reds, oranges and yellows, let it dry, and then work in a cool palette, greens and blues, let it dry (work on the other canvas). This was to ensure that no one had the challenge of ending up with muddy colors. We then added lights and darks – white and black to each canvas. She demonstrated everything on her own canvas and showed us multiple ways of making marks, designs, and etchings on the canvas and directed and talked us all through adding all the different techniques to the canvases. We then were free to add any colors from our heavy bodied or fluid acrylics such as the magenta’s, purples and as a final layer some iridescents such as bronze or silver.
In fact we all did something most interesting and that is we went around the room in a clockwise rotation adding marks to each canvas until we found ourselves back at our canvas which had been altered considerably by each person making their mark on it. Some people really struggled with this, other people painting on THEIR painting feeling ownership however I found it absolutely thrilling. It really did not matter if you did not like how it looked as you would be able to cover up anything by painting over it. One of the core themes that Flora was sharing is that you can change your painting in seconds which is very freeing – so there are no mistakes.
The point is to have enormous fun. Music was playing and we were dancing. Flora has also trained in massage therapy and yoga and believes that movement in your whole body while painting rather than just moving your hand and arm is important and helpful to your process. She also stops the class periodically to stretch, shake out limbs and refresh. We also did some visualization and reflection on certain subjects along with Flora reading us some interesting and thought provoking quotes.
It was quite fascinating of the 24 participants how incredibly different all the works were. The course was about the process and not about the finished results. Many participants found this experience very freeing and were extremely excited about the whole process working in a way that was totally new to them, inspiring and revolutionary.
This was a new way for me to work and when I returned home and showed my canvases to my husband he said he would think that a different artist had done these (not me) which shows how different they are from my usual work. They were both unfinished and I had to take them off the stretcher bars to roll the canvases so I could carry them on the plane ride home. I will stretch them again myself.
I shall experiment lots more using these techniques and see how it goes and what I create. It is always fascinating and inspiring to work in a different way and I love to be open to new ways of working – you never know what may happen! and that is exciting. This was an amazing workshop and I highly recommend that you make time to attend one of her workshops as you will learn so much and paint in a new natural way with no expectations and just have fun which is what is all about as far as I am concerned.
Flora also offers an online course which a couple of the participants had completed and raved about. I believe the next one is in June. Please find details and see her beautiful work at www.florabowley.com and also at www.braveintuitiveyou.com.
The Teahouse Studio offers many classes and on this workshop also provided the most delicious lunches which was such a delight not having to go out and find nourishment in a short window that often ends up being rushed and stressful. They provided fresh coffee, teas and juices that made such a difference. The whole experience was blissful. Thank you Teahouse Studio – www.teahouseartstudio.com.
Let me know any workshops you have taken that you loved so we can all share and benefit from your experiences. Do you feel you work intuitively?