Value of Silence- Summer Art Camp reflections.

Silence gives answers ~ Rumi Reflecting on my 5th annual summer art camp where I had the joy of spending a creative week with a group of young art students.  I am thankful for their young energy.   They are PRESENT, … Continue reading

Independent Spirit- Summer Art Camp 2016

“We teach what we most need to learn” ~ Richard BachIMG_4809

The purpose of my art camp is for the students to feel what it is like to be an artist for a week. Similar to an artist that goes plein-air painting(painting in the open air) , one must have a basic plan and then be prepared to go with the flow. …

Despite a full week of rain… the camp was a success.

There was community, smiles and fun had by all. We did yoga, meditated, painted, explored different mediums, got a little dirty, hula hooped and played tag. Learned to thread a needle and make a stitch. Even climbed a few trees.

IMG_4739

Basic plan:

  •  SHOW UP– Be prepared. – Remember your sketchbook and lunch.
  •  FEEL INSPIRED– Set up, get grounded, paint and adapt.Due to rainfall, our physical yoga practice was 80% rained out, so we did other forms of yoga- mandalas, yoga-nidra, silent meditative walk and sketching.

  •  EXPLORE /GATHER INFORMATION

    Learn from the masters. Canadian artists-Group of Seven and Janet Mitchell.
    IMG_4802

    Learn from local living artists. Thank you to the guest artists who shared their love of art and creative skills during the week. Nothing like hands on experience to gain a greater appreciation of the mastery they have achieved in their work.

    Lenny Lane-Printmaker, Linocut prints

Susan Fae Haglund, Fiber artist,- Fabric Bird Sculptures

Shauna Mireault, Dotty Mandala Rocks

 

  • WORK HARD– Hours of creating was accomplished.
    IMG_4666
  •  MEET A DEADLINE– Art show on final day.

They worked hard towards the final art show. Each student was allowed to choose their final acrylic painting project based on what inspired them.  We stuck to the basic plan and adapted when necessary.

My Aha teaching/learning moment happened while I was doing a demonstration for my 8-year-old student.

After watching me for a few minutes, she questioned me as I held her brush in my hand.
“Isn’t this my painting?” She asked.
“Absolutely!” I replied.  I was busted, caught in the act of creating my students work.
A clear reminder…Hands off teacher! Children have the amazing ability to know what they want and they generally go for it.

I smiled as I watched her confidently finish her painting while her little hips swayed to the music. She was in the flow…. this is where the magic happens!

IMG_4752

 

The “Independent Spirit of the Artist” is the quality that shines the most.

This quality needs to be polished and protected. It is what makes us all unique. It is what makes art exciting and original. When I see them dancing, smiling and generally proud! I am again reminded that art is about the individual joy of the creator. The beauty is the result that can be shared and felt by others.

Whether you witness the experience first hand or walk in a museum to look at art. There is a sense of wonder. Where it came from? How was it created? What was the inspiration? Who was the artist?

I was honored to spend a week with these 9 artists, independent spirits, young minds and future leaders.

Michelle Austen

Summer Art Camp 2016

In Creative Spirit,

Michelle

“ What I learned- you have to remove the inhibition.   Children don’t have inhibitions. Anything goes when they’re drawing or painting. Then, there comes a period, when they start tightening up, when they want to do things as they see them. It’s very hard to knock down those barriers.’ ~Janet Mitchell

Energy Exchange

DSC_9336.jpgLet’s Stretch our limits 16×40 Oil

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”~Buddha

If you have been practicing yoga at Moksha Yoga Calgary North, you may have noticed the changing art on the walls. I am the Artist and also a fellow yogini. Since the studio opened I have been doing an energy exchange- art for yoga.  The perfect trade!

My love of art and yoga has always had a way of overlapping in my life. I knew from the first day of my 200 hour yoga teacher training that even though both activities are very different, they have many similar philosophies.

Coming from a fitness background… somewhere along the line I decided that teaching yoga would be more sustainable to teach while I continued to pursue my art career.  I thought I would not be so tired.  WOW- I was in for a rude awakening.   I had only a few downward dogs under my belt and barely knew what a sun salutation was…let alone teach it to someone else. My poor teacher, he had his work cut out for him and truth be known, so did I!

I remember very clearly that exact moment in time, sitting on my mat, writing in my journal…it was my big “AHA” moment.  I realized why I was in the training. It was not about the perfect downward dog.  It was not to save the world, heal others, share my dimming light…it was to save me, heal me and make my light shine brighter.

In my heart, I felt like I was home.…The practice has a perfect way of meeting us where we are at…

A year later, I finished my training and that day I began my practice. I practiced everyday for 40 days. It changed my world. I surrounded myself in community and was blessed to have many great teachers. There was never a day that I did not walk out of a yoga class feeling lighter and more whole. Over 10 years later, many trainings and a lifelong commitment, I still feel the same way.

I admit that many times I fall off the train. But just like falling out of a tree pose, or being too busy to paint, I remember why I made the commitment and that I can make the choice to step back on the train at any time.

I began my yoga practice with intention to help others.   I now realize that finding the practice of yoga was a gift to me.   The gift of community, with the bonus of keeping my body strong, my breath flowing and my mind clear.   The beauty is, with the clarity and strength I gained from the practice, I can help other by sharing what I have learned.

Whether I am doing a headstand or holding a brush at my easel, I am very aware that both are rare opportunities to really be awake.  Present moment awareness – was the common feeling for me.  The feeling I wish to share.

“Yoga is the art work of awareness on the canvas of body, mind, and soul.” ― Amit Ray

Present moment awareness-I know this feeling intimately. It happens when I paint well, listen intently and practice with grace.  To me… ‘Waking up’ means being present enough to feel, be authentic and to gain the capacity of responding rather than reacting.

It is what I love and why I have made both painting and yoga a consistent practice in my life. It is where I get to feel most alive.  My career as an artist is growing and these days I spend my days painting, teaching art and sharing my yoga practice in my art camps and retreats.

I am honored and grateful to share my art in such a sacred beautiful space where it can be seen and felt.  It is the perfect energy exchange.

Namaste,

Michelle

http://www.michelleausten.ca

 “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”~Walt Disney

 

 

Beneath a Coat of Snow

IMG_1962

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”   ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am officially calling a sick day. My head is full of cold and my feet feel like they are full of cement.

As I sit on my couch in my fuzzy red comfortable robe at 2pm, I am watching the snow fall gently onto the earth. I am not feeling at all guilty to be taking a sick day. There is a lightness in the air, objects are slightly blurry and the colors I see are mostly soft and covered in white snow. It is quiet and I am grateful to have a day of rest and reflection.

Almost a year ago, I planned a trip to Virginia to see my cousin and her family. The trip was perfectly planned around the famous Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.   I packed my sketchbook and paints and was set out to have an art adventure, to be inspired by new sites, especially of the beautiful spring cherry blossoms that I have heard so much about.   I LOVE to travel-it is eye-candy for the senses. There is also the unexpected. Many times things do not go as planned yet when you learn to embrace the present moment, they can still go perfectly as intended…   Don’t fight the process.

On my first day in Virginia, I awoke to a similar scene as I am looking at today. Snow was gently falling and there was a chill in the air.

My cousin, Alexis and I are 7 years apart and really had only met each other less than a dozen times in our life. Yet, I felt like I was home, we shared the same grandmother, pictures in her home and stories we shared were familiar to me. We also both loved going for coffee and eating similar things. It was easy and fun to be with her.

She was a gracious host and showed me all the sites.

Despite the cold, cool temperatures we bundled up and headed out to see the memorials in Washington, DC. It was apparent that I needed a history lesson (or to watch more TV) when I pointed to a large pencil like structure and asked “What is that?” With huge eyes and a sly smile she replied “The Washington Monument.”

And so began my tour…

Washington MonumentIMG_0282

Disclaimer: Just to make me feel better – I did recognize the White House immediately. I am also happy to say I can name all the memorials now when I see them in the movies. The bonus of travel for a visual person is education.  Did I mention that I am Canadian?

National World War II Memorial

National World War II Memorial

Korean Monument

Korean Monument 

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

We made our way through the memorials one by one. Alexis was being an amazing tour guide. Explaining to me that the Korean memorial was her favorite. as it touched her and her family. They really are amazing to see in person. There was a shallow pool approximately 2 ft deep surrounded by granite with engraving that said how many soldiers were killed, captured, missing or wounded. I was looking all around taking pictures, feeling somber and reflective, when the energy changed.

I hear someone shouting- Lady in the pool!! I take a deep breath, turned around to see that my dear cousin had taken one wrong step backwards and over she went, catching her foot in granite that actually said “wounded.” Weird coincidence? Hmm, not sure. The world seemed to stop for a moment. As I pulled her out of the pool , others were most concerned about the fact that her brand new I-phone was laying peacefully face down on the bottom of the pool. “The phone!” strangers screamed. I looked at the pretty salmon colored case face down in the pool and thought, “I need a stick”. I look up and a woman is waving her cane. We make eye contact – A little miracle- an angel sent her- I am sure. I borrowed the cane and pulled the phone close enough for a kind boy with long arms to reach in and retrieve her phone, complete with instructions on what to do to recover the phone.   The concern for the phone was a little alarming actually…I was more concerned about my cousin.

I look over at her, she is dripping wet, shivering and totally in shock. We walk over to sit down and reassess the situation.   Breathe….

We broke out into laughter. I had learned in yoga, The vibration of laughing and crying is almost the same, the release of energy in the body is what is important. We chose laughter.

Did that just happen? Was that for real? Was that a bad dream? Gut rolling laughter was what emerged right before survival skills kicked in.  A cab ride, extra layers of clothes, a cold pack, motrin and a few bloody mary’s later. We had reflected, laughed and ended up with a free desert at the restaurant in honor of the Best story of the Day. She was my hero that day.

She's a Trooper- Arlington Cementary- We are Alive and Moving- crutches and all!

She’s a Trooper- Arlington Cementary- We are Alive and Moving- crutches and all!

The next day while icing her elevated ankle , we wondered, “What was the purpose of that? “

Maybe we needed some comic relief in our somber moment? Not sure. We both agreed the spirits got a good giggle. (about the present moment awareness, not about her injured ankle.)

Maybe we needed to feel the kindness of others?     Not sure.

Maybe we needed to be here right now!    

That is for sure!

With Lightness and Love and Gratitude for family and travel,

Michelle

The tile under my feet at the Lincoln Memorial. I HAVE A DREAM!

The tile under my feet at the Lincoln Memorial.
I HAVE A DREAM!

Ps/ And for those concerned about the phone- it worked perfectly- Magic!