This very special Do What You Love interview is with one of our very own partners – someone who has done what she loves for many years, staying true to herself regardless of whether she is going through times of financial hardship or abundance, sadness or joy.
Flora Bowley is one of the most incredible painters I know, but more than that, she lives her life the way she paints – bravely, intuitively and with a huge smile on her face. Therefore we could not think of anyone more perfect to discuss the theme of bravery than her. Flora has encouraged thousands of people all over the world to embrace their creativity, and one of her most powerful tools is to instill in them the need to be brave.
1. How are you leading a life ‘doing what you love’?
I’m happy to say my days are quite filled with doing what I love. I am passionate about helping people light or re-ignite their creative fire while discovering the transformational powers inherent in the creative process. I am able to reach people in this way through my in-person retreats, online classes and book, Brave Intuitive Painting.
When I’m not teaching, painting or writing, I spend my time biking, practicing yoga, making soup, communing with mossy forests and enjoying my vast creative community here in Portland, OR… all things I LOVE!
2. Why do you do what you do?
For many years, I dedicated my life and made my living as a painter simply because painting was my biggest passion… it’s what lit me up. However, as time passed, I started to feel the call for more service in my life. In a world in desperate need of healing in so many ways, I wanted to make a difference beyond just painting pretty paintings. I found this service in teaching. By helping others to let go and express themselves creatively, I’m actually helping to facilitate a personal healing. This is what motivates me to do this work.
3. When did you know that you wanted to do what you are doing?
I’ve always known that I was an artist and that making art came very naturally to me. However, the concept of teaching art only surfaced about three years ago. I never could have imagined how all my passions – painting, personal growth, movement therapy, music and community – could weave their way together in this beautiful and powerful way!
4. Why is it important to be brave when creating? Can you give us some examples of this when painting?
It’s easy to become stuck in creative routines when you start to understand what “works,” what is comfortable and what is familiar in terms of materials, style and approach. You might ask yourself, “If something is working and it’s easy, why change it?”
I believe this is where bravery comes into play.
Falling into stagnant patterns can be dangerous territory, especially if you are creating intuitively. For example, if you decide what colors and imagery you want in your painting before you make your first brush mark, you close yourself off to every other possibility. By attaching to a pre-conceived idea, you stand in the way of your own creative impulses.
On the other hand, when you start painting with a curious and open mind, trust in yourself and the ability to improvise, you give yourself the gift of infinite creative possibility. I consider this to be a very brave and intuitive way of approaching the creative process — one that often results in vibrant unexpected creations.
It’s also important to be brave when you feel creatively stuck or broken down. Often times, this kind of fear is the result of not wanting to “mess something up,” but I believe great breakthroughs often live just on the other side of difficult breakdowns…if you are brave.
I often encourage my students to make a brave move when they are feeling stuck. This might mean turning the canvas upside down, choosing a new color, adding a bold image or moving the paint around in a new way. I am also quick to remind them that IT’S JUST PAINT.
Why not be brave?
5. You recently undertook a special project to live paint ‘under the influence’ of some special fragrances. Can you tell us about that – how did this additional sensory input affect your creating experience?
Yes, this was a really interesting collaboration. For a couple of weeks, I took a flower essence called, Infinite Love by Lotus Wei, in many forms throughout the day. Quickly, I noticed its effects. I found myself making more loving choices in my life, both towards myself and others, and I generally felt more light and present. When I created the painting, I added the essence to the water I mix my paints with and kept myself bathed in the beautiful spray all day. I also experimented by using actual flowers as paintbrushes.
The experience was really uplifting and fun. The painting flowed out effortlessly (lots of lush reds!) and we caught the whole thing on video. I’m loving all the different collaborations I’m doing these days…it’s so interesting to see what happens when you add a new ingredient to the mix!
6. We know you spend a lot of time travelling. Where in the world do you go for inspiration, and what do you find when you are there?
I’ve always loved to travel to get out of my comfort zone and find inspiration in other cultures and places. I’d have to say, my favorite places are Bali, Thailand and Mexico at the moment. I find different things in each of these places, but the common threads are a deep connection to Spirit, lush vibrant colors and wonderful people.
7. In your online course ‘Bloom True’ you encourage everyone to be braver in their everyday lives. What difference will this make to them?
I believe there is a very powerful correlation between how we create and how we live our lives. I also believe the creative process offers us a wonderful and safe place to practice whatever it is we need more of in our lives. For example, when we practice being brave when we paint, we forge new pathways in our brains that allow us to become more and more brave in our everyday lives.
If you imagine every new day as a new blank canvas, it’s easy to see how the painting process can inform your life. From the moment you wake up, you are faced with infinite choices. Will you choose to be brave or will allow your fear to run the show? In essence: Will you choose love or will you choose fear?
The more we choose to be brave, the more opportunities open up to us…both on the canvas and off.
8. What are the tough parts of being a professional artist?
Until somewhat recently I would have said paying the bills was the hardest part of being a professional artist, but my various endeavors are now taking care of me in that way which I’m crazy grateful for. I think the hardest part now is just keeping up with said various endeavours. So much of my work now involves writing, working on my computer, teaching and travelling. It’s easy to fill my days up without ever touching my paints at all. Time management is definitely something I’m still working on.
9. You are a gifted teacher who has delivered workshops in person and online to thousands of people worldwide. What do YOU get from teaching, and how do you stay inspired when you teach your process over and over again?
For me, the process of teaching is satisfying on a soul level because, like I said, it feels like an act of service and healing. I love witnessing how my process of intuitive painting allows people to unlock their creativity, free up, let go of perfection, become more in tune with their intuition and practice courage. It literally gives people an opportunity to “try on” all these ways of being that they might want to be more of in their life in a way that is really fun, forgiving and tangible.
I’m often amazed by the transformation that can happen in just a few hours, and to me, this never gets old. In fact, teaching this process feels like a never-ending adventure because it’s all about responding to the moment… and the moment is always changing! This is exactly why painting (and living, for that matter) never feel boring to me… there is definitely a parallel there.
10. What is your wish for the world?
I’m pretty sure most of the wounds of the world would heal if all people could experience a life full of purpose, health, equality, creativity and love. I wish for that.
All images courtesy of Flora Bowley. You can find out more about Flora at her website and follow her on Facebook and/or Twitter. To find out more about Flora’s on-line course Bloom True (which starts on Monday!) click here.
BLOOM TRUE: the e-course starts on Monday.
There are only a few places left. Register now so you don’t miss out.
‘Bloom true: the e-course’ presents a groundbreaking and transformational approach to painting (and living) that celebrates intuition, connects body, mind and spirit and allows unique and expressive paintings to emerge naturally and authentically.