Healing Arts to Help Victims of School Shootings

To aid victims of school violence, Joy’s Garden healing art project encourages painting to promote processing trauma.

The Painting Lesson Virtual Studio is FREE, as well as the CreativSOUP Facebook Group. Healing art posters will be donated by artist Dorothy Fagan to victims. joysgarden.org for information

My heart is breaking for these kids at the school in Florida. Watching the violent attack on the news, rattled me to the core. I can’t get it off my mind. How many young people, 3,000 at that one school alone, were traumatized. We have a whole generation of young people growing up in a war zone.

Watching them, I felt my own traumas flooding back all over again. And it makes me keenly aware of just how much healing this generation of young people will need. How to even begin?

I received an email from a fellow artist this morning, Brainard Carey writes, “We face the reality of another school shooting in the US, the 18th, by expert accounts, in the calendar year. That’s a rate of over 2.5 per week so far in 2018. Atrocities against children. As we all struggle to deal with this latest disruption of our already fragile sense of security, art can offer a path to healing for so many.

“Art is a language through which that which cannot be spoken is portrayed. Art heals, it exposes, it decries and demands. Art disturbs and disrupts our comfort zones and requires that we re-calibrate how we encounter the world.

“As an artist, you are the voice box, so to speak, of a world that is full of indescribable cruelty. You bring beauty and truth, you offer an unedited look inside the mess that is humanity.

“The responsibility you carry is great. The burden is heavy. Do not leave the details that may be an obstacle to getting your message out to the world to chance. Find the path to optimum exposure and pursue it relentlessly.

“Absorb your community and let it absorb you, dive deep in the waters of those who share your spark and passion. Let them hold you up as you, in turn, hold them up. No one with a message so powerful that it compels them to follow a career path as precarious as this can possibly exist without a village. Find yours and hold tight.

“Make art that speaks loudly to your journey, your beliefs, your convictions, and to the way you want to see the world changed forever. Do not for one moment let anyone tell you that this is an impossible endeavor. Find a way. Insist.

“As we reel in the losses that will become more clear over the coming days, it is impossible to ignore how fleeting life itself really is. What are you waiting for? Do it today. Take charge and make your future one that you want to live. Make it count. Fall and fail but do not give up.

“Remember the words of George Bernard Shaw:

“A life spend making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

“Do something. Your moment is now.”

Something clicked into place as I read his last words. Immediately I knew what to do with the paintings on my easel. Unlike anything I’ve painted before, this new series is colorful, whimsical, and joyful.

inspirational art as prayer poster
Falling Stars Wash Dreams Ashore

The titles are longer than ever before. Titles like, “Prayers Go Up, Stars Light the Sky”, and “Falling Stars Wash Dreams Ashore,” and “My Heart Rising Radiates Passion & Dreams.” And the posters and wall decals with those prayers and artwork that have been floating in my mind ~ suddenly have a destination and purpose.

inspirational wall decal poster
Wall Decal or Poster, Prayers Go Up, Stars Light the Sky

I am donating Free Virtual Studio here on The Painting Lesson to anyone who wishes to use it. The CreativSOUP Facebook Group is Free to participate as well.

In addition, I have set up Joy’s Garden on my art website and will donate a poster for every three sold to anyone you name. Learn more and participate in the Joy’s Garden Healing Arts Project.

If you prefer, you can donate to the project by sponsoring. 

Art as Prayer, A Studio Practice

People ask me how I get my colors? Which pigments I use? Why my paintings seem to glow so?

The answer may surprise you.

Art as Prayer, My Studio Practice

I have a sacred relationship with my easel. Standing at my easel, I think of myself as a blank canvas for the Creator.

To me the act of painting is my way of praying. What I pray for is peace. Mostly I listen. I don’t know what color goes where, or which ones to use. I ask the Creator to show me.

One by one, the colors reach out and attract my eye. One by one, I place them where they belong. As if replacing them in a jig-saw puzzle turned up-side down and backwards by life itself.

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My daily practice of painting feels humbling and exhilarating.

I await instructions before I begin painting. When the Creator speaks quickly, my hand darts rapidly without thinking. My brush looks like an EKG needle stroking art beats across the page.

When the Creator says stop, I stop.

When it slows, I walk to the stool across the room and rest. As in music, this resting part is a critical part of the rhythm of the Creator’s voice.

Learning the rhythm, how to wait for the downbeat, when to go up tempo, takes many years of practice. Practice does not necessarily make perfect. Perfect is not the point.

Practice is the point. Period. How to accept the Creator’s gifts freely?

Practicing with each stroke to find the gift in each is the biggest challenge. Practicing this flexes the faith muscle. Faith grows stronger. (My confirmation name was Faith, I got it from my Aunt Agnes.) Faith develops resiliency and flexibility. She finds the dark days seem easier to navigate.

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Practicing Prayer through he’ART

I found  three paintings from the garden when I was cleaning out a cabinet in the studio. Looking at them again nearly five years after Dad’s passing, I remembered it was the week after Dad died when I’d painted them.

I noticed something else too. Looking at them, I no longer felt sad. I feel glad I painted them. I feel humbled. I am glad I took the time to paint that day. I had no idea the terrible dark paintings would come back and lift me up so.

I feel honored. I feel proud to have been his eldest daughter, had such a long relationship of 60 years with him. And peace, most of all I feel peace. I feel peace in knowing his guidance in creativity, art, and life brought me to this peaceful place.

I believe you can see this place of peace and joy in my art now. The paintings at the top of the page are my newest prayers. Painting them feels like being a girl again. I call them Joy’s Garden.

This spring I am hosting a very special Art as Prayer Retreat, I invite you to join me. We’ll be painting in some of my favorite painting locations near my home in Mathews County, Virginia.  For twenty years, I’ve painted remote beaches, private gardens, coastal marsh sanctuaries, and villages. I invite you to come try using art as prayer. You don’t have to be an expert at art, just willing to pray.

Learn more about my Virginia Art as Prayer Retreat

How a Dream Becomes Real A Prayer for Peace Tuscan Sunrise

I’ve been praying for peace in my life ever since things went crazy. When Mom was ill, I prayed silently with my paint brush.

After she passed, I didn’t really think about it ~ I just kept doing it. This new relationship with the Creator and my easel set my dreams in motion.

Dorothy Fagan painting in Tuscany

My heart melted when I saw the view from my balcony in Tuscany. My easel stayed there day and night, sunrise sunset.

Tramonto Toscano, oil on panel c2016 Dorothy Fagan
Tramonto Toscano, oil on panel

When the notion of painting in Tuscany first entered my mind ~ it seemed impossible. How could I possibly spend nine weeks away from home, my routine, my family?

I did what I have always done with unanswerable questions. I took them to the easel. This time I used watercolor ~ a more fluid, spontaneous medium. “Tuscan Dream” is my prayer, “is this possible? how?”

Tuscan Dream watercolor, c2015 Dorothy Fagan
Tuscan Dream, watercolor,

“Tuscan Sunrise” was the answer I received. I painted it on the balcony of my apartment in Poggio Alla Croce nine months after the watercolor.

Alba Toscana, (Tuscan Sunrise), oil on panel c2015 Dorothy Fagan
Alba Toscana, (Tuscan Sunrise), oil on panel

The vision for “Florence Sunrise” appeared from the balcony six weeks later. Usually the mountain beyond Florence was not visible. It was usually covered in mist. On this morning, sunlight poured into the valley lighting Florence and everything with it.

I started the painting that morning. Illusive at first, the colors changed as I tried to paint them. I finally completed the painting in Virginia the following year.

florence sunrise c2017 Dorothy Fagan
Florence Sunrise, oil on panel, Purchase>

That same year I began painting another view. There’s likely another post about this painting. It went through many versions before finally settling into this one.

What’s really important about it is the house and field on the near mountain at the left. You can see it in the painting above, and in the shadows of the sunset view as well.

Florence Vista, oil on canvas, c2016 Dorothy Fagan
Florence Vista, oil on canvas, Purchase

The reason it’s important is that that same house and field appear in THIS painting, and ALL the others that follow. They were painted BEFORE I went to Tuscany!

Embrace of the Mountain III, oil and charcoal on canvas, c2015 Dorothy Fagan
Embrace of the Mountain III, oil and charcoal on canvas

“Embrace of the Mountain” was painted about three months before I left for Tuscany. In this painting, the house and field are inverted ~ and so is the mountain.

If this painting were a dream, I would say the house represents my consciousness, and the field my garden ~ and the mountain, my immovable issues! Yes, your’re right ~ my house is tiny! And so is my garden. And the mountain dominates the picture.

The fact that it’s inverted in really important. It’s important because that is EXACTLY what I had done with my mountain of issues. I embraced them. I started thinking of them a golden opportunities for wisdom, blessings, and divine guidance.

In other words ~ I started listening!

Every time I stubbed my toe on that great big mountain, I reminded myself that it was the Creator’s way of getting my attention. I retrained myself to stop running away, and just stop and listen for answers.

Waking Dream 3 c2017 Dorothy Fagan
Waking Dream III,  oil and charcoal on canvas, Purchase>

I started noticing things I’d never noticed before. For example, “Waking Dream III” was painted nearly two years after returning. I know I said BEFORE, I did. That’s because this painting was inspired by the pastel below ~ one that I found in my sketchbox from 2012!

Waking Dream II, pastel, c2012 Dorothy Fagan
Waking Dream II, pastel, Purchase

A friend came by the studio and pulled it out. After she’d gone, I noticed it looked like the ones on my easel from Tuscany. That’s what got me inspired to do the mixed media one above it.

I noticed other things too.

the Phoenix, c2017 Dorothy Fagan
The Phoenix, oil on linen panel, Print>  Original>

This one is another good example. “The Phoenix,” I started in France 2013. I repainted it several times in France, and again when I returned home. Then I set it aside thinking I’d never get it right.

Painting the two above, I repainted this one as well. This time I noticed something I’d not seen before. You can see the abstract phoenix shape of the mountain wings, tail feathers poking into the foreground ~ by the shift in colors.

This time the house in centered and the mountains have BECOME wings!

Journey's End c2015 Dorothy Fagan
Journey’s End (Prayer for Peace,) oil and willow charcoal on canvas, Purchase Print>

Also painted the spring BEFORE I left for Tuscany, this one shows the vision ~ of what was to come. The mist, the mountain top vantage point, and the fertile fields.

The two cypress trees at the far left are the “Two Sisters,” a nudge from the Creator about my relationship with my soul sister. But that’s another story.