Dear Friends,

I’m glad you’re here connecting in this way. After my last email about Iona, I received many wonderful replies; people so kindly appreciating my poem and telling of their pilgrimages to Iona and other places. How rich is this Life?! I’ve replied personally, and again say thank you for sharing experiences close to your heart.

I wanted to share a little of what came before my visit to Iona; the other pilgrimage to Charleston in East Sussex, UK, the farmhouse home of Vanessa Bell and hub of the Bloomsbury set. Interested in the paintings of Bell for some years, their freshness, courage of mark and the marriage of sensitive and bold use of colour remain captivating. I wanted to walk in her spaces and feel what that was like. Homely, gentle, resolute, steadfast, broadly creative and delightfully eclectic are words/phrases that come to mind. I must say though, I felt like an intruder in her bedroom (the above photo).

These qualities also describe my late grandmother Kathleen and her home, ongoing sources of inspiration. Nana never spoke of her early years in London before WW1 where she lived at the same time as Vanessa Bell (nee Stephens), however the modernist influence was evident in her architectural style, bohemian sense of aesthetics and living with much greater freedom than most!

However, the creatively adventurous era of Modernism was heavily impacted by World War I. The West emerged with more industry, the advent of ‘stress’ and less believing in the restorative aspects of art; the highest expressions of humanity.

Early in the 20th Century, Carl Jung predicted the cultural loss of soulfulness. While words associated with transcendent states, such as ‘divine’ and ‘sacred’ have been mistrusted, ridiculed as ‘woo woo’ or misappropriated by marketing, people’s seeking has been causing a turning of the tide at least since the late 1940’s. DT Suzuki’s lectures at Columbia University at the time, were well attended by many artists who were to become renowned. For one thing, the extraordinary era of American Abstraction would not have happened without the teachings of DT Suzuki nor the scholars at Berkeley University and San Francisco Zen Centre.

All my work, training and artistic development have a common theme: peace and purpose through art and soulful living. My art practice is about creating space to settle and be; to be intrigued by territories of colour. Even a few seconds’ engagement and the brain has changed channel to something more agreeable than worrying!

My coaching practice happens mostly in the context of my Painting Programs, and I do have an 8-week intensive Calm, Clarity, Confidence Coaching Program, through which people have had wonderful results.

For Pastoral Care workers, the Sacred – the preciousness of life – is everyday and never mundane. They know how to raise the significance of being here through deep listening and honouring what is meaningful for each person, knowing well the stark difference of Life’s absence.

While my training was only 4 months, it was the most personally intense and challenging training I’ve ever done. Creating ‘Sacred Space’ was an assignment I loved and have continued. Intended to provide experiences for our small group, of being, listening and participating in simple contemplative tasks with mindfulness, we create a relaxing and welcoming ambience, engage the senses, intellect and imagination to bring each other home to the awareness that meaningfulness points to the spiritual on this human journey.

While there are many different beliefs and variations to these words, the main thing is how profoundly calming it can be to have the sense of returning home to one’s Self. While it doesn’t have to be complicated, a sense of ritual partitions a chunk of time off as a kind of sanctuary; a safe place to unwind; to be.

I don’t think Vanessa would have laughed at this. Bemused perhaps, but not surprised since she was the home-maker – an under-rated task that at best, fulfils this purpose too. I’m sure you know the difference between entering a home where you feel welcomed, or not. Iona and the Celtic Spirituality that runs like a river beneath it, certainly raised my awareness as to how important Welcome is. More than ever.

I visited Charleston twice and received the gift of being taken by dear friend Paula Marvelly (author of the one-of-a-kind contemplative art blog The Culturium) to see Monk’s House, the home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, and Berwick Church, with its’ installations of murals by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. So many treats!

I was surprised and delighted when Paula set up her mini-Peace Room set on one of the altars! (see below)

After my Bloomsbury pilgrimage, what stays with me is the sense of creative possibility that can arise through being in spaces where it’s easy to be oneself; spaces that feel worn (like me!), welcoming (that word again!) and loved by virtue of their numerous signs of Life well lived; creative expression on almost every surface and burgeoning garden visible through every window.

How will these experiences carry through in my work? I don’t know yet. I’d already painted 14 paintings of The Vanessa Series before visiting Charleston. And I will continue experimenting, creating installations that intend to delight, befriend and invite contemplation.

Many of you may have a meditation space of some kind, and if you want to create or refresh your sacred/contemplative space so that it feels more aligned with who you are now, there are different ways to go about it.

~ Choose a work of art you have and love already and arrange resonant objects with it.

~ Purchase something new. Of course I recommend my work! The best way for this to happen is to have a free Zoom conversation, show me the space and send photos of your designated contemplative space with measurements. I may have something suitable or propose a commission.

~ if you don’t like my art, it’s quite ok! I recommend looking at different kinds of art so you can get a feel for what is your cup of tea. Take a look at This artists’ collective was formed by Deborah Barlow, Bostonian artist, friend, curator and author of the brilliant art blog Slow Muse.

~ Another option is to make your own art in my painting program Paint from your Heart. Book a Discovery Session to find out more.