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Woven With Light: An Interview with Artist Autumn Skye

SOUL PORTRAITS RETREAT, STOWEL LAKE FARM

Salt Spring Island

Come To Life and Salt Spring Island’s Mateada teamed up for a sit down interview with artist Autumn Sky to hear her thoughts on identifying as an artist, art as therapy, visionary art, the balance of masculine and feminine, the artist’s role in regeneration, and more. The Mateada is a central hub for community on the island with a vision to serve as a regenerative gathering place. Here Tessa Ruttan, Manager of the Mateadashares the story of her meeting with Autumn on Stowel Lake Farm and the conversation that followed.

Through the fields and up the hill we strolled above the permaculture gardens, with a birds eye view of Stowel Lake Farm. The soft afternoon light cascaded onto the farmers and greenhouses below, illuminating the beauty of the farm and its community.

Autumn Skye is a visual artist from Powel River, BC, known for her meticulous and inspiring paintings. Often featuring the female form and beauty in nature, her work incorporates powerful symbolism, etheric visions, and sacred geometry to her hope-filled pieces.

ART AS THERAPY

Tessa Ruttan [TR]: Do you find the process of creating art to be healing?

Autumn Skye [AS]:  Art is definitely healing, it’s a medicine. The idea of art as therapy goes hand in hand with the healing journey.  The process around art making is echoed in the hero’s journey, the path of growth and evolution. It is a template for our lives and how to gracefully walk in the world.

We can have ideas about what we think our life is going to look like and when it inevitably doesn’t look like we pictured we can easily fall into blaming ourselves or others, and believe we “failed”.

We might have a vision or a dream where we’re shown some impeccably elaborate tapestry or scene, and then we come to the painting intending to portray it, glimmering facet by facet. But our hands are clumsy and our paints are thick, and we quickly realize that it’s impossible to translate what’s in our mind’s eye onto the canvas. In that moment, it can be easy to slide into discouragement, believing we aren’t good enough, or that we must have been mistaken to have been so foolishly inspired. 

The trick is to keep sitting down at the canvas, keep showing up in life. With faith, we can relax into the process. Mistakes might take us in new directions that we wouldn’t have otherwise gone. Like Bob Ross’s “happy little accidents”, or how the Chinese character for crisis and opportunity are the same symbol. 

When we encounter mistakes on our canvas, instead of getting upset about how we’ve failed, look for the blessings in them. If we can take that future understanding, and bring it into our present trust- the trust that “I am exactly where I need to be, even if I don’t understand why”- then we can relax.

Art can definitely be a tool for awakening and a mirror for people.

TR:  When people feel deeply connected to or moved by a piece of art, do you find there is healing potential in that experience as well?

AS: Art can definitely be a tool for awakening and a mirror for people. I believe in the energetic imprint in creativity. It’s in food, it’s in music, it’s in dance, it’s in painting. It’s in the way we work with the land. When we do things from an authentic place, we’re collaborating with something bigger than ourselves, with the divine. All the while keeping our mind focused, our hands and tools honed and in service to that inspiration, I think that there’s something that is innately embedded and imprinted in the process of creation. That’s what people connect with.

I honestly believe that the better my art is, the less I can take credit for it. If somebody is moved by a piece, that means that I was successful in getting out of the way and really letting spirit through. They see themselves in it.

IDENTIFYING AS AN ARTIST

TR : Do you remember some of your earliest memories of when you began to identify as an artist?

AS:  I really believe that the greatest blessing of my life is that I was never told not to make art. I was blessed in a very supportive, creative family, and from my earliest memories I was always making some kind of art. My mom says that before I could talk or walk, I was making pictures, like the saying, “before you learn to speak, you learn to sing, and before you learn to walk, you learn to dance.”

I never knew the concept of one day I’ll be an artist. I was already an artist.

To me, artist is actually an action word. It’s a verb. If you’re making art, you are an artist. It’s never too late to get back into it. Whether you’re creating on the land,  or in the kitchen, creating children, creating music, I truly believe that we are all artists.

TR: What gets you in the mood to paint? Any rituals or practices?

AS: I do believe in sleeping well, eating well and taking care of my body. There’s a long-lived cultural ethos around the tormented and angst-ridden artist, un-slept, drunk, chain-smoking, heartbroken. That does exist, and especially has in the past.

 

Creativity can be a very unsettling force, and there’s a million reasons why we might sabotage the untameable urge to create.

Creativity can be a very unsettling force, and there’s a million reasons why we might sabotage the untameable urge to create. However, I really do believe in instilling good habits and taking care of our most valuable tool: our body. In the classroom while I’m teaching, I do things like ring a bell occasionally, and remind people to “Sit up straight, breathe, drink water.” We have a brief “at easel yoga break” in the afternoon. I actually believe that creative blocks are a little bit of a self-perpetuating myth. If we just start making a mess with some paint, usually the inspiration comes. Like Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” 

To me, the creative process is very much a balance of left brain, right brain, the in-breath, the out-breath. The careful attention, focus, diligence; and the absolute surrender, listening, allowing. 

It’s the balance of the masculine and feminine, one wants to focus and pay attention and measure and plan things, and the other part wants to listen and be intuitive and take risks and play. It has to be both, because without the other, it’s either soulless or chaotic. That dance of balance is always going to be a shifting place. Sometimes it calls for more focus, and sometimes it calls for more intuition.

 

VISIONARY ART

TR:  The term, ‘“Visionary Art”, has been brought to light in recent years, I’m curious what your interpretation of what Visionary Art is, and if it’s something you identify with.

AS: I tend to shy away from labeling and limiting things within tidy boxes.  Also, I believe that all artists and creative people are visionaries. That said, this movement of “Visionary Art” is beautiful and inspiring, and a creative community that I have been graciously welcomed into and included within for the past decade.

Visionary Art is the practice of bringing into form visions that are not yet manifest

Part of Visionary Art is the practice of bringing into form visions that are not yet manifest, visions from other realms, dimensions, realities, or consciousness states. It is describing etheric and spiritual concepts, and creating templates and visual representations of otherwise invisible experiences.

I’d say the most consistently common theme of Visionary Art is that it is woven with light. It speaks to our higher selves and our bright future. Even when it acknowledges the pain of the past or the challenges of the present, it still points us forward in some innate way. The artwork holds up mirrors and maps for our growth, our healing and our wholeness.

TR: I got goosebumps when you said woven with light, and it reminded me of your painting, the hands weaving a tapestry of light. I envision the overarching community of visionary artists, weaving this tapestry of light, lifting people up.

AS: The community is very supportive. It’s growing all the time, it’s such a beautiful community to be a part of and to watch spread out into the world. 

 

SOUL PORTRAITS RETREAT

TR: Could you speak to your Soul Portraits Retreat?

AS: It’s a really deep journey.  With a “no experience necessary” environment, we get a wide range of artists, from people that haven’t painted since they were a kid and might have had a trauma around creativity, through to practicing professional artists, and everybody in between. I teach how to see light and shadow, figuratively and literally. I cover technique and anatomy, and at the same time give equal emphasis to empowering the intuition, relaxing into ourselves and the process. It is about trusting the journey and listening to the painting.

Revealed along the way are all our fears, expectations, and all the pressure we put ourselves under. We all have so many stories of “should”, “good enough”, “beautiful”, “worthless”, etc.  A lot of what I’m doing while I teach is being a cheerleader, trying to drown out that voice of doubt with the joy of the process and the faith in the journey.

When I think of the soul, as much as it’s impossible to conceptualize something that is so mysterious, vast, and timeless,  I think it’s paradoxically also a snapshot of the present moment. When we take a deep breath and deeply feel into a moment, really seeing the world in front of us in its ephemeral perfection, we realize we are existing in a timeless and interconnected reality. In essence we are uniting the polarities of our existence, a human being walking on this planet, and at the same time an eternal spiritual consciousness.

 

DIVINE MASCULINE / FEMININE BALANCE

TR: Many of your paintings feature the female form, reflections of the “Divine Feminine”. One of your most recent paintings, “The Gift of the Magi” has a male subject, a representation of the “Divine Masculine”. Could you speak to your inspiration for this piece and your current view on the Masculine / Feminine balance?

AS: The Gift of the Magi was originally inspired by frankincense. I’ve been working with frankincense this past year,  using it topically it to help heal a scar, and as tea and incense. Touched by its ancient magic, I wanted to portray frankincense in an embodied form. I was in Vienna at the time, and it was nearing Christmas, I began to think about the three wise men, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh and how those three essences in a way are a portrayal of body, mind, and spirit. 

I started to play on that theme, and brought the two other faces into the composition to portray the wise men, the ancient Magi, the bearers of magic, mystery, and sacred elementals. 

I’m feeling that it’s becoming imperative that we remember to speak to the masculine and to hold our brothers up; to celebrate and honour the masculine with portrayals of a healed, whole, and balanced archetype.

It is not just about “men” and “women” in a binary gender sense, it is about the healing and union of the inner parts of ourselves that have fallen out of balance. There is beauty and wisdom in both our focus and strength, and our intuition and receptivity. We can’t heal one without the other.

It is not just about “men” and “women” in a binary gender sense, it is about the healing and union of the inner parts of ourselves that have fallen out of balance.

There’s been so much oppression, suffering, and pain that’s accumulated from centuries of imbalance. My intention in my art is very much to create a visual dialog around balance, healing, and wholeness. To heal the feminine we must simultaneously heal the masculine. The oppression of the feminine is a result of the oppression of the masculine. It just just looks different, usually like misplaced anger and power posturing; scared little boys who are told to “man up” and not express emotion. Women are told to be desirable at any cost, and men are told to be strong. To be anything else is to fail, so the cultural narrative says.

I believe that in order to heal both, we must reclaim our inner masculine/feminine alchemy, and honour the unique alchemy in others, celebrating our differences and honouring our gifts. 

TR: I see a strong mountain and a flowing stream in us all, in service to each other and balanced within ourselves. I appreciate the recurring theme of balance, and how it translates into your art and core values.

ARTISTS AND REGENERATION

TR: What role do you believe art plays in Regeneration and the Regenerative Movement?

AS: When we think of regeneration, it’s pretty natural that we go immediately to our connection to the earth, and to the reparations that very much are being called for in our stewardship of the environment. We are being called to reconnect to the land, cultivate the soil, re-establish our relationship to where our food comes from, and our interconnectedness with the environment and the world in which we live.

Regeneration, to me is not about going back. It is about a re-integration and a healing, but it’s also about new growth. Let the compost of yesterday grow the food of tomorrow. 

And at the same time, the theme of regeneration is multi-faceted and it permeates to every part of our life. Culture makers, system changers, community builders, and artists all have an important role, and relationship to each other. There are a lot of ways art can be templates and roadmaps for where we want to go. Works of art can be mirrors to society for its highest healing, wholeness, and interconnectivity. Art has always played this role in culture mapping and social commentary. Now, perhaps more than ever, artists are really being called on by society and by spirit to step up and speak out.

Regeneration, to me is not about going back. It is about a re-integration and a healing, but it’s also about new growth. Let the compost of yesterday grow the food of tomorrow. Creatively, it’s the same. When we take those stories, that deep pain, grief, or heavy weight of the world we live in and we “compost” and use it as fuel and depth in our work, it combines with the light of our hope, love and faith in the process.  And like in any garden, when we dedicate our careful attention, we grow a bounty that can nourish ourselves and our community. When you create, you give others permission to create and when you share your art, people will connect with it and it might help them profoundly on their journey. That is fruit, and that is nourishing and it’s healing. It is regenerative and life giving. 

To me, it comes back to balance. When the growth from the sun and the water in the earth and everything in between is in balance, in perfect alchemy, it creates life force. Regeneration is life.

TR: Come to life. 

AS: Come to life. Do it.

TR: Thank you Autumn Skye for sharing your wisdom and art with the world. A true a light weaver of hope, illuminating visions of regeneration, balance and healing for the world.