I love the sensuality and vibrancy of her images which enter the viewer into the mythical realm. I found myself exploring their inner landscape in my imagination and loved the places they took me. As always, I am so grateful to her for taking the time to respond to these questions and offer you, my dear readers, another window into the connection between creativity and spiritual practice.
Are you rooted in a particular faith tradition?
My spiritual background is very eclectic. I consider myself a free-thinker above all and my understanding of the Divine came a long way through Spiritism, Paganism, Rosicrucianism, Oriental philosophies and symbolic arts like Astrology and Tarot. I was born and raised in a Catholic country (Brazil), where almost everybody is baptized as a catholic as a cultural tradition, although you won't see that many devout Catholics. The country in itself is very eclectic religion-wise and a fertile ground for religions and spiritual practices of every sort. I grew up seeing the women of my family dedicating to practices like natural healing, incorporating spirits, having visions and dreams, fortune-telling. One of my aunts was of an Afro-Brazilian religion and her altar covered in images of yorubá entities is a vivid remembrance of my childhood. For my part, I've been always very attracted to the so called "supernatural" – divination, the occult, life after death and reincarnation. I grew up seeing all those things as part of Nature and have been always sensed the Divine very deeply inside myself, even not having exact consciousness of that. I like to say that love and beauty are my religion, and the teachings of the Christ are my guide.
What is your primary art medium?
I am primarily a drawer, so pencils and paper will always be my favorite tools. I love the texture of the graphite on paper and its energy. The drawing is the base for the other fine arts, and it contains all the primeval force of their creation, so to speak. This is why most of time I choose not to render my figures with paints.
I am also a watercolor lover. It's not the most manageable medium to work with, but when you learn its tricks it's a real delight. It's sort of a magic medium, because it seems like it has a life in itself, the results most of time are unexpected and always interesting. I love the way the pigments blend and also their ethereal quality. It's a "feminine" medium, that can be both delicate and strong, and provides the work with movement and fluidity. Since my more complex pieces take a lot of layers and pigment, I prefer to work on more resistant surfaces, and illustration boards are just the right thing to me. I plan to experience acrylics sometime in a not-so-distant future, but so far I'm very happy with my mediums of choice since they provide me with the perfect channel for what I want to express.
How do you experience the connection between spirituality and creativity?
I think that they are part of an only thing, since when you allow yourself to be creative you are actively playing your God role in a microscale. Creativity is a manifestation of your divine portion. When you open yourself to creativity, you are opening yourself to the Universe. The act of creating gives you a sense of belonging to a greater reality and when you do it on a regular basis you go through a very transformative process. Through my art I heal my wounds. I find answers. I feel joy, pleasure and I also exercise some virtues, like acceptance, persistence and patience.
What role does spiritual practice have in your art-making?
I'd say that my art-making IS my spiritual practice. Through my work I can live my beliefs at their, fullest and sense clearly my connection with the invisible wisdom. You can call it a type of meditation. No religious experience in this world would give me such feeling of completeness and shelter. I have revelations and spiritual insights when I am creating. I always finish a piece a little wiser than when I started it.
What sparked your spiritual journey?
As I said before, I came to this world with a strong sense of being bound to some higher power that in my childhood and teenage years I called it God – today it's much more than this. I've been always very inquisitive about life and death, always in search of answers that could satisfy my intellect. I've never accepted dogmas and unreasonable concepts. I want science, chemistry, biology, physics. The answers I wanted came when, at the end of my adolescence, I discovered Spiritism, which is a blend of philosophy, science and religion, founded by a French professor named Allan Kardec in the 19th century. Spiritism today is extremely popular in my country. I may say that this was my spiritual turning point, what really opened the spiritual doors in my life. I didn't only give me answers, but also helped me to be a better person and to understand the Christ and his words.
What sparked your artistic journey?
To be frank, as far as I can remember, I've always been an artist. I began to draw and tell stories at age three. I've been always loved comics and at an early age I already had dozens of characters and a whole world created by myself. I filled up many notebooks with my stories. As a teenager I discovered music, drama and dance. My mom was always supporting me in everything I wanted to do. The peace of the house was always being disturbed for groups of people rehearsing for music, dance and theater performances! I created my first musical group at age 15. I would sing in three more bands in the following years, more for the pleasure of music, for the urge of performing and expressing myself and my ideas, because I'm not really a great singer! Later I decided to study drama and ballet more seriously. I danced for four years and acted in the theater for 10 years. The stage is my big passion. Dance is one of the most powerful connections with the Divine that one can experience, it's a prayer in itself.
When I was on stage, drawing became sort of secondary. At the end of my 20's it started to get very clear to me that I had some kind of “mission” involving my art. I was feeling an urge of teaching and healing using my creativity. My writings changed. I came back to college to get a degree in Art Education because I wanted to change lives and be an inspiration. I wrote a spiritualist novel, that someday it will leave my hard drive. When I moved to US, I saw myself sort of handicapped, communication-wise. I couldn't play or write or communicate ideas the way I'd like, due to my poor language skills. Then I started focusing on my drawings, because non-verbal languages were all I had. My style became more mature with time, more colorful and energetic. I perceive now that it worked as a reflex of all I experienced here. My adaptation to the country was like a caterpillar leaving a cocoon turned into a butterfly, and so was my art. The fact of finally having found the peace I always wanted to live in, in silence and closeness to nature, played a big role in my art blooming. I feel now a degree of freedom in my art-making that I had never experienced before. My senses began to expand fast, it's been fantastic. Now I'm sure that I found my way of healing and inspiring. When people write me telling how they felt connected to my paintings and how they gave them a new perspective – wow, that's the best feeling in the whole world! Such a feeling of accomplishment! I know now that I found my path.
Do you have a particular process you use when entering into your creative work?
Not really. Ideas come to me at any time no matter what I'm doing. It's funny, but my best ones usually come when I'm doing daily life stuff, like taking a shower or washing dishes. I work the whole time, since I open my eyes in the morning until I shut them at night. When I'm not at the drawing table, I'm brainstorming. My life is filled with art. My creative process comes through my daily obligations; it's something usually chaotic and sort of “mediumnic”. It's common that I have an initial idea or concept and during the process that concept gets dissolved and gives place to something else. I go with the flow and remain open. Then, synchronicities start to show, like coming across pictures and texts that somehow point out directions to the work I'm into at that moment. When I'm in action I like to listen to music , mainly ethereal, ethnic or new age, it creates a perfect atmosphere and make me tune even more into the painting. But you can't really be alone to work when you have a pre-schooler at home full time, so I had to adapt to being interrupted every moment, including when I'm in the apex of my creative process!
How does your art-making shape your image of God?
I think that all the images and ideas we can conceive of God, or the Supreme Intelligence, are still too incomplete and imperfect, as imperfect is our perception of the Whole. The more I expand my conscience through my art, the more I sense the Greatness of the Divine and the more humble and small I feel. But I feel also blessed and so full of joy for being able to establish such contact in simplicity, because in fact people don't believe that God can be so accessible. God is not an old bearded man sitting in a throne and ready to punish people for trivialities. God is pure Love. What is not love, it's not God. He is everything and is everywhere, talking to us constantly through the simplest things of life. Blessed are the ones that can hear it.
Thank you so much to Patricia Ariel for sharing of her creative vision and wisdom here with us. I am resonating with much of what she has said, especially "I like to say that love and beauty are my religion, and the teachings of the Christ are my guide," art-making as connection with "invisible wisdom," and creativity coming through the process of living her "daily obligations."
Images top to bottom: The Divine in Me, Ascension, The Waterman: Ignis Aeris, The Waterman: Unio Mystica (detail)
© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts