At this point over 80 amazing women have gone through my Wild Heart Expressive Arts Teacher Training Program. I love them ALL so dearly and , like the proud creative mama that I am, want to show off their incredible wisdom, power and creative genius to the world. So I’ve created this series where once a month I will be showcasing them so that you can see what they’re up to and be inspired by their unique creative journeys.
Julie, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative journey?
I have always been a creative person, a maker of stuff. I remember sewing sock puppets out of Merimekko fabric and performing a sock puppet theater when I was in 4th grade. This one puppet I named Jazzman and he had pompom hair, which bounced up and down off his head when he moved.
When I was growing up, however, I wasn’t exposed to a model of how someone makes a living from being creative. The closest thing I could imagine was to be a photographer, so I got a minor in that at college.
I picked up a paintbrush when I was 25. I was inspired by some paintings I saw in the Caribbean at a hotel I stayed at so I signed up for a watercolor class. On the first day, as soon as that wet juicy color hit the paper and swooshed around colliding with another color it opened something in me. I wanted to jump up and down. I was totally hooked.
I started taking art classes at the college level, showing my work and selling to friends and then in galleries. Someone mentioned to me that I didn’t need a BFA to get an MFA, just a BA and a portfolio. I applied and went to graduate school, pursuing what I call the most indulgent degree you can possibly get.
I got to study all kinds of artists who fascinated me…the wild drunken Abstract Expressionists, had my Jim Dine period, was fascinated by the Light & Space artists like Robert Irwin, loved Mario Merz and Arte Povera, and found my way to the place-makers and installation artists, like Bill Viola, Olafur Eliason, Andy Goldsworthy, and my art changed from painting & drawing to more conceptual work: installations, multi-media, photography.
My work was about telling the environmental story of specific places and how different narratives were layered on top of one another, revealing those layers thru an experience of interactive art. I felt like what I had to say had a immediacy, an urgency, that I couldn’t say in paint. I stopped painting.
What initially drew you to the intuitive painting process?
I went into grad school as a painter and came out as something else. And I didn’t paint for years. I wasn’t sure I had anything to say in paint. My paints sat on the shelf. I picked up my watercolors a few times but I longed for the large-scale, smear the paint around and see what happens kind of painting I fell in love with.
I worked thru The Artist’s Way but it still couldn’t get me back into the studio. Grad school makes you intellectualize the whole process: what does this mean? Who influenced this? Why did you do it this way? Over the years I became a heart-broken painter.
It wasn’t until I met you thru some online business forums and masterminds that we participated in and got to be good friends that I found a place where I could possibly take my tender artist’s heart out of its box and see if I had anything to say with paint.
That was my first trip to the Ghost Ranch retreat.
And you know what the answer was? Fuck yeah I do!! And I’ve been painting ever since.
Big huge larger-than-me paintings that I spend a week with and create a world within. That’s my jam. And if I had known about glitter paint in grad school I would have had an entirely different experience because as we know, glitter makes everything better.
How has intuitive painting been a transformative influence in your art and your life?
It’s allowed me to find things I didn’t know I have. To create things in paint that I want to bring into my life. It’s a powerful manifestation process.
I’ve been able to paint stories that I’ve held onto for years thinking they were true only to find out that there’s no “there” there. For example, the big hole of grief I thought I’d fall into when I painted a particular part of my origin story never materialized. I was expecting all this sadness to come out of my body and it didn’t, which was completely surprising. Stunning, in fact. This story for SO long I thought was true but there was no heaviness or stickiness to it once I painted it. I was able to forgive myself and let it go. I felt SO much lighter.
I’ve birthed several powerful archetypes thru my painting process. I write how their qualities relate to my intuitive painting on my About page. One in particular was quite surprising—The Radiant Sacred Porn Star of Paint. And believe me if I hadn’t been pushed by someone else in my training toward owning her she would have continued to languish on the shelf.
She emerged after a trip to Rhodes Greece where I visited the ruins of an Aphrodite temple from the third century BC. The energy I felt oozing from the ground was so wild, lusty, sexy, seeped in the power of the erotic feminine.
I LOVE the Porn Star. She paints in bold brash messy brush strokes of mostly RED paint.
She usually doesn’t start a painting but emerges after there’s been enough “sweetness” in the painting (one of my archetypes paints like a 12-year old, all hearts and flowers which can get quite sappy) and the Porn Star will whip out some juicy crude images of male and female genitalia, truly celebrating it.
She’s kind of a graffiti artist. A bit of a bad girl. But she also has this sacred part of shining a light on the way we shame our bodies and our sexuality, which is our life force.
She’s dedicated to bringing that shame to radiance so that no woman walks thru the world ashamed of or needing to hide her lust, her flesh or her goddess-given pleasure. That’s one of the distinctions in my work and teaching. I put a focus on body love because really, why shouldn’t we love our bodies?
What inspired you to take the Wild Heart Expressive Arts teacher training program?
I can’t remember exactly why or what inspired me, I just knew one moment I was going to do it. It’s as simple as that. The moment before I wasn’t then something turned on and I wanted it in my life. It’s the practice of listening to your intuition and THEN doing it. I felt the call to your training and it changed my life.
For one I got to spend FOUR weeks with the same circle of women in one year going deep into our own process, sharing so many life changes—new jobs, relocations, separations, deaths. We became family for each other and will always be
I got to learn things, try things and get gentle & encouraging feedback.
I got to be even more real, to be truly seen, witnessed and accepted even when I was completely falling apart. I brought all of myself to the circle, the broken parts as well as the whole healed parts, and it felt so GOOD to just be able to BE and know that nothing needed to be fixed. That’s so liberating, healthy and freeing. I want everyone to feel what that’s like.
Oh, and I got to spend four weeks with you and get painting mama hugs every day which is worth the price of admission.
Now that you’re out there doing this thing tell us about your experience as an intuitive painting teacher and facilitator? What do you absolutely love about teaching? What are some of your biggest challenges?
I held my first retreat last summer and it was beyond even my expectations. I felt so used by my gorgeous participants, in the very best way, like I gave everything I had and it was perfect. At the end I was so full and empty at the same time.
My First Five, as I call them, had life-changing experiences. Each one had a major shift, a profound transformation. I’m still amazed at how simple and yet how powerful the intuitive painting process is.
We birthed goddess archetypes, we did a wisdom circle, belly and breast massage, we danced every morning, shared in the circle, ate the most delicious food ever—it was chanterelle mushroom as well as blueberry season so we gathered them on the property.
Our closing night had a fire ceremony in which we burned what we didn’t need anymore then lit floating lantern candles on the eco-pool/pond with our intentions and went swimming under the July moonlight on the top of a mountain with our lantern candles floating amongst us. Talk about magic..wow!
The parts I love: I love designing the immersive experience lots of layers and nuance. From the luscious goody bags, to the daily readings, to the dance set each day, to the different teachings each night…everything was thought out to deepen the sensuality of the experience.
And I loved facilitating the painting. To hold these women thru their process when it got scary or frustrating or the tears poured out. I knew if they felt held they would be able to go into all those places that were dying to be seen, and they did.
Their braveness blew me away. It was beautiful to witness and an honor to guide. They all want to come back and for a longer retreat next time.
When I read their testimonials I cried, as I’m sure you do. It’s such a privilege to do this soul work, to open the door to possibility and watch these gorgeous women walk thru and claim parts of themself that have been lost, buried or forgotten. Such immense healing can happen in just a few days.
The challenge for me is simply finding enough people as I’m building this part of my work who want to come. I’m offering four retreats this year, which is big. It’s a big commitment and an audacious goal.
Tell us what happens at one of your Soul Sensuality retreats? What is it like to work with YOU? What is your unique and individual magic?
Ahhh…luscious question. The qualities I’ve designed my retreats around are lushness, luxury, nourishment, beauty and a certain amount of pampering.
When I go thru a deep immersive experience (I’m a fairly sensitive, expressive introvert) I need to feel held in comfort and even luxuriousness. I’m not a rugged monk in this kind of situation. So the location, the accommodations, the food, the hosting, the painting studio and grounds…all need to make me feel held in lushness, comfort and beauty.
And I found a perfect place for that to happen at Elohee in the north Georgia mountains. Elohee is a Cherokee word that means “sacred earth place” and it is.
My retreats are all about getting into our bodies, luxuriating in this wonderful body of ours.
When I was doing my teacher training I bookended each week of the training with dancing the 5 Rhythms on Sunday mornings in Sausalito, one of the legendary floors for this kind of spiritual movement practice. Gabrielle Roth, the founder, taught there many times.
Because I went in and out of the intuitive painting training with a two-hour dance practice on either end, I’ve made it a key element of my retreats because it helped my flow so much. I love to move and movement gets you into your body and out of your head easier than anything else. So we dance in the morning to get centered, open, grounded and clear before we paint
Another part of our body practice is loving up our bodies, with delicious healthy food of course, and with feminine massage practices. I teach breast (with clothes on) and belly massage, which are two crucial areas of the body that need loving attention.
They are the doorways to our creative and heart chakras so it’s crucial that the energy is open and flowing thru. The practice always leads to a new loving relationship with these lovely parts of ourselves, and sometimes a deep healing of suppressed emotional wounding specific to the breast and belly.
It’s beautiful sacred work and one of the ways I put a focus on radical self-care. So many women don’t take the time to give themself what they are constantly giving to others and they burn out or get sick. I try to right the balance a bit and hopefully teach them some things they can take home to a sustainable daily practice like something as simple as doing an oil massage every day in the shower.
When I’m not doing painting retreats I work as a facilitator, designing meetings and change processes like visioning and strategy so I’ve had a lot of experience holding and guiding groups. That part of the retreat comes naturally to me. I can feel into where we need to go and trust my intuition about what’s surfacing from the group dynamic.
Please give us some info about your upcoming events.
I have four Soul Sensuality retreats this year, all at the same location, which is beautiful sacred land on the top of a mountain with a natural swimming pool, a five-tier waterfall, a grandmother hemlock and so much more. Three of the retreats are 5 nights and one is 7 nights. I love the longer experience because when you can give yourself a week to slip into the dreamtime, its like you’re living in a whole different realm.
The dates are:
I’m holding open my winter season because I want to find a location in the Caribbean to have a couple of back-to-back retreats. Can’t wait for that! Stay tuned
What advice would you give to someone who is contemplating this expressive arts/intuitive painting path?
Just do it. Its so much more than you think it is. The ripples will go all over the place, probably into some places you can’t even begin to expect. By committing to this practice and the training for a whole year you’ll find your life opening and growing in magical ways. And there’s something about the power of having a circle of women who back you up, it makes you feel like you can do anything. And you can.
A little bit more about Julie Stuart:
I have an MFA and taught art at the college level. I also taught figure drawing for five years mostly with adults who were finding their way back to art after career and family, and I gently guided them thru that tender reawakening.
I facilitate meetings professionally, guiding groups and teams through often challenging change processes using visual and creative methods. I help them see where they want to go and how to get there. My work is shaped from the Art of Hosting community of practice, which honors the individual, revers the circle and the power of participatory leadership.
I also coach individuals, uncovering their dreams and desires, finding the edges of their growth and illuminating possibility.
I am certified Master Facilitator of Intuitive Painting and the Expressive Arts from Creative Juices Arts, my dear friend Chris Zydel’s teacher training program.
I’ve been a yogi for almost 20 years (including yoga certification) and dance the 5 Rhythms every chance I get. I’m also now on the teacher’s path in 5 Rhythms and am what’s called a Spaceholder so I bring that dance mojo to my retreats.
For more info please visit Julie Stuart at Soul Sensuality.