01.05.2004

SOULart

Soul drawings, core paintings, perspectives on consciousness, spiritual art - although the names may differ, art which reaches into the essence of individual human beings has its own extraordinary intensity. Margaret Evans speaks to three established artists whose work has appeared as NOVA covers over the years - Donalea Patman, Kali Shub and William Harper Reid, who paints as Shorty Forty.

Soul drawings, core paintings, perspectives onconsciousness, spiritual art - although the names maydiffer, art which reaches into the essence of individualhuman beings has its own extraordinary intensity. MargaretEvans speaks to three established artists whose workhas appeared as NOVA covers over the years - DonaleaPatman, Kali Shub and William Harper Reid, who paintsas Shorty Forty.

Donalea Patman
Bridging the worlds

Fremantle-based Donalea knows better than most thefull range of her capabilities and readily exploresmany of them on a daily basis. As a successful graphicdesigner at home with logos and corporate images, drawingwas something unknown to her before she found another,more spiritual, pathway through art she calls "souldrawings".

Her journey began at a channelled writing workshopwhen another participant asked her to design a bookcover for her. As Donalea remembers, "Her reaction wasincredible and I recognised it as something that washealing and deep". That first step into the unknownhas developed into a steady demand for Donalea's distinctivepastel and pencil drawings based on sacred geometrywith elements of colour healing in each.

She now estimates she's completed "around 50", butstill seems surprised at - and maybe a little in aweof - the well of creativity she's untapped within herself."I have always been interested in spiritual art butI never thought it was my lineage. So when I startedcreating it myself I was quite surprised." She explainsher new direction as an "awakening" of her own internaltalents and talks of images "flowing" from her handwithout any conscious creative drive on her part. "WhenI start a picture, I just let it come through. I don'tknow what I'm creating, I have no concept of colours.I am totally guided when I do my soul drawings."

Like other spiritual artists, Donalea tunes into theenergy of her subject, rather than having to rely onmeeting them in person. For instance, she's had souldrawings commissioned from the East coast of Australia,as well as mainland United States and Hawaii. "My drawingis a soul perspective. I believe we are all made upof filaments of light and are just a projection of oursoul as we are living in third dimensional reality,"she explains. "When I'm commissioned by someone to doa drawing, they're giving me permission to tune intothem and then I can feel that energy just coming straightthrough. It's like I'm encoded with that person's energyand I draw an interpretation of it."

Donalea is conscious that she is entrusted with hersubject's essential self, even if only a small partof it. and is prepared for the emotional reaction thatoften accompanies that person's first viewing of theirsoul portrait.

"It's never a full picture. it's really just keysto help them align more fully to their own purpose,their own destiny, their own healing." The emotionalreaction in so many cases, she believes, flows fromhelping that person overcome some sort of emotionalblock in their lives. "Or maybe they just see how beautifulthey are."

Donalea's increasingly busy lifestyle- she finds timefor fine art and plus size modelling as well as corporategraphic design, and is currently on the west coast ofthe US on her first fullscale promotional tour as anartist - still allows her other avenues to express herdeep spirituality.

A style of drawing she calls Perspectives on Consciousnessis also winning wide interest and giving her the joyof working with mischievous sprites Donalea laughinglycalls her "dudes or devas".

"They give me another perspective on reality and Ilove them because of the fun and humour they bring toeverything. With them, nothing is serious!"

A conversation with a friend who had just attendeda workshop on bushflower essences was the creative sparkfor Donalea's sprite-like devas to emerge, bringinga new emotional intensity to her work. "I think we allhave an emotional response in looking at them becausethe visual concept awakens us to our full potential."The first devas to emerge for Donalea are unmistakablyelements of the Australian landscape including gumnuts,poppies and water sprites.

The devas, one senses, are guiding this multi talentedand sensitive artist in her new directions both physicallyand spiritually. As she takes on her latest, biggestchallenge - to break into the US art scene - they remindher of her deep seated sense of purpose: "They remindus of our innate beauty. I think we all have somethingexquisite and exclusive and individual to offer theworld. And my journey is about assisting people in exploringthat and really believing it's there."

Shorty Forty
Visiting internal landscapes

Talking of souls doesn't sit easily with this quintessentiallylaconic Aussie, a printer by trade but an artist inevery sinewy fibre. In a typically self-effacing way,he refers to his own work as "core painting" ratherthan soul art because "soul carries the notion of identityand there's no identity to soul energy". He offers theexample of the Zen concept of "the path of no path"as essentially the same idea.

Shorty's intense love of the Australian landscapehas clearly influenced his life and work with regulartrips "out bush" to reinforce his energies and stimulatea unique creative imagination.

The extraordinary energy he feels in certain specialplaces has spilled over into heightening his responseto the unique energetic resonance of individual people.

"It started when I'd be out bush doing my conventionalpainting, but for some reason I'd find a particularspot that had its own magic about it, its own essence,its own core. Out there with great distances in between,there are special sacred places like Ayres Rock andKakadu, table top hills and rocks honeycombed with caveswhere the oil from people's feet walking over the rockfor thousands of years has worn the surface smooth.

"The resonance of these places is so strong. the energyis so extraordinary. And then I started seeing thisuniqueness in people." The experience, he says, hasmade him more attuned to people he now meets "becauseI am tuning into their core energy and discovering themin a new way". It has also freed him from the conventionsof landscape and allowed him to play with colors, mediumand form in a far more experimental way.

Working in printer's inks which give his paintingsan intensity of colour and almost seamless blendingof one with another, Shorty has won both critical acclaimand a growing circle of enthusiastic admirers. At firstglance, many of his core paintings give the appearanceof landscapes, but for the subject and often their familyand friends, the other layers of meaning can be an intensespiritual experience. When Shorty invites the subjectto view the core painting for the first time, he's becomeused to open displays of emotion. "When I was stillexperimenting I would invite the person and their friendsto get their feedback. Often they would cry becausethey were so deeply touched and people in the groupwould be amazed." Now he usually leaves the subjectalone in a room with the core portrait and avoids whathe calls "any poetry" to convince them of its merits.

"When they cry because they are so deeply touchedI know I have succeeded with that person's painting.People won't give them away." A typical example is onewoman who hangs her delicate moonflower image on herbedroom wall to reinforce the "rapport with herselfthat bounces off the painting every time she sees it".

Other core paintings masquerade as wide open Kimberleylandscapes of stately gums or stunted spinifex and endlesssky, vivid flowers, still water scenes mirroring skyand trees, and even the reflection of the moon on dewdrops.

Many of Shorty's core paintings tell a story treasuredby the subjects. One male subject was so impressed withhis own internal landscape that he commissioned anotherfor his fiance working in distant Dubai. Although Shortyhad never met her, he was able to tune into her energeticallyfrom a photograph. The result is a stunning pairingof bush scenes, the first a sunrise on the waning moondominated by pale blue Kimberley sky, and the 'female'partner, a reverse image with white lightening forkingout from stormy clouds. "If you walk into the firstpainting and go behind the trees and look back you geta reverse image of the trees with a sunset and a newmoon," the artist explains. Just as the two core imagesare a perfect pairing, the couple are still together.

And just as each of us has a resonance that's totallyour own - " it's like comparing lavender and a rose-they're both plants but they're different" - so, too,it's always part of us regardless of mood or circumstances,says Shorty. He explains it as a combination of thefive elements of earth, fire, water, air and the Chineseelement of metal, "and the mix is what distinguishesyou from every other person". With this intuitive artist,that's just the starting point for a fascinating journeyof self discovery.

Kali Shub
Creativity is our birthright

Awakening the creative spark latent within every humanbeing is a source of profound satisfaction to anotherWestern Australian artist Kali Shub, whose work is wellknown to NOVA readers over the years. Gifted with astrongly individualistic style which draws on her spiritualawareness and love of vibrant colour, Kali conductsSpirArt courses for beginners through to "master classes"- "because everyone does a masterpiece".

Kali's starting point is that everyone has creationin them which, in so many cases, has been blocked offor denied expression as they grow to adulthood. "Itdoesn't have to be in painting, it can be in cooking,dressing, gardening and some people are even creativein the way they think negatively," she says with a characteristicbubbling laugh.

One of her favourite techniques which she shares withstudents is to begin a session with meditation to openup a pathway through emotional and spiritual blockages.Then, limited to a choice of three colors, which canhave personal as well as universal symbolism, she andher students work with fingers or brushes to createan image by folding a card in half and opening it outagain. The childlike approach is deliberate, and justlike uninhibited youngsters, the joy is contagious,says Kali. "And when people open up their card and seethe picture, the images are just so pertinent. Someare just magnificent."

Combined often with channelled writing or other techniqueslike stream of consciousness writing, Kali's approachis obviously an effective form of art therapy. "It'stheir feeling and their dreaming which starts to comethrough and opens up to all sorts of creativity". Awolf, a charging bull, a living goddess, a giant phallicsymbol, a heart chakra, a Buddha and a butterfly arejust some of the striking images which spill out froma collection of SpirArt cards which illustrates herpoint. Students gradually develop skill and confidencein their own expression for more advanced work likeenergetic self portraits using colors they can see intheir own auras, mandalas and paintings of personalguides which arise from their own meditations.

Kali is well attuned to the hunger of many of herclients to open a door towards some form of creativityin their lives. "If someone's creativity is stale ordormant, their life will be too. You can't have onechannel of your life working fully and another channelclosed. It's all about getting a balance and broadeningyour life," she says.

Her individualistic approach also helps people workthrough life issues like attachment and impermanence,even if sometimes, it " really annoys them", confidesKali. "For instance, I'll get them to turn their pictureupside down which is just what can happen in life whenyou think you're going along nicely. Or I'll tell themto go to the next person's work and take that over whichbrings up a range of reactions from being scared tothe sort of person who says ' I can see what's wrongthere - I'll fix it!'" Perhaps the most challengingof all is her suggestion to take the painting outsideand turn the tap on it. "It's a lesson in impermanence,but sometimes it turns into something much more beautifulthan before".

Her constant questing and exploring her own rich veinof creativity contributes to Kali's stature as a artistwho can free the spirit of even the most inhibited amongus.

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