March 2016 - Signs of Spring
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Leaps of Faith ...
Of Lions, Lambs and Brave Birds

After the Prize by CJ Shelton
"After the Prize"
From my new 'Birds of Prey' Collection

March may have been heralded in by the first and only real snowstorm of 2016 but for me it was a fitting 'lion's end' to a very busy winter, so busy I never even sent out a February newsletter or got the quiet time I usually take when the cold north winds are roaring. Of course, El Niño is responsible for turning the weather all upside down this year but the busy schedule ... well that was my own doing!

5 year anniversaryWhile taking a brief pause to catch up, it occurred to me that I am approaching my fifth anniversary at the Alton Mill. The words "go big, or go home" is a phrase that epitomizes the lion-sized leap of faith I took when I opened my studio in April 2011. But as I look back over the past five years what strikes me is that I have found more ‘bigness’, or perhaps more aptly, ‘greatness’, in the little things.

I find greatness in the daily art of teaching, in the gentle and playful ‘lamb-like’ joy of coaxing out hidden talents and the need for self-expression that I know lie dormant in my students and only need the right conditions to start germinating. And it is in the little moments, as a face lights up when skills worked at so diligently finally come together in a single piece, that I sense something much bigger, shining brightly. Those moments are as exquisite as they are momentary. But those are the times when we can rejoice, celebrate and review all the hard work - as well as the frustrations - before getting right back at it again and onto the next challenge.

CJ with Mayfield StudentIf someone had told me a few years ago that one day I would be nurturing the creative spirit in others, my answer would have been “Who me? I'm not a teacher!” Teaching though has now become a source of richness in my life in so many ways. What started as a tiny seed idea to provide better quality art programs for seniors (the result of my unpredicted side trip into training in gerontology and social work ten years ago) has blossomed into a teaching practice that now includes a diversity of ages - my youngest student so far has been only six years old and my oldest just turned 92!

Currently I am in the midst of a short teaching gig at Mayfield Secondary School as a guest artist coaching Grade 9 students in a special project for their enhanced arts program. We have been thoroughly engaged in creating paintings of birds of prey and all I can say is "wow"! These photos below are just some of their preliminary work.

Mayfield Student DrawingMayfield Student DrawingMayfield Student Painting

Former Mayfield student Nicole Morrison, who at the very young age of only 19 now runs Kingsport Environmental and specializes in the time honored sport of falconry, brought three of her raptors to the school to be our models. You can imagine what a treat it was to get up close and personal with such incredible birds.

Storm the Eagle“Storm”, a juvenile bald eagle raised in a breeding program has, at little more than one year old, all the attitude of a born queen, supremely confident in her exalted position at the top of the food chain. Lady the Snowy Owl

“Lady”, a snowy owl recovering from an injury in the wild, exhibited all the grace inherent in her name by quietly and curiously observing us as much as we observed her, without even once getting ruffled or moody … CJ with Eddie the Owlunlike her colleague “Eddie”, the great horned owl, who while thoroughly endearing in his affection for surrogate mom Nicole, developed a serious case of shyness on our second day together.

Although Lady now only has half a wing on her right side, she has quickly become one of Kingsport’s shining stars after coming to them for rehabilitation and a new career. Amazingly, despite everything she has been through, she still managed to take on a wayward skunk that ventured into her enclosure only a couple of days before we saw her … and yes, the skunk lost. Lady is, after all, still a wild woman at heart. Which got me to thinking how the ‘greatness’ of these birds, much like our own greatness, is often hidden behind a facade of gentleness or humility, glimpsed only in those moments that allow its true nature to shine.

Birds of prey are, just as their name suggests, hunters and it’s that specific and spectacular skill that sets them apart as monarchs of the skies. Like each of these magnificent birds, we too have our own talents and gifts. While animals understand and perform theirs instinctively, for us humans, discovering those gifts and letting them shine seems to be much more of a challenge. Preliminary study by CJ SheltonSadly, some people never discover that specialness. Or it takes some sort of catastrophic event or extraordinary circumstances for it to rise to the surface. This was actually the case in my own life. A severe repetitive stress injury to both hands - in particular my right one, just like Lady’s wing - forced a complete change in my art career ten years ago. That however, was the catalyst for the eventual leap of faith I took into teaching and running my own studio.

Once uncovered, a true gift is hard to ignore or deny. Trust me, I know ... and so does the white owl “Lady”. We know that one can go through life-altering circumstances and be threatened with the loss of all that it does naturally, but the essential self, the true nature containing that divine spark which makes it completely unique, not only remains, but can thrive in a new-found way when willing to take a leap of faith.

Feeling up to your own leap of faith? Welcome in spring by exploring your own untamed nature in an afternoon of ‘Awakening the Dragon’ or making Faery Flags. These two new workshop will be in April, perfect timing to celebrate coming out of hibernation to play in the sun again. Be sure to check out my full spring schedule and preregister by emailing to reserve your spots. Many blessings as we look forward to spring.

May you enjoy the dance!

CJ Shelton
Artist, Instructor & Healing Arts Practitioner

Dancing Moon Designs
Illuminating the Creative Spirit through
the Symbol of the Circle ...

Spread the news ... share 'The Dance' by forwarding to a friend to enjoy!
There's a bit of a retrospective here with this piece. It's one of the very first mandalas I created in 2010 before moving to the Headwaters area. You can see I was already experimenting with black backgrounds … and with birds.

Birds have always represented the ultimate in freedom and in many cultures they symbolize the soul. In Native American tradition the eagle is the most sacred of birds and is often petitioned to carry the people's prayers to Creator. Most fittingly, the original artwork for this piece went to live with a woman of First Nations heritage who works with bird 'medicine', just as I do.

I certainly had no idea when I created this image where life would lead me but perhaps the bird spirits knew a thing or two ...

Original sold
Cards with this image $10
"INTO THE MYSTICAL" Learning & Sharing Circle
Moon QuestEvery 3rd Thursday evening of the month

Thurs. March 17, 7-9 pm
Thurs. April 21, 7-9 pm

Share your wisdom and experiences with like-minded souls as we come together in this illuminating monthly gathering of 'friends on the journey’ who share a common interest in all things mystical and spiritual.
Sat. April 12, $10 Donation
Please join us in the tent! To learn more about the Red Tent and what it's all about visit
ART IN THE ROUND Intro to Mandala Making
Book your own session anytime for groups of two or more. A great gift idea or a fun Girl's Day out!

Special Mother's Day Session Sat. May 7 from 1-4 pm. Be sure to reserve early.
DRAWING LESSONS - "Seeing With New Eyes"
Sun. Mornings 10am-12pm
Sun. Afternoons, 1-3 pm
Wed. Afternoons, 1-3 pm

Student DrawingBuild your drawing skills and learn to see the world through an artist's eyes. Newbies and more advanced welcome. Start anytime | Pay as you go.
DRAW YOUR DRAGON! – Headwaters Kids Art Fest Workshops
These special workshops during March Break are for little ones but not to worry, there is plenty of dragon fun for adults too (see below or click here!)

For Little Dragons 5- 8 years old
Little DragonsSat. March 12, 1-2:30 pm, $25 per child

For Bigger Dragons 9-13 years old – Sat. March 19, 1-2:30 pm, $30 per child

AWAKENING THE DRAGON -  A Create & Colour Workshop
For Adult Dragons!
Sat. April 2, 1-4 pm

Zen Tangle DragonThe doodling and colouring craze is alive and well … are you ready to take it to the next level? In this magical workshop you will learn more about dragon energy, enjoy a beautiful guided journey to the land of the Druids, then create and colour your own dragon through the art of ‘zentangling’.
$45 per person
Sat. April 30, 1-4:00pm

Faery FlagThis special afternoon of merry making will have you creatively enticing the faery folk to come dance in your garden on May Day!
$75 per person
Pendants $40.00 each. Wear the calming energy of one of my mandalas close to your heart. Drop by my studio to make your selection from 10 different designs.

Dove Pendant
Shamanic Consultations & Spiritual Mentoring
Are you in search of answers or experiencing a challenging life transition? 1-on-1 sessions can be booked with me at the Alton Mill or Breakthrough Centre in Brampton to help you find solutions.

MARI® Mandala "Soul Symbol" Interpretation
Explore the 'language of your soul' in a 1-on-1 self-discovery mandala making session with interpretation and a symbol 'reading' that lets your inner wisdom shine through. Sessions by appointment at my studio. Visit my website to learn more.
"If a little flower could speak, it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any of its gifts. It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty, or that it had not a sweet scent, that the sun had withered its petals, or the storm bruised its stem, if it knew that such were not the case."

~ St Thérèse de Lisieux

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