May 2017
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Courting the Muse
Georgia on My Mind ...

Courting the Muse by CJ Shelton
I am a tethered falcon
With great wings and sharp talons poised,
Every sinew taut, like a Sacred Bow,
Quivering at the edge of my Self
And Eternal Freedom
~ Hafiz, Sufi Master

“Four things are needed by every work of art: a place, a time, an author and a cause”. ~ The Martyrology of Oengus

The creation of anything new requires awareness and attention, yet in our increasingly complex and overwhelming world these two precious things are rare commodities. For an artist though, they are essential.

As my own awareness and attention reflects on springtime’s beauty, my heart flutters like Hafiz’s tethered falcon in anticipation of a creative summer ahead. Many an idea and inspiration have been quietly brewing these past few month and my newest mandala above carries the spirit of that little falcon, flying over its nest of dreams… a nest full of the potential to come!

In many ways this piece also illustrates what writer Caitlin Matthews talks about in her Celtic Spirit - Daily Meditations for the Turning Year: “The creative ingredients, those ideas and inspirations, wander throughout the world. They seem to be shaken like stardust over everything, to be caught in handfuls by those who are ready to receive them, Stardustor missed by those who have not yet got a cause in their sights.”

Oh to catch some of that stardust!

But readiness and willingness are not enough, according to Matthews. “Both opportunity and space must also be found to bring an idea into manifestation. Timeliness is about the attunement of opportunity and creative impulse to each other. Place is not only about location but about correct placement of our idea. The struggle to make our ideas manifest must account for all these ingredients. If we try to avoid or omit any of them, we quickly face frustration and dissatisfaction. The coming into being of a creative piece of work is an act of birth that results from many secret unfoldings and preparations.”

Readiness, willingness, opportunity and space … amongst these unfoldings and preparations we also frequently hear references to the muse, the illusive face that inspiration wears.

The muse must be courted by all artists who know that “they cannot create alone, who need to be folded within her embrace before the creative spark leaps the synapse of potentiality.” Springtime is surely such a muse, and one that can always be counted on to inspire us with her promises of new beginnings and perfect timings … and of not-so-perfect timings, as evidenced in many a broken egg and abandoned nest.

Like the Spring GoddeSpring Goddess by CJ Sheltonss herself, the muse is typically female and known primarily as a companion to the male artist … which begs one to wonder why we hear so little about the form it takes for a woman.

According to Matthews, the primary inspirer of women is known as a daimon (pronounced (DYE-mone). The Urban Dictionary defines a daimon as “A spirit full of mana, often an inward mentor, a source of inspiration, and a moral guardian to an individual”. Rudolph Steiner referred to a daimon as our “mediator between the earthly and the divine.” No matter which way you define the muse, female or otherwise, creativity is usually sparked by something illusively mysterious and wonderful, a beautiful form that can rarely be named.

Last week I had the opportunity to wing down to the Art Gallery of Ontario to the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition in search of inspiration from one of the "greats". Truth be told, I’ve actually never been a huge fan of Georgia O’Keeffe’s art although this woman-as-artist, fiercely independent and living in challenging times when women had only just won the right to vote and the modern world was reinventing itself in the gap between two ugly world wars, absolutely fascinates me.

Opening photo at AGO ShowA massive and boldly arresting photograph of O’Keeffe greets you at the entrance to the AGO’s retrospective of this "trailblazing modernist”. It ends with the iconic photo taken of her later in life by Karsh, sitGeorgia O'Keeffe by Karshting highlighted in the glow of her ephemeral muse, eyes downcast and inwardly focused beneath the ever-present shadow of one of her famous deer skulls. Book-ended between these two larger-than-life images unfold the captivating and innovating chapters that make up this woman’s story.

Although carefully and almost too deliberately curated at times, the show captures the illusive feel that O’Keeffe herself always strove to maintain about her “brand”. She was a woman of mystery and still is. She was also a woman in touch with her daimon … and a woman now a daimon herself to many.

Even beyond death her aura is palpable and her spirit unapologetic for a life lived on her terms. Her bold paintings offer us only the occasional teasing glimpse of the fluttering creative wings she cradled within the secret recesses of her heart. In O’Keeffe’s own words: “It takes courage to be a painter. I always felt I walked on the edge of a knife. On this knife I might fall off on either side, but I’d walk it again. So what! What if you do fall off? I’d rather be doing something I really wanted to do”.

Georgia, I hear you! You knew that the daimon, trailing stardust on wings of light, is something that takes courage to reach out and catch hold of. Because for O’Keeffe - and for all artists - life is a constant back-and-forth struggle of sometimes needing, sometimes hating, how and when the creative parts of their intimate self is revealed to the world ... to be accepted, understood and regaled, or misunderstood and misinterpreted.

This is the way it is for any "creator", not just the artistic kind. As much as I am in awe of a legend like O’Keeffe, I am also completely in awe of those who can whip up a divinely delicious meal out of only a few simple ingredients, give birth to and nurture a child from babyhood to fully functioning adult, or listen to a car engine’s subtle rattle and know just which part to adjust and make it sing perfectly.

Courage Quote by MatisseAs another legendary painter, Henri Matisse said, even more succinctly than O’Keeffe: “Creativity takes courage”. His broader statement challenges each of us boldly, suggesting that we all have the ability to move forward on the wings of our dreams, if only we have courage. And yes, a little awareness and attention thrown in for good measure can’t hurt as well while we wait until just the right opportunity and space to reach out our hands.

So I ask you, during this delightful season of birds and blossoms, of nests and eggshells that adorn the muse we call Mother Nature, what daimon’s siren call is beckoning you? What stardust is sprinkling down, just waiting to be caught in eager handfuls? And what nest of ideas are you incubating until the timing is right?

As Oprah always ends with, “what I know for sure” is at this buoyant and joyfully beautiful time of year my own creativity is perched like Hafiz’s tethered falcon, ready to take flight. Hopefully, new work will pour forth soon … and I ask you to hold me to that promise, please. But not too tightly, mind. After all, timing is everything. My muse, my daimon, has been tethered out of necessity this last while, to be released only when all the creative ingredients are present.

And with that said, I bow my head in respect to the legend that is Georgia, and give her the last word on this subject: “Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing – and keeping the unknown always beyond you”.

For those feeling the call of their own muse, there are still a few spots left for my "Messages from the Spirit Horse", a very special mandala workshop where we create in the presence of real horses ... can you hear the horses calling? I also have a Garden Prayer Stick workshop at Whisper Lane Wellness June17 to celebrate the Summer Solstice. And be sure to check out my summer series of watercolour workshops where the focus will be on painting flowers either expressively or traditionally. Lastly, why not consider joining my weekly ongoing drawing classes or new acrylic painting circle this summer (newbies welcome).
May you enjoy the dance!

CJ Shelton
Artist, Instructor & Facilitator

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!
Perhaps it is just the energy building towards the celebrations of Canada’s 150th birthday, but I can never resist photographing and painting the simple beauty of our province’s famous white flower. In the woods where I walk regularly there is a very special “fairy”grove where each year, for a few enchanting weeks, the ground is covered in a blanket of their starry faces. It is pure magic to be amongst them!
The trillium’s iconic three white petals make it a flower sacred to the Goddess as the number “three” is symbolic of the three different faces she wears - Maiden, Mother or Wise Woman. Of course, the flower’s virginal whiteness against the dark soil and green leaves also hints at the playful dance of procreation taking place all around as the Goddess-as-Maiden walks the woods, watching over the birds, blooms and animals under her care.
This watercolour is one of many little studies I made while preparing for the workshop I taught this month on painting trilliums. I love the fluidity and spontaneity of watercolour for quickly capturing the essence of a subject. Using it never fails to stir my soul … and lately my muse has been hinting at perhaps a bigger project in the works with this medium. We shall just have to wait and see. After all, the right creative ingredients need to be in place first!

This study is from my Teaching Collection
"INTO THE MYSTICAL" Learning & Sharing Circle
Moon Quest
Share spiritual wisdom, experiences and all things of a mystical nature with like-minded souls at this monthly gathering of 'friends on the journey’. Circles are held each third Thursday of the month. PLEASE RSVP or email to be added to the notification list


Thurs. June 15, 2017
Thurs. July 20, 2017
Thurs. August 24, 2017
Book your own custom session anytime to fit your schedule. For groups of two or more. Great for families, girls-day-out or wedding groups. Please email for more info.
DRAWING LESSONS - "Seeing With New Eyes"
ONGOING Start anytime.
Pay as you go.


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.

Sun. Mornings, 10am-Noon
Suitable for budding artists ages 10-14 with a love of drawing. NOTE: The kids and I will be taking a break during July and August but this class resumes in September. Please contact me for info.

ONGOING Start anytime.
Pay as you go.
Thursdays, Morning or Afternoon Sessions

Let's paint together! Bring your paints and your latest painting and join me in my studio for inspiration, ideas and help with all those tricky bits. Contact me for more info.
These are great sessions for those new to watercolour as well as those who have painted before. Each session is being offered several times throughout the summer with weekday and Saturday options.

Saturday June 10
Saturday July 15
Friday July 28
Saturday August 5
1- 4 pm, $75 per person

Friday June 23

Saturday July 8
Friday July 14
Saturday August 26
1- 4 pm, $75 per person

THIS SATURDAY May 27, 9:30 am-12:30 pm
@ Fox Meadow Farm, 15115 McLaughlin Road

Enjoy a shamanic journey surrounded by the energy of Fox Meadow Farms herd of four beautiful Hanoverian horses, then capture their messages in a mandala as they continue to hold space for our creative process. This is a truly magical experience. Still a few spots open! Please contact myself or host Sharon Olesen to register.
$85 per person
GARDEN PRAYER STICK WORKSHOP & Summer Solstice Celebration
Sat. June 17, 2017
10am to 2pm @ Whisper Lane Wellness (between Marsville and Erin)

Welcome in summer by creating your very own garden art and learning how many indigenous peoples celebrate the Solstice by making prayer sticks. This is a fun outdoor activity around a fire that will end with a blessing ceremony.
$135 per person
The Fool Tarot Card
The first run of this course just finished and was so much fun I will be doing it again this fall. Email me to be put on the wait list
$40 each. 10 different designs. Drop by the studio or email your order.

Heartsong Pendant
"Heart Song" Design
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 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.
“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” ~ Mary Oliver
Copyright © 2017 Dancing Moon Designs, All rights reserved.

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