cultivating holistic creativity

bird paintings on paper by Hali Karla


My studio is starting to feel a bit like an aviary with all of these birds from my painting studies this year! I just don’t know if I’ll ever get tired of birds – they are infinitely fascinating and some of my favorite companions to wind down with. Sitting with their beauty in my practice has led me to a journey of learning more about their language, too. I’m pretty much a complete novice when it comes to bird calls, but I’m enjoying learning how to discern the variations, bit by bit. Right now, the mockingbirds in our yard have me smitten (although, they aren’t perhaps the best bird to study consistent sounds from!).

Several new birds are finished and now posted in my GALLERY and Shop.


prayer pages, mixed media, Hali Karla Artsprayer pages detail, mixed media, Hali Karla Artsprayer pages detail, mixed media, Hali Karla Arts

Taking up space is part of the creation process. It’s how we orient and root, express and relate – and how our wholeness moves into the world and life we are creating. It is energy moving through us, organizing itself into cycles of becoming – conceived and gestated, released and resonate.

We breathe, we merge, we love and choose, beginning again infinite times over. We swell within and without, until our creative waters break and flow from some new way of seeing that we can never fully prepare for, but that we have been prepared for all along.


I originally thought I would offer my women’s virtual creative circle, RELATE, again this August. I knew I wanted to change some important format details this time around (for instance, we will really be committing to our personal, sacred creative practice this time around, in a new way), but I have to be honest – when I recently watched to the videos I made for the course last summer, they just felt so removed from my process right now. For instance, I would choose different words and say things differently in this season than how I did just one year ago… and the approach for the creative practice portion has evolved, too!

Even though it’s easier to just re-use previously made content, for something this personal to my own soulwork, I want the guiding foundation to be offered from a fresh and true perspective. That feels most authentic, and the most honest way to hold space for women navigating and excavating their own creative truth and values around relationship and connection. It is, after all, how I would lead a live circle!

So RELATE will run online again this year, and is now tentatively planned for October – which will allow me the time to re-format and re-create some of the content from my current language and perspective. Even with the extra work, this feels very exciting and genuine to me – and I can’t wait to see who joins the circle this year!

In the meantime, even though I’m scrapping lots of the previous videos, I am going to share some of the short art-inspiration videos from the previous RELATE every now and then (like the one above), right here on the blog! Might as well!

{First dibs to register for RELATE will go to my mailing list subscribers. You can JOIN HERE}


A recurring infatuation – in my art, life and soulwork – is how different approaches, experiences and often paradoxical perspectives come together to create who we are and how we see possibility in the moment. Realism and fantasy. Dream and waking. Science/body and spirit. Or, in the literal sense of this simple page, a loose brush study on an old photo. The point, perhaps, is to trigger a moment of imagination and possibility – a thread into something either so mysteriously familiar, or so different from what is usually expected that the response is a pause with a sort of, huh... and curiosity is sparked.

This isn’t about what anyone else might interpret or project from my work necessarily. I hardly expect anyone to look at this page, for instance, and conclude all that runs through my contemplation in the making and retrospective of it. Instead, I’m speaking of the relationship between creative process energy and my self {body, breath, mind, soul} as conduit, vessel, substrate… that special something that happens between the moment of intention-setting and the finished thing at the end of the experience. The aroma that rises from the simmer.

The mystery of amalgamation and spontaneous connection lights me up. Absorption and release. The creative process is a living tension, a dance of sensation and intuition, combined with personal meaning and integration… and its savory goodness is available to anyone that comes to their own intentional practice. We are attuned to a center of truth unique to the course of our own experience, reflection, perception and anticipation. This truth matters to our quality of life.

While to some this may sound dangerously like a self-centered endeavor, I have found in my own experience that it is actually a dichotomous surrender for those who simply must make art as a means of expressing their voice. Often the discovery is not at all pleasing to the artist; other times it is eerily synchronous – and both can be deeply humbling to confront. The creative process is always at risk of misinterpretation and ego-tricks indeed – as are all pursuits of self-discovery, transformation and preservation – and yet somewhere in that risk lies the possibility of honest and fresh growth, rippling outward, subtly or boldly, to impact all of the artist’s relations.

I like to think sometimes that I have a handle on it working through me, a solid interpretation of what’s going on. But the truth is that it happens in spite of my mental antics, more often than not – and as hindsight grows with time, both my curiosity and understanding of a page or artwork deepen and widen so much that I can’t claim to “get it” entirely in any moment – only what is pertinent to that season of my life as I look back upon it and how it informs that which has come after it.

The transformation of perspective, once unleashed in creative practice, is a continuous stream as long as we don’t dam it off. That’s good enough to keep me coming back for more.

Owls are spirits of the inbetween, creatrixes of transformation, with both a mighty stillness and swift response to impulse and environment. I continue to explore fresh marks on old pages, and whispers of freedom and trust in precision-less movement and smaller pockets of time. It still often looks like wings and color splotches – and if I’m stretching my self well, it gets a little uncomfortable.

When my father was visiting recently, he flipped to this page and told me that these trees are some of the oldest on earth. I hadn’t realized that, but somehow it didn’t surprise me.

“It is as if there are external equivalents for truths which I already in some mysterious way know. In order to catch these equivalents, I have to stay “turned on” all the time, to keep my receptivity to what is around me totally open. Preconception is fatal to this process. Vulnerability is implicit in it; pain, inevitable.” ~ Anne Truitt


Hooded Crow, altered book art journal and sketches,

There are crows that live all around our home. They’ve been here with us since we moved in 5 years ago. They frequent our front and back yards, our trees – and they like to finish up the food that the ducks spill on the ground. I watch them, listening, learning, honoring. They are my daily companions, reminding me to see the mystery and transformation, all around.

I didn’t know much about the Hooded Crow, though, until a few weeks ago – right about the time I began a little genealogy research into my family. I had attended a weekend on ancestral work that has brought the most interesting awareness and shifts into my perspective, re~awakening a sense of connection to my lineage that goes beyond fact and proof into rivers of healing that have been waiting generations to be acknowledged. Perhaps someday I’ll write more about that.

There have been interesting factoids I’ve learned along the way, too, though. For instance, I may have more Cherokee in me than I ever thought – and closer in the lineage than I realized. Further back, are some documented tensions between the Cherokee and my family – with a manuscript written about a kidnapping that lasted twelve years – the manuscript is at a library just a few hours away. I also learned that there are many of my ancestors buried just a few hours from where I live here in Western North Carolina (I had no idea about this when we moved here – just that I was so drawn to this landscape).

I also knew before that we are quite Irish – but it ends up there’s a great deal of Scottish in there, too. Both of those places are also the land of the Hooded Crow – so I’ve become even more intrigued in this particular member of the corvidae family.

I feel a little bit like she’s helping me, across all the distance, to honor the remembered and forgotten parts of who I am.




Lay out nourishment for the creative life. Although many things are good and nutritious for the soul, most fall into… four basic food groups: time, belonging, passion and sovereignty. Stock up. These keep the river clean.

~Clarissa Pinkola Estes



NOURISH is our next theme in Spectrum {2014 holistic visual journaling workshop} – guided by Jane Cunningham, Jocelyn Brown, Ginger Mae White, Tracy Verdugo and myself. Comes out July 15th – you can learn more and JOIN US HERE.



journal pages,

journal pages,

continuing to play with abstraction and layers in my paint sketches – and the joining of both intentional and spontaneous marks to tell a story of place on the page

Spirit Bird prayer painting,
Spirit Bird prayer painting detail,
Spirit Bird prayer painting detail,
Spirit Bird prayer painting detail,

spirit bird. bird spirit.
mixed media + gritty prayer on 16×20 inch canvas.

been sitting with this one for a few weeks, listening. while my mind keeps wanting to fuss and find a way to touch her up that feels certain and pleasing, my sense is that she’s complete, as is, a gritty work in progress. the restraint to honor that is the edge with this one.