The Artist and the Healer

COVID-19 has been such an unusual time for all of us. It’s been upending a lot of people’s lives and upcoming plans, but it really is a time to be serious about what matters most, and that is the health and safety of all. While we are all hunkered down in our homes, many of us have kept busy with work. Me? I found this to be a good time to evaluate how I want to focus on my self-development and growth. As an artist and a healer.

There’s always been two sides of me—the logical and the emotional side. On one hand, I’ve always valued art and recognized my innate talents for visual art-making. On the other, I often find myself being drawn to the elements of structure, logic, and science. I enjoy being a clinical psychologist because I get to help others work through their emotional and mental health challenges. But art has never been simply something I could keep on the back burner for too long; it gets restless and antsy, and always wants to chime in and contribute to whatever I’m doing.

And so I’ve decided to explore the possibility of having both my artist and healer sides come together to collaborate on something new and exciting. More and more, I’ve become open to the idea that they can coexist on the same plane of existence, and that I can be recognized for both of my skills in unison. My DANESSA art paintings and accessories are a product of such an experiment. It’s not always been comfortable for me to tout both of my areas of knowledge, and I sometimes wonder whether it was because of fear. Fear that I will be judged, mocked, discounted by others who see me as some failed “true artist.” Or one that couldn’t quite make it in the big leagues and pursue an actual art degree.

On some days, it is easy to dispel such “myths” of the mind. Some days, not so much. I believe it and I hide. It sucks because it stops me from creating. It makes me doubt myself, and in turn, I become consumed by the negative energy. And some days, it feels good to push back. And lay out all the heap of junk in the middle of the floor, and begin to sort out each negative, unhelpful thought.

That, actually, yes. I could have pursued art school. But that wasn’t something I wanted, when I went down that path. I immersed myself in the art community, took many art classes, and even got a Studio Art minor. But I didn’t feel like that was fulfilling enough. I was bored and wanted something else. That in fact, I found myself wanting something that made the art more deep and meaningful. To be able to explore what it meant when someone made a painting, a sculpture, or a political art piece. To learn more about the artist behind the artwork. To see how their life story led them to become the artist they were. Art is interesting, but the people behind them are even more captivating.

And so that is why I make art. I am an artist, and I am a healer. I am one. My goal for my artworks is to create mindful art that heals, connects others, and and share it with the world. You will find my latest creations under the PsychBlab section of my art store. This is a set of resources and worksheets for psychology and self-development. Check it out and see for yourself! I’ll be adding more in there as I churn more ideas in the near future.

Thanks for following me on this journey,

Kobe: The Legend, The Icon, The Man

View this post on Instagram

8/24. #kobebryant

A post shared by Danessa (@danessa_art) on

It’s taken me a few weeks to get my thoughts in order about one of my recent paintings. I was shocked beyond belief, on the day I heard from the news that Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven of their friends and team members died in a helicopter crash in the San Fernando valley. This news hit me hard in many different ways. I am an Angeleno, and I take such great pride in that fact that it is my home. My heart will always belong to LA. The crash occurred a few short miles from my family’s home in the valley, and that by itself was a scary notion on how close it all happened to people I love very much. I also grew up with Kobe Bryant gracing every LA Lakers game night when I lived at home with my mother, father, and brother. Basketball was my dad’s favorite sport, and he shared that love for the game with us. He was an avid Michael Jordan fan when we were younger and still lived in Asia (Philippines, Singapore). I remember him playing intramural basketball in Singapore, and then later becoming one of the coaches for the teams of Filipino engineers and architects that played in the league.

The Kobe era coincidentally occurred at the same time when we emigrated to California, USA. And so, Kobe represented so much more to me and my family than just the basketball player that we have all seen and heard on tv. Til his life’s end, my dad was a hard core Kobe Bryant and Lakers fan. A part of me found the recent news even more heartbreaking, because I felt like a very important thread connecting me to my dad has been severed. It hurt like hell. Like I was lost and couldn’t find my way home. And so I know what I needed to do.

I needed to paint.

Grieving. I couldn’t do anything else today, so I decided to make something and process the past few days. I don’t know what will come out of this but I will let my heart lead the way. It never fails me. 💜💛 #kobebryant

Seeing the Kobe and Gigi memorial on tv today has been healing. Seeing so many other people feel connected to this one man made me feel not so alone. And it helped acknowledge and validate my grief. That it was understandable that I felt so torn. That a man I never met once in my life meant so much. A whole city came together to celebrate him and time stopped for a brief moment to pay their respect.

So today, as we commemorate the legend, the athlete, the man, I am wrapped with warmth from the memories of my family that he has been a part of. Thank you, Kobe. Your memory lives on in our hearts, thoughts, and shared stories with loved ones.

Mamba forever. 💜💛

Blue Ballerina

Hi there! It’s been a while since I made an art blog entry, so I feel a bit rusty. I have had quite a year of life transitions and wonderful new changes, so I am glad to be working on some creative projects more freely again now that I have some free time to myself. It’s become more important to me to spend time with myself to maintain a good balance of my work-art life, as I attempt to cultivate my own rituals and practices for self-care. 

That includes taking on tasks, new creative opportunities, etc. I have been practicing better boundaries with others on energy management, not just time. And so, I think with every step, the universe does listen. What once was a scary thought that I would be letting go of cool opportunities in front of me because I didn’t have enough time for it resulted in me making way for better opportunities when I had my priorities straight. Tsk. Had I known this sooner…

Anyway, I digress. I’m really here to give a glimpse into my latest art commission from a lovely friend of mine. She had the vision of recreating a reference painting of a ballerina in blue but making subtle changes to the image. I was very excited for the undertaking, especially since we were going BIG at 38″x52″! Canvas stretching is always a pain, but I’m lucky to have an amazing helper 🙂 

The mood/feel of this painting is light, airy, and graceful. Per request, the subject matter was also made to look Asian. I was suddenly diving into what I didn’t know was a rabbit hole, when I began searching for asian ballerinas on the web. There weren’t many prominent ones identified, and I was stumped. I eventually landed on Stella Abrera, a world-renowned Filipino-American ballerina.

Watching some of her performances on video evoked feelings of cultural pride and joy. I was reminded that gracefulness doesn’t necessarily mean frailty. That it could embody strength, dedication, and rigor. Her devotion to ballet and reaching for her goals is impressive, and going against a cultural norm of expectations from her family background reminds me of the trailblazers that walk amongst us who are always creating new paths where it was previously deemed impossible. And how fitting, that it was recently Filipino American History Month in October, and lots of stories about the Fil-Am diaspora have been in the media. I also recently attended a life-changing event called Entrepinays Summit in San Francisco, California. I cannot completely put into words how the experience made me feel, but I linger upon the word “seen.” I felt home. I felt regarded and in the support of other Pinays just like me who are making their own career moves and forging new paths in the entrepreneurial field. I never realized that there were so many women just like me, had big dreams like me, and had strength that reminded me of women who raised me.

I slowly realized that this painting was quite an important and special one, and I took to task and got started. The immediate feeling of layering the first color of blue was such a calming effect. I felt engulfed and hugged by the colorful waves. It felt good. I began thinking about how to create a close anatomical representation of the ballerina, and it got me a bit frustrated at first. I became a little stuck with the idea of perfection, making it just right and as close to the reference as I could. But this got me nowhere and annoyed. I had to take some time away and pull back from the work, re-examine my motivations. After some time of thinking, I came to realize that it wasn’t my goal to create a “perfect” ballerina painting, I wanted to create a painting of a ballerina that embodied those same things I said earlier–gracefulness and strength.This was such a freeing moment, I learned. I began to paint more loosely and with ease. I was enjoying painting again. 

I’m putting the finishing touches to this piece as we speak. Overall, I’m quite happy with the work and learned a little bit more about my process. What works for me, and what are some things to check in with whenever I feel stuck during my painting process. Art has been such a journey for me. I look back at some of my previous works in the past two, three, four years, and I can definitely say that I’ve grown into my own style.

I can only hope to continue evolving. 

<3Danessa

The Road to Self-Compassion

What a winding, unpredictable road it is.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m still basking in the glorious energy of the Self-love, Compassion, and Care art&psychology workshop event from the end of May in Sacramento.  And it got me wondering…

How radical is it to practice self-compassion? 

Talking to all these courageous and open-minded women during the event made me have a greater appreciation for how much of a mind-shift we are creating in our current world. Drawing from my day job of psychotherapy, I cannot help but take notice of how difficult it is for people to just willingly give themselves such self-compassion and love. Like we have to prove that we are worthy of such attention, praise, care, and concern. As if there was more work to do to make us feel okay to give our selves even half of what we so readily give to others.

We hesitate.

We create conditional statements.

We deny ourselves the love and unconditional regard that we so freely give to the significant people in our lives.

Why?

Honestly, I don’t know.

I’ve got lots of ideas why and how each of us gets there at some point, but it is all a big question mark.

To shed some light on such a penumbra, I went at it the only way I knew how.

With a brush and canvas, of course. 😛

I decided to re-work an old painting of mine that I felt was wholly incomplete. It was a painting about a light, airy, and carefree feeling. But it was also titled Pyro because it was about a strong feeling of intuition, desire, and fiery love. It used to be about a more romantic type of love, but now I think this transformation has shifted it to be about self-love. I also didn’t think the final image completely depicted all that I wanted it to, so I revisited this piece and decided to kick it up a notch.

And so this is what happened. Check out those colors and wild movement!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Like all my other paintings, I created this with intentionality. I made it for me–to be enjoyed by and appreciated by me. I gotta say, most of my paintings are about me gifting myself something I’ve always wanted. A funny remake of this, a rendition of a famous artist’s style, or something that looks b a d a s s on that one empty wall in my room. I mean, why make anything if you don’t like it, right?

This painting has lots of interesting moments within it, and that’s what keeps me curious. To me, this piece conveys how we each spend so many of our moments judging ourselves and thinking and rethinking each moment to the point that we drive ourselves mad with our own thoughts. Sometimes, these patterns of thinking are helpful, other times not. The colors are vibrant and lively to capture the immense energy that our minds are able to produce with each thought; and it can be used for good or bad. In this work, such colorful brushstrokes look as if they are easily swayed in a nonsensical pattern, turning at each bend but never really going anywhere.

Much like how an anxious mind works–trying to “solve” a situation by overthinking and creating “worst-case scenarios.” Pre-planning for what bad thing could happen. And in the end, was it productive?

Our thoughts are so powerful, they can affect how we feel.

Our thoughts can lead us to awe-inspiring journeys that no man has ever set foot. And yet, if we are not careful, such thoughts can lead to our distress. So instead, be still, and find your inner anchor through your breath. Take comfort in the notion that your self-worth is internal and not dependent on what goes on around you. Realize that you, too, deserve your love and care.

And really mean it.

Music on deck: It’s All In Vain by Wet

This whole self-love, compassion, and care is a forever journey that I hope we each find ourselves on at some point in our lifetime. Because we deserve it. We are innately worthy. And that is not something that changes with experience or luck.

To quote my favorite poet on this matter:

Rumi

 

❤ Danessa

Word of the year 2018

If I could choose a word for the 2018 year, mine would be:

Serendipity: To stumble upon something that is favorable by happenstance or luck

I want this year to be all about me digging deeper into my mindfulness practice and learning to trust my instincts. To reach for the stars and see what I find on my way there. To joyfully breeze through each moment, knowing that with each one that passes, time is leading me to something bigger and greater. You know those Nike ads all over the place?

Yeah, I agree.

I want it all.

And is that so bad?

untitled-154-1.jpg

Photo by Danessa from Art Market SF 2018

But maybe, like always, life has something else in plan for me. For so long, I have planned and pre-planned my life because it seemed chaotic and unpredictable. Personal tragedies have a way of changing people–you are either broken by it or made more formidable. Me? I hate to say it but sometimes I don’t know. So I paint to get it out of my system. It’s a way for me to process what is happening inside and around me–sometimes even unbeknownst to my conscious self.

I’ve been painting a few new pieces that have been an exploration of this idea of serendipity. This latest set began much like any other–a lot of trial and error, feeling unsatisfied about what is currently on the canvas, and wanting to secure a purpose or direction in my work. It. was. tough. But I did hold on and keep trying until I reached a state of mind that was (close to) calm and even-keeled. It was at this turning point that I was able to unlock something excitingly different in my art.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

OMG. Becky, Look at those waves. 0.0

I haven’t painted like this in a long, long, very long time. And stumbling upon this was so fulfilling. It made me think of the post-impressionist works of Vincent van Gogh, and how he reveled in the sheer beauty of color, impasto, and movement in his paintings. What it must have been like to live being misunderstood, isolated, and destitute but doing what you loved. What was that like for him?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I gave in to my curiosity and dove right into painting with graceful, slow movement. It was when I stopped fighting the unhelpful comments/judgments in my head (“Don’t do that” or “Why don’t you paint like you’re a real artist”) that I found progress in my artwork. I initially planned to create a triptych. But ended up with a diptych. Ah, well. A chance to practice some mindfulness skill of going with the flow and adapting to changes, I guess.

Even after all the artworks and paintings I have done in my life, I still battle with these negative automatic thoughts (NATs) in my head. Sometimes, the external world isn’t really as helpful, either. Several times, I have received previous feedback from other artists that I should paint BIGGER. And with MORE SPEED. And demonstrate MORE POWER in my works. Here, look at this paintbrush stroke–seems to lack CONFIDENCE.

UGH. I thought they were helpful in my growth and I considered them for a time being, but now I see that I have a certain style that works for me and that is all true to my own. So, thanks, but I got this.

And here’s the progress.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What do you think?

All in all, I’m pretty happy about where this curious adventure has taken me. I think that art is deeply personal and serendipity takes you where you didn’t know you wanted to be, but am infinitely grateful for. I, like everyone else who has ever tried anything new in their life, will continue to work on my NATs and keep serendipity in mind as I continue to take on those new blank canvases.

And I hope that you will too ❤

 

-Danessa

Art Appreciation

You know what feels awesome?

IMG_0610

 

When someone looks at your artwork and tells you, “I get it. I LOVE IT!”

Hearing these words immediately trigger a rush of chemicals to my brain’s reward pathway, and I am addicted.

It is SO validating and heart-warming to meet others who accept you for exactly what makes you unique. And it’s quite infrequent that this happens to me since abstract expressionist art is a niche field that attracts a specific kind of soul.

I started painting a new set of works called Metta. This collection falls under the Mind Games series and has been super re f r e s h ing for me.

The Metta paintings are made with gouache on mixed media paper. This was inspired by my recent and more regular practice of yoga and meditation practice. Although I’ve been involved in these for nearly 6 years now, I am now seeing yoga and mindfulness through a different light. They say yoga can be a religion, and I now see what people mean by that. Often times, I leave a yoga session feeling really cleansed and peaceful. I have a clear goal of what I want out of life and how I want to live the rest of my days. I sometimes even feel a bit emotional after a mindfulness meditation practice or find myself weeping while listening to a guided meditation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These new paintings are titled Metta for a reason. I want people who know little to nothing about mindfulness and meditation to have an opportunity to learn about Loving Kindness by coming across these artworks. Loving Kindness or Metta meditation was my gateway to practicing deeper over the years, and I believe it can ring true to others as well. The idea that we can share gratitude, compassion, and empathy towards our fellow humankind (and more importantly, with our selves), all simply because we understand that this is our one life. That we are all that we’ve got. And that we are in this life together. Through the vehicle of creative arts pushing this message forward, I believe that we can get there.

I have noticed that people tend to become captivated by my work from the early days when I painted from a place of sadness, anger, and pain. And I know why. I get it. We all find solace in others who we think can understand what we are going through or have experienced. For that reason, I understand why art patron and fans alike have clamored at my doorsteps asking if any of my early works were up for grabs.

Now, I paint from a different space and mindset, which I believe is just as meaningful, captivating, and may even reflect my increased development as a fine artist. I paint from a place of peace, calm, and balance. I have made it a regular practice to not only create art on a regular basis but not let my mood set the tone for whether I will be making something amazing today. I am moving away from glorifying turmoil, the dramatic, and destructive; I seek the possibility of holding a light to the opposing still, quiet, and balanced way of living.

What do I want my viewers to take away from the Metta paintings?

I want my paintings to serve as a daily reminder to ground oneself to the present moment. To live in the here and now, no matter what you were doing/thinking/feeling right before you took a glance at the painting. Similar to how meditation teaches us to come back to the breath when the mind becomes distracted during practice, I want the Metta paintings to help the viewer remember to be here now. To breathe deeply and live in the present moment with full intention. To take notice and become curious about the image in front of them, and approach it with a beginner’s mind. To look at it from different perspectives, deconstruct it with their mind, and see the image in a brand new way each and every time.

IMG_0714

No interpretation is false–art is personal, and abstract art is poetry in visual form.

Come read my poetry sometime.

 

❤ Danessa

Light and Bubbly

Started some new paintings recently and had the inescapable craving to splash on a light and bubbly colorful palette for a change.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Maybe it was inspired by my recent art hangout with friends when we made some cute Year of the Dog paintings, or my recent trip to the Museum of Ice Cream, or maybe it’s the recent surge of friends who are on the path to parenthood at the moment (this does not include me lol). OR Maybe it was ALL of it. I am currently inspired and touched by the amazing journey ahead into this weird life phase we now are in. Straight up adulting, guys! From all this happening around me, I wanted to help welcome such new and exciting times by creating new babes of my own (yet still an art reference!). 😛

Check out this time-lapse vid of me getting my mindful art on!

 

Here I am using my calligraphy brush to whisk on some beautiful light strokes of Windsor & Newton and M. Graham watercolor paints on the good ol’ trustworthy Arches watercolor paper. Super fun! What you didn’t see was my new art-making ritual process of doing a brief but grounding mindfulness practice right beforehand, and then an ease towards making the painting.

My goal is to make each into a triptych set. I don’t really make triptych paintings often, but I think this idea lends well to it. Something about the fleeting movement of the puffy, cotton-candy colors that make me want to keep creating and re-creating it, to evoke the feeling of breathing in and out deeply, resembling when I engage in deep breathing during mindfulness meditation.

Inhale,

and breathe in

a big colorful bubble of light.

Exhale,

and breathe out

an airy,

fluffy cloud

that bobs slowly

up,

up,

and away.

Themes of playfulness, sweet, and carefree. Distant memories of childhood not yet tarnished by the realities of adult life. Curiosity and cheerful giggles that radiate a whole room.

IMG_20180216_174655.jpg

Still a work in progress, I must say. Stay tuned for updates!

Oh HEY! Have you grabbed your copy of my latest FREE art calendar? Get it here and share /print it as much as you want!

An elegant flower lily of delicate hues and a white leaf bumigi for writing lies on a light pink background.

-Danessa