LaVonne Sheets and Van James taught me how to use the properties of light, dark, and color to awaken my heart and reveal my soul and what wanted to be expressed.
I met LaVonne through the Waldorf School of Louisville initiative. Her painting classes looked so inviting that I drove all the way to Louisville and back weekly for a six-week session. For the first time, I experienced light as a phenomenon that dispelled darkness and then fell either behind or in front of the darkness which was created by forms. How fascinating!
Through my work with LaVonne, I started to see that these qualities worked within my soul as well.
She first read the Rudolf Steiner meditation that I love
Quiet I bear within me
I bear within myself forces that make me strong.
Now will I be imbued with their glowing warmth.
Now will I fill myself with my own will’s resolve,
and I will feel the quiet pouring throughout my being.
When, by my steadfast striving, I become strong
to find within myself the source of strength,
the strength of inner quiet.
~ Rudolf Steiner
This poem, which was read before and after each class, encouraged me to acknowledge that it was through delving into my own quietness that my inner strength could be realized.
Van James, my painting teacher in Waldorf Teacher Training, taught me the essential paintings brought through the grades in a Waldorf School. Painting was probably the part of Waldorf School that I enjoy the most, and the one I still use, even twelve years since I left the Waldorf School! Since learning the wet-on-wet watercolor method, which provides painters an experience of color as living beings of light, I have helped hundreds of people experience this!
I brought living color experiences to my son, Simon’s, second grade class in weekly sessions for most of the year! We painted stories from their reader, seeds emerging from the ground, winter descending coldly, butterflies emerging from a medicine man’s bag. The children were mesmerized by the color and quieted by the guided painting. Once, the principal, Maddie Miller, remarked, as she perused the paintings on the wall, “I don’t know what you’re doing here with these paintings, but it’s beautiful.” Well, I thought I did know what I was doing, and that was guiding the children in this soul dance with the colors, which Van James had taught me about!
I brought painting to a dozen families during the weekend Nature Link Program, sponsored by the Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve. Parents and children, both, enjoyed playfully painting, feeling uplifted and happy. I was proud to be bringing something artistic and soul nourishing to round out the cognitive classes in tracking and plant identification.
Later, when we had moved to Atlanta, and I had exhausted my welcome at the Waldorf School, I taught classes to the homeschoolers and to campers at the Dunwoody Nature Center. They all loved the painting experiences! For six summers, I ran four weeks of day camp for the Nature Center. Each week, regardless of the theme – Native American, Science, Forest, or Animals – I had at least one session of painting!
The painters who loved it the most were the parents! Homeschooling moms, especially, found their wet-on-wet watercolor experiences to be just what they needed to relax from their childraising tensions, at least for their evenings out painting!
I’m still painting too! I even use painting in my coaching work. Now, I use the spectrum painting exercise, which Van taught me 15 years ago, to help clients enliven their “Nonsenses”, which is what I call the energy centers in our bodies others know as chakras. Painters still remark how enlivened they feel, how uninhibited they felt with my guidance, and how they love what they’ve painted! A couple of years ago, I even shared this exercise at a hikers’ conference! One particularly “rebellious” man, who was laughing and making fun of his painting the whole time, sent me a photo of his painting proudly displayed at his front door!
Today, I thank Van James and LaVonne Sheets for opening my eyes to the awakening possibilities of watercolor painting! It’s been a gift that has been multiplied a hundred-fold!