Artist's are an enigma, a paradox and a great mystery to themselves and everyone else. The urge to be an artist, if truth be told, is in everyone, yet, few find the courage to pursue this dream! Why?

We all start out our lives as artists. Remember when you were very young? They gave you coloring crayons, water colors and tempera paints to draw and paint pictures to delight your own eyes and proudly display. Can you recall having modeling clay or play dough with which you created wonderful objects that brought raves from family, friends and teachers? Reminisce the happy times spent singing little songs, dancing and acting out plays or imagined adventures. Oh, yes, remember the drum you made from an old can and a wooden spoon Everyone applauded your ingenuity, imagination and your rhythm. Recall all the colorful costumes made for your Halloween or acting adventures not to mention the myriad of glittered and spangled tutus and tights for your dance recitals.

At that time the world seemed to support all your artistic and creative expressions and you personally felt great to receive this attention and acceptance. Can you see the day that it all began to change? Suddenly you were criticized for making blue or green horses or people! How about when you were reminded that life was real and hard and you must prepare for serious work as a doctor, lawyer, accountant, computer programmer, etc. ? Fun and games were over, you were told. You could make a hobby of these pursuits, "But," you must make a living "the old-fashioned hard way! " Maybe you should even look for a big corporation that offered you a lifetime of security.

Here is where the artist's wounds began. The fear of failure, the shame of self indulgence, and the lack of responsibility for hard work were presented to you loud and clear by loving and well- meaning family, friends, community and society.

Something was wrong - there were so many mixed messages. Example - look at the TV and movie stars, Las Vegas performers, recording artists, professional musicians, athletes, models, and artists of every kind who were idolized and imitated while making enormous amounts of money. They often received standing ovations for their self-expressions from the very people who told you to get real! What's going on here?

Artistic confusion set in and bewildered the young heart broken artists who crawled off to the closets of their minds to hide from this cruel, cruel world of contradictions. Too many of us stayed in these closets hiding from ourselves and from the harsh critics who abound everywhere, starving our artist's souls and spirits which longed to t o be set free to express their precious selves.

At long last, we have a champion in Julia Cameron, author of "Artist's Way". Julia's years of work with blocked, burned-out or in-hiding artists has been written into a compassionate book which is both a text and workbook that helps lost artists recover their ability to creatively express their unique, one-of-a-kind self!

Thirty thousand people a month are reading "Artist's Way." Teachers, coaches, facilitators and therapists are forming small and nurturing groups, to share this recovery process! They succeed in celebrating every "baby" - step to wholeness.

C. Shell of Laguna Beach, and E Shaleen Sterling of Irvine, CA, are two such facilitators who each hold their own 12 week classes in which I personally have participated as I processed my own recovering artist's way. I recommend them each to anyone who is searching for the return or recovery of their artist soul, personally I feel it's a distinct advantage to have the different perspectives they each bring.

Shaleen Sterling was my first experience with "Artist's Way" and I would have told you I was really excited and ready for this adventure. Now, of coursed I recognize my resistance. Oddly enough, this is part of the process and Shaleen, with ever- so-gentle words, kindness and acceptance, assisted me through my own resistance. Shaleen Sterling not only looks like I Queen of the Fairies, she is every inch a magical Fairy God Mother with her hand-crafted magical wand of enlightenment.

The moment I entered the room, the stage was set with lightly scented candles, glowing, mystical works of art around the walls and sacred artistic still life arrangements to inspire us. she greeted each of us with twinkling eyes and a loving smile that put our fears to rest. We had each been coached to arrive with a candle and a flower that represented some part of our spirit. We took turns lighting our candle and proclaiming ourselves as we shared our flower's essence and how it represented us to the others!

Shaleen is playful and light-hearted and keeps spirits up even when uncovering great sadness or grief from childhood or adult artist wounds. Perhaps the single most precious attribute about her is her uncanny 'intuition' and the compassionate way she knows what you're feeling and how to guide you through it.

The group included dancers, craft and fine artists, a Native American Healing Woman, a corporate drop-out, a video artist and myself, a writers storyteller. It often amazed us that as we shared our individual "break-downs" or "breakthroughs," it seemed that everyone was helped with that part of life's answers, also. We quickly grew into a loving family. We looked joyfully forward to our playtime. We laughed, cried, giggled, and "acted" together which freed our fragile inner child artist. This group was zestfully led by Shaleen into all sorts of spontaneous, imaginative and outrageous adventures. One day we dressed in white face and costumes and "mimed" for the people in an outdoor mall to their pure delight. Artists love artists and we became an artist family with lifetime friendships formed . To know Shaleen Sterling as an adventurer, to take her many workshops or the 12 week Artist's Way classes is a glorious odyssey into your Artist's Soul!

C. Shell was my next Artist's Way facilitator and brought me to a new exciting dimension on my artist's path. I belong to the "Writer's Edge" and we wanted to make more progress with our writing careers. I mentioned doing Artist's Way workshop. C. Shell was referred to us. We formed a class immediately. This was a writer's group with one musician that gave it an unique focus. This group was more serious as we were intent on breaking through our writer's blocks.

C. (Carol) Shell sometimes looks like your sister and sometimes looks like an Angel Of Compassion sent to guide you through your "quiet desperation" and "the dark night of your soul."

She is a woman with gentle eyes that shine out from her softly radiant face and match her soft spoken voice. I felt safe immediately and felt I could confide in her completely.

This class was filled with ambitious and driven writers who are their own worst critics. They demand perfection Selves that is so unreasonable, it's no wonder they feel blocked or overwhelmed. Three years of conducting art expression workshops using the "Artist's Way" had prepared C. Shell for our pain.

"Compassion" is the greatest lesson C. Shell taught us! We learned from her modeling how to pamper ourselves, accept and, yes, even enjoy "downtime." Wow! That was tough on all of us! We formed a compassionate community as defined by C. Shell, "Community" is a place to show up in the world where diversity is celebrated - a place where we all recognize that our commonness is what makes it safe and appealing. It's our diversity that makes it fun, challenging and exhilarating to be part of that process."

C . Shell respectfully guided us to learn how to balance artistic freedom and spontaneity with discipline in ways that unblocked us and soon our creative writings began to flow naturally from our hearts full of beauty and love.

My personal challenge for which I will always be grateful that C. Shell taught me how to grieve my lost artist's life, time and works. At first, this seemed too sad and negative, yet, gently she showed me that there is a time and place to grieve and it's part of wholeness. Now, I feel complete as I honor my total self.

Many others join me in giving thanks for Julia Cameron and gifted and talented facilitators like Shaleen Sterling and C. Shell who lovingly created a self esteeming path to the compassionate community of artists.

FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT: Shaleen Sterling, BS., Expressive Arts Educator/Facilitator, Color/FashionConsultant. Classes include 12 Week Artist's Way, Angel Candles, Magic Wands, Personal Journey Shields or Mandalas, Mask Making, Collage and Specially Designed Programs. (714) 856-2133, Irvine, CA

C. (Carol) Shell, MA., Certified Expressive Art Therapist, member of Playback Theater, Artist's Way Workshops or Private Consultation. Special Group Programs upon request. 421 N. Coast Hwy. #246, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 (714) 249-7117

"Waters Edge" open to all writers ("wanna be's" to best sellers/published authors) meets two mornings per month. Diana Delight (714) 551-8191

Kay Walberger, Co-Author of "The Book of Love, The Never-Ending, EverEvolvingStoryofLove" (714)650-2144.

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