The Importance of Workshops

 In Art Travels, Creativity

‘Shine your radiant light’  – My bedside table shrine featuring gifts & artwork from Flora.

I didn’t go to uni or college and get a Degree or any form of formal qualification. But I have never been out of ‘education’ since I started school at 5 years old. I have an insatiable curiosity for learning. I consider myself an eternal student and as a result I am always on the look-out for wonderful workshops lead by passionate people.

A workshop is more than a chance to learn a new skill. It’s a way of connecting to another human being’s internal world- and what is more interesting than that? I go out of my way to find people so passionate about what they do, that they want to share it with complete strangers.

I tried toting up how many workshops I had attended in my time a few years ago, and when it was over 100 I stopped counting! I have done workshops in all forms from mail correspondence, online, even by telephone but my favourite is the in-person.

I seem to have developed an annual tradition. Each year I try and jet off to an international Workshop. Something major that I research, save up for and anticipate. My first one was a trip to The Fine Arts Academy in Paris to study advanced fashion Illustration when I was 19 – it was my first time away from family and friends and sowed the seeds for an adventurous life crammed full of travel.

‘Here Now’ painting from Mexico by Flora Bowley

Since then I’ve been to workshops as far flung as London, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Sante Fe, Florence and Teesha Moore’s amazing workshop in Lisbon. Each time as I fly off I forget about all the hard work it took to make each experience come to fruition.

This year was Mexico with Flora Bowley. Flora is an experienced painter with a career spanning 18 years.  ( The image above is one of her paintings completed at the workshop). She started teaching workshops about 2 years ago. Her classes are extremely hard to get into because they sell out immediately.

It happened quite suddenly. I was looking for something amazing for the last few days of my trip to the USA, and then an email floated into my inbox from Flora saying there were a two spaces in her workshop in San Miguele de Allende. Well the timing was uncannily perfect, and within minutes of finding out there was a space open, I was signed in. I obey serendipity!


One of the big elements of any workshop are the other participants. Every other aspect is itinerised, documented and profiled. You can see photos of where your going, what you’ll be doing, eating and who is going to be teaching and caring for you. But your fellow classmates? Surprise!

The wonderful thing is that everyone is usually on best behavior, fellow seekers with common interests, so the chances of making meaningful connections is exceptionally high. In a few days you can’t befriend everyone, but some lasting friendships definitely blossomed in Mexico! ( One of my Super Powers is attracting awesome people into my life. It’s just a skill I have. Flora has it too!)20130213-083023.jpg

Ok, so on to the Workshop!

The day unfolds in getting to know each other fashion, with excursions, great food and laughter. There is no painting, as we get to explore the treasure of San Miguel de Allende and the creative anticipation is allowed to build.

We laugh, we relax, we eat, we relish in being tourists.

The fun of Mexico is the colour!

On Monday we paint. Flora greets us in the ‘Heart Circle’ she has created for us. Everyone’s a little nervous. I’m trying not to pierce Flora with the beams of hero-worship emanating from my eye-balls… But she’s so fricken COOL with her relaxed-yet-perfectly-postured-yoga-body, rockstar hair and an effortlessly stylish trilby hat that has a slight sheen of gold.

Hummingbirds watch us as we dance, set our intentions and get our paint ready.

We create in the courtyard of a 300 year old building. Raw canvas drop cloths protect the flagstones and fountains. Rainbow pennants flutter overhead. There’s the murmur of 14 artists trying to find their way on the canvas. Most of us will complete 3 paintings by the end of the week.20130213-083435.jpg

Flora has a wonderful e- course called ‘Bloom True’ that goes through her intuitive painting process, step by step. I did it last year, so a lot of the process wasn’t really new to me. In fact, the process isn’t the important part. It’s the person. It’s the living artist showing you their way with paint that I’ve come to see. To be a part of.

To watch someone go through all the miraculous stages of creativity, to paint over and eradicate and emphasize. To find a way in all the choices that a canvas and colour puts in front of us. It’s magic. It’s demystifies and shrouds the process in miracle at the same time. Inspiration.

the canvas went through many changes…

On day 3 to 6
At some point here I lose track of time… There is painting, and sunsets, shananigans, yummy food and a night of salsa dancing… but it’s a blur… like a dream. I don’t want to pick at the memories and unravel them quite yet. These were the days my paintings were being born and formed and my feet weren’t connected to the ground.

It tells a different story to everyone…

I feel detached as I travel through stages of indifference, interest, and exultation on the canvas. Painting is always the same for me… its an emotive, energetic roller-coaster ride.

I just need to keep the motion going, the momentum of painterly movement while I wait for the quick moments that certain parts of the canvas smile out at me. I see a friendly space in there. An area peeping out that wants to be better known. I rush to greet those parts of the canvas and make them welcome. Painting is a strange dance!

It’s not until some of us go to the Hot Springs and float in mystical waters that I have a crystal clear moment. For the first time my hands are wiped clean of paint and that night i dreamed of my paintings, they spoke to me and I was filled with hope and fresh energy for them.

I spent my final full day of painting in a creative typhoon. All three canvases are finished with a live-current of creative energy that pulses through my body all day…. I know this ecstatic, inspired feeling well. The reason I am an artist is to experience this feeling.

When a creative project comes together, I feel like I’m growing feathers. I am flying! I’m joyous! There’s a wild cacophony going on inside my head and heart, but from the outside I look quiet, determined and laser focused. I feel more like myself than at any other time.20130213-083301.jpg

The beautiful part of creating in a workshop is that I am not on my own. I have others around me to offer support. And I have Flora to ponder elements of my paintings with. Pulling ideas from chaos.

Workshops throw me into a high creative gear… I’m intent on what I came to do. If I need to, I put in some headphones so I can disappear into my own headspace without distraction.

And on our final day together, I have time to look at the intense week. The fun, the friends, the artwork. Its also time to preparing myself to step out of the bubble and re-enter the real world.


Hamming it up for the camera ( as usual!), but I felt ( still feel) great love for my paintings.

A live workshop gets you right into the thick of things. Not just meeting your heroes but dancing with them, seeing that they are human, and fully dimensioned. And although there were 14 participants, there were times when I felt like I was being mentored… One on one.

On the last day, Flora asked our group what was our ‘take away’. We each had to answer. Mine was witnessing a painting come together. To feel genius in the air. To know what that looks like when I am doing it. To live that wonder.

I’ve thought about this question since, and would add that I will also be a better teacher because of this experience, because I have joyfully been refreshed of the benefits a great workshop and workshop leader can deliver.

In private moments Flora and I discuss a few of the business elements of being creative entrepreneurs and online workshop leaders. I see the pride in the way she holds her book ‘Brave Intuitive Painting’ and I know, when my turn comes ( and it will – stay tuned!), that I want nothing less for my own efforts.

That’s the magic of a live workshop. Inspiration on so many levels. The expense, the travel, the time… All worth it!

So if you have the opportunity to work alongside someone you admire, please do it. Don’t hesitate. Take the risk, be brave. It could just be one of the highlights of your life.





Flora Bowley:


My next workshops:

‘The Nest’ Byron Bay: click   March 9 & 10; April 13 & 14

Perth: click   May 18 & 19

Bali: click  Sept 8th to 14th

Paris:  click  24 to 30 June






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Showing 27 comments
  • colleen

    Isnt it funny that here I am a relocated California girl living in Northern NSW, checking out Floras website, coming across your beautiful description of her Mexico course, and you live in Byron Bay!….small world….I know you from somewere else too though. Did we take Connies BIG ecourse together? or maybe you are just on the painting tribe. Whatever it is, so good to see your beautiful work, you are an inspiration. You can check out what I did in Floras last ecourse on my Blog Keep spreading the love and light sister….

    • Mindy Widdowson

      Jane!! I have admired u from a far for so long! I love to read your blog and have taken a couple of your online classes! I have learned soooo much and have loved every step of the process!

      When I read this post I could almost FEEL what it is you experienced in Mexico! As much as that excites me…it terrifies me equally as much. I would love to have my OWN experience like the one you have just described. (I constantly day dream about joining one of your art retreats!) But, there is this ugly fear-headed dragon that growls down deep inside of me! What if I am NOT one of the special few who can communicate in the beautiful language that u and Flora do! So scary!

      Having said that…it was a little more than a year ago that u gave me the courage to start my own artventure and i vowed then to stay the course! Thank u for writing this post! It reminded me of why I first stepped onto this path in the first place! I have to believe that one of these days I will be able report my own beautiful art experience! Thank you Jane for everything you do!

  • Adrienne

    Your experience sounds astoundingly amazing! I really want to go to a workshop one day! How do you find them? I am currently living in Southern-ish Germany. I would love to do something amazing like this before made to leave Europe!

  • Tracy Verdugo

    Oh Jane! What a gorgeous recount of what must have been a dream week! I too spent a few days with Flora and I have to say she opened up magic portals of possibility in my life! and YES I agree there is such a wealth of loveliness in coming together as a group and holding the space together in a creative workshop setting. I’ve heard awesome things about your Bali retreats also and am planning one of my own there in 2014. Thanks for transporting me to Mexico this morning…..I miss my second home! xoxo

  • Sue Kennedy

    I’ve mainly done textile workshops, rather than painting as such. I never want to go home at the end, and sometimes it’s taken me a long time to use what I’ve learned once I get home. But it’s always been worth it – I love that there’s nothing else to think about or do except for whatever project is before the class on that day.

  • gloria

    Fantastic and fructiferus reading, Jane… What a magical experience of a workshop!… I would love to have my first ‘in person’ workshop with you, here in London.. Will you ever deliver a workshop here?
    Hasta siempre.

  • Erin

    Luv luv luv the new work!!! Luv luv luv the new abstract painterly fine art thi g your flowing into! I expect to see your name in the art history books someday me lady! U go girl! I can’t wait to be able to travel and do workshops again when the little man is a big older and weened. Save me a seat at your Byron BAy workshop in 2015 maybe… Lol!!!

  • Kathie Vezzani

    So glad that you were able to experience both SMA and Flora. I can’t even imagine the energy there was between the two of you.

  • Pauline

    Loved your article Jane and your wonderful creative prose, I love workshops too, and I am in the middle of Flora’s e – course, fitting it in between your workshops, which are always inspiring. I also get lost in the creative process and it always seems to me that its just watching the deliciousness of colour mixing and transforming on paper or canvas that draws you in, and the end result is often something you least expect. My memories of the Nest workshop are always with me. LOL.

  • Christine Benavente

    It was great to read your inspiring words and to share your wonderful Bloom True artwork, Jane. I have been fortunate enough to do a live workshop with Flora Bowley too so I know what you mean. And I have done her e-course twice since then! We also have the amazing Tracy Verdugo and I love her workshops too. I am now signed up for all of your e-courses and am looking forward to sharing wonderful creative time with you as well. I love your energy and passion, Jane, and you inspire me too.

  • Kerry Sinigaglia

    I’m thrilled that you would share your journey as an artist with us.To hear your words of passion.They come from a place we all need to connect with, but you help inspire others to realise that it lives within us all, and to step out and explore and grow. You bring people closer to getting to know themselves through art, and feeling the spirit of each creation.Your words, like your work are an absolute joy.
    Thanks Jane.

  • Jenirose

    Inspiring, charming, wonderful… full of your enthusiasm and passion.

  • dani giles

    What a wonderful story to read Jane!!! You have pulled me right into your spirit with all your words and pics of the gorgeous and emotional art you created. Thank you so much for sharing such intimate thoughts with us…x

  • Melissa

    Wow! I love the way you write, so poetic and passionate! It truly inspires me! I felt like you took me on this incredible journey with you! I’ve never done an art retreat and now I’m thinking it is definitely in my future! 🙂 I love Floras work, have her book and have implemented some of her flowy techniques in my own painting. I love your goddessy mermaid painting, she looks so blissful! Dreaming of warm ocean water and salsa dancing now! 🙂 thank you for this today! I felt your joy and it increases mine! Love!


  • Jenny

    Totally meant to be Jane… a space opening up… how perfect… and a workshop with Flora… it is a dream of mine… loved your post… your descriptions Jane… and your artwork… absolutely stunning… inspiring and beautiful… I adore the photo of you with your three paintings… you look so proud and happy…
    And I am extra happy because tonight three friends and myself decided to book in for your class at the scrapbook expo… off to book now… we simply can’t wait 🙂

    Jenny ♥

  • Deb Mongato

    Thanks for sharing …enjoyed reading all about you and your workshop with Flora…yours and Floras are on my wish list….you are just awesome!

  • Liza Zeni

    Jane, hello (0: I just loved reading this post! I keep re-reading it!! What I loved was the way you shared your message & experience with such warmth, emotion & heart. It was like I was sitting here talking to you. I could feel your energy, enthusiasm & passion. Loved every minute of it! Thank-you, just beautiful xxx

  • Marilyn

    Loved reading this – your write so well, I feel as though I’m there with you experiencing it — I’ve done the e-course twice but I’ve always wanted to do a live workshop with one of my art heroes (and yes you are one of them) – one day I may be able to do this I hope…..I love that you give yourself the opportunity to experience one per year –

  • Tammie

    hello Jane,
    thank you for sharing your experience, journey, gorgeous paintings, dreams and visions with us! it really was a heartfelt post which i enjoyed very much.

  • Barbara Schwartz

    Jane, you got it all! It was wonderful to see your paintings close up and to see all you brought to it and all you learned. Thanks for the great write up.

  • Suzanne Schroder

    An awe inspiring read Jane, thank you. I am waiting with great, nail biting anticipation for the details of a certain someones atrist retreat in Paris :))) Your artworks are fantastic!

  • Ro Bruhn

    Wow Jane a whole week with Flora, I spent two days with her when she came to Melbourne and that was awe inspiring, a week in such a fabulous place would be mind blowing. Love what you’ve created.

  • Silky Hart

    Hi Jane,
    You instantly transported me back to January of 2012 when I was a participant in the San Miguel de Allende Bloom True I feel like we are part of the same sisterhood! Loved reading about your experience and seeing your paintings. I’m with you, these intense art experiences in foreign lands forever imprint and expand our souls.
    xo, Silky

  • Patsy Worledge

    Thankyou, Jane for “showing me” the paintings with Flora….Your creations flow into perfection in the loosest possible way…..Congratulations, Jane……gratitude for your words too… Patsy

  • Donna Walsh

    Wow I have no more words just wow ……. ❤

  • Delisa

    These are wonderful and so inspiring. I can’t wait to attend my first in person workshop.

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