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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Exhibition of new paintings

                         OMMAGIO ALLA SIBILLA

The exhibition opens July 6 and is at the Per Mari e Monti Gallery in Civitanova Marche.
The show is entitled 'Homage to the Sibilla', the local Goddess, and grew from my fascination with the Sibillini Mountains which was intensified when I moved away for there last year (although they can still be seen from the town I now live in) Was up there over Midsummer's night trekked up to her cave with some Shamanic folk. Cold up there and we found a meteorite (they seem to like landing there for some reason)
You are all invited of course

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Creativity Retreats: Questions part three

Jamna: "You said that creativity can help solve all sorts of problems in peoples lives and you referred to the benefits it has in maintaining good mental health that is apparent in other cultures/countries.  So can it help with depression?"
Michael: I would separate the two simply because this is exactly what we have done as a civilisation. Of course we have developed art therapy as a sort of diversion from grave problems which exist. I know from real life experience that so called indigenous people think that westerners (and I mean here peoples who have adopted what we now call Globalisation which is a metaphor for greed and acquisition) .......that westerners are mad. Well, I guess you've heard all this before; that we have separated ourselves from Nature and see it only as exploitable resources which allow us to produce and consume more, etc etc. Currently India is a prime example. And as for our seas? Well, have we fallen asleep as a species? I reckon so.
A better way to understand this would be to join Eleanor Darley's creativity retreat in the Autumn, 'Hunting the heart of the Blue Deer'
She has worked with indigenous people in Mexico, with children especially, and has recounted to me some of her experiences. Much like the Native American Indians, they have a sort of inbuilt healing culture with ceremonies and rituals which address the fundamental issues of life, its twists and turns when they occur. I have witnessed Lakota healing ceremonies and have seen what we would call mental issues just, well, dissolved. I have also attended a beautiful coming to womanhood celebration where a young girl just danced in proud happiness for a hour inside a huge circle of people, in happiness for her first 'Moon'
So those are my thoughts. Just little examples of the enormous differences which exist, thank God, still on our planet.
Cultures we can refer to in search for meaningful solutions to our problems of collective madness.
There is a huge Aboriginal gathering at this moment in the Northern Territories of Australia. Those people are trying to remember;to bring back their cultural heritage, as are the Maoris of New Zealand and the NA Indian peoples, African peoples too. 
And the nearest we can get to it? I feel that it's only going to be possible to get back to those blue clear spaces as individuals now, because so called western culture has gone to far.
How do we do this? We must love and respect Nature, beauty,and search for the poetic within ourselves. And that creativity, to create beyond ourselves, is a path along which we might be able rediscover these treasures which are only hidden. They have not fully disappeared yet, but the western mechanistic drive towards domination would want to eradicate such heresy in the same way as they will destroy Gezi Park in Istanbul.
There's a great film about these issues I have just watched. I'll send you a link to it (when I can find it)

"To find out more about Starstone's creativity retreats, please visit" or contact Michael at

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Creativity Retreats in Italy. Jamna's questions (cont'd)

I quite like this conversation with Jamna.
It puts me on the spot and I learn about myself as I write....

She writesMichaeI I have a question for you...

If I or someone else came to you and said. I don't paint, I'm not a photographer and I don't write, except for when communicating with people via email. but I need to come up with better more compelling ideas for growing my business and doing things differently and stand out from my competitors. I also need my staff to be more creative too. As an expert in creativity can you help me?
I'd be interested your thoughts around this.

Michael; This is a very easy question to answer. Imagine, if you will, a world without creativity. No art, music, poetry, literature, beautiful architecture or design. Such a place would be dark and sinister and we could not exist in it; wouldn't want to. We would quickly become mad. So it can be argued that without art in all its manifestations, we would not exist on this planet. We would have curled up and died off a couple of million years ago and disappeared like the dinosaurs.

But instead we have evolved with a desire and a compulsion to create beyond ourselves. For our species, this is a creative planet.
We all of us know too, that we are born with this creative drive. As adults we watch young children create and play furiously all of their waking hours if they are allowed to and then...and then? Well at a certain age we expect them to get serious, to become rational and we begin to test and judge them according to adult, worldly, constraints.
All this is common knowledge but my answer to you is simply this; that this creative part of us never disappears, just waits for us to return like an old faithful dog. And that's why I say it is easy once you know how to say hello once more to part of yourself you have become blind to.
As for business, (you mention your staff), this is easy too. Just assure them that it is OK to play, to laugh and to create a mess, and then do it with them. Assure them too that they are not sacrificing anything, that their rational part will not be destroyed. You see, both the rational parts and the poetic parts of our brains are necessary in our lives. We just have to
learn how to utilise either at need. We choose.
A lot of forward thinking companies are waking up to and giving credence to (and putting into practice) this fundamental truth and are finding that their employees are happier, feel valued as important subjects rather than objects in the workplace.
Workshops and retreats are useful in this regard to get these ideas across to management level. It is happening slowly.

"To find out more about Starstone's creativity retreats, please visit" or contact Michael at

Monday, June 10, 2013

Jamna's One2One

This is a new painting by Jamna, created after her One2One
weekend in Italy with Michael.

She writes ......

'Feeling an excited tingle.  All done from my imagination. Thanks Michael would not have had the confidence to do it, if it wasn't for you.'

Makes me feel good does that.

One2ones in Italy, read more

"To find out more about Starstone's creativity retreats, please visit" or contact Michael at

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Creativity Retreat with Jamna

Jamna writes...

Dear Michael,
Having been back in normal life for a week after our amazing creative weekend together, I'm still feeling the buzz. I went through so many different emotions during those 4 days, some nice, some not so nice, but the end result has left me with a positive glow that others around me are noticing too.
After that first day of just having fun, talking, eating and painting, I felt completely relaxed. Day two was such an adventure, I've never seen so much beauty in one day; snow topped mountains, natural waterfalls, sparkly turquoise blue waters and lush green valleys. My heart sang all day!
Day three had a very different feel, I awoke feeling a little tired (too much excitement from the day before I think!) and I also noticed a bit of anxiety. I think this is because I knew what was coming; that 2m x 2m canvas (bigger than me) was awaiting me in the studio. As the morning went on, I could feel my anxiety growing and my head also started to get busy, but the Tai Chi lead by yourself helped calm me a little.

Then the really scary stuff happened, you placed that chair at the top of the canvas and asked me to sit on it. I’d been avoiding this canvas for the last day or so and now you were making me face it. The worst bit was when you announced that you were leaving me alone with it. At this point, I wasn't liking you very much (sorry), I felt like I was being abandoned; left alone with this scary task ahead of me. Scary because I had no idea where to start or what to paint and worst of all; I was worried about making a mistake.

The anxiety was growing again, but as I got started on this canvas and things started to develop, the anxiety slowly subsided and gave way to a feeling of excitement; now I was getting into the flow of things and something was being created. Despite this I wasn't convinced about my creation as a legitimate piece of art, and when you came back to have a look I remember feeling embarrassed. It seemed a little na├»ve and silly, I was annoyed because I was expecting something a bit more intelligent to come from me. Anyway, you were very positive about it and said it was “lovely” or “beautiful” of something like that. I remember thinking “he would say that”.

I then got to a point where I couldn't do anymore, it felt complete, but I was still struggling with the idea of this being a piece of art. I realised then that I was judging it against my ideals of what art “should” be and needed to accept it as it was.

The next morning when we returned to the studio, something unexpected happened. I saw something very different, I took one look and I fell in love with my creation. At this point my heart rate increased, my breath started to deepen and catch and I had to put both my hands over my heart; I felt like it was expanding with joy and might explode. To me my painting felt alive, it seemed to come off the page, it was three dimensional and there was movement. It felt like there was a powerful energy surrounding it that was communicating with me.

I continued to look at it and I felt a connection, I now understood how art could be so moving and that’s when the tears came.

Every time I think about this experience, I'm blown away. I came to Italy thinking I’d be painting landscapes and that you’d be on hand to show me how to improve on my technique. I never expected anything like this and since my return, lots of questions have been buzzing around in my head.

Jamna: Do you have a take on my experience? Can you tell me about it?
Michael: You travelled a great distance in a short time and were able to do so because the time was right for you. Your rational mind battled and resisted at times of course but your true self just kicked this aside because it knew what it wanted; has always known.
J: You seemed to know exactly what I needed, how did you know this?
M: Don't know really how this works for me with people. Best way to explain it is that I scan, just absorb in depth, messages that folks give out and ignore their left brain chatter and notice shifts. Sounds funny but it's as near as I can get to explaining.
J: I didn't realise it at the time, but I now see that you took me through a process. Can you tell me about this and your method of teaching?
M: Well, the process comes pre-packed in you. You have, everybody has, all the ingredients within them and all I do is orchestrate, just like a conductor of a wonderful orchestra, waiting for pauses and nuances. The orchestra is of course you.
J: Do you do the same with everyone or is it different with different people?
M: As above but always varying in time and intensity. One2Ones are the most powerful because the desire and intensity is strong but group work can be effective too but needs re-enforcing.
J:  You talk about creativity being within everybody, but where does it come from?
M: Wish I knew, it just does. For convenience I call it the Creative Collective and I know that it just comes when clever resistance ends and innocent wonder returns.
J:  Is creativity just about making art?
M: No, it is a state of being which pervades our everyday existence once we have chosen to stay awake.
J:  You said that I’d experience a shift and that this would now show in all areas of my life, can you give me an   example of this?
M: No, except to say it is enough to stay awake and wait in wonder. You will see.
J:  Will this help in my job?
M: It will help you understand your real relationship with your job. Who you are, what it is and how to match the two creatively and effectively.
J asks again:  For clarity, are you saying here that this process will help me understand myself better and therefore my purpose and how I pursue this through my job?? 
Yes, it's throwing up conflicts already I can see by your email. If your nature is alien to your work, you will of course suffer. But you must, must, run parallel in this process by keeping alive your creativity. keeping it strong, as by this you will have the courage to jump clear when the time is right, which will not be far away.

J:  How do I sustain this now that I am back into everyday life?
M:  Colour your life, shape your shapes in life just as you did for your painting. And make imaging as much a daily habit as cleaning your teeth.  Make marks, memory marks continuously.

And I mean imaging as in painting, drawing, getting it out of your head: But this incorporates itself immediately into what you call your life, but of course there is no distinction between the two. Make marks, draw, paint, keep this process alive. Kick it off from the very moment you open your eyes in the morning

Jamna Owen joined Michael for a One2One Creativity Retreat here in Italy last weekend. These are her reflections and then her questions to me which she has kindly allowed me to post.

"To find out more about Starstone's creativity retreats, please visit" or contact Michael at