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2022 in review—fear can drive you

Fear often gets a bad rap. But as you’ll discover in my yearly review, fear can drive you in a positive new direction.

I first began to write my annual review in March 2022:

It’s the end of the tax year and a new moon in Aries looms. We all hope it heralds a positive new beginning. But one thing is certain, we’ll need the fire of Aries to sustain our passions. Our Government seems entrenched in fear messaging with very little aspiration for us all.

But, as Australian seven-time world champion surfer Layne Beachely (great name for a surfer!) recently shared, “Fear drove me.” Fear of failing drove her to be really, really good. I loved reading of Beachely’s fluidity and style. She was fierce, focused and determined to make it; which she did, inspiring a generation of female surfers to take the same wave.

Fear drove me toward love

“If the poet says that he can inflame men with love..the painter has the power to do the same…in that he can place in front of the lover the true likeness of one who is beloved, often making him kiss and speak to it.

—Leonardo da Vinci

As a teenager, my mother’s motivational message to me was, “If you don’t get an education, all you’ll ever be is a checkout operator (no disrespect to these essential workers). Three decades on and three degrees later, I’ve racked up an impressive career in business and the arts. When I was 30, and the single parent of a 3-year-old, I graduated with a Batchelor of Business and Administration from Victoria University.

During that time, I was also asked to tutor students in a paper called, “The New Zealand Commercial Environment.” I taught (and graded) a wide array of subjects, including The Treaty of Waitangi, Industrial Relations and more. While studying commerce, I took papers in education and lifespan development and was shocked to learn that people pursued their hobbies when they retired.

Wait until you retire to do what you love? What? Why wait, I thought.

With my new degree in hand, I enrolled in a Batchelor of Interior Architecture. I was 2/3rds through my passion subject when a personal crisis derailed those dreams. With a mortgage and a child to support and the traumatic end of my engagement, I needed a job. I targeted a company where I knew they served VIPs great lunches, and this is how I was inducted into Morgan and Banks and went into the world of recruitment.

Guess what? I didn’t get the lunches! Not even the leftovers. Worse, eventually, burnout and shingles and the fear of going blind or suffering a heart attack drove me out. With the help of a career counsellor, I pursued a career more aligned with my values of truly helping people. I share more of my experience, and my fear of being trapped in a job I hated in Midlife Career Rescue: The Call for Change.

Midlife career rescue the call for change

Fear of living an uninteresting, passionless life drove me

I was employed by an Employee Assistance provider, Workplace Support, and set up their career counselling arm. While there, I encountered so many suicidal clients. Fear of failing them drove me to earn a professional qualification to ensure I knew what I was doing. A Diploma in Applied Counselling from the Wellington Institute of Technology followed some three years later.

Later still, I sought and obtained a psychology qualification from Massey University. I thought this would open the doors to a professional role as a psychologist, Only to find, rather brutally, that the criteria had changed, and you now needed a master’s degree. By then, after counselling severally traumatised children and adults brutalised by a broken mental health system, I realised the work created toxic stress.

Fear of living an uninteresting, passionless life drove me. I wanted to find my true bliss and where I could both uplift myself and others. I pursued certifications in numerous areas of interest, including Hypnosis, Reiki healing, Interactive Drawing Therapy and more. I do love learning, and I recognise the privilege I have been given to be an educated woman. I’ve also attended buckets of creativity, drawing and painting classes—life drawing, watercolour, oils, abstracts, Frescos in Florence, Sumi ink with Max Gimblett in Hawaii, Photography with Carla Coulsen in Puglia, Italy…you name it, if it was was creative, I was in!

fear-mongering by the Government drove me toward love

As I shared, in an earlier post, in the wake of Covid, fear-mongering by the Government drove me toward love. This is why I opened my own art gallery in the first months of the pandemic and started painting again. I wanted to share my joy and so I began to teach and shared my love of fun, play, love and creativity with others.

While the rest of the world was opening up and lucky travellers were sharing their photos on Instagram, New Zealand was still a hermit kingdom. 2022 has been a year of continued delays. For the arts and hospitality sectors thousands of people have seen their livelihoods eroded or destroyed.

As one of my former recruitment buddies, who for many years operated a successful art gallery, shared the other day on Facebook:

“We sold the gallery Feb 2019. We were lucky with timing of the sale as the business did not fare well with Covid 19 lockdowns etc, and new owners closed it down in Jun 2021 – art suffered badly everywhere.”

New Zealanders missed out on income and opportunities due to the ongoing public health response for the longest time. Where I live, in the Bay of Islands, we had been in code red, the highest alert level since before Christmas. (As of August 2022, the whole of New Zealand was in ‘orange.’ Only recently on the 12th of October 2022, did New Zealand’s COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic lights) end.

“With case numbers low, it is safe to remove most COVID-19 rules,” we were told.) Yet, here we are in December and case numbers are soaring. Lockdowns are, and never were, palatable, so we are all ‘living with it.’

This year, in spite of the less-than-opportune climate, in 2022, my creativity has sustained me

This year, in spite of the less-than-opportune climate, in 2022, my creativity has sustained me—despite the ongoing health messages which for so long limited visitors to our country, decimated tourism and instilled so much fear in people who were afraid to leave their homes.

As I write now, on the 8th of November, full moon in Taurus, and a Lunar eclipse, the country feels sluggish. Inflation is wracking havoc with people’s incomes, job losses are mounting, and New Zealanders are keen for change. From afar, critical journalists (not Government paid spin doctors) are asking questions, “what’s happening in New Zealand?” Come next year’s elections we’ll be asking the same.

We ask, what is happening TO New Zealand?

Ignorance is bliss, right? t would be easy to look the other way, and put our heads in the sand, or stay stuck in doomsday scrolling, but that would be a cop-out. Martin Luther King once had a dream. I do too. If we truly are a team of 5 million, we need to look after each other and create a better world where joy, peace and beauty can dominate the landscape and the creation of a unified culture where people regardless of race can thrive.

Despite it all…I showed up for joy. Here are a few highlights

Some of my favourite commission pieces were an invitation to create from the landscapes of my mind. Drawing from the healing power and beauty of nature, flowers, the sea, sky and beyond inspired my love-infused pieces and brought joy to others. I’m so grateful to my new collectors for their faith, trust and belief in me.

To be given the freedom to create, to be appreciated for who you are and who you truly wish to be, as Neale Donald Walsch writes in Conversations with God is to give someone the gift of their purpose and passion.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that passion is my passion. It’s not something you chose with your head, you are led to your passion and purpose by your heart. It is your calling—because it calls to you until you can no longer resist. Some call it an obsession. I call it love.

I share more about how to find your passion and purpose in one of my most popular books>>


Apple Tree Bay
Apple Tree Bay
1800 x  1200 mm
New Zealand beeswax and pure pigment on board

This bespoke piece was commissioned by the couple as a ‘statement piece’ to adorn the large white walls of their newly refurbished Bay of Islands home. They named it Apple Tree Bay because it abstractly reminded them of the view from their home.

 “We love love love it.”

The love was mutual. I loved every moment of creating Apple Tree Bay for these dream clients, Ray and Di. To see myself as a conduit for someone else’s wonder and joy—is an extraordinary gift.

The clients knew exactly what they wanted. They knew the feeling, the energy, the narrative. It was my job to express those ideas in ways that would bring joy and beauty. It was like honey to a bee to see their reaction and to hear those all-important words:

“We absolutely love it. It’s so beautiful.”

“Looks ah-mazing” -Theresa Stirling, my teacher in all things encaustic, oozed.

Simplification is my favourite art term and is one of the keys to my uplifting abstracts. That, and inspiring washes of colour. Composition is the soul of the painting…in this case, waves of delight, bouncing with joy. I loved working with this blue-green vibe—healing, soothing and revitalising at the same time. Perfect for these unusual dynamics of modern life.


I love commissions… creating something to people’s vibe and colour palette makes my soul sing. I absolutely adored creating two truly original pieces for a fun and fabulous Bay of Islands family—statement pieces to adorn their (at the time soon-to-be-finished) rennovations.



“We LOVE the painting…..the energy is us. Thank you so much❤ We are excited to see it up on our wall.”

Harden Commission, You Are The Reason, You Are The Reason, 2022 600mm x 900mm Acrylic on canvas
Passion and Purpose Feedback

how do we raise our children to be joyful in a world that seems bleak? You make joy from sh*t.

Someone recently asked, “How do we raise our children to be joyful in a world that seems bleak.”

We have to keep showing up for passion, love and joy—not fear, hate and depression. This is why in 2022, I rebranded myself as The Joyful Artist. Kids, when unencumbered by adults are joy personified. The challenge is staying joyful during the inevitable hard bits.

“Whatever life gives you, you can respond with joy. Joy is the happiness that does not depend on what happens. It is the grateful response to the opportunity that life offers in this moment.”

Brother Steindl-Rast

Numerous people have found tremendous joy in the most unexpected places and very often, it has been born from a place of great pain.

Here are just a few examples:

• Novelists Danielle Steel, Isabel Allende, and many others—who overcame difficult childhoods

• Drew Barrymore, especially in her new business, Flower Beauty—who overcame addiction

• Trauma Therapist Dr. Edith Eger—who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp

• Neuroscientist Dr. Joe Dispenza—who overcame paralysis

• Motivational author Gabby Bernstein—who overcame alcohol addiction

• Comedian Billy Connelly—who overcame sexual abuse

Singing star, Selena Gomez’s profound documentary sharing her journey with mental health challenges and a diagnosis of bipolar also reminded me of the deep chasm in education within schools today. The lack of teachings on dealing with feelings and how to build resilience and well-being, especially during difficult times, is direly needed. Expressing my feelings through art, saying things I couldn’t articulate in words, has been my go-to…learnt the long way.

“If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces.”

― Shane Koyczan

kitchen Rangitane Road

House for sale?

In May, we listed our lifestyle retreat for sale as part of our commitment to go in search of more joyful shores and life-enriching experiences. Interestingly, at the same time, our America’s Cup team, the defenders of the current Cup, rather than remain in NZ to host the next challenge, decided to head for Barcelona, where things are brighter.

I’m sad to say, right now, surrounded by closed businesses, the escalating mental health crises, and ballooning Government debt, New Zealand looks and feels depressing. I do, of course, realize I can create the landscapes of my mind and live in an alternative reality. I can focus on joy and appreciate the good things New Zealand offers. But I also have a foot in the ‘real’ world.

Despite the beautiful view from my property, the demise of democracy as we once knew it , the incarceration of freedom fighters, and talk of bringing in frightening hate speech laws (which would effectively fine or imprison those with contrary views to those in power), is extremely worrying. I shall leave it for experienced political reporters to comment, but in short, those media not being paid by the Government are very firm that The Labour Government has abused its power.

My father always told me, I raised you to speak the truth. As I was typing these words, my friend sent me this on Whatsapp. Am I being alarmist? Again, I leave it to lawyers and journalists more learned than I who truly believe this will be the most horrifying demise of democracy and freedom of speech. What I did experience personally during Covid were the most hateful attacks. I was accused of being a traitor to my country, among other ridiculous things, when I encouraged people to look beyond mainstream media – and this by the 60+-year-old CEO of a government-funded non-for-profit.

My crime? Bringing her attention to the lifestream of the protest marches where the peaceful protestors sought a hearing with our elected officials. Which never happened. Thankfully a documentary, River of Freedom is due to come out early next year. This should clear up the misinformation that it was ‘river of filth’. It seems to me that the people full of hate speech are the ones trying to create legislation to suppress free speech.

As an artist, should I care?

I liked the New Zealand I grew up in in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I liked it when people said, “be kind” and they meant it. As a super sensitive, I find it hard not to feel and call out the BS (as Eric Clapton so sagely says, and sings, ‘It’s gotta stop.”

I care in my way, by showing up for joy and trying to bring a smile to people’s faces. People like lovely Judy who came to my gallery, threw her arms around me, and beamed, “You make me so happy.” I can’t stop smiling.” What world leader can honestly say that right now? Honestly.

Judy and I

Despite the gloom and pessimistic economy, I kept creating and sharing my joy with others. For my sanity as much as anything else. As Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way writes: “It’s important to keep creativity in me and around me.  And when I am doing something creative I don’t feel trapped. I feel liberated.”-Julia Cameron

New Book Releases In 2022

Variety is truly the sizzling spice of life. As I share on my website,

“Clients call me ‘the queen of uplifting inspiration’.  Love and creativity are my superpowers. I’m a renaissance woman with many passions — all united by a love of providing creative solutions which spark joy. As well as a background in counselling and psychology, I am a creativity coachaward-winning artist and author. I am also a Reiki Master and spiritual teacher. All my work is infused with positive energy and light.

Creating beauty and making the world happier through joyful art and creative play is my soul mission.

In February 2022 I released my writing memoir Word by Word: Some Thoughts on Writing, Love, and Life.

And also The Joyful Artist: Freeing the Artist Within

love in Venice

Under my pen name Mollie Mathews, I released my romance, Love In Venice. Late this year (November) I decided to come out of the closet, as it were, and load some of my favourite love stories on the Fiction page of my own website too, https://www.thejoyfulartist.co.nz/category/books/fiction-books/. As I write, it is a work in progress. You can view my full romance collection of heart-warming love stories at www.Molliemathews.com

I’m bloomin’ mad about flowers

I’m bloomin’ mad about flowers. Flowers are my joy and obsession.

Miss Beautiful With Quote
Miss Beautiful

In this video, I share some of the inspiration, artistic process and behind-the-scenes footage involved in creating my latest commission artwork—Miss Beautiful.

Over Easter, two lovely ladies called into my gallery Art@Rangitane to see my art during my recent Easter Art Retreat They had seen my latest abstract floral paintings hanging in Ake Ake.

As a result, one of these gorgeous gals commissioned a bespoke painting to suit her home – and more importantly how she wanted to feel…happy! I guess you could say that we co-created together. Because my new collector was living at a distance from me, I showed her progress re Zoom calls and gained her feedback as the painting progressed.

“I’ve been watching the progress so exciting,” she wrote to me. “I loved the very soft palette you started with …fingerpainting.”

You are the reason
Harden Commission

I feel like I’ve been part of the whole creative experience which, to me has added so much more meaning

“I was having a lovely lunch in Kerikeri overlooked by a stunning painting of pink flowers. Not being in a rush, I enquired who the artist was & if she had a gallery I could visit. A quick phone call by a sales savey waitress friend had us having a viewing appointment the following morning a sunny, windless Sunday.
Arriving there, I wasn’t sure where to look at the mind-blowing view of the Kerikeri harbour, which had me wanting to swing a suitcase around like Julia Andrew’s in the Sound of Music or the stunning range of paintings hanging in the gallery….

Well, once the paintings got my attention, there were a couple that I fell in love with but unfortunately, due to the small walls in my beach house, neither were the right size…!!!

So Cassandra, this smiling, happy, vivacious & deeply motivating artist with who I’d only just met yet already felt a connection, suggested I commissioned a painting which immediately got me thinking…. Well, at least I’ll get exactly what I want. So for a tiny charge more, I’ve ended up with a painting that’s put my feelings & my colours & my touch into a work of art I adore! I thought it would be hard to explain feelings without a picture, but that is what Cassandra is so good at interpreting. I feel like I’ve been part of the whole creative experience which, to me has added so much more meaning.”

Open for happiness! Forget selling the house!

my fab new bestie..Anne from Ireland, living in Sydney…also chasing freedom

“You are feeling through your art

but you are not feeling through your life.”

~ Daniella, intuitive

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I’ve been drafting a book during the Covid pandemic entitled, Who Stole Our Joy? For over two years, we’ve been marinated in the grey-and-black swamp of fear. Singing and dancing were even banned for periods in countries like Australia. Importantly, so was travel.

Our last holiday had been over 26 months— one pandemic ago

After more than two years of being closed off from the world, we were yearning to rediscover the joy of exotic places and our love of leisure (i.e. taking a break!). Our last holiday had been over 26 months— one pandemic ago. Maybe it was less a permanent move we needed and more a wellness, mental health break.

The Art of Life Inspiration Deck

So in April 2022, when it was announced that travel could recommence and self-testing would become the new return-home standard, we leapt at the chance to get away for a major reset. We needed a change. We needed to feel joy again.

“Where should we go?” my partner asked.

“Fiji,” I said, instantly. “It’s our happy place.”

Again fear drove us. We were afraid our borders would lock up again and we wouldn’t be able to return home. We thought it best to get in and out early before ‘they’ realize we were gone.

While the New Zealand Prime Minister visited Singapore, Japan and other countries, affirming, “New Zealand is open for business,” Fiji took a different approach. Recognising that for 26 months, global citizens had experienced extreme anguish, this tiny pacific country reopened for happiness. And they delivered generously!

Open for happiness

Happiness is good for business. I share more statistics on the power of happiness in my career change and life transformation book, What Makes You Happy. Tourists returned in droves. When we arrived in Nadi it was like arriving on a different planet. Or rather, as though we had time travelled back in time. Cries of “Bula!” chorused everywhere. “Welcome home! We’re glad you’re back.”

And glad they were. With no social security system, Fijians were left to fend for themselves. “I didn’t have any work for over two years,” the father of three who checked out our rental car told us. “It was very, very tough.”

Seeing tourists again made Fijians very happy.

Like Fijians, having money to pay my bills and afford my lifestyle makes me happy. How quickly we forget 2020, when the world stopped and business dropped in the blink of an eye. Layoffs. Furloughs. Forced pay cuts. The worst. Some governments, including New Zealand, bailed out their people and corporations with interest free-loans, deferred repayments, and printed money. Some commentators are noting that the toll is about to climb. Bailouts won’t happen again. Inflation is on the climb. “It feels too much like 2008,” Tim Denning. Fast-forward to Nov, 2022 and inflation is at its highest level for 30 years.

As I wrote, back in May, 2022:

New Zealand was still closed to most of the world. Not until late July will we open to the rest of the world. Things are going to get ‘bumpy’ to say the least. If the last few years have taught us anything is that you have to go for life while you can—at any moment, not of your own doing, someone, something, can whip it away.

Cling on for the ride—and hang onto happiness.

I took a little box of watercolour paints and some pads of watercolour paper and set an intention to go on a digital detox, just as I did when I travelled to Tonga back in 2020.

Spending time painting played a large role in switching off my devices. I was so prolific while I was in Fiji. Fiji inspired me and reawakened my love of vibrant colours.

Because of the many, many times that we have been loyal guests of the Warwick In Fiji, we were extremely fortunate to have been introduced to the hotel manager and given a room upgrade to a presidential suite. I had plenty of room (and privacy) to paint, including a balcony with a sea view. I felt so grateful!

I share more on my blog, here>>

Bloomin’ mad

I couldn’t resist releasing my Bloomin’ Mad series in time for Mother’s Day this year. Fiji inspired me so much the colours were so fresh, joyous and vibrant. I also displayed some of the paintings at the fabulous Ake Ake restaurant and vineyard. This is a lovely restaurant set amongst a vineyard and was one of my favourite places to dine here in the Bay of Islands. Judy and Chris, the owners of Ake Ake provide the ultimate dining…and then, with my paintings, fine art, experience.

I say, ‘was’, because Friday 28 August 2022 marked the last night for diners at Ake Ake. That day I drew a card for Judy From my Art of Life Inspiration Deck, and the card said, “hold all your precious memories close”. In part, this is why I am re-sharing this memory. It was one of this year’s highlights.

testimonial art

Not long after, I hung my paintings, a gorgeous lady was dining in Ake Ake and purchased a painting she saw hanging there. When Love First Tasted Your Lips was near their table and the purchase decision was made in a heartbeat. I love that my new collector shared that this is the first painting she has acquired by a ‘serious artist.’

On Mother’s Day, I met Tracey, my beautiful new collector on holiday from Sydney visiting her family. Thankfully the borders had finally reopened to Australians. They made a special visit to see me in the gallery. People love meeting the artist I have found and learning more about the urge to create.

Visitors to the gallery

“My sister fell in love at first sight with your painting ‘When Love First Tasted Your Lips’” her sister, Claire told me when she called.

The two sisters shared with me, how tough all the lockdowns had been on them, how isolating and lonely the time had been…as it had for so many. Recently I read a poignant article about how our mental health can suffer dramatically by being isolated. Paintings keep me company. Paintings make me happy. As they do my collectors. It’s why I call myself The Joyful Artist. I show up for joy – an antidote to fear.

It was so wonderful to meet my new collector and her fun family in person. That’s one of the unexpected joys of having your own gallery/studio.

“Great works of art, music, and architecture that calibrate between 600 and 700 can transport us temporarily to higher levels of consciousness and are universally recognized as inspirational and timeless.”

~ David R. Hawkins M.D. PhD



In August, fear of losing my mum saw me head to Wellington to care for her. Delays in my planned trip proved somewhat fortuitous as it also coincided with my teaching the healing power of art in an in-person-3-day art retreat. The Home of Compassion, Wellington, NZ, was such a beautiful location for my one-on-one immersive art retreat.

We loved every moment🌸🙏❤️🖼 Such a gorgeous and sacred space to hold a retreat.

We loved using the Art of Life Inspiration Deck to guide the creative journey, which was as much about what things we are letting go of and which we are setting intentions about and creating those on our canvases. Fantastic new intention energy under the Lions gate portal

It was bittersweet to be back in my home town Wellington, New Zealand. On the one-hand mum had been so unwell and had been in hospital for over a month. I flew down, especially so I could care for her when she came out of the hospital. The weather intervened by way of massive storms, and my original dates were put off. Plus, the hospital said mum wasn’t well enough to leave yet.

Then my sister decided to self-isolate in mum’s house when she got Covid at a work conference! This meant mum couldn’t come home as planned. I couldn’t believe she would be so selfish. In the end, the timing for my trip to Wellington coincided with the New Zealand Romance Writer’s Conference, too. I didn’t get to attend full-time as I was caring for mum, but when I did get to go, it was fun to see so many of my writing friends and be inspired.

The beautiful Home of Compassion turned out to be the best, most perfect setting. The weather had been wild, windy and lashing with rain, but inside, our hearts were singing and shining, and we didn’t notice the storm that raged.

In its simplest form, ‘Retreat‘, means ‘to withdraw, to drawback.’ We have loved doing just that. The silence and serenity of this very special place is incredible. And of course, creating art (and writing) is very meditative and for me, a very spiritual practice and source of strength. Having just finished writing Love In Venice, and also narrating the audiobook, it was lovely to retreat from writing and engage in a different form of creativity and share the beauty of creating art with others.

A retreat is a special time where we can take time to connect with each other

A retreat is a special time where we can take time to connect with each other, contemplate and renew our purpose and motives, and work on one or more specific goals—in this case, painting and connecting with our deepest self. People often mistake any group planning or training meeting for a retreat. It’s completely different and much more special and sacred—and silent, too.

Grounds, Home of Compassion, Island Bay New Zealand
Carol, playing with paint
carol testimonial wellington art retreat

Wellington is also the setting for one of my popular stories from the Sassy Short Stories collection, Twist of Fate. Click this link to GRAB A FREE COPY. It’s a funny, laugh-out-loud story—and don’t we need that right now! You’ll be subscribed to my Mollie Mathews newsletter, but you can opt-out anytime.

It was also fun meeting up with a coaching client at the conference who helped create her new career combo as an audiobook narrator and romance writer. Read Naomi’s inspiring career change story on my blog, How One Young Mum Shifted from Burnout to Beautiful Bliss. Naomi’s first narration project was my very own Midlife Career Rescue: Employ Yourself.

employ yourself written by Cassandra Gaisford


Fear of darkness led me toward the light. You will love the spirit of peace and joy I have infused into the Allowing Peace Collection. In the times we are living in now, it’s especially important to be surrounded by objects that make us feel serene and happy.

I love the peaceful brilliance of this collection, and I currently have one of these large works, Emptiness Dancing in my bedroom, until it finds a new home. I love it!

The focus of these works is reduced paintings in colour and texture. The works reflect my attitude of life at the time and of painting ‘less and better. In times of global overwhelm, to minimise the overloading of an image with bold bright colours and put the focus on a few colours and interesting surface structures. I love the peaceful brilliance of Allowing Peace Collection and hope you do too.

Pictured, My Secret is Silence: Beautifully layered with sensuously sultry glazes of textured beeswax, wax crayon, pure pigment and star-studded with gold rub

1140 mm x 1190 mm x 40mm on board


Halfway down Allen Street, nestled within the epicentre of Wellington’s cultural quarter, you’ll find ORA Gallery – home to one of the city’s best collections of contemporary New Zealand Art & Design. Situated just meters from vibrant Courtenay Place, ORA is home to a diverse range of work by some of this country’s most exceptional artists.

I’m super excited to be joining the fab NZ artists who are represented by Ora Gallery, and showcasing my encaustic beeswax pieces. Consciously sourced premium New Zealand 🐝 beeswax, pure pigment, layered with passion and created in gorgeous New Zealand. If you live in Wellington or visiting @lovewelly pop into Ora and enjoy a range of high-vibe artworks.

2022 has been bittersweet—losing Joy.

mum and I in Bali
Mum and I in Bali just before I certified as a Reiki Master in 2017

Two days after returning from Wellington and having spent two precious weeks caring for my mother, Joy, in her home after a lengthy stay in the hospital, I received news that my mother had died suddenly. She was only 80 years young.

It was very sudden and quite a shock. The photo below, which we used for her funeral, was taken only three months prior, on her 80th birthday, May 29. Mum was a Gemini. Joyful, creative, entertaining, chatty, sociable and beautiful.

I’m lucky I inherited a lot of her creative gifts. Even though people say when your parents die you feel that you are all alone in the world and that you have nobody else, I am actually very blessed to have my creativity, and this will always connect me to my loved ones.

My mother like to share her joy. She had an interior design business for many years and uplifted people’s lives by helping them create beautiful homes, and I like to think I carry on the legacy with my artworks.

mum service card of death

Mum planned her whole funeral and included the passage below, which my sobbing and very brave, young nephew read at her service. My daughter, who has one heck of a soprano voice and the sings like an angel, sang Pie Jesu as other pallbearers and I carried mum into the church.

I flew home to the Bay of Islands the day after the funeral and immediately channelled my sorrow into making art. In fact, the day I learned of her death before I flew to her funeral, I also created a special piece—beeswax infused with frankincense. I share more on this blog>>

susan cain bittersweet

Recently, I purchased Susan Cain’s latest book, Bittersweet. I’ve been loving reading the emphasis on light and dark and how we need both in life to fully blossom, and the reminder of the power of creativity to look pain in the eye and turn it into something better. That’s always been my guiding principle as an artist, as I share in this fun video which was taken by a happy client, who, with his wife, commissioned Always Summer and purchased Festival of Colour. I explain more about what inspires my creativity. “When it’s winter, I paint summer.” It’s a little more about me and my urge to create which may inspire you too…I hope:)

look pain in the eye and turn it into something better

Two months after mum died, I showed up for love and created the Summer Love exhibition. The exhibition’s name references the much-longed-for change of season and how needful it is for our mental health and resilience to have love-inspired beauty around us. I named it Summer Love in honour of the award-winning beer from our local winery and brewer, Kainui. Finally, after two+ years of lockdowns and shutdowns, they finally opened again with one of many popular live concerts.

Again the exhibition was bittersweet. I was excluded from a local art trail being held that weekend. I showed up for love, beauty and joy on my own, and people flocked to the gallery to view my Summer Love collection and purchased many of my love-inspired paintings.

“When you stand in your truth, it’s like the Universe is listening and rewards you,” my local naturopath said to me when I told her part of the reason why I felt I was excluded. Last year I had advocated for artists who were being excluded from exhibiting in Koast, our local annual art trail, due to their vaccination status.

As it turns out, despite being ignored by my fellow artists, Spirit had my back, and I met so many amazing new collectors, several of whom are coming to my ‘Paint Amazing Abstracts” retreat next week. Plus, another fun thing is that one of my new collectors also purchased a painting by one of the artist’s who was excluded years earlier:) Now we are hanging together!

Abstract botanical artwork by Cassandra Gaisford

I owe my love of painting to Vincent Van Gogh

In November this year, I finally tracked down the painting that inspired me to paint again. Vincent van Gogh’s simply named Roses. I saw it in the Metropolitan Museum of Art when I was in New York 20 or so years ago and was love struck!

Our bodies never lie and are how our heart, intuition and soul speaks to us. While standing in front of Vincent’s painting, I experienced a powerful visceral response. My eyes started tearing up, my heart-raced, my pulse soared. My whole body was on fire. It was then that I rediscovered the joy I once felt painting with fat, juicy oils.  

I took a photo of this painting and included it in my book Happy at work which was the first book I self-published back in 2009. I chose Vincent van Gogh’s Roses in the section “value natural knacks and talents”…apt considering van Gogh largely taught himself. I never recorded the name of the painting and joy of joys, while researching something else I found it. I share more about why and how Vincent inspires me on my blog>>

Roses, Ode to Vincent Van Gosh, Cassandra Gaisford, 2022

I really believe art, happiness and healing go together. As you’ll read below, vincent created these exquisite, truly heart-inspiring flowers the day before he left the asylum in Saint-Rémy in May 1890. Arts and crafts are great for the soul. The benefits range from enhancing self-esteem and confidence and increasing brain productivity to reducing the effects of serious health conditions, including mental anguish.

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise) Roses, 1890 Oil on canvas; 36 5/8 x 29 1/8 in. (93 x 74 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Collection, Gift of Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 1993, Bequest of Walter H. Annenberg, 2002 (1993.400.5) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/436534

“On the eve of his departure from the asylum in Saint-Rémy in May 1890, Van Gogh painted an exceptional group of four still lifes, to which both the Museum’s Roses and Irises (58.187) belong. These bouquets and their counterparts—an upright composition of irises (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) and a horizontal composition of roses (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)—were conceived as a series or ensemble, on a par with the earlier Sunflower decoration he made in Arles. Traces of pink along the tabletop and rose petals in the present painting, which have faded over time, offer a faint reminder of the formerly more vivid “canvas of pink roses against a yellow-green background in a green vase.”

Source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436534

Sometimes smaller is better

Both these smaller works on paper, inspired by Vincent van Gogh, were purchased by a gorgeous lady I first met many moons ago while I ran my image and colour consultancy, The Colour Girl. I love that some fifteen years later, we are still in touch, and when she saw these tiny works of heart she fell in love instantly. There is an immediacy and flow to these works, which poured from my heart onto the paper in a joyful ode to Vincent during one of my painting workshops.

It’s been a real delight to see how many of my tiny paintings, often begun as a play date in the studio, have sparked such joy in peoples’ lives.

A Rose in Bloom, 2022
250mm x 300mm
Acrylic on canvas

The name, and painting, were inspired by the following quote:

“Compare the serene and simple splendor of a rose in bloom with the tensions and restlessness of your life. The rose has a gift that you lack: It is perfectly content to be itself. It has not been programmed from birth, as you have been, to be dissatisfied with itself, so it doesn’t have the slightest urge to be anything other than what it is. It possesses the artless grace and absence of inner conflict that among humans is only found in little children and mystics.”

~ Anthony de Mello

Happy hobbies

Cassandra in the artist’s garden

After an eight-year hiatus, it was really fun to get out my old Canon during the final (rainy!) day of my Summer Love painting exhibition.

I first purchased this camera with new friends I met while travelling in Mexico in 2009 0r 2011. After 911, I visited them in New York where they lived, and Joe drove me all around Manhattan to a special photography shop, and I purchased my camera there. They can’t believe I still have it! It’s an oldie, but still a goodie and has so many wonderful memories. I love that we are still in touch:)

Some 15 years ago, I purchased a special lens called a Lensbaby which creates magic optical effects, but I had never used it. I didn’t know where to start! So I began by taking it out of its box, and then I briefly glanced at the instructions, looked at a few Youtube clips and then just played.

The point was not to make it perfect or pressure myself by saying, “I’ll never be as good as those professional photographers (who have been using this lens for years!) The point was just to have the courage to create and experience the joy of play. This is something I model in my Create Amazing Abstracts classes and art retreats.

The sister of this beautiful poppy bloomed one wet day, so I took this photo of a poppy in bud. I think she’d made a good reference photo for a painting. (And yes, it’s supposed to be blurry).

… hobbies are good for the soul and they stave off the fear of boredom!

lensbaby poppy in bloom

As you’ll read toward the end of this post my obsession with these beautiful opium poppies inspired a series of paintings, including one that just sold as the year, drew to a close.

Inspired by the Opium Poppies in the artist’s garden

Bay of Islands One Day Art Retreat: Create Amazing Abstracts

One of the great joys of 2022 has been sharing the gift of creativity with others. I have enjoyed so much fun, found so much healing and met so many wonderful people through my art that I decided to share my joy and teach people how to paint themselves happy.

I love, love, love sharing the joy of creating amazing abstracts with people who turn up to my class looking for artistic inspiration or simply questioning, “I wonder if there’s an artist in me?” Or  “Can I let go of detail and create something abstract.”

bay of islands art retreat
judy testimonial

I came across this statement by Joni Mitchell the other day and shared it on my social feed. I loved the responses I received, including these sage words:

“Compliance is surrendering to the will of another… we must always honour ourselves, our gifts, our connections, our integrity, and our dreams to feel fulfilled, so we are free to grow throughout our life’s experiences to become the person we are supposed to be.”

Right now, as I write, I’m listening to Eric Clapton’s song, If I Could Change the World.

“If I could change the world I would be the sunlight in your universe,” Eric Clapton.

Musicians always inspire my paintings, whether their title or the vibe. I feel another painting coming on inspired by this song. Stay tuned. Here are the full Lyrics.

If I can reach the stars
Pull one down for you
Shine it on my heart
So you could see the truth

That this love I have inside
Is everything it seems
But for now I find
It’s only in my dreams

And I can change the world
I will be the sunlight in your universe
You would think my love was really something good
Baby, if I could change the world

If I could be king
Even for a day
I’d take you as my queen
I’d have it no other way

And our love would rule
In this kingdom we have made
‘Til then I’d be a fool
Wishing for the day

And I can change the world
I would be the sunlight in your universe
You would think my love was really something good
Baby, if I could change the world
Baby, if I could change the world

I could change the world
I would be the sunlight in your universe
You would think my love was really something good
Baby, if I could change the world
Baby, if I could change the world
Baby, if I could change the world

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Eric Patrick Clapton

“Let life be beautiful like summer flowers,” Vincent van Gogh

910mm x 910mm x 35mm
Acrylic on canvas

YOU LOOK LIKE AN EXOTIC FLOWER looks perfect in her potential new home. My collectors have two other paintings by me, both also birthday presents and both also inspired by joy… two abstract landscapes. This macro flower harmonizes with those pieces perfectly.

It is inspired by the wildly gorgeous opium poppies in my garden. They aren’t trying to be drugs, their beauty is a natural opiate. I love my poppies.

“It’s a shrine to Cassandra”, my gorgeous collector joked. I’m just a conduit. The goddess is joy. The muses beauty, love and harmony.

Along with information about the painting on my website, I share part of the following quote:

“If you are setting out to be joyful you are not going to end up being joyful. You’re going to find yourself turned in on yourself. It’s like a flower. You open, you blossom, really because of other people. And I think some suffering, maybe even intense suffering, is a necessary ingredient for life, certainly for developing compassion.”

– Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

My collector had shared what a tough year it had been for so many. She thought this year would be easier but it felt harder. I know. My mum died. Lot’s of big horrid, hurtful, things have been happening…it’s only recently in New Zealand that Covid restrictions have lifted. Through it all, I kept showing up for joy, like I did when I began painting again at the beginning of Covid and opened my “happy gallery” in 2020. In the midst of all the sorrow, fear and anger, like a poppy blooming in the wild, I wanted to offer a bright burst of colour in what seemed like a bleak, grey world.

The title of the painting was inspired by something a prison officer said to me during my time working as a transformational leadership coach for The Department of Corrections in one of New Zealand toughest prisons, where some of the most violent offenders were sent. “You look like an exotic flower,“  a guard called to me as I walked across the prison yard in a bright flowery dress. “Thank you for brightening my world.”

I align with Vincent van Gogh in this regard, painting, healing, and creativity are not only a beautiful distraction, but a spiritual gift for our thirsty souls, as is the healing power of art to uplift and transform our lives.

It’s with heartfelt gratitude that I say if you have purchased my art, liked or commented on my posts, followed me, or encouraged me to keep going, thank you from the depths of my soul.  I open, I blossom, because of you.

A perfect present for a special Christmas birthday gal. What a wonderful way to celebrate my new collector’s birthday, the summer solstice and the end of 2022 together. Happy, joyful, love-infused paintings are the gift that keeps giving. It’s fun knowing that rather than dine out tonight to celebrate her birthday, she could think of nowhere she rather be than at home in her happy place with her husband and children. You Look Like An Exotic Flower is hanging near their dining table and looks perfect. This is the third of my paintings this gorgeous family have collected. Two were large-scale abstract landscape commissions. This compliments them perfectly.

In 2023, a new collector purchased two of my floral paintings and commissioned another, which she wanted to be similar to “You Look Like An Exotic Flower.” Shortly before receiving her painting, she had a terrible accident, and during her recovery, she told me her paintings were bringing her great joy.

If I could change the world I would make it more joyful. Meanwhile, I do what I can. In this video, I share how I created an art gallery during Covid and created more joy for others.

Whitelaw Commission

Lee and Cliff Summer Love Exhibition

Lee and Cliff Whitelaw popped into the Summer Love Exhibition during Labour Weekend. They loved the painting above which later went to new collectors, but couldn’t purchase it as their new architecturally designed home build wasn’t finished. What joy, to be invited to create one, which became two, large-scale bespoke artworks – “We want it to be a landscape from your mind.”

My intention for next year is “Fun!” and it’s already started. It’s going to be really fun to work side by side with these two different yet complementary large-scale commissions: “Fun! Fun! Fun!” and “We Love It.”

When I’m working on a commission I like to create smaller versions in a variety of colour waves to gauge my clients’ reaction and preferences. It was such a buzz when they instantly fell in love with two of the concepts and said, we need both! I then mocked up the paintings in the actual size so they could visualise it on their walls. It was exciting to visit them on their building site for the final measure-up before ordering their custom canvas…due to arrive just before Christmas.

Bye-Bye Sorrow…Hello Joy

It’s so weird to recall that at the beginning of 2022 New Zealanders, regardless of their health, couldn’t buy an ice cream or a coffee unless they could prove they were vaccinated and had an app on the phone to swipe in. I took this picture in our local tourist town, Pahia (gateway to the Bay of Islands) on New Year’s day, 2022. Novelist Isabel Allende once said, “Write what should not be forgotten.” This post reminds me of both the moments of joy and sadness, trauma and gladness. I truly do hope the lessons learned are lasting ones.

As I head into a new year, I’ve enjoyed looking back over the many highlights that I would love to continue building upon, the love and friendships, the laughter (and the tears). When we truly unite, we can become one.

I’m super excited to be sharing my passion for high-vibe art in a three day art-retreat next year. I’ll be sharing my secrets, including how to supersize your art and artbiz tips for those inspired to sell their paintings and build a love brand. Details here: https://www.thejoyfulartist.co.nz/workshops-around-the-globe/

I hope you can come!

Karen grant

If you’d like help to create magic and miracles in your life next year, you’ll love my new online course. Details here:

2022 Year in Review

The year is still drawing to a close, but it seemed apt to end today (for now), seeing as I drew this card from my The Art of Life Inspiration Deck this morning. Thank you for your continued support, I’m so grateful to have you as collectors, clients and friends.

It was lovely to see my painting, She Smiled Softly, on the walls of the new beauty spa recently. I can’t think of a more perfect place. I felt so grateful for all the support the owner Karen has given me over the years, hanging my paintings and showcasing my work.

fear can drive you to achieve the impossible…I’m possible, right?!:)

dr Joe a knew story
Cassandra life coach and career change expert

Here, I stand, the girl once so afraid of standing out or speaking out. Who was educated to tell the truth, but was punished for speaking when a child should be seen, (perhaps), but not heard. As Dame Helen Mirren says, the great thing about getting older is caring less about what others think. What is truly important, she says is to”appreciate that I’ve worked hard and tried to do interesting things.”


Even the bitter can turn sweet

As Christmas Day fast approaches, we created a lovely NZ Christmas tree with solar lights, fragrant gardenias and art sculptures by our neighbour Cathy Stougie, a first-time artist whose work I exhibited in my garden gallery.

I’m super looking forward to seeing my daughter and partner here in the Bay of Islands on the 28th to celebrate the new year and enjoy some fun and laughter.

On a personal note, I’m really happy and grateful that my partner opted to leave in 40+ career in finance. Several months ago, he sold his business, Awesome Mortgages. Was he afraid? Hell, yes! But I can’t tell you what a difference leaving behind a stressful, deadline-driven, newly over-regulated industry has made to his health and happiness—and in turn, mine!

As he told his clients, he’s taken early retirement so he has more time to drive his Ferrari. I call her “Frida” – she’s our freedom vehicle. When the borders were shut and our cherished travel options garroted, Laurie fulfilled a dream he’d had since early adulthood to own a Ferrari.

As Elvis sings,

“We’re lost in a cloud
With too much rain
We’re trapped in a world
That’s troubled with pain
But as long as a man
Has the strength to dream
He can redeem his soul and fly.”

Laurie and I

So my friend, what of you? What interesting things occurred in 2022? Remember, even the bitter can turn sweet. Believe me—I know! What interesting things lie in wait for 2023? What will your life story be? How has life shaped you so far, and what will you carry forward into 2023? I would love to know:)

Above all dare to be a rebel with a cause, live passionately and show up for joy!

“…Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.”

~ Robert McKee

Many thanks for reading. I love hearing from you, so reach out if you’d like to connect, share your thoughts on 2022, resilience, bittersweetness, or anything else.  If you’re interested in a painting or you’d like to know how my commission process works, please get in touch. 

I hope you will be able to take some time at Christmas to spend with those you love and to recharge, replenish and relax. But most of all, I hope you experience magic and miracles in the year to come.

With bubbles of love



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Posted in: Blog

2022 in review—fear can drive you

The Joyful Artist

I am an artist, storyteller, intuitive guide, mentor and Reiki master. All my creations are infused with positive energy , inspiration, and light. I believe in magic and the power of beauty, joy, love, purpose, and creativity to transform your life. My greatest joy is helping your realize your dreams. That makes my soul sing!

P: +64 (0) 21 873 833
E: hello@thejoyfulartist.co.nz


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