Vincent Van Gogh once lamented, “I don’t know if I’m extremely sensitive or life is unbearable.” I feel many of us can relate to this dilemma. There is no doubt life can be very brutal, but life also holds considerable beauty and opportunity if, like the sunflower, we turn our attention towards the sun. This is why, in the wake of the Covid pandemic I turned my attention to joy, and inspired by Vincent and other artists, like Monet and Georgia O’Keeffe, began my series of flower paintings. “Rose, peonies and anthuriums,” said a new collector who purchased two of my paintings during my Summer Love exhibition, ‘Who would have guessed I’m a florist.”
As I shared on my blog, flowers are resilient and strong. They can grow through cracks in concrete and flower in some of the most barren and harsh landscapes. And they always bring joy! Flowers are also incredible fragile wee souls, sensitive to harsh winds, gusting rage, and unsolicited attacks. But they bloom anyway.
Aretha Franklin was once told that music would save her. And it did. I wrote in my journal the other day, art has saved me. And it has. But it’s more than art…because, as Joan Mitchell once said, “I don’t make ugly art.”
It’s beauty that has saved me, and it is the gift I share with the world. The other day, for example, I posted an image of She Smiled Softly, which is now hanging in the new beauty spa in Kerikeri. “So beautiful,” someone wrote.
I was reminded of the healing power of beauty by a passage I had read in a wonderful book by Piero Ferrucci, Beauty and The Soul: “We will be saved by beauty”
“Where is my soul? That is perhaps the only question worth answering. Each of us answers in his or her own way.” Asks Piero Ferrucci in his wonderful book.
I was once told I had the soul of an artist. I was a recruitment consultant for IT professionals at the time. Not long after returning to that job I grew to hate (a hoss who threatened to smash my head in didn’t help) I got shingles and was told I was lucky I didn’t go blind. I share more about how this experience lead me to change careers and love life again (and you can too) in Midlife Career Rescue (the Trilogy)
Van Gogh tried a few careers, unsuccessfully, and then announced, “I want to be an artist.” Largely self-taught, he also took a few courses with established artists. Which is something I have done too, including Max Gimblett, who I studied with in Mauri. Hawaii. Next month I’m excited to be sharing my art secrets at my in-person Bay of Islands art retreat. Are you coming? Details here:
I came across this article recently following the media flurry caused by two women throwing tomato soup at one of Vincent van Gogh’s beautiful sunflower paintings.
“In less than a week Van Gogh painted a series of still-lifes of Sunflowers. Although they failed to sell during his lifetime, they would now be worth an unimaginable sum. Today the Sunflowers are arguably the world’s most instantly recognisable artworks.
It is less well-known that Vincent painted four still-lifes of sunflowers in the Yellow House in Arles in 1888. The first, with three sunflowers, has always been hidden away in private collections. The second, with six flowers, was destroyed in a bombing raid in Japan during the Second World War.”
It got me thinking! Many of my new collectors are being brave and ahead of their time too. Like my new collector who mentioned I had forgotten to sign my painting, Love is a Flower, and could I please add my signature to the front and back: “I’m sure it doesn’t really matter but when you are super famous…” she wrote.
Who knows if I’ll be famous? LOL. It’s not my goal, and I don’t think it was Vincent’s either. Like me, he wanted to paint himself happy and to share beauty with the world.
Bailey writes, “It may come as no surprise that the first sale after Van Gogh’s death included Three Sunflowers (August 1888). This was the first of four still lifes of sunflowers that he painted in the Yellow House in Arles. Sold in April 1891, the buyer was the French critic Octave Mirbeau, who had just published a glowing review of Van Gogh’s work.”
From there, Vincent’s sales grew exponentially. Many are now traded in excess of $50 million dollars. Portrait of Dr Paul Gachet still holds the record for the most expensive Van Gogh, although it sold as long ago as 1990. At Christie’s, it fetched $83m, then the highest auction price for a work by any artist. My other muse, Leonardo da Vinci, has since topped that at a whopping $450 million for his portrait of Christ, Saviour of The World. Here’s hoping!
Growing up, I was constantly criticized. I can count the positive feedback on my hand. No doubt, my mother and father were criticised heavily too. Their childhoods were mired by a mix of abuse, neglect, and other issues that made life sometimes unbearable. Of course, there were good times too. Perhaps, just not as many as other families. I have come to understand that, yes, I am sensitive. Not just sensitive, but super sensitive. Which is a great thing for an artist. Without this heightened awareness of colour, mood, emotion, beauty—and brutality, artists’ would be less attuned to create.
To keep my vibrations high, I like to collect and share positivity. This includes keeping and surrounding myself with inspiring and uplifting quotations. Recently, I’ve begun to make a few to go with my paintings and plan to turn these into a book so others can be uplifted too.
I came across this quote from Louise Hay as I was writing this post:
“Every thought you think and every word you speak is an affirmation. All of your self-talk, your internal dialogue, is a stream of affirmations. You’re using affirmations every moment whether you know it or not. You’re affirming and creating your life experiences with every word and thought.”
I was also reminded that words can trigger the stress response in our bodies just as coming face-to-body with a hungry lion. This is why it’s so important to be vigilant with what we, and others, say to us. Using words as wands, not weapons, is why I love to name my paintings with uplifting affirmations.
My paintings are my babies. I like to give my children beautiful names that allow them to flower into their true potential. Sometimes I wonder why my mother named me Cassandra. But then, look into the history of the name, and I found Cassandra was a truth-teller with a huge BS detector (like my muse Eric Clapton).
Sometimes, a story someone tells me about how they named their child and the meaning behind it, sparks a painting and a title. Like Cordelia and Te Ataroa. Te Ataroa was inspired by and named after a beautiful baby who was only three months old when I saw her while she was with her mum shopping for groceries. The young couple had lost a little girl who, a year earlier, was stillborn. Their new daughter Te Ataroa was a blessing. Translated her name means “the long morning”.
As I painted the artwork I imagined Te Ataroa’s sister shining down from heaven, sending her family endless kisses across the morning sky. The colours were inspired by the pretty little pink, white, and green floral dress Te Ataroa was wearing when I met her. I showed the young couple a photo of the painting and they told me that their mother wept because it touched their hearts. After exhibiting this painting in a group exhibition, The Beauty of Resilience, just as New Zealand emerged from the first Covid lockdown in 2020. After the exhibition, I gifted this painting to the family.
Sometimes, it’s a line of poetry, as I did with When Love First Tasted Your Lips. The name of this painting was inspired by the lines of a poem by Persian Mystic, Rumi, “When love first tasted the lips of a human being it started singing.” The painting was inspired by some flowers I saw growing in my compost bin—beautiful vibrant dahlias. Right now, I’m feeling compelled to create a book, The Artist’s Garden, to share more of the beauty that inspires my work.
Several seasons ago I did create a book, Flower Power that showcases some of my botanical photos and has some of my favourite quotes by the Persian mystic Rumi. You can download it instantly here
Or purchase a gorgeous hardcover version from Amazon here:
(Note, there is an error on the Amazon page, so don’t click the paperback version. Another author’s book has been linked to mine.)
I don’t know if I’m extremely sensitive or life is unbearable. I think it’s both. I hope, as always, my musing helps you stay sane in an insane world. I know how healing art can be and the value and liberation of turning our minds and hearts toward the sun. And of course, inspiring people are like vitamins for the soul. Which is why I love the call to ‘pierce poise’ articulated so well in the biography of another of my muses, Helen Frankenthaler. I don’t look as fierce as Helen, but my act of rebellion in a world ruled by fear is to show up for joy! What fun!
Learn to paint amazing abstracts with award-winning artist Cassandra Gaisford in her amazing Bay of Islands garden and flower sanctuary.
💐Feel inspired by nature
🌼Grow resilience through happy art
🎨Feel energised through colour
👶Connect with your fun-loving inner child
Experience true liberation!
Leave with a painting you never thought you’d create and love!
Posted in: Blog
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!
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