A Journey Of The Soul

June 23, 2022
Posted in Art, Travel
June 23, 2022 zephrym

I remember the exact moment when the Soul Portrait retreat crossed my path. The high tech algorithms of the social media giants finally got it right on the nose. They must have been listening as it was only a day before that I had confessed to Tanya that my dream was to go study art at some sort of immersive residency or program abroad.  To really dig in without all of the background noise of life.

I’ll be honest, I really didn’t think it would happen for me and I’m still pinching myself that I got the opportunity to chase my dream, go on an epic adventure and find my creative soul in the process.

This is my experience at the Soul Portraits Retreat with Canadian artist, Autumn Skye that took place at the beautiful Stowel Lake Farm on Salt Spring Island, BC.  I hope it inspires you to follow your dream, do the “uncomfortable” thing. There’s simply no telling where the rabbit hole may take you.


5:00 PM

Well after what has seemed like quite the ordeal getting ready for this retreat, I’m here…..sitting on my bed for the next 9 days and feeling incredibly anxious and a bit vulnerable for coming on this little adventure. This couldn’t be more outside of my comfort zone. I’m away from all of my creature comforts, in a new place, with new people and I think I may just be the only male here taking this retreat for the week. I think it’s just my fear getting the best of me. Going to give this experience everything I’ve got. I’m here to learn and grow as an artist and as a person. To connect with myself, maybe gain some freaking confidence and build a new pathway to an exciting future for myself. Yup, that sounds better….let’s go with that narrative instead.

11:00 PM

Well, that was a night! An incredible dinner and then a powerful opening circle with over 30 of us. What a whirlwind of just about everything you can think of! This is going to be an intense week. So many heightened emotions for so many people. For so many individuals this retreat isn’t just about painting, it’s about discovering themselves and giving their creativity permission to hold space in their lives. It’s so hard not to take in all of that emotional release. Just going to give it all space to present itself and focus on my journey and why I’m here! I’m ready and so incredibly eager to get started!!!


8:30 PM

What a first day. I forgot what it’s like to be fully immersed in something with a big group of people. This whole experience is filled with moments that are so outside of my normal scope. From the communal eating times to the quieter moments of creative workflow, the air is always filled with the buzz of different energies occupying space. Honestly, it feels like being back at art school 20 years ago. I know that social activities don’t always come naturally to me but I’m really trying my best to come out of my shell and give myself the opportunity to connect with everyone. I think it’s the best way for me to get the very most out of this unique experience.

Today was all about getting the “soul portrait” underway and it felt incredible to be painting, learning and feeding off of each other’s energy and excitement. I knew today was going to be a lot of repeat instruction from my old art school days but it actually felt great to bring it all back to the forefront. I’m super excited to dig in and see some of the progression come out tomorrow. I think an idea is forming around how the painting is going to take shape but I’m going to try and give it room to continue blossoming before I set anything in stone! I think for now I’m just going to focus on the portrait, get that hurdle underway. Well, till tomorrow!


10:00 PM

Just going to start this off by saying that today’s entry is going to be short and sweet. Today was a great day of painting. A bit technical, somewhat mathematical but ultimately I am starting to see the method behind the madness, or so they say! I’m feeling more and more comfortable with this amazing group and starting to ease into the conversations, the laughter and of course the social banter without feeling that intense awkwardness that seems to always follow me around. This trip is exactly what I’ve needed, both on a socialization front as well as on an artistic one. It’s helping me to embrace my lion and trust my artistic ability. I’m so looking forward to continuing to explore the path forward and grow as an artist and a human. Feeling truly blessed to be here.


11:00 PM

Today was one hell of a day. It’s amazing to feel the connectedness of this group continues to grow and flourish. To feel yourself actually forming genuine connections and bonds with so many of these amazing people. There’s something humbling about everyone being on this journey together…going through the struggles of the creative process together, the internal criticism, the diminishing self-confidence and then the plateau to acceptance. It’s comforting to realize that it’s not just you. That we’re all going through it in our own unique way but to remember that we are definitely not alone.

Tonight was our halfway check-in. Another moment to journey around the circle and share our process and experience. We’re all going through it and it’s amazing to be able to share and connect. I’m feeling a sense of inner peace that I haven’t felt in a long time. A letting go of some of the hardships that have tainted my soul. This is exactly the kind of medicine I didn’t know that I needed. I feel blessed to be here on this journey. To feel myself blossoming and to have the opportunity to learn and grow as an artist. This experience of painting each and every day has been incredible and I know that after I leave this magical farm, I’m going to have to look at my normal life and find a solution to bring some of these practices into it. I feel myself growing as an artist and I’m actually so very excited to see what the future holds.


2:00 PM

Just popping in here as I’ve totally missed yesterday’s entry. The time and days just seem to be slipping away. Not that they haven’t had an incredible impact, but rather that they are so jam-packed with monumental growth, conscious expansion and heartfelt connections that sitting here typing seems like such a waste of that fleeting energy and experience. But alas, I’m trying to give myself something to look back on in reflection after the experience is long gone. Trying to document this journey that has me truly glowing with love and life. I’m just so blessed to be here.

We have only 2 more days ( today included ) to wrap up this artistic journey into our “soul portrait” and it’s looming in with a bit of a mix of dread and excitement. I’m so happy with what I’m creating and I simply can’t wait to see how it continues to unfold. Getting some of the colours in there today should really bring a sense of depth and life to my portrait. It’s definitely a journey to look at yourself day after day. Analyzing your features, your flaws, your sparkle. I’m coming to terms with it, learning to be kind to myself and accepting that I am worthy of this time invested in capturing my essence on canvas. It has been a struggle at times but it’s getting easier. Ok, I’m off to paint but I will definitely check back tonight. Today is a big day and there’s just so much to do!


8:00 AM

What a whirlwind of creativity, inspiration and emotional vulnerability. I feel like I’m on the verge of crying. Running the thin line of just balling and having an overwhelming emotional release. What a feeling. The last 2 days have been magical. Seeing everyone digging into their soul portraits, giving it everything that they have to find that balance between artistic integrity and comfortable imperfection. Somewhere along the line you get cracked open. Is it the people? The connections? The long hours of staring at yourself. Recreating every line or imperfection in your ever-changing appearance.

Somewhere along this journey, you realize that the retreat is so much more than learning to paint like Autumn Skye. Really it’s about so much more than painting altogether. It’s about providing space to find yourself. To connect to your deeper needs. To hold space for yourself not just to survive but to thrive in all your glory. My cup is overflowing and I feel so truly blessed to be here on this journey.


11:00 AM

I’m currently sitting in the airport awaiting the boarding of my plane back to reality. This past week of intense artistic immersion has been nothing short of life-changing. It’s hard to not just want to bottle up that energy and live in it forever. But alas, coming back to my life is part of the process. Dissecting the juicy bits from the experience and finding a way to integrate them into the bigger picture of life. How to move forward from here? What do I take away and apply? How do I best hold onto these lessons and ensure that the teachings last the test of time? Those are all amazing questions and now the task at hand is finding the answers to them all.

One truly monumental realization that I came to is just how little art I actually produce. Considering my background and education in art, I just don’t have a lot to show for it. The essence of my creativity has been diluted across so many mediums from music, performance, events, graphic design and the occasional art piece. This idea makes me both sad and appreciative at the same time. I have realized that I put way too much pressure on myself when it comes to creation. I rarely just pick up a brush and start painting if I don’t think it’s something that will be the next masterpiece. This concept is stifling me and it needs to change. Not only do I need to carve out more regular time to practice my traditional artistic craft but I need to allow myself the freedom of creation simply for the act of creating. This is how I will begin to grow more rapidly. To refine my skills and feel more confident in my artistic practice.

Another huge realization is the importance of community and how much it actually influences my overall outlook on life. After the fiasco with Cirque, I retreated from the community. I severed my trust in others in order to minimize my chances of being hurt again. At the retreat I found myself living outside of my walls. Offering myself, my knowledge and my genuine love to others so they could flourish and get the most out of their experience. This injected so much happiness into my state of mind that I now know just how pivotal it is to my outlook on life. I’ve been battling a wave of ever-growing anger in the pit of my soul for the past 4 years and I’m done letting it fester. It’s time to move on. Time to offer myself again to others. Maybe just being a bit more cautious this time to protect.

I also really got a glimpse this past week of the life I could envision for myself. From sustainable, green living in a forward and conscious thinking community to the definitive choices around a balanced and healthy lifestyle. The absence of Redbull and other stimulants, meat, excessive alcohol, tv, social media… I really didn’t miss any of it. Ok, well maybe I missed the meat a little…but I could see for the first time that these things are possible to live without. I think I’m going to start implementing small changes with the hope that they will open up to more changes. Start to envision the life I want for myself. Dreaming of the future and starting to manifest its integration into my life. It’s time for a change. I’m ready.

I could really go on and on here. There were so many learning points and beautiful takeaways from the experience. My heart and soul are beyond full. I feel blessed to have had the experience and to be moving in a direction with my life that inspires me. I can actually see my life opening up. Events in the past 6 months have brought me to this point and I’m actually so excited to see what’s next. I’m excited to get home and start creating. I guess only time will tell but for the first time in a long time, I’m filled with hope, excitement and conviction. Many blessings.

For more information on the retreat or to book your own experience, check out: Bella Retreats