Expressive Arts Florida Institute

The element of Water shows me the way

by Kathleen Horne

This image emerged in our last Tending the Creative Fire Virtual Mini-Retreat. Although very gentle in appearance, she brought me a powerful and lasting message from the energy of the element WATER.
This is the writing that emerged after the art-making:
I am created by water, and the tender fire grows within me, occupying the space of my heart.
I am encircled by the waters of life and those waters flow through me, and all around me.
Rather than arms I seem to have wings, or leaves, which allow me to balance and soar through life, as well as to tenderly enfold all that needs protection.
My eyes are closed, not to shut the world out, but to attend to the pulse of life within.
Although I am the embodiment of water, I appear to be firmly planted and steadily held, with new growth appearing within my roots.

My head is encircled by spirit and nature, and beams of creative energy radiate outwards.

If you rest your head against my heart, I will enfold you with my wings, whisper in your ear, and share my wisdom with you.
I was rather in awe at what I tapped into. Although just a quick painting, she now occupies a place of honor in my studio. I feel calmer, and in touch with my own wisdom and peace, whenever I look at her. She helps me to remember to look within, to reconnect with my own source of power.
The image alone would be powerful, without the words. And the words add so much, connecting, in a way, the unconscious and conscious realms. The words bring the message of the image into the cognitive realm, where I can make sense of it in my life.
The image and the words are inter-related. The words could not have come without the image first. And, in this case, the image likely would not have emerged without me engaging in some meditation and movement, before painting. The power of the process rests in its intermodal nature.
If you would like to join us virtually, to explore the arts, and yourself, in this way, we would love to welcome you and guide you!

Images “arrive”. I don’t “make” them.

by Kathleen Horne


In the last Expressive Arts Discovery Virtual Workshop, this is the image and writing that “arrived” for me.

And yes, that is how I think of it. An arrival, rather than something I make.

Why? It truly is a discovery process, a mindfulness practice, an opportunity to make a little space/time, to tune in to a deeper knowing through image and writing, and discover what is just below the surface of awareness. What comes always carries a message for me. Sometimes it is a surprise; sometimes it simply makes more clear what I already know. It always gives me a new perspective, because it is coming through the arts, not through my mind. It is coming from that deeper place that the arts access. That place I like to call: creative wisdom.

So, here is what came. Quickly. In my journal. First, the image. Then (from the image) the writing.

I am living at the center of my experience, feeling the layers that emanate out of the purple core. The layers move out from me, creating my life – its activities, and rhythms. 

The layers also hold and support me from the outside – the Earth, my family, my work, my community. 

I feel good – rested and energized – inhabiting this  central place, giving and receiving, offering support and  being supported.

I do not always reside here – sometimes I move far away, like a distant planet circling the sun, but today, in this moment, I live here, in the center of my experience, and I treasure and celebrate that.



Having all of this show up on the page was profound. (It always is.) From it, I learned that I was operating from a good, centered, place – in control of creating my life, and also feeling supported from the outside. Did I know that before this experience? In some ways, yes, but I was not really paying attention, not tuning in, not feeling it in my body.  The experience of a brief guided meditation, a 15-minute image, and a short writing gave me the gift of attuning to my deeper experience, and feeling it – physically, emotionally, cognitively. And, from there, I went about the rest of my day in a much more mindful way.


It is a few weeks since this experience, and I am still reaping the benefits. The image and writing are in my visual journal, which I open, look at, and work in (however briefly) almost every day. The image also now resides in my inner experience, and I can call it to mind whenever I want. It has become sort of an inner compass for me, a picture of myself when I am operating from a centered place. It helps me to notice my current state: am I experiencing myself at the center of my life, or somewhere else? If I am feeling out of balance, can I take a deep breath, and say these words to myself?

I feel good – rested and energized – inhabiting this  central place, giving and receiving, offering support and  being supported.

It helps.


Yes, and I have to say that I still find that amazing! Not only that, but I was leading the guided meditation and co-facilitating the workshop!

We have been doing 90 minute virtual workshops – Expressive Arts Discovery – about once a month, for a year or so now. This is how it goes:

  1. We gather, from anywhere in the world, through Zoom video, which is very user friendly. Everyone can see each other. We all introduce ourselves, open “the circle”, and set some ground rules and guidelines.
  2. We lead a meditation, and everyone moves directly into some visual art-making time, in their own space (staying in the room, but usually off-camera).
  3. We then give some gentle prompts for exploration of the image, perhaps through movement, and then writing.
  4. Everyone returns to “the circle”, on camera, and we all witness the images and writing (in whatever way each person wants. It is also fine to pass) For us, witnessing means, simply being present and receiving – taking in the image with our eyes and heart. Not commenting
  5. In the final few minutes, we all do some sharing. Anything you want to say about what happened for you, what you noticed, what you learned, etc.

There is no interpreting nor critiquing. There is no required level of “art skill”. We create a safe container for creative exploration and sharing. Sometimes people post their images in our FB group – Your Personal Expressive Arts Practice – if they want to share with others.

We started these workshops as sort of an experiment. We wanted to reach more people and facilitate a sense of tribe, without geographical limitations. They have far exceeded my expectations about what we might create in virtual space. I have met people from around the world,  have shared a beautiful connection and a sense of community, without having actually “met” them. We can definitely use the miracle of technology to support the power of the arts.

I will keep sharing my practice by writing these blog posts. I hope my sharing inspires you in some way.

Kathleen Horne

Each of these Expressive Arts Discovery workshops is $27. Here are the dates of the next ones:

Thursday July 6 7-8:30 pm EASTERN time.

Tuesday Aug. 15 7-8:30 pm EASTERN time

Tuesday Sept. 12 7-8:30 pm EASTERN time

Here is the link with details and registration.

Tending the Creative Fire

Virtual Mini Retreats


Sunday August 27, 1-5 pm EASTERN – We explore the element of EARTH, and how it relates to our creative practice.

Here is the link with details and registration.

Do you have questions? Email us.

Do you think that an online workshop can’t possibly work, you don’t have the tech skill, or you won’t feel connected? Here is what Sue had to say.

 I was very excited when I learned about the Expressive Arts Discovery virtual group. It had been far too long since I had traveled to Sarasota for an in person training, and I longed to once again connect with other expressive artists. I never doubted that Kathleen, Victoria, and Tamara would facilitate a wonderful experience, but I wondered whether I would be able to fully engage and connect to strangers sharing an online experience. What I found was a surprisingly easy connection, as the threads that wove our virtual experience, words, and images together were shared and witnessed. I can’t wait to do this again!
Sue Keston

If you want something a little longer and more in-depth, try our Tending the Creative Fire Mini-Retreats

We welcome you to experience the power of creative community!

Your facilitators,

Victoria, Tamara, Kathleen


Video Interview with Donna – TRIBE

Kathleen did an impromptu video interview with Donna Papenhausen today. We think you will like it.

A painter for 50 years, Donna’s Expressive Arts training invited her to access “inner content”  for the first time, and has allowed her to synthesize all aspects of herself to be of service to the world, as an artist, teacher, and facilitator. Her story is a great example of how the expressive arts invites us to become our whole selves, doing our own unique work. Donna has combined her intentional creativity training with Shiloh Sophia and her expressive arts training with Expressive Arts Florida Institute to create an offering that facilitates personal and cultural transformation through painting.

In this 14 minute interview, Donna shares some highlights of her journey with Kathleen, and talks about her upcoming 3-day painting Camp – TRIBE – July 27-29.

Interested in Expressive Arts Training? More here.



by Kathleen Horne

I have been thinking a lot about my inner critic these days, partly because we are teaching a workshop soon on just that topic.

I have been noticing when and how my inner critic shows up in my life – in my art, my business, my relationships, and tries to keep me in a box of safety by threatening or belittling me when I step out of that box. I have been consciously cultivating a relationship with this aspect of myself for a long time now, but, recently, my inner critic took me by surprise.

I was facilitating Art as a Healing Practice, which is one of my favorite things to do. Even better, our session was focused on making mandalas for healing and integration, and mandala-making is my favorite art form. And, on top of that, there were just 3 of us – a nice, intimate little group with an established connection and sense of trust. What better setting to sink into a delicious couple of hours of guided meditation, mandala making, writing, witnessing and sharing? Not a place I would expect my inner critic to show up!

where is this going

I waited until the others were engaged in their art-making and had what they needed, and then I sat down and looked at the spacious, empty circle on the piece of square watercolor paper, inviting me into what would potentially be a relaxing, contemplative, art experience. I created a grid in pencil, joined some lines up with a ruler, and found myself with an interesting star shape. I felt satisfied, curious, yet a little stuck about where to take it next. I liked the shape, so I decided to outline it with a black line, and I enjoyed that too. After that, though, I just sat and looked at it for awhile, uncertain, and seeing no real possibilities for the next step. (in mandala-making this is unusual for me, as my mandalas usually simply seem to grow, organically, on the page).

Without any real sense of direction, I decided to add color, and got some watercolors, filling in the spaces. While doing this, I felt strangely bored and impatient (again, not feelings I associate with creating mandalas). As the facilitator, holding space for others, I was dipping in and out of my own process, not sinking in as deeply as I would if I were on my own. So, I just kept painting in the shapes and noticing my feelings. I made the star-shaped structure black. Although I liked the black, I also felt like I had created a cage, a fixed structure with “no way out”. This was getting a bit weird, and again, I had no idea what to do next. I realized that my inner critic had showed up in full force, but I didn’t yet realize that my inner critic was actually the subject of my painting.

feeling caged by my inner critic

Continuing to feel somewhat immobilized with no sense of direction or potential for growth, I decided to just add some detail. I took my black pen and made spirals all over the purple/pink section. This was OK, and gave me a little sense of growth potential, but still felt very caged in. Then I added white dots to the black grid, hoping to add a little lightness, but, when I finished, I thought they looked like the rivets of a black metal cage.

By this time, we were almost out of time for art-making, and I stopped to give the writing prompts to the others. Before I did any writing myself, I spontaneously added the scallops to the outside of the yellow circle, hoping to add some growth potential but actually creating more of a border or impermeable barrier.


Although I don’t usually write until after I finish a piece, I decided that writing now might open up some possibility.

Some excerpts from my writing:

art as a healing practice mandalas

Our 3 mandalas together

What, what, what are you becoming?

I am waiting for something to grow. Something organic, mysterious, and beautiful.

Where, where, where are the openings?

Full of questions, I am. With no answers. Stay with it.

I know that when things become uncomfortable (in art and in life) it makes good sense to be with that and work with it and find a way through. So, I shared my unfinished image in our circle, as well as my writing and my feelings.

And then I took it home with me, feeling somewhat confused and a bit disgruntled.

The next morning it suddenly hit me that this mandala I was creating is actually a picture of my inner critic! The straight, hard, riveted black lines that form a cage, with all of the color and growth potential within, or behind this cage, with no way out. It made perfect sense. The invitation into mandala-making was about healing and integration, and this mandala was all about my relationship with my inner critic! Once again, my art was ahead of my conscious knowing.

With this realization, frustration changed to curiosity. I looked at the image that was emerging on the page, fascinated. The black lines formed a structure, and, in also a cage, in my art. In my life, I know there are times that I feel caged in by my inner critic, and unable to free myself? Do I also experience my inner critic as a structure?

Of course! My inner critic tries to keep me safe. That has always been its function, from an early age. It uses a harsh voice and unkind words, and plays upon my fears, but it is trying to keep me out of harm’s way by caging me in, keeping me within my comfort zone, where things are predictable and risk-free. Hmmm.

In my mandala, I had built a structure (the star shaped black lines), reinforced it with rivets, keeping all the life and light safely contained within. The result, though, was that the structure had become a cage, with no way out. Could I change this in my mandala?

I continued to work with it. In order to shift its dynamic, I had to take risks, disturb the peace, shake it up, make it look a little crazy, even. I had to let go of the safety and comfort of what is known, in order to step into the unknown. I had to acknowledge that the structure was there, and move beyond it, not try to blow it to bits.

Even though it was just lines and colors on a piece of paper, and it was never going to be a piece of “art”, is was a slow and careful process to do this. Each step felt like a risk, and I was aware of finding that edge between being careful and being free.

image of my inner critic

I have finished the mandala now, I think. Ultimately, it will go in my file of process-oriented art. For now, though, it stays propped up on my work table, reminding me of its life lessons. It helps me to acknowledge that there are areas of my life in which I am moving out of safe structure, and into unknown territory. It helps me to remember that this can be difficult and deliberate work, even while it is freeing. It reminds me that change is often uncomfortable and releases fear, anxiety, and old beliefs.

The arts are the perfect place to shift and play with our relationship with our inner critic. If you would like to experience this for yourself, there are still 2 more days to register for Transforming Your Inner Critic!

p.s. It seems, now that this is the beginning of a series of explorations. Here is the beginning of the next one. I wonder how things will shift, in my mandala and in my life?

inner critic transforming 1inner critic transforming 2




My Inner Critic doesn’t care about mustaches

by Tamara Teeter Knapp

Last week, I went to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Dali Museum in St. Pete. It was an amazing exhibit that told a rich story of pain, courage, and untethered creativity. I didn’t get to see all of the paintings, especially the ones that graphically depicted her pregnancy loss and the excruciating pain she felt throughout her life (because my son was with me and it was best to stay with the “Family Friendly Tour”). But, I saw enough to feel connected to her as a person, as a woman, and as an artist willing to be transparent and bold. I left with the question, “What if Frida had listened to her inner critic and not painted?”

Frida kahlo exhibit

What will go unexpressed and remain unknown not only to others but to myself if I heed the Inner Critic’s voice inside of me? I wonder.

The Inner Critic speaks in whispers and sometimes shouts, but is usually present when I try to step out of my comfort zone and do something new and different. Lately, there are so many new possibilities that I want to explore, but I remain quiet, don’t step out, and hear the voice of my true self. My Inner Critic is strong, sneaky and relentless at times.

My son (almost 5) and I went together to the exhibit and we met our dear friend and partner Kathleen. It was a fun day, but after lunch Caleb wasn’t convinced that he wanted to go upstairs to see the Dali exhibit. For a moment, I heard a voice “why did you think this would work to bring a 4 ½ year old here? You’re not going to get him to go and you’ve spent all this money to get here and see the art.” Yada yada yada. I met the voice with the spirit of surrender and said, “Okay, if we don’t go see more art upstairs, it’s okay. We did get to see the Frida exhibit” and suggested we go to the family activity room for a little while before we left.

Caleb and I ended up in the room by ourselves for a while and relaxed, enjoyed some quiet and then watched the  little film about Dali that was narrated by two flies. This inspired us to  make mustaches from pipe cleaners (one of the activities set up for the kids). I convinced him that it would be fun to go upstairs wearing our mustaches to see the Dali art and off we went to get our headphones. We looked at the art, listened to stories about Dali and his life, and laughed (as did others) when we occasionally remembered we had mustaches on our faces!

I think about it now and realize that in some ways, I don’t listen to my inner critic – or maybe my inner critic doesn’t care about certain things like pipe cleaner mustaches in public. I would have missed a lot had I decided that was “silly” or “ridiculous” and “I shouldn’t do that”. It’s the same in my art, my movement, my voice, my life. I can choose whether to show up fully, have fun and be inspired with joy and new experiences OR I can choose to stay home and be safe and unseen. Even just typing those words make me cringe and feel sad. I don’t want a life unlived, a song unsung, or to miss out on simple joyful moments with my son or anyone in my life.

Sometimes my inner critic’s “voice” is not in words, but in feelings – resistance, exhaustion, fear, even anger – and I don’t always recognize it. I notice that when I check-in with my art, I can see what the feeling is and if I move the image or feel where it is in my body, I can access the words or message it is trying to convey. Choosing to listen to one’s own inner voice, to soften the critical and deepen and expand the truest voice inside is courageous and bold, like Frida.

I choose the path of most resistance, the path that brings me closest to my edge, the place of most discomfort and allows me to grow beyond it. Turns out this path is laden with joy, peace, and love and leads me to flow (a place of ease) each time I notice and accept, then choose to surrender and trust.

Note: I wrote this post last week, right after I went to the exhibit. I want to share the irony of why I am just posting it today – a whole week later. My inner critic was so active all week about this and I didn’t post it because I heard “you need to edit it more”, “what if no one can relate or it seems ridiculous?”. So, here it goes. I am just going to start. Step out. Speak up and share because what I think about all of this is so different from what I know, which is that it is more important for me to be authentic and real than to worry about what will happen next and I want you to know it’s okay too.

Interested in more?

Transforming Your Inner Critic Workshop

May 4-6, 2017

Details and registration