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Flora Bowley is a painter, creative pioneer, gentle guide, and author of two books, Brave Intuitive Painting and Creative Revolution. Blending over twenty years of professional painting experience with her background as a yoga instructor, healer, and lifelong truth seeker, Flora passionately believes creative expression is waiting to unfold within every person who is brave enough to trust, let go, play, and explore. Flora’s soulful approach to the creative process has sparked a new holistic movement in the intuitive art world — empowering thousands of people worldwide to courageously pick up a paintbrush through her intimate in-person workshops, books, and online courses. Flora lives with her partner, Jonathan, his son, and their dog, Pearl, in Portland, OR. Her own vibrant collection of paintings can be found in galleries, shops, and printed on unique products around the world. Enjoy her exclusive Business Heroine interview…
BH: How did you end up doing what you do? Tell us your story!
Flora: I was definitely one of those kids who tried to sell all my crafty projects to my parents and their friends for a nickel. I remember being especially proud of my seaweed jewelry “line” and clay pots made from mud out of our backyard, so, I guess I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur at heart.
Growing up, I was free spirited and shy with a natural inclination towards creating, dreaming up worlds to live inside of, and spending lots of time in nature. When I went to college, I assumed I would do something creative, although being an “actual artist” was not something I thought normal people could do. It took one of my college painting teachers to pull me aside and say, “You’re a painter!” to even consider the idea.
After that little intervention, I focused my BFA on painting and threw myself into every painting class I could get into. A couple years later, I had my first show in a coffee shop and sold a few paintings. After that, the dream of being a professional painter took root, and I never looked back.
I dropped out of college a couple of times, but I always kept painting and having little coffee shop shows along the way. Eventually, I graduated, applied to a few MFA programs, and proceeded to get rejected from all of them. Looking back, it’s so clear to me that this “rejection” was really a blessing in disguise. Instead of going back to school, I decided to just keep painting in my own unique way, while pursuing other interests in holistic health. I became a yoga teacher and massage therapist to support life between painting sales, and I happily squeaked by like that for many years.
Eventually, I started to show my work in galleries and focus my energy on making art full time, but after a few years of having my “dream job,” a surprising thing happened. I realized this dream of being a full-time painter wasn’t my dream job after all. I actually felt isolated and found myself craving more of a purpose-driven career–one that really made a positive impact beyond just adding a pretty painting to the world.
Through some pretty deep soul searching and many conversations with trusted friends and peers, I was invited to teach a painting class at Squam Art Workshops. I showed up with no idea how to convey my very non-linear process to a group of people, but I threw myself into the challenge.
What was really interesting about that first workshop was how all of my seemingly non-related passions suddenly merged into this really potent offering where my love of painting, yoga, music, and community all made perfect sense together. It was a total epiphany, and I instantly knew I had found my dream job.
The word about my workshop spread pretty fast after that first retreat, and suddenly I was being asked to write a book and travel across the world to teach–further confirmation from the Universe! The next couple of years were a flurry of writing and teaching and growing my business in ways I never could have predicted. I created an online course called Bloom True, which reached thousands of people, and my book, Brave Intuitive Painting, sold over 40,000 copies.
It’s been six years since that first workshop, and I can’t think of a more gratifying job. Encouraging people to explore this empowering way of painting and watching them come alive with the passion of creating something out of nothing, in turn, has created so much more meaning and connection in my own life.
In my latest book, Creative Revolution, (out this month), I write about the powerful personal transformations that are possible when we’re brave enough to pick up a paintbrush, listen to our intuition and embrace the unknown. Geeking out about the incredible metaphors between painting and living is definitely one of my favorite pastimes.
BH: What is your ‘Wake Up Call for the World?’ In other words, what is most of the world asleep about that you would love to wake up?
Flora: I believe passionately in every human’s ability to create, and I know deep down in my bones that creative expression is a crucial part of holistic well-being. Much like exercise or meditation, I believe creativity has the power to transform by putting us in the driver’s seat of our own experience, while offering up all kinds of learning opportunities along the way.
Ultimately, this kind of empowerment leads to more self-love, and this, to me, is the big wake up call. Accessing more compassion, acceptance and love within ourselves leads to more of these energies in the world, and this is the kind of healing ripple effect we are in such desperate need of these days.
BH: What are the biggest challenges or aspirations your clients come to you with, and what does your work make possible for them?
Flora: A lot of my students come to me because they want to feel more free, get in touch with their intuition, and explore a new creative outlet. I think so many people have this burning desire to create or play with paint, but they just don’t know where to start.
My approach to painting and creating in general is very forgiving in that it’s all about releasing expectations and plans and allowing the paintings to unfold organically from a place of trust, letting go, and spontaneity. I often work with acrylic paint in layers, so the medium itself is also very forgiving. If we don’t like what we see, we can easily shift colors, cover an image, flip the canvas upside or push the reset button in one way or another. And often, the more options we explore, the more interesting the painting becomes, so changing courses is actually encouraged.
Working in this way allows us to let go of over-thinking, perfectionism, and the need to have a plan, while strengthening our intuition, spontaneity, and courage muscles along the way. Creating something out of nothing also gives us plenty of opportunities to work through frustration, confusion and the temptation to quit. Through experience, I know that great breakthroughs are often right on the other side of challenging creative blocks. We just have to keep moving forward to find them.
BH: We’re curious about your breakthrough moment in business. Looking back, what created the breakthrough?
Flora: Ah yes, speaking of breakthroughs! My biggest breakthrough definitely came when I taught my first workshop and saw how all these parts of my life experience came together in a way I never could have predicted. Because of that breakthrough, I always like to remind people with lots of different passions who might be feeling a little lost, to hang on. Being passionate about a variety of things is what make us unique, and these passions might just come together in a way that eventually sets us apart from the crowd. Often, it’s just about timing and trust.
BH: What words of wisdom do you have for all the emerging Business Heroines out there who are on the cusp of creating their own purpose-based business?
Flora: I’m always reminding my painting students to take baby steps because they can’t actually know what the future holds. All they can do is stay present and curious with each brush stroke and allow each micro decision to lead to the next micro decision–one brush stroke or baby step at a time.
The way I run my business is definitely a reflection of the way I paint. Starting with a general plan can be helpful, but spontaneity, courage, and intuition are actually the most essential ingredients when it comes to evolving with grace and confidence.
Special Offer From Heroine Flora Bowley!
Enjoy this free video showing Flora’s intuitive painting process!