Ask yourself, “what will be my legacy?” Had I had a smart woman art teacher modeling for me her success, she would have been embodying her legacy, meaning she worked daily, had a body of work that she valued, documented, wrote about, lectured about, was interviewed about, and was excited about teaching other women how to do the same. Answering this question grounds me immediately in where I am, what time-frame I live in, what my art’s “message” is, and how I want to be remembered in art history — whether it is ever recorded on this plane or the ethers. If you choose to do the same, not only will you enjoy a sense of clarity about what you are doing, but your relatives might just thank you one day when it comes time for you to leave this plane. Your body of work will be organized, possibly appraised, and able to continue to be shown, sold, auctioned, donated, and deliver its maximum potential to your audience, making the worth of your entire life’s purpose as valuable as can be.
As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Carol Cannon.
Carol Cannon is an accomplished ink painter based in New York, who uses the energy of the earth and the elements around her to guide her brushstrokes. She teaches this unique, Asian-inspired technique in her online and in-person workshops, Centering with Ink.
Cannon’s work demonstrates the principle that the human body is a lightning rod for subtle energies, originally emanating from the center of all creation. Cannon practices clearing the mind and inviting the Divine, or the Natural Elements to express through her, listening to kinesthetic impulses, and letting her hand give free expression to spontaneous gestures. Her heart-felt intention is to convey pure, high frequencies that viewers can vicariously experience, being subtly elevated to experiencing the power and bliss of the Unified Field.
In addition to her decades-long career in the fine arts space, Cannon is a Reiki Master, Certified Resonance Re-patterning practitioner, certified EFT practitioner and Creative Arts Therapist, on top of her degree in Illustration and 30 years as a Decorative Painter in residential and historical settings.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Ridgefield, CT, a beautiful town in Fairfield County where no one went without anything. Our family had 6 acres of woods that I played in with my pets, a cat, a dog, and a horse. My parents were both artists, troubled by their incompatibility and inner discontent, so I left home at 17 to figure out the meaning of life since it didn’t make sense there!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Rather than doing what every other good, upper middle-class kid was doing at the time — going to college to get a good job — I felt I needed to choose wisely. If my father, then strapped with alimony and child-support, was going to pay for my schooling, it had better be something meaningful to both me and others — so it took not one, but three years of “independent study” — real bona fide soul-searching with continuous reading and researching for me to decide. The only consistent desire I had was to paint the visions I saw in my meditations and I, being deeply spiritually motivated, felt this was my way of doing “God’s Will.” So going to art school made the most sense.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting turn of events that took place since that decision was meeting the abstract Moroccan painter, Ahmed Yacoubi, as soon as I moved to NYC to attend art school. I met him in an art supply store, wound up falling in love with his work and him, in that order, and shared life with him for the following 7 years. After he passed away at 57, I bought the remainder of his collection from his heirs and continue to steward his work, keeping it from falling into the wrong hands as best as I can. The whole story is told in my recently completed memoir titled: My Years with Ahmed Yacoubi; A Story of Art, Love, and Tests of Faith. The impact of him and his life’s story on me, the method and quality of his fine oil paintings, and my continuing to champion his legacy are all evidence of a fated relationship like none other. My own art has obviously been indelibly affected by his attitude and standards and he occasionally appears in my dreams where I see him working on enormous paintings.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I currently have an exhibition up in Eastham, MA on Cape Cod where new work is hanging along with work that reaches back to the 1980’s. It is called “In the Flow; from Heaven to Earth” because I employ the principle of asking the intelligence of higher frequencies to move through me. I use my big-brush and sumi ink to express impulses understandable to viewers through their “felt sense.” I am very much looking forward to spending two weeks there, working by the seashore, asking the elements of Air and Water to work through me. The sand on the beaches there has a high quantity of quartz crystal in it, magnifying the effects of the earth frequencies and sunlight. Given the current sunspot activity, I anticipate the atmosphere to be very charged and conducive to informative strokes! On the Yacoubi front, there is a pending opportunity to display some of his work and history at a Global Visionary Summit in tandem with the Richmond, VA Film Festival in October, as well as two of his paintings going to auction in Marrakech and Paris in November.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Well, in addition to interacting with Ahmed Yacoubi and the numerous stories that flowed from our travels, I have had the privilege of knowing and learning from Dr. Sing Ma Foon, another extraordinary painter who is known for rediscovering the lost Chinese art of “Splashed Ink.” I had the good fortune of traveling to China with him and his friend and colleague, CC Wang, the renowned artist, collector, and connoisseur, on behalf of their joint exhibit in Guangzhou. In 1998 it was somewhat radical to be exhibiting abstract painting in China and this exhibition helped usher in what became the explosion of contemporary art there. At the opening event at the Guangdong Museum of Art, the American Ambassador could suddenly not make the unveiling, so I was asked to speak instead! Talk about rising to the occasion! I had to ad lib a statement of gratitude and wish for the public’s enjoyment of the progressive art, and yet I have no idea if anyone understood a word I said.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?
As mentioned above, I draw inspiration from both visualizations that might occur during my meditation, and, in the intuitive feelings I sense either at my studio table or outdoors in nature when I am in an entirely receptive state. One of the meditation techniques that takes me to a deep enough and quiet enough place within, is called Sudarshan Kriya — a breathing method that quiets the mind and allows me to imagine expansive ways to express the love and wonder at that depth (or height)! One Saturday morning in January when it was uncharacteristically warm, I enjoyed a quick run around the track in Astoria Park, my nearest patch of nature that runs along the East River. Afterwards, I was able to sit down on the grass and do my Sudarshan Kriya and felt the light from the sun pouring down into me, generating a vision of a very large painting in which a faint outline of a life-sized figure radiated beautiful pastel colors from its core out, in some ways indistinct from the sparkling frequencies surrounding the figure. I vividly imagined how the translucent colors could be rendered in metallic paints and how viewers would be affected and elevated by this transmission.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The most tangible way I believe I have brought goodness to the world is through my 7 years of teaching Decorative Painting to artists at The Alpha Workshops Studio School. This school teaches Decorative Painting skills to people with “visible or invisible disabilities,” (having first been established for HIV positive individuals). Through teaching the curriculum I not only passed on the literal techniques of marbling, wood graining, glazing, gilding, etc., but I am told I was able to boost their confidence in their creative capacities and develop their confidence in having a vocational skill they could go out into the design world and use to earn a living. Many memorable and lasting friendships were made in which we continue to support one another’s artistic growth. Speaking of Decorative Painting, I also am told by highly satisfied clients, that my work in their homes and offices enhances their lives and environments — making them feel great. It is my hope that my fine art does the same. I have also created and given independent classes and sessions in metaphysics and healing which I believe has directly brought goodness to those participants’ lives, empowering them to heal themselves, as well.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Treat yourself to reading Jerry Salz’s article (or book) How to Be an Artist; 33 rules to take you from clueless amateur to generational talent (or at least help you live life a little more creatively). Jerry is funny and wise!
2. Put your self-care first. When I was taking time off after high school to really discern my purpose in life, I would have loved to have had a caring person explain to me that I needed to learn to consider my well-being first, and next, design my life around doing my art. Meaning, to realistically figure out how I was going to take care of my financial needs so I could live and work from a secure state of mind, not worrying about how to pay my rent, pay for studio rent, and all the rest. With this freedom from financial insecurity, I could have poured my near-endless energy into building the body of work that my heart knows could have been. My free time and attention could have translated my many inspirations into my brood of paintings that I would have been proud to claim rather than working for numberless other creative people and companies and helping them realize their dreams! I would have nurtured my babies and found the right allies (teachers, residencies, grant-givers, galleries) to further support their development and presentation. My caring advisor would also have steered me away from resorting to taking student loans, avoiding the millstone around my freedom-loving neck that still hasn’t been lifted after a looonng time. This skillful sage would further advise me about any jobs, love affairs, or relationships I partook in would need to support my number one priority — making my art- or else they would have to go.
3. Find and nurture the love you have for your work, the process, and the results. Respect it (your early work will look really good in hindsight) and care for it (and if you don’t have love for yourself yet, get help, maybe lots of it, and there is no shame in that, only if you don’t). Look at your work, listen to it, let it lead you, thank it, give it your heart, keep going, and going. This love is better than anything you’ll find elsewhere, more fulfilling than any sex, closer to you than any soulmate; and sharing it is scary, generous, and necessary — but the most exciting part — delivering the gift(s) and finding out who will be the lucky owner/parent of your child and letting them go on to their new life. And, if you find yourself avoiding your work (for a gazillion different reasons) you won’t be wasting your time in listening to Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art or finding the most nurturing community available at artsanonymous.org that addresses the most painful of all soul illnesses — art avoidance.
4. Dive deep. This caring person that I would have trusted would have helped me understand that my interest in meditation was not a passing fad but what would be the bedrock of my sanity and well-spring of awesome energy. Developing a daily practice of turning within morning and night has been a continuous source of my creativity and probably provided more “soulutions” to the execution of projects than even I have realized. It has definitely guided my decision making process throughout my most difficult challenges. Emotional turmoil has been set in its proper perspective, alleviated, and transformed it into love, setting me free to get on with my aspirations. I wish for you a steady practice and to sup at this table of feasts, for after all, one’s art is a direct reflection of one’s consciousness, so elevate it by diving deep!
5. Ask yourself, “what will be my legacy?” Had I had a smart woman art teacher modeling for me her success, she would have been embodying her legacy, meaning she worked daily, had a body of work that she valued, documented, wrote about, lectured about, was interviewed about, and was excited about teaching other women how to do the same. Answering this question grounds me immediately in where I am, what time-frame I live in, what my art’s “message” is, and how I want to be remembered in art history — whether it is ever recorded on this plane or the ethers. If you choose to do the same, not only will you enjoy a sense of clarity about what you are doing, but your relatives might just thank you one day when it comes time for you to leave this plane. Your body of work will be organized, possibly appraised, and able to continue to be shown, sold, auctioned, donated, and deliver its maximum potential to your audience, making the worth of your entire life’s purpose as valuable as can be.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
As a person of great influence, I would lead a giant workshop and teach 100 people how to make their own horsehair big-brushes (with trained assistants). Then, outdoors on a beautifully mowed field, I would then demonstrate how to be a vehicle of the Universe Energy (chi) and we would all simultaneously bow, surrendering to this cosmic force, and execute a single, spontaneous brushstroke on our pieces of beautiful rice paper. Bowing again to the results, we would pause to thank the divine energy, appreciate the power of this unity and beauty, understanding this energy permeates everything and everyone. Then, I would plan for 200 people to do the same, and so on, creating a movement of discovering inner joy and power through big-brush painting — maybe accumulating 1000 people painting at once! I would not give up giving small, intimate classes, but the large groups would attract attention to draw more interest and spread this knowledge and healing through spiritual connection.
We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.
After searching my mind for someone I would want to have a special meal with, it occurred to me that I would love to have breakfast with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the dynamic “humanitarian, spiritual leader and an ambassador of peace and human values”who taught a few people Sudarshan Kriya 30 years ago and has since transformed the lives of millions, including former terrorists, criminals, the depressed, and diseased. Sitting in his presence would be quite remarkable, knowing the power of his consciousness. I have no doubt it would be terribly hard to stop smiling from ear to ear from just the sheer blissful energy this man radiates. If we were able to engage in a normal conversation, I would learn the most relevant lesson next on my life’s plate, hopefully enabling me to be more effective as a human being and contributing to every interchange I have. It would be a wish come true if he opened my heart up to be more loving, a clearer creative channel, and able to help anyone in my path. I could personally thank him for his precious contribution to my life and his life’s work.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Carol Cannon: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.