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An Ancient and Futuristic Approach to Healing Through Intentional Creativity®

by Curate Shiloh Sophia

During FLOW NOUVEAU you will experience Medicine Painting. Since 2017, we have taught this nine-step process to thousands of students. To learn more, we invite you to review this page on your own time.

Medicine Painting is painting with the intent to heal, move or transform. The chosen area of focus for the painting process could be healing something physical, emotional, energetic, ancestral, or imaginal. Medicine Painting is an ancient practice woven throughout human history and seen in most cultures in one form or another.

Consider it for yourself, where have you seen the most moving artifacts in our common ancestry or in your own ancestry?

A woven rug with encoded symbols. A burial garment with a story about that person's life and destiny. A woman's hair comb in bone carved with the symbols of her family. A hand-made drum with a story of that person's unique medicine. An image of the goddess encoded with the food of her people. An ancient temple carved with symbols of protection. A cradleboard for babies woven with the natural fibers of the tribe. A cave wall studded with stars.

Creativity is an ancient and futuristic medicine. We have evidence that we have always been creative - of course, we had to be creative to survive. But because of the artifacts, we KNOW that we were intentionally creative with an eye on beauty, design, and story. Art communicated the internal world of the artist. We can practice this way of being in the present by honoring our own creativity and our inner voice. And in the future? If we do not begin to be intentional about what we create, we will continue to see the collapse of systems of all kinds. Ecosystems, financial systems, bio-systems...all systems need both creativity and intention with awareness in order to move toward a more sustainable way of life. This sustainability - although a buzz word of the now - begins with navigating our own sustainability as well-being, and our interconnectivity with community, the greater collective, and the earth. Intention is where to begin, And medicine painting invites an increased level of awareness about what is possible for us through exploring our healing journey as a species.

Artifacts like these are both sacred and ordinary, beautiful and utilitary. These creations demonstrate a clear cognitive awareness of art, design, myth, and beauty - As a part of both the individual and the collective story of that tribe and that specific sense of place. I say 'sense of place' in reference to geography because all the materials were natural, drawn from the environment and reflective of nature, food, elements, cycles, and seasons. Until industrialization and colonization our ancestors had an awareness of the finiteness and respect for the way they live in their environment and everything was in essence, intentional and natural. Of note, in the field of archeology, findings are only considered 'art' if it has been determined that it was created with intention.

Art is for everyone. Art-making has nothing to do with talent. Creativity activates inherent life force and can be put into practice as a powerful tool to summon the inner healer. Medicine Painting can be a choice for anyone to spark healing, not just artists, the talented, or those who feel they are creative. Creativity cannot be relegated to those with skill alone. The distinction that - art is for everyone - cannot be emphasized enough. I work in a gallery where I see hundreds of people - and MOST of the people who come in still say things like: I wish I was creative. My mom was an artist. I could never do something like this and the list goes on...

That means that this misconception - that art-making is about talent is keeping people from accessing the healing power of creativity. We are here to change that misconception in our culture. Talent is when someone develops their creativity or has an innate gift, but it is not creativity. Creativity is a life force flowing from the heart and mind of the person into whatever it is they set themselves to bring forth.


The fabric I grew up with has shaped the fabric of who I am as a person. As I write this my eyes fill with tears thinking of a time when intentional creativity was the way we walked the earth. A deep well inside of me seems to remember that way of living in relatedness with people, plants, animals, spirits, and the sacred cycle of time. I grew up wearing handmade clothing form my Grandmother Eden, scraps of fabric from the dresses she made, were brought into my patchwork dresses. I slept under the blanket she made, soft heavy printed velvet hand-stitched into patterns. I am certain that it is because of the imprint of this fabric, created with so much love, that I do what I do today. Which is to call each us to remember that we are intentionally creative beings.

I am the one on the left in my handmade dress. This is a photo from around 1975 in Sonoma. A gathering of women who came together when Lenore Thomas Straus, the guardian to Sue Hoya Sellars came to visit us from Maryland.

A creative and healing revival is occurring all over the world because we so badly need healing. We are seeing a persistent and growing awareness of creativity as a tool for healing, as people are called to be at cause for their own healing and as traditional medical methods have been showing their limits. It is not uncommon for us to see art programs in hospitals, schools, and prisons - because it is clearly known how helpful creativity is. Those who are serving in the healing fields are increasingly fond of ideas like the inner healer, which invites their guests to take co-creative responsibility for their own healing.

Those of us who are healers, know full well that we are only one part of the healing equation. We have learned in time that healing with another is less about passing our powers to them or transmuting the pain of another through our body. We are becoming aware that when we create in a shared field, hold space, and offer tools - the guests at our feast table, conference table, massage table, or art table - can engage in the journey of doing their own healing work. Specifically, in the field of painting, there is a generous capacity to 'work it out' on the canvas.

Ode to the canvas, which is a woven fabric created first from natural fibers, and trees. A canvas is concrete, finite, durable, visible, and available for all of our stuff to pour out onto it. The canvas can take the heat of our pain and transmute whatever is ready to be moved. Not everything is ready, but what is ready, will see progress, IF we watch for it and do the work with intention. Intention is THE KEY to the healing power of art, because if we are just making without intention, we aren't registering the changes as they occur. Observation is a big part of medicine painting in our culture here at MUSEA Center for Intentional Creativity.

Change needs to be witnessed and acknowledged. Can you imagine being able to mark a canvas with that old story? Spray and watch the drips move as you feel the pain in your physical body and become tender with yourself. Pour a big dose of magenta paint to represent change as you feel the change happening in real time. The canvas bears the record of the change. As a literal artifact - something has moved. And generally, we feel different. Not always better, but often enough for it to become a 'thing' we call Intentional Creativity, and an area of research we call "medicine painting".

In a research project within our community in 2017 with over 500 people ...

93% said they experience creativity as a mindfulness practice.
86% felt that their creative practice positively impacted those closest to them.
92% expressed that creativity influences their compassion for themselves.
90% shared they experienced compassion for others near them through creativity.
80% commented they would suggest a creative process to others who experience depression.  
87% consider themselves self-expressed as compared to before they were creating.
86% mentioned they have experienced breakthroughs and aha’s while painting.
77% spoke they choose painting specifically to work through a chosen breakthrough.
90% noticed they have experienced a shift in their default thinking.
88% Stated they experienced a shift in their personal story through creating with the intention.
89% shared they bring insights into their life discovered while painting.
85% affirmed they experienced an expanded sense of self.
79% noticed an ease of physical symptoms while creating.
93% experience creating as a relief/break that benefits their overall well being.
90% have experienced a shift in recurring emotional pain through a creative process.
90% shared that creativity helped them maintain a healthy outlook.

In the Intentional Creativity® methodology, Medicine Painting is painting with an intent to heal and receive insight both during the process and post-process. When one is painting, energy is moving, the body is engaged, the mind is focused and the potential for a healing field is activated. Painting invites the whole person to be present which creates a condition in which the internal powers of healing can come into action. When trauma happens and gets stored in the body, and the field, it happens to the whole person. So necessarily, healing must also take place in the whole person.

She Rides the Equal Sign, Codex Course - A one year painting journey with over 100 women across the world.

Introduction to Medicine Painting

In this introduction, I will share some examples of painting within a healing context in the ancient world. I will also review how we approach the practice today. As well as share stories of how this has informed my body of work and has sparked a global art movement. Tens of thousands of women around the world work with this approach to embark on a healing journey through Intentional Creativity®. We have been practicing this way of working in our creative lineage since the 1930s. We believe ourselves to be one of the world's largest and long-standing art movements....and we have plans to continue for hundreds of years.

Approaching painting as a healing journey can be thought of as an ever-blooming branch with roots that go back to our ancestral healing practices. Storytelling, ritual, embodiment, ceremony, intention, marking, and prayer was often a part of the healing practices from the past. Painting with an intent to heal, deliver remedies, tell stories, and warns those in the future of potential dangers, this can be identified in many ancient civilizations. The art that remains in our human archives, provides the visual evidence we need to make a case for medicine painting.

Medicine Painting is an intuitive journey that grants access to our internal guidance system - and in some cases, the part of ourselves we call the inner healer. More often than not, we don't know what we know because we don't spend a lot of time in our inner world. We don't know HOW to get access and what to do if we do get into that place within ourselves where our innate voice and identity live. With painting specifically, we do have a way to make what our subconscious or unconscious knows, visible. Imagination may be one of the most potent links to recovering from trauma and illness that we have available because the connection between how someone thinks about their prognosis impacts how they live within their diagnosis. My hope is that our culture can begin to include things like Intentional Creativity as a valid pathway to healing. Not as a fringe practice, or the domain of the gifted few, but as an integrative approach to self-healing.

Painting brings the unknown invisible domain into the known visible domain. What was inside is now outside on the canvas to be witnessed and interpreted. The painting itself is the symbol providing insight into the next steps.

Cosmic Hand by Sue Hoya Sellars, 2000

Creativity flows from a living fountain of instinct; hence the unconscious is not merely conditioned by history but is the very source of the creative impulse.

~ Carl Gustav Jung

What does Medicine Painting look like?

The practice, process, and product of Medicine Painting are unique to every person. In this brief video, you will see some of the paintings I have worked with over the past few years that demonstrate my version of Medicine Painting, and some of the potential beneficial impacts. I have experienced these beneficial impacts personally and have had students share with me the incredible impacts they have experienced from their medicine painting journeys.

I encourage you to get a cup of tea and have 'cafe' with me. Take your time and see what arises for you. Perhaps you will feel called to bring Medicine Painting into your own healing journey.

Origins and History

Ancient cultures have used different forms of art as personal medicine to tell stories of trauma and healing throughout centuries.

Marrapinti by Australian artist Naata Nungurrayi. Her work hints at sacred women's ceremonial sites, their dancing, and the designs on their bodies - Modern but based on ancient ideas

Cueva de las Manos, Argentina, 13,000 to 9,000 years ago

Shamanism is one of the oldest forms of healing we have a record of on earth and has been practiced in every part of the globe, by all tribes, regardless of race or place. They may call their healing work or healers by a different name or take distinct cultural approaches, yet the intention to heal is the common red thread. The essential ingredient of journeying to heal and transform is woven throughout human existence.

In many cases, there is a specific shaman or group of healers who perform the work on behalf of those who need it. Yet increasingly, the idea of self-healing, and the actual power to heal, is in the hands and minds of the individual who chooses to embark on a healing journey.

Examples of Healing Art Throughout History

Here are just a few of the many examples of healing, trauma and storytelling where painting or drawing is involved. While there are many ways art is used for healing, our focus is on painting.

The Shaman’s drums for the Saami people; Native American’s rugs woven with messages; traditional Chinese Medicine filled with the illustrations of how the body works; the healing icons of the Blessed Mother in Orthodoxy; paintings from ancient Rome in which the artist was charged to literally create the healing ‘scene’ while someone was healing, or after their death; the retablos, devotional paintings and the ex-votos of folk art in Mexico; the artistic medicine containers and talismans of Africa; the Aboriginal paintings which "show the prescriptions for thousands of years of traditional healing”; the Totem Poles created by the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest to represent and commemorate ancestry, histories, people, or events; Native Hawaiian traditional skin tattoos representing tribal stories and heritage; the paintings in India of countless Gods and Goddesses in positions of victory, pleasure and power; and the medicine buddhas within the Tibetan portable tankas, and Egyptian glyphs rich with teachings on healing.

Our human history is rich in medicine painting and medicine art-making.

There are SO many more references here - perhaps you can think of one from your ancestral lineage? Do a search for your bloodline or land, and put 'healing art' and see what you find.

The common thread that shows up across healing painting traditions the world over is the presence of the elements, the sun, the moon, the stars, the path, and medicinal plants. Also common are scenes of healing in which the change or transmission is taking place. The image is thought to ‘carry’ the vibration of the actual healing for those looking at it, and it is thought that the artist 'charged' up the image for that intention. Perhaps not everyone was practicing painting themselves, yet artists and scribes created it on behalf of those seeking healing - in a sense, on behalf of the health of the collective.

Saami shaman frame drum of the segmented variety. The symbols were determined by the shaman and used in shamanic healing rituals. 1700s CE, painted with stories

The art of ancient healing practices in Egypt is demonstrated in much of their imagery. Their images often tell complete stories, transmitting information to the viewer.

In the case of the Blessed Mother, millions of healing icons of her are spread throughout the world. These are paintings with the intent to heal and bless and emanate energy - some of which are thought of as miraculous. In the case of Our Lady of Czestochowa Black Madonna Icon in Poland, there is a wall of crutches and symbols representing answered prayers for healing.

Contemporary Examples

In modern times, there are a plethora of very well-known artists who used art for personal illumination, healing, and connection with the Divine. The painting was created, not just to duplicate nature or render a concept, but for personal transformation and experience.

Alchemizing Pain through Art

Experiencing Pleasure through Art

The Two Fridas is an oil painting by Frida Kahlo

“Painting completed my life. I lost three children and a series of other things that would have fulfilled my horrible life. My painting took the place of all of this. I think work is the best. I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better.”

Spring - Georgia O'Keefe 1948

“Making your unknown known is the most important thing” ~ Georgia O'Keefe 

"I didn’t write you yesterday—I worked all day and again today all day—and I can’t tell you how I enjoyed it... I was at work before eight—stopped a couple of hours at noon—then at it again till six—I will be at it again tomorrow—I haven’t had such a feeling of real pleasure in working in a long long time.” written to Stieglitz in 1929

This is the work of Hilma af Klint of Sweden, presented in New York at the Guggenheim, a collection called Paintings for the Temple. She has considered one of the earliest Abstract Expressionists - she received instructions to create a body of work that came 'through her' in 1908.

"The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings, and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict; nevertheless, I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke."

Klint and a group of women would gather regularly to pray, meditate, draw, and receive insight.

Painting can be a connection with the great mystery, revealing hidden worlds from within and through our connection with other worlds.

Becoming Your Own Healer

We know that holistic medicine asks us to see the entire human being as an integrated system - you are likely familiar with the mind, body, and spirit language. Ancient practitioners knew this - but somewhere along the way with specialization, we started treating symptoms or parts instead of the whole. When there is something in the body that is hurt, it also exists in the mind, the spirit, and the field of energy around the person. Yes, all living things have fields of energy - it is not a spiritual idea but a scientific fact!

People who work with Intentional Creativity heal emotionally but also physically because of this. We literally add symbolic scars, cellular information, and marks for DNA - often picturing the wound and then creating an image where we ‘heal that wound’. In shamanic traditions, they know full well that to heal, an individual must invite healing in all of their systems. If this does not happen, the cure or medicine will not work as effectively as it could.

In Medicine Painting we have the clear awareness that the WHOLE person is involved regardless of whether they are working to heal something specific in the body, mind, or spirit. We invite all aspects of the being to be present. We work in the field, to heal, as well as in the body. We invite people to be at cause for their own healing by integrating and working in all the different aspects of themselves. We acknowledge that there is a field outside of the body, and a field emanating from the heart (see HeartMath Institute), and we bring conscious awareness and engagement here throughout the medicine painting process.

"The Field is the sole governing agency of the Particle."
~ Albert Einstein

Perhaps one of the greatest distinctions between the ancient images of healing and the images of healing we are working with today in Intentional Creativity is this:


In one of our dedicated courses, which includes Medicine Painting called Apothecary, our students are invited to transform tragedies into remedies. They are guided in an 8-step process that supports them in identifying, and ultimately alchemizing, the toxicity, pain, or trauma which holds them back.

Instead of beginning from the place of trauma, as in most classical therapeutic approaches, we begin with identifying where you want to go from right where you are in the here and now. We only look at the part of the past which may be preventing you from moving forward. This empowers the individual to create and work from a field of healing instead of a field of trauma that gets created when we are 'triggered'. Not to say that there isn't some serious material to compost and get through, and it can be quite challenging to do so. Yet the focus is clear - to move forward towards healing. That is the CONTEXT in which they are working.

This course was developed based on the vision of my husband, Jonathan McCloud, a Veteran who works with PTSD and Intentional Creativity. The inherent teaching suggests that you are the alchemist/shaman/healer/oracle of your own experience and how it lives in you - therefore you are the one who can create the solution.

Labrys in my Teapot, Apothecary Painting

by Shiloh Sophia, 2018

Freedom, Apothecary Painting

by Shiloh Sophia, 2019

Medicine Painting can be practiced by anyone. At first, it might be helpful to have a guide, which is why we teach so many classes on healing with art like Apothecary and also train Intentional Creativity Teachers.

When we are creating, our subconscious thoughts seem to flow more freely, with the artist as a conduit. The brush is a point of contact with the canvas that allows a flow of energy from inside the person out onto the canvas.

Love is at the center of all choices when we make art this way, which fills the field we are working inside with the energy of love. Before we begin, we may bless the canvas, anointing it and ourselves. We may drum onto the surface, charging it up like a talisman. Often, we write our intention, to be hidden with layers of paint and document each evolution of the painting. We mark, code, swirl, color, shape, and design, our canvas with what arises while we are creating, and noticing ourselves as we go. As the active observer of your own process, you are the one in charge of the experience, while at the same time being surrendered enough not to dominate the outcome. If someone controls their painting too much, the intuitive flow of insight is often dampened.

During a dedicated painting session, we may ask for physical, spiritual, or emotional healing. Dedicating our process to that particular focus. Through inquiry and intention, we make ourselves available to what is "ready" to be revealed. We begin to hear our internal guidance system with increased clarity - words, images, emotions, and insight begin to be revealed. Once you gain access to your inner world then you have some dominion over curating your consciousness and experiences.

Medicine Painting lives within the field of Intentional Creativity®, which means to make with love and mindfulness across all different mediums and contexts, which are infinite.

Features of Medicine Painting in our work include intention, blessing, ritual, invocation, layering, mark-making, witnessing, affirming, alchemizing, and writing as things arise.

Here is a brief video at the start of a course from the Fall of 2019 called Anthropas. In this course, we explore 42 Teachings within Intentional Creativity. In this video, you will see the start of the painting as a ritual, then traveling through 13.777 billion years to the origin point of human existence.

Work in progress, Anthropas Painting

by Shiloh Sophia 2020

One of the main focuses within our work is guiding others to gain access to all the facets of themselves - which, has largely not been taught to us growing up in our families or school or religious systems. In fact, having access to your own content and self-agency may even be controversial!

In a journey of healing, the artist takes the work into their own hands and becomes the healer they seek. This can be guided by someone, or self-created once you have an idea of structure. And yes, the structure is important when embarking on a journey to the inner and outer worlds. Our students say that they have had some of the deepest insights of their entire life during Medicine Painting as taught in Intentional Creativity®.

Rewiring the Brain and Healing Trauma

Medicine Painting is more than just painting to heal as a concept. The body and brain begin to be rewired through the practice of creating, with this level of awareness. In most of our classes, our students are able to spend a great deal of time rewiring old pathways to new potential.  

When we are in the act of medicine painting, the artist becomes a conduit - engaging in inquiry to ‘move the energy’ to a space outside of them. Once this engagement occurs, they move energy through their hand which holds the paintbrush and make strokes with it onto the canvas. It really is quite remarkable to consider the power of bringing something into form - something that is a reflection of an otherwise hidden interior!

When we are activated through inquiry and our imagination begins to take flight, it engages the entire human system -  the physical, emotional, and energetic bodies are all firing at once. This is why Medicine Painting can be such a powerful catharsis and tool for dislodging trauma. Releasing stuck energy, activating the particles, cells, and bundles within us that were unconsciously created in response to traumas.

The link between Imagination and Trauma is a clear pathway. The story of trauma is stored in the body, the field, and the mind. Imagination impacts all of the same areas of the self that trauma does, bringing image, language, inquiry, and emotion into the healing process. When the person creating is aware of the potential for healing, of what could be happening, and is actively witnessing what is happening at the end of their brush, pen, or dancing body - the potential is amplified through their awareness. Quantum physics reminds us that when we witness something, that "something" changes, and then we too can be changed.

As human beings who are often in a state of hypervigilance, we cannot get past the constraints of the prefrontal cortex (executive functioning) into the cherished flow state. Hidden insight and unfiltered information can come to us in the flow state as the entire system (body, brain, field, etc.) of the human being is engaged. And because our focus is on the process, not the product, the relationship with what we think of as the critic, can be quite diminished (this part may take some practice!)

When we are fully engaged, as we often are with creativity - we can experience heightened awareness, intuition, and connection to the inner healer. A relationship begins to form that with practice, and can give us continued access to the deepest insights we have available.

We are excited to see the importance of art and how it can be embedded in healthcare to work with trauma.

The article The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature in the American Journal of Public health states:

Having emerged as an international movement, arts in healthcare is a health-enhancing practice that includes and goes beyond medical art therapy, in that it not only aims to improve patient care, but also the quality of care for caregivers, of hospital environments, and of community-building in and outside medical settings. As far as patient care is concerned, art-based approaches and methods including painting, music, dancing, or writing are used, like art therapy, to improve physical, emotional, and cognitive function, to reduce pain, stress, or trauma, and to promote social skills (intra-, interpersonal, and communicative) with all age and gender groups who are challenged by disabilities or mind–body illness.

Amplifying the Impact of Healing
Personally and Collectively

In our methodology, the process of healing is amplified when there is a conscious awareness that you are doing healing work. It seems obvious, but we aren't trained to look at making art this way - with intention. Most of us learning art, are taught to copy something, and if you don't make it look like what you were looking at, then you did not achieve your results (and should likely choose not to be an artist).

If you practice with others creating at the same time, there is a shared field where many of us are working together towards a common intention for healing.  This works both when we are together or if we are in a virtual classroom. We do this all the time in Intentional Creativity - often with hundreds of women creating at once, and sometimes, thousands. We are creating a conscious collective of healing, amplifying the field of healing. When our students tune into this, they say they can 'feel' the field of connectivity and it helps them feel supported to do deep work they may be scared to do on their own.

Many who worked with me, my teacher Sue Hoya Sellars, and my mother, Caron McCloud, began to have phenomenal results they were not able to achieve with other therapies. More and more began to come forward to experience the power for themselves. Instead of just offering to sell our paintings to clients so they could feel the impact, we started to teach what we knew for ourselves. We moved from one to many in our in-person classes, and then onto 100 women working online in 2008 with our first online class through Cosmic Cowgirls, Legend.

A movement rose up organically from those who were doing the work. We only started calling it a movement after many tens of thousands of people had interacted with it in small and potent ways. Some of us have been practicing this work for close to 16 years. This isn't just my work but the work of hundreds of teachers, coaches, guides, and many thousands of students around the world.

In 2017 as part of our work with the United Nations, we conducted a Research Survey with over 500 members of our community. Here is what we found.

86% said they have experienced breakthroughs and aha’s while painting.

77% shared they choose painting specifically to work through a chosen breakthrough.

88% expressed they experienced a shift in their personal story through creating with the intention.

85% noted they experienced an expanded sense of self.

79% noticed the ease of physical symptoms while creating.

93% experience creating as a relief/break that benefits their overall well being.

90% have experienced a shift in recurring emotional pain through the creative process.

90% voiced that creativity helped them maintain a healthy outlook.

Thousands are painting for self-healing and illumination.

Paintings from students of Apothecary : Medicine Painting

Leisl Bryant, 2018 Legend

Tamera Boyd Hays:

Bringing Medicine Forward, 2019

Sherry Banaka, 2019 Apothecary

My Personal Reflections

Clients began to see my paintings as tools for healing

When clients began to purchase paintings for their own healing, I paid attention.

In my early career as a professional artist with a gallery and shows, clients would buy paintings of mine as an access point to potential healing. They would take it home and make an altar with the art. Images of liberation, freedom, movement, and healing were being requested - like this image from early in my career.

I was also commissioned to create healing paintings for specific individuals. In some cases, I was asked to put a prayer for the arrival of a new partner into a painting for someone who was living with a broken heart. Painting their future lover in the painting, was a form of medicine for them. When a friend lost her breasts to cancer, I painted them being added as planets to the cosmos. When an Intentional Creativity student’s death was imminent, we gathered a circle and everyone painted for her journey. We have painted for marriage and divorce, birth and death, transition and transformation.

Images created to evoke an icon of healing or transformation not only carry that energy but may have that impact on the viewer, as well as the maker.

Intentional Creativity

She Dances Her Gratitude 2002

Apothecary Australia with Lou Reed of Energy Medicine Institute

When Medicine Painting revolutionized a personal healing journey

I have painted for healing all of my life, And this intentional focus on the heart changed everything about my life - and the way I teach.

I remember a time in my life in 2012 when I was nursing a broken heart. I wanted to try my own medicine with Intentional Creativity. I had already begun our Teacher Training called Color of Woman by this time, inviting other women to heal pain through paint.

The ‘wound’ as I experienced it, was not scabbing over. I felt this in my mind, heart, body, and field. I could not seem to move the energy. I visited healers. I did a ritual. I prayed. Then I chose to embark on a series of paintings of the heart. I wanted to see what I was capable of moving for myself. It was during this series of paintings that I finally found relief and new hope.

What was it that worked?

Moving my body?

Asking my heart to speak?

Our Lady of the Flaming Heart, 2014

Evolution of a personal medicine painting

by Shiloh Sophia

Perhaps it was spending so many hours focused on the illumination of the information I needed to heal. Working with my imagination in new ways.

The answer is, all of the above.

The pain had felt unbearable before. Now with each painting, there was an improvement. In one painting I painted two hearts connected by a red thread that was stitching my wound. As I painted the heart of my future lover, a wound was there too for him/her – so I stitched that up with paint as well. Every stroke was changing me from the inside, out into my life.

Is there a story you would like to begin to heal?
Is your heart stirring with the idea of what might be possible?

I coded that painting with pain and possibility. I put one red circle moon to mark every year of my 42 years of life. I painted a line of unavoidable tragedy. I got messy. And I fell in love with my painting and process! And of course, wanted to share it with others, and began to share it almost immediately.

To complete the experience, I did another painting, a painting of joy and release. I painted a house of love, which I called the house of honey. I also wrote poems to go with it and performed at open mics, to embody the work.

Being at cause for your own healing and transformation and yes, have a good time doing it. For hours I would lose track of my pain and then when I was done painting, I felt joy instead of suffering. I almost couldn't believe it! If this is possible based on how I felt before, I have to tell everyone!

Then I painted a NEW Legendary Self (Cosmic Cowgirls Course) to bring myself into my archetype - and I integrated the wisdom of my broken heart into my legend. She is called, Born This Way. She completed right after the heart paintings - you can see the heart is there, and the red moons - but now I have integrated my pain. It has become a part of my story instead of the story I live through. Pure alchemy at the tip of a brush.

Born This Way by Shiloh Sophia

“Your painting is a resonator
of your intention.

When you put your love into what you make the love changes you, and what you make.

Your work carries your transformed energy. ”

~ Sue Hoya Sellars

Putting Medicine Painting into Practice

Here you can see a continued evolution of what eventually becomes She Eats Lightning For Breakfast. This was the heart painting that is now behind and directed by consciousness.

Can pain be transmitted to the stone through the hammer’s blow?

Can joy be absorbed in rock to sound in stillness?

And as the tool tenderly shapes the stone, the hidden self of that granite is given into my hands.

​The rock falls away to reveal that which is not of my making.

Who is the carver?

~ Lenore Thomas Straus 1909-1988, Stone Dust The lineage of Intentional Creativity

Paintings as Healing Icons

A story of holy water

For those who have collected my paintings, some clients have reached out and said they received their healing and want to pass the painting on. Others have passed a painting to another in their life who needed it more. Some have purchased paintings to have in their room at the time of birth, or at the time of death. Women who had experienced abuse purchased healing paintings for healing their bodies. Some women even put paintings in the room where the abuse took place as a talisman of protection, and yes, some have experienced a transformation of that space.

Our Lady of Lourdes

by Shiloh Sophia, 2005

One painting that I did in 2005 was a commission for a woman I met at a street show in Oakland. She saw my paintings had images of the Madonna, and she immediately knew she wanted me to make one for her - Our Lady of Lourdes. We made a plan, then an hour later she came back with a jar filled with holy water from the baths at Lourdes. I said I would use it in the painting. When I did the blue water background, I prayed and poured the water onto the canvas. When I went to rub it in, my hand stayed. I had to let it dry naturally - to evaporate and be absorbed. I always remember the experience, because I had a whole day to paint it, and had to take extra time to let it dry.

I told her the story of my process, and she let me know that this is the practice at Lourdes – you cannot dry off after you get out of the baths. I attached a rosary to the painting that was also from Lourdes, which was removable so you could pray with it.

This woman had the painting blessed by her priest, and it was often in their church processions. She told me stories of how the painting had saved her during a fire. She also eventually began passing the painting around to her community when they were sick. This and other stories began to teach me how much more was happening through medicine painting than I was aware of.

If you look at the blue under her feet, that is the area where the water is - that did not get covered over by paint.

This idea, to ‘use’ the paintings for healing, has gradually developed into a part of our methodology over the years. It is an idea informed by the countless messages I received from clients who have experienced healing in this way.

Knowing that my paintings were bringing so much healing to people, I began to wonder - could I teach others to do it? It wasn’t just my painting that offered this. Maybe they could do it too. So I began teaching Intentional Creativity painting processes actively in 2005 - inviting others onto the journey of medicine painting for personal and collective healing. I have continued to teach nonstop ever since. Intentional Creativity has become a movement of medicine painters - a pathway for healing and transformation for thousands.

In this painting, in an ancient cave, you can see the long path or the shorter path - a more direct one illuminated by the sun. They both lead to the same place - but one path is more direct.

Origins of this image is Unknown.