"A move towards greater intention creates consciousness because the one creating considers all aspects of their creation."
Shiloh Sophia lives life as a great adventure! A renaissance woman who communicates her philosophy through painting, storytelling and illustrations. For 25 years she has dedicated her soul work to the practice of creativity as a path of transformation and consciousness. As a gallery owner, she has represented her own work, as well as hundreds of women artists. She owns and operates two galleries and a school in Northern California and online. Her paintings are widely collected around the world. Her message of ‘creating with intention’ has reached tens of thousands, and for some programs, reaches upwards of 500 enrolled students online per month. Her work is taught in university MA / Phd programs, the United Nations, and by over 300 Intentional Creativity® Teachers and Coaches.
You have said that you have always felt you were here to serve... how that has informed your art? I have been creating art since I was young as I was raised in an artistic family. Almost everyone was making art, we come from 4 generations of creatives. Growing up, art was my refuge, my way of hiding out, and also a place where I felt I could truly be myself.
I started writing poetry and spent lots of time drawing as a young girl and never stopped. When I graduated high school I went to art college, because that is what I thought I wanted to be when I grew up. What I didn’t know is that for me, I didn’t need to go to art school to be an artist, I already was an artist. I stayed in college a few years and often felt that what they were teaching me wasn’t the art that I wanted to make. The art was inside of me, not some-thing I copied outside. I don’t recall them mentioning, dreams and imagination, it was more about rendering, and duplicating and skill. Having little to do, at the time with innovation or what comes from within. It was like the context was missing.
Almost as soon as I had made my first show in 1994, which was a sold out show of pottery, painting, photography, collage, and some jewelry, I was being asked to teach. I was 24 and I felt way to young, what did I know? But I started anyway and now at 49 I have not stopped teaching what I know about the power of self expression. As my own style was developing I started to call it Intentional Creativity so that we could talk about how I was doing it that was different than just making art. The idea was taught to me by my teacher, Sue Hoya Sellars, a master American painter. As time went on I learned more about how others in the world created, it was a revelation to actually see how all the ancient cultures I was studying made art and craft with this level of intention.
Creating with intentional symbolism to communicate and tell story is ancient and pervasive. Consider these common references that we are familiar with, in the context of being made with intention. From the Red Hand Cave paintings of Aboriginal peoples of Australia, the Japanese Tea Ceremony, Egyptian glyph and myths, Russian icons coded with story and symbol, Shaman drums painted with personal medicine, sacred theater in Ancient Greece, Black Madonna rituals like the Sous Terre in Chartres Cathedral, skin story tattoos of the Hawaiian Islands, Native American beadwork, baskets and garments, Taize Musical Worship from France, African dances for birth and death, to the modern movement of intuitive art being globally practiced – the references are truly ever-present and endless and in every culture in the world. The common red thread of telling stories across cultures weaves us together.
Here is a quote from my teacher’s teacher, Lenore Thomas Straus in one of her books that she printed and published herself: 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
Cantos for Reclamation
A central tenet of yours is “Art as Medicine”... how art can bring us health? Art making for me can be a sacred act when it is chosen with intention. Intentional Creativity is what my work is all about - making with mindfulness and embodiment. When we bring the quality of attention into what we create, what we create changes in our hands, and we are changed along with it. We live in a quantum universe where everything is impacting everything - so obviously we are impacting what we make... and it is impacting us.
A move towards greater intention creates consciousness because the one creating considers all aspects of their creation. When a creative chooses to bring an idea into form, a quantum collapse from concept to matter is realized. Matter, coalesced in form, is the result. However, as it unfolds, the considerations which happen automatically are inherent within the act of creation. Experience, process, context, function, resources, impact, timing, renewability, workforce, materials, longevity and aesthetics, to name a few.
Without an artist even being aware of it, a myriad of choices are flowing through impacting the design. All of this is impacted by a form of intention. Someone could make a house, a bomb, a garden or a painting and all of these features of implementation during the creative process are considered to varying degrees. What happens when the one creating chooses to be truly intentional, with an intent to uplift, to bless, to further, to nurture, to heal, to honor, to preserve?At the very level of particles, we know that the “matter” cannot NOT be impacted. When the creative is aware of this phenomenon, the capacity to implement this kind of focus/energy is able to be consciousnessly amplified.
Many ancient cultures participated in the making of various forms of talismans. Talisman comes from the Greek, Telo, meaning to consecrate. Whether that was in the form of a jewelry or a bowl, or a tool, the maker was in essence ‘consecrating’ the item with their mind, heart and body. Physicists agree that these objects de’ art contain a charge, registered by the field. And in the case of a museum, or often visited site, a certain painting, sculpture or physical location could be ‘charged up’ energetically in the field, impacting the environment and the visitors and the quality of both. All of the senses, from scent to sight register the experience, and especially if one is open and even attuned to it. Our work as a global community seeks to illuminate what the field of science is acknowledging, what culture has always known, that HOW we create something might matter more, or just as much, as WHAT gets created.
Summoning the Guides
"When we bring the quality of attention into what we create, what we create changes in our hands, and we are changed along with it. We live in a quantum universe where everything is impacting everything - so obviously we are impacting what we make... and it is impacting us."
Why do you think of your work is a movement? Well some of what I learned in college was about art history and art movements. I began to see an issue pretty immediately - where were the women and the people of color for one thing. But even more than that I was like - does 10 guys and a girl equal a movement? Is a movement generated by a handful of people and then the rest of us just put our stamp of approval on it? Have the movements all been identified by the galleries and collectors? Many artists rejected the categories of movements they were put into, even if they were one who sparked it.
From a large category movement you could say we are intuitive creatives, but when you narrow it down to a specific way of working, it changes how that work is created, narrated and ultimately curated.
Here is my reason for thinking we are movement and we are declaring it from within. We don’t need outside approval for us to know who we are. The work we derive our philosophy from arose in the 1930's and is still in motion 90 years later. The heart of the movement is first a philosophy of approaching your work with a kind of reverence and inquiry, this is the intention part. The next aspect of it is that the teachings were passed from hand to hand to hand and now we have tens of thousand of people using this approach and teaching it around the world. We have studios in Australia, Mexico, Scandinavia, United Kingdom and of course most prevalent in the United States since I am here. Our collective community who has different locations call themselves, Musea - meaning many museums, many muses.
Further - we are a movement simply through volume - in any given month we may have 5-15k people working on a project at the same time, in their home studios, all of whom know it is Intentional Creativity.I feel brave saying it but I feel we may be one of the largest organized art movements on the planet. I don’t say that in a bragging way - but to claim what I am seeing. There are other larger ‘art groups’ but do they study one philosophy together?My husband and partner, Jonathan McCloud who recently published a white paper on our work, says that we are movement reporting on ourselves. So be it.
We aren’t looking for outside approval. We are organized. We gather in person and online. We have over 350 trainers throughout the world. We have an online classroom with over 6,000 people in it, we are a movement.
I was definitely impacted by the more rebel movements - always being a bit rogue in my approach to not fitting in, being anti-establishment and my call towards curating consciousness. And my family raised me with good art supplies and consistent trips to the museums. I was raised in Northern California so that was a rich place to be with art. Some say there are 10 modernist art movements.We share some views with Dadaism in that we are not connected by their styles, mediums, or techniques. Instead, they were connected by their uniform practices and beliefs. They saw themselves as crusaders against rational thought, which they believed to be responsible for the declination of social structures, the growth of corrupt and nationalist politics, and the spread of violence and war.We also have some threads of symbolism because of our approach and inclusion of all mediums which use a symbolic framework in which to make art. I also fell in love with Aboriginal art from Australia and how they worked with energy lines and song lines in their art. While other art forms pointed to it, they were actually illustrating it and had been since the beginning of known time.
We are all influenced by the art we grow up with and so I also loved Lenore Thomas Straus, Frida Kahlo, Meinrad Craighead, Susan Seddon Boulet, Georgia O’Keefe, Artemesia Gentileschi, Hilma af Klint, Elizabeth Catlett and my own mother, Caron McCloud and my grandmother, Eden McCloud.What is unique about my work as well is that I have had an art gallery and classroom space for over 19 years, interacting with the general public and in private settings as well. I have enjoyed several sold out shows and have installed a recent show, some of which is here in the images you are sharing - at our wine and art bar in the Bay Area. We also have a 6500 sq. foot classroom at Musea: Intentional Creativity Center where people can come and stay and work and join us in our movement. We aren’t just online, we also meet together around the world.
Our Lady of the Flowering Earth
"From the beginning I have been influenced by what consciousness looks like."
Where Soil Kisses Star
Share with us your perspective on working with the right and left brain? From the beginning I have been influenced by what consciousness looks like and feels like because I was raised in a time of waking up. It was the early seventies and the women’s movement was on fire and I was growing up right in the middle of it. My family was making posters with images, making books, newsletters, radio shows and clothing for the revolution. We were taught that ‘art was the morning star of the revolution’ and so we were to create the images that went with the revolution and we did. It would take many years of reverse engineering what I was doing and experiencing to come up with the teachings I share today. One example is about how we work with the brain. I know the brain is not really divided in the way we think of it because both sides are inherently creative but perform different tasks in different ways. For example it is said the that the left brain sees the pieces and the right brain sees the whole. Yet as a ‘thinking’ people who prize the intellect we often think from the left first, subjecting our dreams and ideas to the parsing up of logic instead of the dreaming up of a vision. In our philosophy the invitation is when you are working on a project or design - to just give the right brain a try first, let the idea swirl around in flow state before you try to make logic of it. Give it a try the next time you are interested in developing a project or vision - the right brain will show you other things than the left brain will and teach you about the whole first.
Can you give us an experience of how this might work with what you call metacognitive drawing? Metacognitive drawing is thinking about thinking while you move a pen. If you want to give it a try you can get a pen and a piece of paper and begin to initiate a cascade of thought about a vision or dream you have. Just let the ideas flow as you move the pen without an intent and listen to your inner world, see what arises. Do this for a minute or two as if you are chasing the pen, as if it had a mind of it’s own and you are following it, but slowly - it is possible to enter flow state in as simple of an act as this. Then as SOON as you are done with the doodle, begin to write your insight, don’t think about what you will write, just write and see what arises. There is often a big element of surprise here when we create in this way and let our subconccious show us what we are not seeing.
You emphasise the relationship between images and language working together – why is it important to be in tune with this? The 4 generations that I come from as well as my teacher, and my teacher’s teacher, all worked with image and language together. This goes back to the right and left brain working together. This has also been my path - often drawing my poetry right from the painting, using the painting as an oracle for insight.Many artists are both image and language based, here are just a few I know of,and of course, some more than others, but still worth naming: Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Carl Jung, William Blake, Frida Kahlo, Sylvia Plath, Lewis Carroll, e.e. cummings, Rudyard Kipling, Baudelaire, Jack Kerouac, Aubrey Beardsley, Ben Shahn, Kurt Vonnegut, Edgar Allan Poe, Dylan Thomas, Lorca, Leonard Cohen, Hilma Af Klint, Lenore Thomas Straus, who is in our creative lineage. Then there are more contemporary artists like Alice Walker, Ani DiFranco, SARK, and Luisa Teish.
Born This way
Why is it important for your members to discover and bring out their muse? Our philosophy thinks of the Muse as the creative spirit within each person. Not an external presence or guide, but one within, your hidden self. When we don’t nurture our creative spirit, the muse, or our sense of self expression can become dormant and is often revealed through the voice of what is known as the critic. This is all paired up with very real nuero-scientitic features of how we function as human beings and the pathways that get developed over time. So in our work we invite the Muse to tea, which is essentially an invitation to spend time in creative flow listening to the places within ourselves we have not been paying attention to. In one of my poems I say:
Say to your hidden self: I am sorry. I didn’t know you were in here. I am here now. I didn’t know, how to speak to you. I am willing to learn your language. Show me the ways. I don’t know how to approach you. Yet I will try… in the humble desire of becoming. Let me be supple in my invitations. Say to your hidden self: (as if looking into the eyes of one you love) I love you, even without knowing you, really. Yet I have always known you…somehow. May these words be an offering, on your altar. I am here now. I know I didn’t listen. I know it was a long ride home. Please. Forgive me. I am ready to show up. I wasn’t taught how to think about you. Let alone that it was okay, to feel how I feel. Now that I know that you are here, I am at home.
But the Muse is also more racaus and causes a ruckus and shows us the pleasures we have been denying ourselves are really a clue to a more fully realized self.In my poem, Peanut Butter for the Muse I say: Winking in the darkness with the eyes you only sometimes use She wants to know Do you dare encounter the Muse? A word of warning: Don’t look at her with a direct gaze She may flee from you into her own place Leaving trails of feathers, the scent of truffles or a storm.
You say that people can practice art without talent, is that really possible? I believe every single one of us is a creative being and that it has nothing to do with talent. Sure there are people who are talented who make great art. But is great art always the point, or is it self expression.I think the children in our community would resoundingly agree the hope is to FEEL the expression, not to be good at it. We have 4 generations working together to make art, that isn’t about how good it looks, but how good it feels to be together doing something fun. My husband Jonathan says “we are here to rescue art from the tyranny of the talented.”
The internet is a major part of your outreach. Your virtual art communities globally have thousands of members painting together – tell us about this. For the first 15 years of my art career it was all in person, the internet was still beginning and I remember the day around 2000 that our website showed 100 guests. I was pretty amazed that people were actually interested in what we were doing. We had art galleries, events and I had a catalog that featured over 100 of my products and we were represented in stores all across the United States. By this time I had sold well over a million dollars of my my work but was not represented by any galleries, that was just me and my own audience. Online education was just getting started and developing the platforms that would allow us to teach easily over the internet.
We had our first online class in 2009 featuring our still running course called Cosmic Cowgirls : LEGEND. Each person, who was not necessarily an artist as no art experience is needed, would be invited to a 13 step process, we had over 50 people sign up and the class was over $600 so it was no joke. This content was sacred to me and I didn’t want to let it go for nothing. In Legend the students were invited to use their imagination, and their right and left brain and their heart to access a visionary intuitive image of their future self and to paint them and then tell their story. We call it ‘transforming lives into legends’ When people do this for themselves, reinvent their stories, they gain power that was hidden and then the courage to create a life which more truly reflects who they are inside. We have an emphasis on living the life in the outside world that reflects who you are on your inside world.
Today we work together online via video teachings and calls and in our app iMusea as well as in our 6500 person facebook group. While Intentional Creativity is gender neutral in every way - our focus has been on women and women’s healing arts. The women in our community bring it to the men we love who are becoming more and more interested. It is strange how men often think of ‘making art’ as a woman’s thing, but most artists people can name are indeed, men. There is a gap there and we are working on it.
It would not be uncommon for thousands of people to come together in a single day to work on a project together, via livestream or zoom. We do it all the time. Those who get really into the work who are educators or healers, then learn to teach it or coach with it if they choose and can add it to their existing practice and modality.
It's a really beautiful feeling when thousands of people are creating all together with a common red thread of connection, which is a big symbol in our work. The red thread is a symbol of connection that exists between us, and we are moving ever closer to one another across space and time. The red thread represents that we each have our own piece to weave that is unique to us and our responsibility to work with, but that we aren’t in it alone if each person is responsible for their own piece. The red thread is a symbol in many cultural and spiritual traditions that represents not only connection, but protection and togetherness by choice. We think of it as our part in the great weaving of creation.
She Rides the Equal Sign
Off The Map
"The red thread represents that we each have our own piece to weave that is unique to us."
You are an artist, writer, teacher, leader and business person... how do you keep all those balls in the air? I lead with the Muse - meaning I go towards what I am called towards and inspired by. Whether that is managing our team, writing our newsletter, sharing teachings at the United Nations CSW, talking about art and pouring wine at the art bar, setting up for a class, building a website or making books I go where I am called. Our team that works with us on Musea : Intentional Creativity can vary from 10-50 on any project, and it can be quite an adventure but it isn’t just my voice we are seeking to share, but many voices.How do I keep the balls in the air? Well with a paintbrush of course!
25 years in, you are a major success. What drives you? I guess it is still hard to think of myself as a major success. I had a different idea of what that might look like. I feel there are markets in art I haven’t even begun to touch and not sure if I ever will. The ‘art world’ is its own strange animal. So instead of hanging out or trying to break in over there, I made my own strange animal, my own art business rooted in community. Not just sharing my work, but the work of many others. At one time I had represented over 100 women artist and continue to bring other women’s work to market through our Intentional Creativity Guild. So my greatest highlights include lifting other women’s voices, founding a woman owned community that is going strong, serving tens of thousands of women and their families. Service through the healing arts. And personally, making books, is my great success. I have been self publishing since my early twenties and I have a new book of poetry coming out, this will be my third, as well as a fiction series coming that I hope to spend the rest of my life writing.I have written the first three books and my paintings are now of those characters, including some featured here.
Tell us about the feminine figures in your work? The start of my work was rooted in an idea to end violence against women and their children in my early twenties. I had no idea at the time how making art could do that, but I do know. My work and the work I invite others to create is the re-establishing of wholeness for the feminine, for women and how we view ourselves.A reclamation of our image from the media and popular culture. We need this as part of our healing because of stories of ourselves have been so damaged.The archetypes in the images aren’t known archetypes from the pantheon of choices women have, they are ones I make up myself as I am creating. They emerge and teach me, hence the idea that an intuitive painting can be an oracle. When you making a painting that is not dominated by what you know and think you want, something magical can happen, what is hidden inside gets revealed onto the canvas and often surprises you. That surprise of the unknown is what we are going for. In my work I teach women not to take on the archetypes that have been created for us, but rather, to invent our own. Each of us has our own content and that is unique to us, creativity is the way that hidden information, our source code, gets manifest and conscious. Once we know more about who we are underneath all the layers,we can begin to curate our own consciousness.
What do you feel when painting? When I am painting, I feel pure bless. Freedom. Hope for myself and humanity.