When I met Carmen Joyce last year while training together as SoulCollage® facitators , I was immediately impressed by her drive and vision help others heal through creativity. She exemplifies what it means to live creativity daily, and always has something wonderful going on with her personal art projects and with the people she serves through the non-profit arts healing organization she founded. Carmen is always seeking new ways to work with her art healing groups and recently asked me about my Sunday Morning Mandala practice which she developed into a natural mandala making workshop. As with many of us who are called to this path, she's made her way by walking it¹. I'll let her describe her journey in her own words and I know you'll be as inspired by her vision, energy, and insight as I have been.
Can you describe when you first began to understand the relationship between creativity and your spiritual life?
I began to notice the relationship between creativity and my spiritual life years ago when I was working a full time job. I was always tired and overwhelmed. I’d get home, eat dinner, and lay in bed watching television until I fell asleep. There was nothing creative about that time in my life, unless one counts how I managed to get up out of bed before 7AM every day. I was doing the best I could at work but the truth was-I was starving. I was starving for connection with my environment. I was starving for a connection with self and with God.
I suffered in this position for many years and it wasn’t until I worked in a school with high risk girls that I was able to finally reconnect with my creativity which breathed life into my spiritual self. In my new counseling role I started a weekly art group. I encouraged others to create which, in turn, encouraged me to create even more! I built the first garden at the school and found myself outside a few times a week with my hands in the dirt-pruning, planting, raking, shaping, growing and bringing light and life to the space and the people. This is what truly helped me understand the importance of listening to my inner compass. I finally realized creativity and spirituality are entwined.
Do you have any creative rituals that you practice on a regular basis?
Creativity takes intention. When we were kids most of us practiced creativity in art class and at home and with certain forms of play. As children our creativity was encouraged with books, finger paints, stickers, watercolors, coloring pages and more. As adults it is our responsibility to make room for creating and I find it’s very low on the “must do” list. Before I was an artist who got paid to create people would say to me “ wow, you must have a lot of free time” and I would always respond with “I make time for the things that are important to me.”
Making time for creativity itself is a ritual, but each day I make it a practice to turn everything off and just listen. I let my thoughts linger on things like the sound of the wind, the birds singing in the trees or even the absence of sound. I see where my thoughts go and rather than judging them I just allow them to “Be” there. I also set aside a time to read something to help inspire my focus that day. This could be a few paragraphs from a book I am reading, a Bible verse, an article about creativity someone shared with me or even something I bookmarked to come back to. I try to allow this process to be organic and I allow it to come to me in a natural way. This helps set my “intention” for the day and I use that as fuel to that day’s creation!
What forms of creativity do you find most spiritually nourishing?
Unfortunately we live in a world that pulls us away from our true selves. The hum drum of our 9-5 takes the life out of us and disconnects us from our own souls and true selves. I feel more in tune with my intuition and true self when I am connecting with nature so I like to work with anything that engages all of the senses. I love to get my hands dirty by touching the paints and papers I’m working with and I work with natural light with windows open. It connects me to nature, which connects me to self. The fluid motion I use in drawings reminds me to “just let go” and trust the process.
I often blow color and ink through a straw or pick it up and swirl it around on the paper to encourage it to take it’s own form. My hands are always stained but the stains are a badge of honor. It means I can allow myself to be vulnerable and show others my work. It means I don’t need external validation to tell me my artwork is valuable.
I have a tendency toward perfectionism and working with these mediums helps me practice going with the flow and forces me to trust the process. This overflows into my life in many ways.
Carmen is a self-taught photographer and abstract multi-media artist. Her work features a heavy geometric influence. She uses her art to touch other realities with an example being her “Portal” and “Nebula” series which consists of galaxies, constellations, stars and planets.
Carmen possesses a Bachelor of Science in both Criminology and Sociology from Florida Southern College. She went on to study Counseling and received a Master of Arts degree in 2010. Carmen learned to use art as a healing modality in 2013 after struggling with a deep depression, years after the death of her father. Using her lived experience with depression and her counseling background, in 2013 she created a nonprofit called I Still Matter. I Still Matter fosters mental and emotional healing through art and creative expression.
Carmen is passionate about encouraging others through their creative blocks. She is a SoulCollage® Facilitator and facilitates art workshops throughout Jacksonville. Her artwork has been published in various literary magazines and most recently in I Still Color, a 52-page coloring book created as a fundraiser for her non profit. She lives and creates in Jacksonville, Florida with her beloved Morkie (Chewbacca) and husband.
Visit Carmen on the web:
*Ongoing fundraiser for ISM: coloring book found on her website. A project that involves 52 artists that donated work to help fund healing art groups:
As I walk my own path of spiritual growth through creativity, I’ve met many kindred spirits along the way. In the Conversation is a series of interviews with these soulful voices who I believe exemplify what it means to be a creative contemplative.