Jennifer's Hero's Journey
Updated: Mar 3, 2022
Jennifer Ewing, a lovely artist from San Francisco, and I had a conversation around her Hero's Journey.
She had prepared for it by going through the Hero's Workbook and then sharing her results with me via email.
I then had a read at her blog, I took my notes, and then we sat for a Zoom call.
We dove into some key points of her story, clarifying some connections and letting insights emerge.
I then documented our conversation by turning it into a dialogue as if it had actually occurred at her Art Studio.
The dialogue that you are going to read below will become part of my soon-to-be-released book "Beyond Your Story - Unleash Your Potential With The Hero's Journey".
Here's our conversation with Jennifer (featuring her cat Pico) on her Hero's Journey.
“Welcome to my Sacred Space,” Jennifer tells me as she opens the dark-green door of her Studio, with a vibrant drawing of a Viking Ship pinned on it.
A large square window in front of us. The natural light blinds me for a second regardless the white curtains.
A yellowish warm light everywhere. I instinctively feel home.
Her “Spirit Boats” float in the air. Invisible strands secure them to a framework on the ceiling.
Paintings and drawings with Spirit Boats on the right wall.
Colorful paint pots on a small table on wheels.
An aluminum ladder on the left.
Pico, the black and white cat, reaches the top of the ladder with an elegant jump and looks me in the eyes. You’re here because I allow you to, he seems to say. And starts licking his white paws.
“Spirit boats are spiritual vessels for the unknown,” Jennifer says. “They invite you to embark on an intimate journey into your inner world, to find intuitive guidance and to transverse the unknown in safety. It’s a vehicle to transcend one’s limits. It’s a universal symbol for passage, that taps into ancient wisdom while emitting high energy and access to a higher level of awareness. It’s a powerful archetype that continues to unfold for me.”
She picks one of her Spirit Boats from the table in front of us and gives it to me.
I hold it in my hands. Lightweight and translucent. I sense its firm structure inside. It should be one of the plastic bottles that I see here in the Studio. It’s covered with a paper that looks like leather or vellum - it gives me a visceral sensation for which I can’t find words.
“The skin is my specialty coffee-stained paper,” she reads my mind. “There you can sense the earth where coffee beans are grown, and water, and the air, and the cycle that turned it into coffee.”
“What’s the story of the Spirit Boats? How did it all start for you?” I ask.
Jennifer glances at a ceramic portrait bust on her windowsill, one of her creations. He's her father.
“Everything started when Paul passed away, end of December 2004. My father and I were very close, and it was painful to lose his physical presence in my life. I used the boat as the metaphor of passage out of my grief, using his paper notes in my collages. In this way, I felt his notes would help keep his spirit alive.”
We take a seat.
“But it was the Light that changed my life.”
“On the deathbed, the moment my father was passing away I saw a channel of light right above him. It was a bright light open for him to pass. It was his way home, and I was receiving the gift of being a witness of it. The light was so intense that my vision remained blurry for the rest of the day.
“It’s been a remarkable moment in my life. It’s what you would name ‘Call to Adventure’ in the Hero’s Journey. You see, until then I had been painting Italian landscapes and cityscapes. I was enjoying the composition and colors, but something felt inauthentic. It did not bring out my inner world. After the vision of the Light, everything changed.”
“What did you do then?”
“Right after that, everything stopped for me. I went through a passage of grief and stopped painting altogether.”
“Sort of a ‘Refusal of the Call’. How long was that?”
“Around four months. My husband Leo was always there to support me as I was coming out of my grief and back to life. I could have not done all the work I did after that without him and his help. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I had to do something new and unique, to honor my father and what I had been through. It took me another couple of months to get enough inspiration and begin my work on Spirit Boats.
“I started experimenting with collages, drawings, and paintings. The physical boats that you can see hanging here came later.”
I look up at them. Each has a unique shape and texture. Some are simpler, with plain paper, other ones are enriched with ropes, and sticks, and sails, in so many different patterns. I see also some Spirit Arks.
Pico gets down from the ladder with ease and fluidity. He reaches the table where the other Spirit Boats are collected, and with a jump he’s on it. With the elegance and levity that only cats can have, he moves between them without touching any. He sniffs the largest one, and finally settles into it.
“Was there a moment that you felt you were ‘Crossing a Threshold’? A change of environment, different people, a new language?”
“The exhibition that I had in 2006. My neighbor gave me the possibility to use the ground floor of my building to showcase my new body of work with the public. I started being publicly known as the ‘Spiritboatist’.”
“Looks like that neighbor was the ‘Supernatural Aid’ that provided you with the opportunity to embark on the ‘Initiating’ part of your Journey.”
“Had never thought that way, but yes.”
“Did you experience anything like the ‘Belly of the Whale’, as Campbell calls it? Something that made you disappear from the world as you were going deeper into your exploration?”
“Yes, actually. I practiced disappearing during exhibitions to let the public experiment my art without my physical presence. I wanted them to experience the Studio as a Sacred Place, not as my own. I hired assistants to help people as needed, but I purposefully took myself out of the way and let the work speak.
“And after that, I started my ‘Road of Trials’, with all the ups and downs that finally led me to creating the ‘Spirit Boats Healing Workshops’.
“I wanted to let other people experience the healing power of Spirit Boat creation. By going deep into my self, a whole universe of potential had flooded in. I used art to heal my grief and I wanted to share this method with others, also the ones who wouldn’t consider themselves ‘artists’. Yet, I was discouraged by comments from some friends of mine – They will hate glue! It will be a mess, and nobody likes mess! Staplers are dangerous! It will be risky!”
“But you didn’t let them put you off.”
“Not at all. I listened to all those pieces of advice in disguise, and I did my own thing. I started my public workshops as collaborations with Museums and Art Centers, and finally in 2014 I did my first workshop in our Studio, in an environment that I had created myself. It was so satisfying and enriching.
“At the end of the workshop, the boats that participants have created are put together. They see how their dreams, hopes, and wishes, come together with the ones of the other souls. Their spirit boat arouses an emotional response as a trigger and reminder of the intention - to move towards what is desired, and they feel supported by the group. It turns into community building.”
“Evolving from a journey of personal and intimate discovery to sharing with people what you found.”
“It’s what artists do,” she replies with a smile.
“Was there a specific moment when you felt one at all with the creation? A sense of unconditional love, an enlarged vision beyond what you felt was your previous identity? It’s what is known as ‘Meeting with the Goddess’ in the Journey.”
“Yes. I had this happen when I was in my artist’s residency at the museum and was interacting everyday with the public, keeping my own self together as the embodiment of a Spirit Boat. In those moments I was beyond my small self. Limits simply didn’t apply. And I often return to that sense of oneness through shamanic drumming workshops. Those remind me that we are One.”
“Had you ever thought, even for a moment, to give up on your journey? Something tempting you to go back?”
She nods. “I tried to return to my Italian townscapes, but it did not feel right, so I got back to the real work.”
“And what’s the next defining moment you remember?”
“A tough one. I remember I was rejected from a juried show in 2016. The language they used in their letter was crummy and insensitive, and I took it personally at first. It could have turned into a career crisis.”
“They had triggered something. I felt touched inside. Maybe a rooted fear of being rejected, of not being worthwhile. It hit home. I had to firm up my belief in my own work and not get stuck.”
“How did you overcome it?”
“I learnt not to make a big drama out of it. They were not rejecting me, just my work in that specific context. And I saw the fear that was holding back my little self. As long as my ego was there, fears and self-judgement could stick to it. I simply let it step aside, to leave free space to pure and inspired creation.”
“Sounds like an ‘Atonement with the Father’, the moment when we confront ourselves with the ultimate fears that hold us back. When we let go of our perceived identity, a larger wisdom steps in and a new higher self comes to life.”
“That’s exactly what happened. I felt a new freedom to simply being in the moment. I let go of any fear of failure or death. One foot after the other. We’re on a Journey, and that’s how we take it. It's what in the Journey you would call 'Apotheosis'."
I see Jennifer’s face relaxing.
“Soon after it, the ‘Ultimate Boon’ of the Hero’s Journey showed up, in two different chunks.”
“What was that?”
“First, as I was having a conversation with my coach, a question rocked my boat. ‘How can I make my life a Masterpiece?’ - What if the real masterpiece I am after is not a piece of art, but my very life? What if I were the project and the goal? What would that feel like? What would I be losing? What would I gain? How could this help others?
“Since I have adopted this new philosophy, I have felt calmer. No longer nervous about my next show or how many people I am reaching with my art. Those questions are a very centering exercise.
“Additional insights came as I was reading my akashic records. A sentence struck me – ‘It’s not the boat, it’s where the boat is pointing’. A new dimension was opening for me. New depths. New heights.
“And thanks to that sentence, I’m beyond the boats now. I’m exploring other symbols, like Standing Stones. I feel that they are channels of communication with the Unknown. They connect past, present, and future, and in this sense, they are an extension of the Spirit Boats.
“I wonder if this is connected with the treasure that I’ll be sharing upon my ‘Return’ to the Ordinary World.”
“It could well be. But have you ever felt any type of ‘Refusal to the Return'? Any fear to share your insights with people?”
“I work with abstract concepts, and they can be easily misunderstood. Sharing this with others is tricky, and I might feel inadequate to express the profound nature of what it is and ignite that perception in the public.
“This is why I’m currently working on a project to let people get in love with art by starting with the very basic elements – lines, arcs, circles – and discover the beauty in the outside, everywhere. Too many people dismiss art because they don’t think it’s interesting or don’t feel artists themselves, but they’re missing the point – art is a portal, and they don’t know they can use it. I want to show them how to get back to their core, like artists, the inner artist.”
“Do you feel you’ve already crossed your ‘Return Threshold’? Has there been a moment when your perception has shifted once more, and you felt you stepped into your new ‘Ordinary World’?”
“Oh yes, quite recently. On September 2020 I’ve united my past three websites into one, JenniferEwing.com. It now integrates my Spirit Boat Making and Heart Making Workshops, my drawing classes, my art, my blog and background info. Only one more part of my work remains independent in nature from the others, and that’s the business that I run with Leo for murals and decorative painting, at EwingGermano.com.
“Integrating my separate identities into one was to me like crossing a threshold because I finally found my message and unifying principle - ‘Helping People Transform Themselves Through Art’. It is about personal empowerment and using art as a tool and inspiration. And I also have a brand-new logo – a Viking style Spirit Boat, like the first one that came to me as a vision, exactly two years before I became a Spiritboatist.”
“Cool. Was there someone, or something, that draw you to this wholeness and integration? A ‘Rescue from Without’, as opposed from Within?”
“Yes, in part. It was the outcome of transformative work that I’ve been doing with my coach.”
“Feels like this brought you to ‘Mastering the Two Worlds’, the Unseen and the physical one.”
“I am fairly clear that I am doing what I am here to do - to help others find more in themselves by engaging with visual art. Once I found my goal, everything fell into place. My natural state is lived on a fairly high level and I can transform with ease.
“And people notice – one neighbor told me that my paintings now are much lighter, like there is no more ego into them.”
“Which brings to the ‘Freedom to Live’. What is freedom to you?”
Jennifer smiles at Pico, who is keeping an eye on us from his boat on the table.
Then she glances at her paintings on the wall, her boats floating in the air, the bust of her father, and finally at the bright window.
“Freedom is when you have found balance inside. You’ve faced your shadows, you’ve learned about yourself, and you’ve reached beyond it. True freedom emerges from going through one’s Hero’s Journey and coming out to be in the world who you truly are.”
“Which brings you full circle to the start of a new Journey. How will starting again look like?”
“Not scary at all, and not even a repetition. The ‘Ordinary World’ that I see now is totally different from the one I left when I entered the Journey, because I have changed within. You can never get bored this way. I feel filled with energy and light. I feel grounded, and am blessed to put myself at service as a connector between transcendent and materiality through the power of art.”
Pico jumps down from the table, reaches Jennifer on her lap, and curls up.
Then starts purring.
And all is well.
Is this post lighting you up? Are you willing to Open Up to Your Potentials?
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The Journey so far:
Jennifer's Hero's Journey - This post
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