Aquarelle: A Spiritual Journey Through Watercolor

Although I am a health attorney with a very active practice representing primarily addiction treatment and mental health providers, the gifts I have received as an artist was meant to change the world. In 2014, I experienced a critical health issue and no doctor could stop the crisis.  When I knew I had about two weeks left to live, but yet I knew I had not yet fulfilled my purpose I received a special anointing.  Three days after my anointing, my body began to respond to the steroids and heal.  That same day, all of a sudden I knew things I had never known before and did not know why other than I was saved and needed to use this information and gift of hope for others.  This was my spiritual awakening.  I know those of you in the field bring that hope and light to patients every day.  You awaken the joy and life in them and save their souls.

Following my spiritual awakening, I began painting to document my journey of experiences.  This is probably why so many recovery facilities incorporate art therapy into their programs.  It truly helps process traumas and the hope and light you need to pull someone out their darkness. Like many people in recovery, I was learning how to live again, filled with appreciation for all I had been gifted. I knew I had to share these gifts and messages with others and so, in June of 2016, I picked up a paintbrush for the very first time. I turned to watercolor and this is why my new book is titled “Aquarelle,” which is French for “watercolor”.

Sometimes I will paint something I do not understand, but trust that I am supposed to do so, knowing a message will be revealed to me in time. Often times, one painting has multiple meanings, whether for different people or at different times. Other times, my paintings would paint themselves! Water would continue moving across the paper, creating new images or messages, even after I would walk away. It was not long before it became a joke in my art class among my instructor and fellow students: “Renée’s painting is painting itself again!”

My first book, “Aquarelle,” is divided into seven sections, each one significant from both an artistic standpoint and a spiritual standpoint. Each chapter’s theme is captured with just one word, both powerful and simplistic. Within each chapter, the paintings intentionally build, one on top of the other, and are connected. The chapters themselves are connected also. The book begins with the magnificent beauty of color. Color is brought to us by the miracle of light. We will explore the importance and life-giving qualities of water, and discover the energy created when these elements are combined. Spirit is a vital principle and essence that breathes life into our beings, the product of energy. Our spirit grants us power. In the Bible, power has many deep meanings. It can refer to moral qualities, strength of mind, or most importantly - faith. Power takes us to Infinity, the culmination of all the chapters that proceed it. Boundless and endless, Infinity represents something larger than life!

I wanted to share a few of the painting and messages featured in “Aquarelle” with you today. The small text presented with each painting is intended to spark a thought, feeling or hopeful message. Sometimes I include the lyrics of a song I heard before or as I created the painting.  I hope these paintings bring you calm, joy, protection, healing, love and most importantly, hope. That is the intent of these messages. As you gaze as the paintings, ask yourself: What do you see? What messages are you receiving?

“The Oregon Vortex”

While nearing the completion of this painting, one of my earliest works, my art instructor Carmelo Schifano wanted to teach me how to achieve depth and greater dimension in my paintings and he painted the red-roofed cabin that appears in this piece. I told him as soon he was done: “The roof is not red, it is brown.” He looked a bit perplexed, but instantly understood that I had a vision. Carmelo taught me more than watercolor painting.  He taught me how to trust my intuition and not be afraid of what others think.  Intuitively, I knew immediately that it would be the first and last time I would be permitted to allow someone else to use their brush to alter one of my paintings.  Every image, every color is often related to a vision, message or image I am to create.  While sometimes my artwork can be abstract, and other times not so aesthetically pleasing or technically perfect, it carries an important message that I or others are to receive. I named this painting “The Oregon Vortex” and I did not know why.  All the other ladies in my class painted a sleigh with horses on their paintings.  I told Carmelo my painting was not supposed to have a sleigh in it.  I knew that the center of that painting and the energy that emanated from the lake in that picture was the real message.  My favorite part of this painting was learning how to paint “ghost trees” to reveal the depth of the forest near this lake.  You can see the mysterious energy rising above the lake in the painting.

Ten months later, in August 2017, we decided to take a family trip to Portland and Seaside Oregon.  One of the activities the girls wanted to do while on vacation was take a helicopter ride. Other than Jim, none of us had been in a helicopter before. I was really excited to experience this adventure with our children and to marvel at the natural beauty of the land from the air. Looking from the window of the helicopter, I was overcome by a strong and definitive energy I felt below as I saw land and a lake beneath us that mirrored my “Oregon Vortex” painting. Through the trees where I felt this interesting “energy vortex”, I saw the cabin Carmelo painted and yes - the roof was brown, not red. 

“The Flight to Light”

Hawks are often seen as messengers of the spiritual world. When a hawk crosses your path, it compels and allows you to use your power to focus and see clearly.

I first painted the background while visiting Desert Hot Springs, California and later added the hawk after seeing two hawks outside of my office back home in Illinois.  The same day I saw the two hawks, I received some miraculous news on a pro bono case I took on for a blind man in prison.  While in prison he was denied cataract surgery and was completely blind in one eye, with cataracts developing in his second eye. The Illinois Department of Corrections Medical Director graciously reviewed the case and granted our appeal to overturn a managed care company’s decision denying his surgery.  This news meant that a blind man would receive his long-awaited surgery and would finally be able to see again - a true miracle!  I know my client felt as though he saw the light and was truly blessed by the grace of God. 

“Slaying the Dragon with Inner Strength”

The power emitted through the vibrational frequency of a lion’s booming roar comes to life in this watercolor, using an enthusiastic orange, which can represent determination, stimulation, freedom and expression. The dragon’s brute, foreboding strength is no match for the power unleashed when the big cat summons its power from within and finds its voice, or roar.  We have all been there. Especially as a woman, throughout my legal career, I have been in some situations where I have been talked over, ignored, or misunderstood.  That has never stopped me though.  In finding your inner strength, an amazing spirit from within, it can help you overcome your fears and doubts.  We all can find the roar just waiting to unleash from within ourselves so we can slay any dragons that may cross our path. It is no coincidence the history of the Addiction of Field that was documented by William White was entitled “Slaying the Dragon.”

“Seagulls in Flight”

What started as a mild tropical storm in the Atlantic on October 9, 2018 developed into a powerful Category 5 Hurricane on mine and Jim’s 25th wedding anniversary on Amelia Island, Florida.  It should come as no surprise the hurricane was named Michael and certainly had messages to bear.  Living in the Midwest, I had never experienced the power of the wind and water during a hurricane.  What can be so beautiful to gaze upon can become a ferocious force of mother nature to remind humans there are forces much more powerful than us.  It also reminds us when God speaks, we must listen.  Despite the chaos of the storm, we seemed to be right in the middle where it was calm.  We were in the eye of the storm, almost protected from the violent winds swirling around the island.

This painting reveals that calm found in the eye of the storm. Notice the brilliant blues - a color and sign of protection, and the lighthouse - a representation of hope, even in moments of natural disaster and devastation that the light will always continue to shine through the darkness. This reminds me of a song about storms from the musical Carousel, by Rodgers and Hammerstein. I often sung it in my grammar school days because of the muscular dystrophy carnivals we had in our neighborhood to fundraise for a cure.  I remember this was the same song Jerry Lewis would sing at the end of each Labor Day Telethon and cry every time he sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.  On your journey of recovery, know you will never walk alone:

“When you walk through a storm

Hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of a storm

There’s a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart 

And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone”

       I close with a beautiful quote from Father Chuck Hannel, which I heard during a virtual Catholic mass on January 24th, 2021: “We need to see the world as a canvas in which you are called to paint a wonderful image of God’s love and make that love present in this world that is passing away.” I felt as though God confirmed for me it was time to come forward and share this very personal part of my life.  May it awaken the joy and love in you.

To pre-order your hardcover copy of AQUARELLE, please click this link and enter your email address or phone contact information on the form:

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