Painting Freedom

I return to the Gold Coast in August 2001 after residing at Bargara Beach for the past seven years. I make a huge decision and buy a three bedroom brand new house in a gated security complex.

I literally “let go” of most of “my stuff” arriving on the Gold Coast with an Ancestral Antique Lounge suite, Grandfather Clock and five large packing boxes.

So I move in to begin a new life on my own.

The property has very spacious grounds with wonderful tall gum trees scattered throughout the park-like grounds; a walking path meanders through the property with bench seats under the old Moreton Bay fig trees which adorn the landscape; a boardwalk over the natural water course down in the back corner makes a nice home for the frogs and the water fowl that visit frequently, squawking happily throughout the night.

I feel safe living here, the large iron gate sliding shut after I drive the car in past the security camera lights.

With minimalistic furniture, the stark white walls that blend in with the large white floor tiles plead at me to create a warmer, more welcoming home. I feel a stirring within the body to do something wild and artistic.

“Paint the walls bold and bright” shouts the inner voice. “This house needs some colour.”

I tingle with excitement – an unfamiliar burst of creative juice floods the body igniting every cell and almost instantly on hearing the familiar inner critic saying “you can’t do that!”, the body contracts without questioning.

I obey and shut down this aliveness I am feeling with the mind convincing me to play safe and stay within the boundaries of my comfort zone. I decide to create in a more conservative, sophisticated way and make a decision to shop for some art work to hang on the walls.

I visit many art galleries over the next few weeks and soon become very critical of the works on display. Astounded by the high price tags, I start judging the art work and the artists by saying “I can do better than that!”

One day, I see a painting in an upmarket furniture showroom with just three brush strokes splashed nonchalantly upon a grubby blank white canvas. It has a very high price tag. “You have to be kidding me” I say under my breath. “They are asking thousands of dollars for that?” I shake my head in disbelief.

“That’s it! I will paint my own pieces. I can certainly do better than that!”

I drive home with a stirring of excitement flooding into the body. With just the thought of taking some art classes, putting brush and paint onto a canvas, the excitement grows and I begin to somehow feel a feeling of being more alive!

I did join an art class while living in Bargara and the teacher there had me drawing boxes with charcoal pencil and I found this very boring, each week sketching the same black-and-white tissue box… no rulers were allowed in the class room which upset me a lot as I always use a ruler even to write with; to keep everything neat, tidy and centred – very structured indeed! (At that time I couldn’t see the gift that was offered to me by a loving universe.)

I find my art class by accident.

Sitting relaxing on the patio enjoying a coffee and the warm rays of the mid-morning sun, I leisurely look through the local newspaper and find an advert for art classes. Or more to the point I think it found me; it seemed to jump off the page shouting to grab my attention. I like what I read. Art from the Heart is the catch phrase.

I searched the website and the Artist Bio states: “Art from the Heart is a term I, Di Skelly Heron, use to describe the way I teach. My primary aim is to show my students how to connect to their intuition and paint from their feelings rather than their intellect”…

This seems to resonate with me so I take the plunge. I join one of her morning classes and on arrival I notice every easel in this rather small studio (that adjoins the back of a kindergarten) is being used by women of all ages.

The lone male in the room is her husband, who is also a student taking part in the class. I am told jokingly “he only attends if the surf is not pumping or the weather is not suitable for his golf game.”

Everyone laughs together in a fun way of agreeing.

The classroom has a happy vibe to it as Di casually strolls around the room between the easels giving suggestions and offering brush stroke techniques if needed, always encouraging with positive comments. She is very patient and helpful and smiles and laughs a lot and always has uplifting sing along music playing loudly from her portable player.

I attend maybe three or four classes and find I am struggling to even find a subject to paint. I change my mind every week and start each class by painting over what I have previously started to paint.

I am standing at the easel indecisive with what to paint, feeling very self-conscious with two very good artists either side of me when Di suddenly appears next to me. Startled by her abrupt tone of voice she speaks loudly and directly to me. “Okay!” Everyone in the class room stops and brings their attention to her as she continues…

”I want you to choose three or four of your favourite colours, bring a couple of brushes and your canvas and come with me.”

I immediately feel the body contract, collapsing, trying to shrink and hide. My face is now blood red with embarrassment as she helps me by carrying my canvas to the front door. And then I quickly follow her feeling like a naughty school girl being taken to the headmistress office to be punished.

I am unable to look at anyone; but I feel everyone is looking at me.

When we approach the doorway, she turns to the class and says very cheerily, “we will be outside if anyone needs anything”.

Being outside, I feel completely exposed with nowhere to hide! I am blinded by the bright sunlight, the eyes slowly adjusting, squinting in the glare from the stark white canvas, which is now staring up at me from the grassy area just outside the doorway of the studio.

I become aware of two magpies sitting in the tall gum tree just to the left of where we are now settling.  They start their call, as if laughing at me. I can hear the children from the kindergarten next door screaming and laughing also. I begin to feel really angry.

Holding back tears and fighting desperately to suppress any of this anger from being expressed and in this feeling of total humiliation, I look up in anguish and right then, in this perceived distressed moment in time, everything changes!

Through the tears all I can see is the sun rays beaming light through the branches of this magnificent tree. Its leaves are shimmering – sparkling like tiny diamond lights and my whole body relaxes, softens, and sighs in awe of the beauty and majesty.

I turn towards Di when hearing her softly spoken voice: “I want you to wet the brushes and splat the four colours that you have chosen, one by one onto the canvas!”

I looked at her in total shock!  As I stare at her, I notice her eyes sparkling in a mischievous playfulness that seems to have a contagious spell and I relax even more.

Di spins around when her little poodle stands in the doorway barking for attention. She leaves and walks silently back into the class room.

Standing here slightly bamboozled with the mixed emotions churning within the body, a feeling of excitement captivates me as I breathe the fresh air and feel the cool breeze caress the skin. I bend down and reach for the colour red, wet the thick bristle brush, apply the colour and cautiously flicked red paint onto the canvas!

The red paint falls like droplets of blood and oozes over the white canvas in stark contrast. Wow! That actually feels good!

“Let’s do it again” encourages a small voice inside my head. So I do it again, this time I pick up the purple tube of paint and with much more vigour in the wrist action, I can feel a sense of rhythm happening with the flicking of the brush. I am really starting to enjoy this process. Yellow comes next, then green, and then I add more red.

I become aware that I am smiling happily and I want to laugh out loud but I don’t. The tube of purple paint is a little runny so I just squirt it straight from the tube onto the now colourful canvas. Wow! This is so much fun and I love what is beginning to transpire in front of me.

Then a thought comes “when do I stop?  When is too much?”  This is so much fun I don’t want to stop. And with the thoughts still questioning in the mind, I become aware of the sprinkles of rain falling, ever so gently at first and then a little heavier, so then it becomes obvious, it is time to pack up and return to the class room.

I return to the class a very different person from the one who left. I feel liberated in a way that I am not sure about, but I know that I feel happy and uplifted.

I am totally surprised that it is time to pack up and go home and I wonder ‘where has the time disappeared to this morning!’

The rain is now heavy and steady so I run the short distance to the undercover car park without getting too wet and protect my “work of art” from the rain with my painting shirt and a small towel.

I arrive home feeling so totally buzzed and hang my painting on the bare white wall in the sunroom. I decide to name it Freedom, for that is what I am feeling right now. A sense of freedom from deep within, a knowingness that something has shifted today! I do not know what it is, but, I just know…

painting freedom

A few weeks later, I suddenly realise I am not using a ruler to keep my writing all neat, tidy and symmetrical, in fact my writing has become more free flowing, more fluid, even messy and it doesn’t bother me anymore. Not at all!

I also become aware of other subtle changes that are occurring around my structured habits; a more relaxed me is happening and I like it, I like it a lot!

Something did shift for me that day, something unravelled in the nervous system and allowed the freedom of creative play to come out of hiding and have some fun!

Thank You Di for your wisdom and thank God for this blessing.


elle divine logo signature

Di Skelly Heron @



  1. Denise

    I love your story Elle, you have in a pired me to have a go at painting, I will look for an art class. Thank you dear beloved. Dee xxxx


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