Following the Thread to Naming and Claiming…


…An Invitation to Cross the Threshold into the Danger Zone.

Standing in my studio.  Music of sweet memories playing in the backdrop of this encounter.  I stand in front of a blank canvas. I intuitively choose paint and the brush calling me to today’s ritual of telling one of my stories.  A bow of silence to call the ideas forward that want to be birthed in this moment. Hours feel like minutes of passionate release.  A pretty picture is born telling a hidden story of my past.  I would have many years of discoveries like this and, what I thought at the time, deep emotional healing from these intuitive moments.  But something was askew.  I started to notice how these pretty pictures were only showing one side of the stories they held (the ones I could at the time touch and bare to see) and fear would begin to override any feelings of success and joy.  Worry consumed with intense pain in my belly, I would feel lost again on how to access the pathway to healing and wholeness.

Recently I discovered; I am an emotional by-passer (self-diagnosed) of really hard shit.  Years ago, I would wonder what that meant and even scoffed at the very idea.  I’m a deep diver.  I… go…deep. I go into all the problems. I sort, process and repeat.  I find the ways calling me to heal everyday but when it came down to the nitty gritty of an intense past and the intentionality of healing with creativity, was I really deep diving?

There is a deepening of seeing and guidance when I teach others.  If I can show others how to find their voices of pain with art, I must be finding mine right?  As I grow stronger in helping others, a new question came out from the shadows… with this birthright of art medicine, was I helping myself in the same ways I help my world? How was I tapping my own medicine to get to the source of these tragedies?  What conversations was I having with these beautiful works of art? When it came time for my own care, how much was I present in this creative process when the rubber met the road?  I got curious about how good it feels when I create and how lovely my pictures can be.  I wanted to know where the conversations were held for these untold stories in these delicate and passionate works of art.  Especially the “ugly” and dark ones.  Why couldn’t I look at them beyond their colorful parts, the parts that deemed redemption and crowned I am not a victim any longer?   There were still so many road blocks and open wounds. I didn’t want to see them for what they truly were/are- hardships, neglect, abuse, violations and trauma.  They spanned the test of time and didn’t belong to only me. I found an abundance of care and gentleness with these creations.  I heard gratitude in my thoughts and offerings to the birth of these powerful images.  But I began to ask, why am I not healing fully?  Why do I feel my mind scattering, my panic worsening, my worry spiraling around what I had thought were my darkest parts? Why are my feelings of shame and bitterness getting louder? And as these voices and feelings of confusion became boisterous and clingy, I added more creativity and ways to distract.

Create more, I thought.  Find different ways to push and pull what you know and gravitate towards in your heart and spirit.  Learn from others-especially women. And I did.  Yet, woundedness would become unbearable.  When I thought the key to unlocking my pain was still out there, I would reach for even more. Someone must know more than me…and that’s when my eyes opened.  I could see in those creative moments, where I was doing and trying to get something right or correct.  I was not trusting the process and was solely focused on releasing a story, a narrative that did not belong to me or one that I didn’t want to belong to me any longer.  I was trying to rid myself of this burden.   I wanted there to finally be an end.  And in a heartbeat, I realized there would be no naming and claiming without these abandoned, hidden, dark, shadowy parts.


A quiet voice in my head would appear in bold bright colors (a message I have shared for years with others).  “The wisdom is in you dear one”.  And in that moment, I would close my eyes and hold my heart.  I would reach for my red thread of life-the one connected to all the universe.  I would wrap myself in its care like wrapping a newborn taking her first breath, connecting me to the ground and ensuring a safe return at any time.   Cradled in love I would leap into the deep, deep dark where I must travel intentionally seeking answers from within my great beyond.  Gracefully and thoughtfully I pick up a cinder of ash from the fire and allow my own wisdom to flow onto the page of new life. Purposefully entering the danger zone, knowing trust and safety were closely clipped hip-side.  In this moment of no color and no words, my true listening would take hold and shed the untold stories of pain. I would discover that healing cannot progress without honor and acknowledgement of all its parts first. They would always be with me, never far from sight but definitely out from the darkness.  Creations of prettiness flood my mind of bypassing these real moments out of fear.   Today I hold fast and I allow. I loosen my grip around my need for ornamental pictures.  I understand the need of lots of hugs and warmth to feel safe in the art.  Pretty pictures do that for me.  I can see the band-aids placed over the darkness and I also see the nuggets of freedom held inside.

These marks, my marks would be the way and the wisdom would come to life in its tracks needing only my presence. Healing would begin with honoring the holds over my wounds.  They would be released from banishment and stay in the light by claiming the darkness first. I learned there are pretty pictures that want to be born and sometimes they have something to say if I stick around to ask.  There are times for floating on the top with intuitive and intentional art making.  None of which is bypassing emotion if I show up in presence. And when I dive deep into the cracks and crevices of this life, I am worthy of such an adventure to stake claim to my past.  The threshold into the really hard shit (AKA the danger zone) will always be close at hand inviting me in to accept its offerings and gifts of healing.


Full Moon Reflections of my HeART

Finding My Voice in Creating

As I think about writing today, my hands gravitate towards tender art making. I become still and my hands lead.  Words have not come easy for me over the years.  I’ve had to work hard to find my way and I didn’t have a teacher guiding me.  No one taught me how to take my time with my words or how to find the words that suited me.  It took a long time for me to understand my words needed gentleness and not coaxing.  They needed safety not pushing.  Words couldn’t come unless there was peacefulness and courage to bring out what was so painfully stuck on the inside.  I often found myself asking, “Where was my language in the papers I wrote, the text I referenced and sited? How was I to find the words that belonged to me?”.  I lived with these questions for a very long time, not realizing that my language may not be made up of English letters or numbers but in fact born and raised in color, movement and mark making. These elements tell my stories.   

Artmaking is my first language. Processing visual text in symbols and design was my natural gift and always there providing language where my voice and writing could not.  It wasn’t until my late thirties that I could see how the writing and art go hand and hand, blending and melding.  Once I put them together, I realized both bring me healing and energy.  Both medicine for my soul.  It was the perfect combination of magic for (what I thought) any wounded heart.  I began wondering about medicine, where it comes from, what form it takes, and how art holds all its qualities.  It sparked many questions in me like, how am I the healer of my life, what is my artful medicine, and how do I cultivate health and wellness in my life and all the life around me?

Whether looking at it, feeling it, or creating it, art is a healer.  My entire life I have spent tapping into the wisdom of my own heart with visceral creativity using my hands, my body, my voice, my emotions and my dreams.  This poem I’m going to share is from my personal journal (journey).  These words come to you after making the discovery that I am my own healer, as each of you are. Your inner artist is in there waiting to be discovered to provide wisdom, medicine and healing.  I invite each of you to cultivate space for artful moments.  To see your processes as artful and know that is where the nuggets of medicine are held. 

Art Healer

By Ellen  Sweetman

August 2020

I am art.

I am medicine.

Hands over my Wounded Child’s heart.  Beating with such beauty and strength, her deepest wounds recovered and unearthed. There is fear around what is untouched and unseen. Her heart beats faster sending medicine. The motherless girl heals as she creates, reviving and mending with each thoughtful move. Dive deep, lean in close little one. 

Tearing the pages, collaging emotions into stories. The Magician hums to safety, learning to see with eyes closed. Layering stones on top of one another, pulling art-filled cards with messages to the heart center releasing the smoke of solitude and gratitude.

Wandering barefoot in tall grass, the brown Goddess creates thunderous connections between meridians.  Depositing new soil, transforming rhythms into liveliness and preforming ritual. Dancing in the light of the moon, twirling in the wind, body swaying with each breath accepting messages of compassion and love. She drums out into the world, pain and resilience float like clouds in the sky. Glimmers of light trickle out connecting us. She is learning.

The Healer massages floral essences on the throat, nape of neck, my third eye and behind hearing receptors for direction and comfort. She dips toes in the water, surrendering to peaceful movements. Her breath ripples out to sea.   As if weaving in and out of the fabric, seeing immense depth in between each stitch plotting out familiar constellations.

Ash falls, scripting marks on the page swirling stories as the Artist becomes witness to her own wonders.  She makes patterns with footsteps in wounded snow creating awareness spirals.  Swirling wishes in the paint well and washing colorful dreams across the canvas. She wets her hands in soft clay to feel the coolness of the earth. Molding and carving to the beat of her heart, birthing soul images.

The Shaman arranges dried blooms and tobacco around the old oak. This forest invites all parts of self, calming the mind and rooting her feet along the pathway; naming and claiming what has been with her since the beginning. Young wounds melt in the stillness.  She becomes the bridge between deep seeded wisdom and human experience.  Knowledge expands with native languages for healing and finding voice again. She crafts fire in ceremonial reflection and wanders in its flames claiming past, present and future. Awareness shifts. She answers the call, burning sage, laying her signature with ash.

I am the Wounded Child who plays and hurts. I am the Goddess who processes pain and celebrates discoveries, the Healer who honors the unraveling and unfolding, the Artist who channels instinct and natural connections. I am the Shaman, with eyes wide shut, who gently stretches into known and felt territory.

I am suffering, transforming, awakening.

I am art.

I am medicine.

Shadow Dancing with the Guests of my House

The poem, The Guest House by Rumi, came into my world again. I’m always amazed at the times when I need something the most, it is there for me.  A gentle reminder that my body holds messages and emotions (guests).  When I’m not paying attention those guests hang around longer than they need.  And rather than using my hands to create from my inner wisdom, I sit and think on it.  I push forward hoping, maybe even wishing that time will help it pass, fearful that the intention I set may not be worthy of my heart.  Curating the hearts of others brings joy and celebration.  Curating my own is at times scary.

Today, I honored process (something I feel so passionately about yet forget often) and honored my emotions that are present in me by allowing my body and hands to dance freely.  I welcomed my wounds with open arms and an open heart.  I dove deep into the messages I needed to hear.  I dove even deeper into the messages I did not hear.  I said goodbye to many guests taking up space that no longer needed shelter and I acknowledged many others that needed more light.  Creating is the invitation which allows my hands to soothe and from the depths of my soul welcome each guest, honor their presence, find resilience and truth in process. Today I honored my lively brush, not as a brush but as my heart.

The Guest House by Rumi

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.

She may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

I discovered my heart is big enough to hold my truth and resilient spirit. Each guest became an offering of love and intention for new beginnings.

What pearls of wisdom are keeping residence in you?  Using your hands to play and explore in any way may find the answers you seek.

Blessings to all who roam here and find refuge in any sparkling gems that may be calling you.

Artfully Awakening the Soul

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Shedding light on the intersections of my life and removing the masks that hold secrets I found spaciousness and room for healing.

Harnessing energy from the dust of my bones,

Rivers of blood that flow in my veins and give life,

Mountains of clay and stone that ground me to my roots.

Feathers that float in the breeze of every breath,

Sunlight that lands softly on my hair

The forest and its gifts of strength in my hands

Tears of joy that cascade from the sky and cleanse my perspective

Moonlit path of my heart, the beat of my drum giving life to my voice, the fire in my belly and the stars in my eyes that reflect the heavens,

I express my eternal gratitude for all your offerings.

Lined with connectedness and purpose

Wrapping my arms around my awareness with compassion and love.


Warm forgiveness.

Journeying, finding, seeking, listening, weaving


Blessings to all

I face forward.

Solo Gallery Show at Vine Arts Center


Minneapolis, MN—June 1 through June 28th, 2019—The Vine Arts Gallery and livelybrush, LLC. are pleased to present a solo exhibition of work by native-born Minnesota artist, Ellen Sweetman (Minnetonka).

The show is titled:


4Gotten Parts of the Whole

Connected passages

Eyes Wide open

Embracing Rebirth

A nine-month journey into the mind and experience of artist Ellen Sweetman. Honoring and embracing the art process, challenges associated with thinking, and leading with intention, the artist pioneers difficult pathways to a brighter homecoming. Sweetman dismantles her layered identity, old belief systems, and education, and ideas behind acceptance. Utilizing all the tools in her toolbox, she unlearns and begins anew. Discovering her own unique process of creation and becoming reborn in art.

The gallery is open Thursdays 5:30pm – 6:45pm and Saturday 11:00am – 5:00pm. Please verify gallery summer hours before visiting.

An artist reception will be held on June 1st from 6-9 PM. Please join us in celebrating art, our community and making new connections.

Published: Monday, February 4th, 2019 – 10:16


This show highlights an artist’s journey for the last 9 months. Coinciding with a gestational period of a human life, Ellen investigated the conceptual and visual components that outline all the parts of who we think we are and where truth is held. The works of art presented are influenced by personal journey to the here and now, the vibrations of the collective, and the compulsive narrative.

Each work of art pays homage to different part of Herstory. They honor process, new beginnings and above all the media in which her hands wanted to work. They are the products of challenging the sources of thinking (what is suppose to be and what is) and trusting the feelings within. This exhibition will embrace awareness and honor the influences and intuitive source from which it came/ when creation took place.

Finding My Truth

and Finding My way

There is something to say about honoring our truth for where we are at any given time.  I find it difficult to put my familiar routines of life (many of which don’t work for me) aside for what is really important.  I have a long history of just “doing” and going, planning and repeating.  Never really challenging what fits and what does not fit. I’ve just muddled through life at a severely fast pace.  Since starting to teach again, I can see how I am teaching myself too and incorporating small amounts of time to find space, heal and make new discoveries.

I’ve been participating in mini creative sessions with a fellow artist over the last few months.  Having more of these fleeting sessions is changing me.  I create deliberate space filled with my intuition and my breath. I let go.  I play.  I give permission to get curious without judgement and I create.  I become aware of my inner thoughts and I do not censor. I set intentions and I fulfill them with an open heart.  And afterward, I write, I learn and see without my eyes because I feel and I know.  I can tell others how that is where the good stuff is found; that is where you will find your voice.  But the question of how to actively create that space for myself has taken me awhile to figure out.  It’s scary.  The unknown and creating change is hard to address at times.  As I exercise the right to show up for myself first, I find possibilities, presence and unconditional love.  And that is where the truest of parts are found just waiting to be discovered.


She who Unites with the Moon and Sun 12/11/18

Full moon circling Overhead alignment ensues. Opening up she can feel her wings spread, Fleshy layers of brilliance Channeling the moons current Trees wrap her.  Their canopy all around. Sea shells cradle their roots Butterfly forming Moon phases in full view.  She is bigger than whats in perspective Pulsating energy vibrating and giving comfort. Sitting in a red ocean of her past Confronted by the moons light she is aligned today Recognizable, mindful amenity.


She who Gets Ugly She who Fosters Revulsion 12/18/18

Eyes wide eyes shut both protecting.  One sees and one absorbs the security of the moon. Tears flowing Her ugliness is beautiful too.  Freedom of fear. Sun setting in her face Orbiting her profile Mouth wide open pretending to accept Spinning swirling thoughts in reds and blues. Hair of tears Cascade down her face Full lips protect and reclaim. Eyelashes like forests Shifting parts to make whole again. Screaming silently Actively not waiting nor wanting Being in space Distressing Excruciating love beating and captured in every fleshy mark. Secretly battling the unpleasant.


Rising up on all Saints Day and Celebrating on all Souls Day

Another art meet last night with my fantastic friend and fellow successful entrepreneur and leader, Christy Johnson.  Thirty minutes on an intuitive journey filled with intention care and surprises; all welcomed.  Topped off with ten minutes of uncensored writing and gratefulness.  Life is happening and we embraced our busy-ness with love and compassion.  We know that by showing up for ourselves, healing and celebrating our gifts, we open up for our world to do the same.  Come join us and make art!

Endless Possibilities with Compassion and Enjoyment

Endless Possibilities with Compassion and Enjoyment

Forest in her hair, cityscape bolting into the sky

Sunrise, sunset

Feathers surrounding her like a crown, landscape her shoulders with streams of tears

Light beaming from within her vibrating

Colors into her world

Eyes closed for protection, hair shapes her face, unabandoned

At sunset her city lights up the sky casting shadows on the  forest

Sharp lines feel soft

People from before surround her looking down

There is sadness in their physicalness, no light dances on the water

A flower decorates her hair like a sunset bouncing off buildings

Matching her blushing cheeks

Lips pursed in deep thought, waves in her hair dripping onto her face inviting

Muddied colors fill her spaces

Head popping out of the earth as if ready to discover what belongs to her and share what she knows.


Endless Possibilities with Compassion and Enjoyment

Endless Possibilities with Compassion and Enjoyment

I would like to thank all of you you for sharing in my journey.

Playing and Drumming with a Friend

Making art together is such an incredible experience.  I forget how powerful and impactful it is to designate time to play next to someone.  Like two toddlers side by side with our own magical powers.  I recently had an experience with @christymjohnsonart where we played together while listening to drumming.  No talking or visiting, just total consumption and immersion in our own art making.  Each of us had our own media and we played side by side.  After 45 minutes of uninterrupted, uncensored, unbiased play we wrote for 15 minutes in the exact same way. When our playing had quieted we shared what we created.  And in the loveliest and most unexpected way we ended our brief journey with nothing more than a “thank you”.


Sunset rising, trees protecting, bison look like boulders, water flowing, leaves dancing

Clouds all in a row, grasslike sun rays, birds feet pitter patter

Hands clapping around the sun, blue orbs

Sunbursts in the sky, magenta streaks bursting like flowers on a hillside

Caterpillar crawling across the mountain top

Waves raining on the earth

Sandstone reaching toward the sky

Eyelashes batting open to rainbow colors sharing space

Birds flying together


Sun fading in the grass

Purple tye-dyes floating, joining the pack

Wild animals hiding in the grass

Green shadows falling behind the mountains

Orange colors swirl, yellow moves around and around, lined up like marbles

Little sun all alone

Dark green mud shadows the earth

Blue sky rolls like waves of water

Vertical green lines cover the foreground

Brown hands circling with signs of peace.






Finding My Way into a Quiet Mind with My Open Heart


Spoiler Alert- I did not find my quiet mind from the countless hours of learning new business skills, perusing other successful sites and business folks, building my own website (twice), doing my taxes, spending long hours on social media, logging data, chasing the next biggest thing, nor losing countless nights of sleep over this, that and the other thing.

Spoiler Alert #2- Quiet mind has not been found to date.

Over the past five years, I have been learning the ways of an entrepreneur.  Not an easy task for someone who is completely and utterly right brained.  If that’s the creative side, who knows, I’ll look that up later.  Regardless, I am not a person with a business background nor am I a numbers gal and I certainly don’t pride myself on my internet wits.  To be honest, I don’t really care about most of that stuff.  But once I decided to take a chance on me and my dreams I thought I better learn the ropes.  So, I did. And (per usual) I jumped in with two feet into the deepest body of water I could find.  I figured I better get cracking since I wouldn’t be outsourcing anytime soon.  And what I found is that Being a creative while trying to sell myself to the world wasn’t working.  I searched and searched.  I put in more hours and still could not figure out why I wasn’t feeling successful, good, and proud.

So, I read books and more books. I read blogs, joined FB groups, and talked with anyone trying to find their way.  And it actually made my life worse.  I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, why I had less and less time to be creative and interact with those I wanted to connect with in my life.  As the work revved up, the more I grew tired and hungry for something different.  I didn’t realize working harder wasn’t where I could find my peace and my joy. I kept thinking it will come, it will come…with time it has to come, right?

I spent hours ruminating over how I lost these fine gifts. I was painting up a storm.  I was selling my work. Every step I took to sell my art was working but my mind grew tired and my time became more and more precious as it was lost to the endless hours I spent losing my mind.  Everyone around me seemed to know what they were doing and seemed so happy to be doing it.  Why wasn’t I?

I learned from a variety of sources, got a mentor, took all the right steps, and made the perfect moves.  Why am I not feeling as badass as I claim to be? Where is all the joy and fulfillment?  Is my authentic self not good enough?  Why does my head hurt and my heart ache? Those questions became more and more of a nuisance.   The more I swatted at them the more they came back with a vengeance.  I became desperate.  I panicked and worked even harder doing things that robbed me of my joy.  I was losing the very thing that connects me to my people and was scared shitless.

My open heart felt broken.  Despite all my efforts, I was extremely tired and worn down and left without clues as to why this hard work was not bringing me any closer to my quest.  Regardless of the work and spinning my wheels, it was my heart and my demeanor that worried me most.  My bounce back seemed to have disappeared along with my worth.  It became less and less about what I had set out to do; which was to be creative, paint, sell my art to people I connect with, share my gifts with those who want them, and above all be true to myself and my heart.  It became more and more about doing more, helping more, being more, getting more…more, more, more.  I finally had lost it and I hit an all-time low.

So, what did I do?  I shut it down for the summer and decided I needed to take a step back and spend some hours on me, my family and my purpose.  But guess what?  I haven’t done it yet.  I’ve been too busy racking my brain about what I think I am suppose to be doing and finding myself paralyzed.  Paralyzed by the mountains of paperwork sitting on my desk, the canvases built and not yet prepped, the amount of unused-untouched- really cool ideas, the endless email and campaigns just sitting around in my virtual spaces, and social media at every turn begging me to show up and do something.  There are an overwhelming amount of tasks that I already let slide since putting everything on hold to start my business fulltime in the first place.  And here I was broken and unable to set foot near a room I so anxiously and dearly created.

As little as a few weeks ago, I still found myself contemplating why isn’t this working?

And then it happened.

(Insert breath and long pause here)

I met a very dear friend for tea.  I shared with her my panicked state of affairs and she listened.  I could feel her holding me in this space of light and goodness.  And without judgement she offered me this little nugget.  She said, “Your body and mind are telling you what they need.  Take a walk to nowhere and pick wild flowers (I tear up just thinking about it).  Put yourself in nature and get lost in time and enjoy the elements”, she continued.  A week prior I probably wouldn’t have taken her advice.  I’m not sure I was ready to hear it.  I believe two things happened in that moment: 1. I was aligned and ready to receive and accept such a message and 2. she held me in that delicious warm space of truth and wholeheartedness.

It’s been 2 weeks of venturing out collecting these awesome little bouquets just for me.  And when I get home I care for them as if caring for myself and my broken heart.  I spend little moments admiring their beauty and what they have to offer me in this hustle and bustle world we live in.  They keep me present when I feel rushed.  They help me see that I too am as beautiful and delicate as each petal or vein I see and touch.  They are gentle reminders that I am growing and as fragile as the tiniest of seeds blowing in the wind.  They help me see that I mistakenly gave into what I thought to be right and these tasks I deemed so important are not worth losing what is most important to me…my soul.

My mind may not be as quiet as I like but it sure has a better chance surviving in the stillness, silence, and spaciousness of what is naturally given to me and to us all.  These walks and bike rides allow my mind and heart to open just a little bit each time to a little more quiet and the possibilities of what is to come next.  Each time I slow down I get a moment of clarity; true Presence.  I can feel the light shine in my heart and my creativeness soar. I didn’t fully understand this until someone truly special and connected took the time to show me and share their knowledge. I thank you dear friend. You know who you are.

And so, I share with any of you listening and needing a little nugget. You are worth a moment each day to create space just for you; to quiet your mind and calm your heart.  There are enough wild flowers for us all.