I grew up in the small rural community of Oakdale, California. My grandparents were small farmers and my parents were avid gardeners, with my dad growing vegetables and my mom flowers. I loved growing up in those gardens, feeling the earth under my bare feet and the abundance of growth around me. When I started school I was really taken with painting. Because I found the colors and the smell of the watercolor poster paint magical, I wanted everyone to have the chance to enjoy painting as much as I did. So I became the teacher’s assistant and returned to my Kindergarten class for several years to help. I loved art, but my vision for my future was to marry a handsome cowboy like the ones in the movie Giant, and be a housewife like my mother! In first grade life changed when my adoring grandparents died 2 months apart from brain cancer. I was 6. At school I was unmercifully criticized for crying and I withdrew, alone, without the unconditional love and support I had known. I buried that wound in my heart for a long, long time.
Our family moved to Santa Cruz on the central coast of California when I was in junior high school. As a farm girl I felt like a fish out of water trying to fit into the “cool” beach town culture. My salvation, as it turned out to be many times in my life, was watercolor, introduced to me by my 8th grade art teacher. I loved it! But I pursued academics and threw myself into schoolwork. A bright spot for me in high school was sports, which I really enjoyed. At Cabrillo College I played on their women’s basketball and softball teams and even took a shot at powder puff football! From there I attended San Jose State University, earning bachelor and master’s degrees in art with an emphasis in Art History. I was the first in my family to graduate from college.
I majored in Art History because I didn’t see myself as an artist nor believe I could even do art. I did love studying about art and artists and so began my career as a community college art history instructor. I taught Western Art History Survey courses, American Art, Art Appreciation, and Film as Art. But I realized early on that this was not my cup of tea and I secretly wanted to make art, not just talk about it. But I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do that. I asked the question of myself a lot: “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” One of my students invited me to a meditation group where I had the profound experience of seeing the light within myself the first time I meditated. I joined the group of light workers and that set me on a lifetime spiritual path.
But it took getting ill to begin to answer the question of what I was supposed to do in with my life. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an autoimmune disease, and it was at that time that I discovered mandalas and used them in my healing. Of course a big part of my healing was to begin to acknowledge that I was an artist and needed to make art! And as I began to be able to function again, I started to teach watercolor mandala classes having continued to love and dabble in watercolor since grade school. I developed a way of teaching, both the watercolor and mandalas, by following my own inner guidance. How would I have wanted to be taught—easy, with fun, support and gentle guidance. I was asked many times to write down the 6-week course I taught, eventually I did and self-published Art in My Heart; The Power of Watercolor Mandala Making.
I see mandalas as a record of a journey to one’s heart, to one’s inner light and an amazing guide to the step-by-step process of peace and happiness. Mandalas helped me with another powerful journey when the results of a biopsy I had on 9/11/2001 proved to be cancer. Most of the mandalas you see here, which are a record of the inner visions I had of flowers and nature, are from that period of healing. It was a time of deep emotional healing as well. Old feelings from the past, which I had stuffed, came up. Feelings of grief, depression, loneliness and terrible anxiety surfaced from years of holding all of it in. It was difficult, but so necessary, and I’m glad I got help and worked through it. Painting mandalas, working inside the sacred circles and using them as a container for my feelings, changed my life forever. I am happy to say that I am now well and thriving. I feel very fortunate and excited to be able to share these visions and to teach others what I have learned about this amazing and powerful tool.
My husband, Don Faia, is also an artist. The first time I saw him he was wearing jeans and cowboy boots. Here’s the cowboy! It was love at first sight! We share an art studio on the Northern California coast and he has brought mandalas into his life too. Besides being a painter, he is a creative art director and designer, has done many package designs incorporating mandalas and was the designer of my book.
In my marriage to Don I was gifted with a step daughter who is the most beautiful human being. And now I’ve been gifted again with a granddaughter who is also beautiful and an artist in her own right. I am blessed!