Lesson 5: Follow the Signs


< Back to Classroom     -     Next Lesson >





In this final chapter, we explore light as a metaphor for our truth, our stories, the meaning of our journey, and the guidance we receive as we walk our path.

If we pay attention and open up to possibility, sacred guidance shows up for us every step of the way, through stories, symbols, serendipity and synchronicities! Follow the signs, follow your light... it knows the way home to yourself.


Images, shapes, words, numbers, colors... carry layer upon layer of symbolic meaning and messages. They are different for each of us. They speak the secret language of our soul, they shine a light for us as we walk towards our dreams.

The symbols that show up for us are deeply personal and at the same time universal. The meaning and the energy of a symbol builds up through thousands of years, of lives, of stories... They are guiding lights that show us the way and tell us there is so much more to life if we pay attention, if we choose to follow our path with a sense of wonder and trust.

If I could, I’d write a huge encyclopedia just about the words luck and coincidence. It’s with those words that the universal language is written.
— Paulo Coehlo, "The Alchemist"

Incorporating our personal symbols into the art we create is a powerful thing. Sometimes they show up unexpectedly when we work intuitively with collage, paint, assemblage... Other times we can deliberately choose to work with a particular symbol in a single piece or a whole body of work.

For instance, one of my most personal symbols is a winged key. It mysteriously "came up" shortly after embarking on my path as an artist, while I was doing my first assemblage experiments. I haven't fully deciphered it yet... Year after year I keep going back to this symbol and every time it teaches me something new.



PHOTO Discoveries: SYMBOLS on your path

Shapes, animals, words, specific numbers or a particular color... What symbol, or symbols, are showing up in your life? Are there symbols that you like to hunt for or surround yourself with? Look around you and follow the breadcrumbs...

Share your images on Instagram with the hashtag #layersoflightart



In this lesson's project we are going to combine the intuitive and magical process of working with a symbol, and the "rational" structure of a grid composition. This is a way to invite both parts of our brain to play! Grids can be found in many forms in our daily surroundings. When you start looking for them, you'll find them everywhere! Notice how they often contain, separate or protect things. How they contrast with other, more organic elements...



There is hidden meaning everywhere if we look for it, or simply invite it in. Even within stories that already exist! One of my favorite warm-up activities is found poetry, or as it turns out, more often than not, "found stories"...

This is a very simple process that will instantly transport you to new places and usually echoes stories, memories and feelings that lie deep within. It will also most certainly take you out of your comfort zone! Sometimes it turns out to be valuable guidance, other times the potential idea for a painting, or simply a beautiful story to enjoy. There are many ways to do this but here is how it works for me:

  • Grab a favorite book that you don't mind tearing apart (I usually have an extra copy just for reading...)

  • Take a moment to breathe, close your eyes and speak to the "hidden story", inviting it to reveal itself.

  • Open the book randomly

  • Quickly scan the page that has presented itself, not reading it but jumping from one word to another, lightly underlining the ones that attract your eye with a pencil.

  • Then start from the top and choose a word, most often what will be the subject of your first sentence.

  • Then look at what follows to find a verb, and so on until you have a complete sentence that "feels right". Go on in this way until you reach the bottom of the page.

  • Blacken or whiten the rest of the words. For white, I first frame the words with a white Posca, then use a small flat brush and white paint. For black, I use my Stabilo All black pencil then add thinned down gel medium with my brush (there are many more creative examples in the "Hidden Stories" Pinterest board below!)

  • Tape the page in a journal and copy the "story" on the opposite page. You can also tape it to your inspiration wall or do something completely different with it, and even incorporate it into a piece of art!


Sometimes only one sentence will be enough, other times parts of a dialogue will appear, sometimes the outcome is more complex and leaves me wondering... But every time it surprises me and fills me with gratitude for the gift of unearthing this buried treasure. Most of the time too, it feels like "co-creating" with the author of the book, and with so much more...

I always end by thanking the story for trusting me to bring it into the light.

Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life.
— Paulo Coelho


Create a "My personal symbols" board on your Pinterest and find images that represent these magical signs in your life! They can be elements of nature, animal guides, objects, numbers, primitive symbols, abstract shapes... They can be symbols that repeatedly show up for you, in your life, in your art... or simply that you love and feel drawn to. Click below for some inspiring starting points on symbols, found stories and grid composition:







One of the things I love, in art as in life, is the "dance" of intuition and structure. Probably because I feel that it reconciles parts of ourselves that are often seen as opposites: soul and mind, right brain and left brain, masculine and feminine, the outer adult person and the inner child... I feel like this kind of approach invites wholeness and harmony. Plus it's really fun!

He remembered something his grandfather had once told him; that butterflies were a good omen. Like crickets, and like expectations; like lizards and four-leaf-clovers.
— Paulo Coehlo

In this project you are invited to choose a personal symbol that appeals to you (because if it does, it most certainly means that it has something to tell you!). I chose the butterfly because it's a symbol I love, one that has kept coming back in my life since I was a little girl, and in my art since I started painting. It showed up unexpectedly in my Soul Board from chapter one, and when a symbol does that, I know better than to ignore it...

I encourage you to truly follow the signs and let your symbol for this project reveal itself to you. Maybe you will find it in your photographic or Pinterest quests, maybe it will show up in your journaling (sometimes as a doodle in the margins!), maybe it awaits you in your Soul Board if you look more closely...

Bu the beauty of symbols is that they are both personal and universal, which means that you are more than welcome to play with the same symbol I did. I believe that symbols have a spirit of their own, and if the Butterfly chose to invite itself on camera, I'm pretty sure it has guidance to offer to more than just me!

Green was the silence, wet was the light,
the month of June trembled like a butterfly.
— Pablo Neruda


In this deeply layered project, we will:

  • work with a personal symbol and open up to its guidance

  • create a beautiful collage underlayer and combine it with a "grid" composition

  • layer words, imagery, white, color and neutral tones

  • get inspired by wax as we create an encaustic effect with matte medium

  • work in a series!



  • Your choice of substrate: stretched canvas, wood panel, canvas board...

  • A variety of papers, including imagery related to your chosen symbol (for instance I chose vintage images of butterflies, but also botanical prints of flowers that butterflies like, a page of Alice in Wonderland where she meets the caterpillar...)

NB: My favorite resource for free, public domain vintage images is thegraphicsfairy.com

  • Acrylic paint in white, neutral tones, brown and an accent color of your choice.

  • Alcohol inks and/or acrylic inks

  • Matte gel medium

  • Medium and small flat paintbrushes

  • A plastic palette knife (not too fine)

  • Needle tool/awl

  • Water and a clean rag

  • White Posca pen

  • Black pigment liner

  • Black Stabilo All watersoluble pencil or Neocolor II watersoluble pastel


INTRO: Symbology

A look at personal symbols as a source of inspiration.


STEP 1: getting ready

Choose your symbol/theme, meet your supplies and gather images.


STEP 2: collage

We start with a beautiful layer of collage!


STEP 3: Layering

We add light and meaning with paint and journaling.


STEP 4: encaustic-inspired effect

Here I'm showing you how to create the encaustic effect with matte gel medium! I'm taking the time to really show you the gestures I use, so bear with me... this video is basically me spreading icing on a cake over and over again!


STEP 5: grid composition

Creating structure with a grid composition: this is going to contrast beautifully with the more intuitive look of the collage.



We keep layering with white highlights and color accents of paint and ink.


STEP 7: Finishing touches

Make the paintings come alive!


NB: At the end of the video you'll see I have reworked the pieces a bit off camera (sometimes you need to take off the pressure and let go!). What I have done is erase some black lines from the top frame of the green butterfly piece, and add tiny splatters in brown and white.



Please share your questions and creations below in the comments and/or in our private Facebook group!

You can also share images of your creative process and the art you create in this class on Instagram with the hashtag #layersoflightart!




I am delighted to welcome Light-Bearers Stephanie Lee and Jessica Brogan! These two ladies have both helped me step into my role as a teacher and create this class, and I know they will inspire you too!



Artist, art instructor, mentor and workaround warrior... Read the interview HERE



Writer, artist, traveler and circle maker... Read the interview HERE




Please ask your questions, share your journey and post your photos in the comments below! Make sure to check out what other participants are posting, encourage each other and make new creative friends!