Perhaps it was already written in the stars that I would become an artist when I came to earth a wintry December night some 60 years ago. The family is certainly full of artistic talent, but it took me many years to discover that vein. First, I needed to experience the world. Eastern philosophies often say that one should not take on inner work until mid life, that the first part of life is meant to gain experience via the outer life. Only then are you ready to explore the worlds within.
Born (1952) and raised in Sweden, I moved to Seattle, WA, USA (1967) in my early teens. I graduated with honors from the University of Washington with a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering on a NASA Traineeship and cruised into an international career in the paper industry. At Scott Paper Company in Everett, WA I started as a project engineer, became their first woman engineering supervisor, moved to logistics/procurement taking the packaging supply management into the computer age. Then onto France, a dream come true, to help build a new factory outside Orléans. After fifteen years of doing high speed career, it was time for a change. Mid life crisis and burnout (1991) led to deep studies of inner processes, which altogether could constitute a university degree in Life Energy.
As so often happens, the universe helped set it up. Too chicken to quit outright, I took a three month leave of absence. In the midst of yet another reorganization, I got laid off. Now what? I’d always been interested in the “why are we here?” type questions. I especially wanted to understand how the energy flows in our bodies, not just the chakras. The phone rings…
“I’ve just had the most marvelous session of energy work,” says my friend. “It was like champagne bubbles popping all over. You have to try this! The method is called SHEN.”
I made an appointment, and before I knew it, I was on a journey of self discovery that would eventually take me back to Sweden. I trained as a SHEN Therapist, Hypnotherapist, Gemstone Therapist, joined the Sound Healers of Washington, co-facilitated Life Mission Circles, studied Meditation and Life Energy, Huna and Time Line Therapy as well as Personal Presence. In Sweden I picked up Therapeutic Dance, Intuitive Art and Lomi-Lomi Massage. My studies took me to Norway and the UK. I went on to train as an Instructor in SHEN, and just as I was packing to go pick up my diploma, the organization split into SHEN and Kairos. Instead of following my mentor into Kairos and starting over, I helped create the SHEN Therapies Network and now facilitate retreats around the world for experienced therapists.
But what does all the training in inner processes have to do with becoming an artist and author? Everything, it turns out. Those workshops taught intuition, emotions and staying present to the flow of life energy in the body. How to experience and express that which is beyond the logical mind.
I started painting while in SHEN Therapy in Seattle (1991). My therapist/artist encouraged me to express emotions without words. Using intense watercolors, I poured my pain into haunting images that spoke more than words could ever express. With most artists you can immediately recognize their work. Not so with mine, it’s quite varied. I never know what is going to appear, letting emotions, inspiration or intuition create the magic. Surrendering to whatever wants to percolate to the surface. I also work with creative dance, meditation, emotions, breath and sound healing to bring the life energy up and into the canvas.
I’ve traveled far and wide to present my work, been featured in the press on a regular basis, and was one of fifteen Swedish artists selected for the TellusArt project in India in 2010, doing exhibitions and workshops with leading artists from Asia and Scandinavia.
“I write, I paint, I travel… and occasionally do an exhibition or workshop, somewhere in the world”
Although I’d been painting on and off since 1991, simply to express what was within, it took until 2002 to produce a real painting. Some of our best stuff comes about unintentionally. When we let go of the attachment to an outcome, and simply do for the sake of doing, for the sake of playing with colors, exploring techniques, abandoning the search for accomplishment, then, when we least expect it, magic happens. With no apparent effort, art is produced, that could not have happened from a stance of “this is what I want to paint.”
I’m often asked what I was thinking when I painted a certain piece. The key is not to. The key is to allow whatever wants to come through, come through. I see so many artists stop themselves in mid process, because their mind says it should happen a certain way. That to make a mess is not ok. That certain colors are not considered spiritual. You have to let yourself go. Like a dancer who becomes the dance, the artist is the art.
I seldom name my art, but give each piece a letter and number for identification. That way each observer gets a unique experience. You see what you see. Someone else sees something completely different. It was fun to have a visitor ask “is that a Georgia O’Keeffe?” and be able to answer “No, it’s an Eva Dillner orginal.”
For many years I painted with a group. We’d met during a workshop called Vedic Art, a set of 17 principles for the creative process developed by Curt Källman and the Maharishi. After the initial course of four weekends, we started a peer learning group, continuing to meet one weekend a month. We talked and painted and socialized. We shared techniques and explored ideas and philosophies.
I explored different mediums, pens and crayons, and eventually settled on acrylic paints. I experimented with canvas board and different kinds of canvases, cotton and linen. I was just playing and having fun. Painting layer after layer until, voilà, another painting was complete.
You know how it is when a train gathers steam to leave the station? My art was that way. During the early years I didn’t produce very much. My focus was on learning and playing, and my process took me through layer upon layer of paint. My confidence was not in place; to know when to stop, when to add, when to subtract, when to change one little thing to make the painting complete. It’s a sense that you have to develop. Practice and practice, until you get a feel for it. I was still getting my sea legs, to use another metaphor. My focus was more on the writing, the painting was just there to support that.
In 2004 I participated in a workshop taught by the founder of Vedic Art, Curt Källman. He was himself classically trained, and thought there had to be a better way to teach art:
“Vedic Art does not teach you how to paint. Vedic Art is a method to help you to remember how to paint. And not only to remember how to paint and create art… From the beginning, when we first hear of the 17 principles of Vedic Art, we tap into the nature of existence, the story of life: where we have come from and where we are going.Vedic Art is a navigation map. Use the compass you have in your mind and find the way to the chamber of peace in your heart. Then, when you dip your brush in the light, the space and the bliss, eternity will be pictured.
When you enter your work of art — your self-referential dialogue — you will find the code of how life can be lived and how a piece of art can open the doors of heaven and earth.”
Curt Källman, Founder of Vedic Art
November 1, 2004
During the workshop I’d painted A143, shown on the left. When Curt saw it he exclaimed “You must have studied at Konstfack!” (the biggest and possibly the most prestigious art school in Sweden) It still didn’t dawn on me that I had art talent. That was my mother’s domain. And my grandmother’s. And my cousins’. Why it didn’t sink in that I could really paint is a bit of a mystery. But all through school, I was told that I couldn’t: “You must fill out the paper, you can’t paint the elephant blue…” and I still can’t draw freehand worth a hoot. So many classically trained artists express a wish to paint abstract. For me it’s a piece of cake. I can’t do it any other way. A recent invite to exhibit was in a gallery on Madion Avenue in New York… a clear signal that I should continue with my art!
Like a dancer who becomes the dance, the artist is the art.