A couple of months ago I came across some very inspiring posts on Facebook, accompanied by images of beautiful and colourful paintings. I truly loved the vibes of the genuine messages and artist Rita Loyd and I soon became friends on Facebook.
I quickly began to understand that Rita’s core message and the reason why I founded Soul Love have a very similar intention – A reminder to love yourself and share this with those around us. I therefore proudly introduce to you the kind and loving artist Rita Loyd.
Rita Loyd is a watercolor artist and a writer. The message of her work is about the healing power of unconditional self-love. Rita began to paint healing art in 1996, as a way to cope with chronic illness and depression. As she continued to paint through the years, the creative process became her teacher, healer and friend, guiding her to find the true meaning of self-love. She writes about this experience and more in her book Unconditional Self-Love: What It Is, Why It’s Important and How to Nurture It in Your Life.
Rita’s Healing Art has been exhibited in Art Galleries, Gift Shops, Art Festivals, Community Events and Domestic Violence Shelters in the South East Region of the U.S. Her artwork has been featured on over 100 magazine covers across the U.S. and in Canada. Her writing and story have been published in magazines in the U.S. and in New Zealand.
Rita Loyd lives in Huntsville, Alabama, with her husband, Jody. Her main focus is on helping her father care for her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. She continues to write and paint and even hopes to write her first song this summer about unconditional Self-Love.
Interview with Rita Loyd
Dirk Terpstra: Can you tell me a bit more about your personal journey related to your illness and depression and in what way the art of painting and writing was so therapeutic to you?
Rita Loyd: My illness began in 1995, after I was exposed to chemicals in the workplace and in school (I was employed at a sign shop and worked with glues and pulverized plastics. At school I studied photography so I worked with photo developing chemicals). After about a year of exposure to these chemicals my immune system weakened and I began to have stomach problems with ulcers. My ulcers were so difficult to heal that I could barely eat and subsequently I lost my strength and had to quit both school and work.
After a year of illness I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.) My family doctor was unable to help me so I turned to alternative medicine and treatments for help. But it would take years for my stomach to heal and for me to regain some of the strength that I had lost. During this dark night of the soul I read spiritual books for answers and although they were insightful and enlightening, I still needed something more. I felt as if I did not deserve to take up space. I felt as if I were lost and alone.
It was then that I began to paint healing art as a way to cope with my illness, anxiety and depression. I would paint myself as I was or how I wished to be. Most often I would paint myself peaceful and whole and then I would imagine that image to be a future reflection of myself; a glimpse into the future. My art was like faith; it was the proof of what I hoped for and the evidence of things yet seen.
My art lifted me up in many ways. It became my friend, healer and teacher. A friend, for it was always there to listen to how I felt without judgment, a healer, for it helped me to process my thoughts and feelings as I searched for the inspiration of what to paint next, and my teacher, for it taught me how to love myself unconditionally.
Dirk: How did your art teach you to love yourself?
Rita: My goal was to paint images that would lift my spirit. But in order to do this I first had to examine where in my spirit I needed lifting up; where in my life I felt wounded. This was not an easy question to answer because it required me to examine my shadow self; the part of myself that I most wanted to ignore because I felt ashamed of my flaws. And this shame that I felt would trigger a feeling of self-defensiveness, which would cause me to shut down and not be able to see or reveal my truth. So the only solution was to first create a safe space of observation. This space was created by agreeing to look inward with only kindness and non-judgment for that short period of time for the sake of creating art. I was to be a neutral observer rather than a condemning judge. I then would search for the cause of my wounds and for the spiritual advice that would help me to see my life in a more positive and healthy way. And that was what I painted.
After years of this practice, I realized that my creative process was teaching me how to love myself by giving me the setting and reason to: slow down, go inward, ask myself questions, seek new and positive answers, accept myself, forgive myself, learn from my mistakes, discover who I was and who I wanted to be, be patient with myself, trust myself, respect my sensitivity, quiet my inner critic, allow myself to speak and to share my voice.
Once I made the realization that my creative process was unconsciously teaching me how to love myself within the boundaries of creating art, I did a study on self-love and then I was able to learn how to incorporate self-love into all areas of my life.
Dirk: What does unconditional self-love mean to you?
Rita: Unconditional self-love is about speaking to yourself, treating yourself, and seeing yourself and your life (past, present, future), with all the qualities of love, including kindness, compassion, patience, fairness, respect, encouragement and forgiveness. It is also about paying attention to what your spirit, mind and body need in order to be happy, healthy and whole, to the best of your ability.
Dirk: What truths about life have you discovered during this journey?
Rita: My art and creative process has taught me many things. I have observed a parallel with life and my art. Here is some of what I have learned.
- Take risks when your life or your art is not what you want it be.
- If your intuition has proven to be trustworthy in life and art, then listen and trust it. If your intuition hasn’t been found to be trustworthy, then examine the filters in which you receive your information to see what is distorting the messages. (For example, sometimes fear and insecurity negatively distort the way we see and interpret life. Then we use that distorted information to make our decisions.)
- You can accomplish most any task if you don’t give up trying.
- Examine your life and your art, both close up and at a distance. Both perspectives are equally important in the evaluation process.
- The more you trust the process of life and art, the more you can relax and allow life and art to flow.
- Don’t take criticism personally in life or in art. Criticism is more about the preferences and limitations of the one speaking, than the one spoken about.
- When your life or your art overwhelms you, take a short break, and come back to it rested with a fresher mind.
- Ultimately, the only opinion that counts, concerning your life and your art, has got to be yours, or you will never be satisfied.
- Don’t allow the inner critic to stop you from speaking or expressing your truth. (Other things may warrant your restraint, but don’t let the inner critic determine what you say or do.)
- When you experience failure in life or art, don’t think of that failure in negative terms – instead think of it as something to learn from and to grow from. When we can ask ourselves, “Why didn’t this work out?” The answers to this question can give us crucial information that will help us make our future life or art much better.
Dirk: Where does unconditional self-love come from?
Rita: Let me begin by saying that there are two kinds of self-love. There is ego-based self-love and there is spirit-based self-love. Ego-based self-love comes from the ego and so do its concerns. It is a conditional love that allows you to love yourself only when everything in your life is going well and when you feel your appearance is attractive. Spirit-based self-love comes from our spirit and its concerns are from the spirit. Its concern is about the well being and healing of the whole person – spirit, mind and body, and its love is unconditional.
So unconditional self-love comes from within our own spirit. It is not something exterior to us that we are rewarded after doing something good. It’s not about earning it or deserving it. It is a seed already planted within us, just waiting to be nurtured in order to grow.
Dirk: In your book you often use beautiful affirmations. In what way are they so powerful to you?
Rita: In my art I include affirmations because they give the viewer a deeper understanding of what I am trying to say in my art. I think of my art as visual affirmations and so verbal affirmations come naturally. Personally, affirmations help me to reach a more peaceful and empowered place in my mind and they also help to interrupt negative intrusive thoughts. For example, when I become aware of a negative, intrusive thought, I say, “Negative thought, go to the light of God. I replace you with positive, healing, loving thoughts – positive, healing, loving thoughts – positive, healing, loving thoughts”. And when I cannot sleep, I tell myself, “The peace of God flows through my body and mind like a gently soothing river stream”.
I believe that the mind is very powerful and our words and thoughts help to access that power. I also believe that our words and thoughts influence our immune system and our state of well being.
“Sometimes we forget to love ourselves when life becomes difficult. But remember, it is when life becomes difficult that we need self-love the most”.
Dirk: My favourite part of your book are the exercises, they are so helpful in the process. Why have you decided to add them to the book?
Rita: I think it is important to not only give advice but to help others incorporate that advice into their own lives. And I feel that these exercises help to do that.
Dirk: Which of your paintings resonates the most with how you currently feel and why?
Rita: I am currently helping my dad care for my mom who has Alzheimer’s disease, which can be very overwhelming. So I would say that all of my recent paintings are my most meaningful because they were inspired by this experience and they deal with 1) my desire to feel more grounded and centered, 2) my desire to clear and protect my energy, 3) my desire to find my inner strength and courage, and 4) my desire to visualize my mother comforted by the love and light of God. Here are four examples of my most recent paintings. The inspiration and meaning for these paintings are discussed on my blog:
Dirk: Any final words Rita?
Rita: The path of unconditional self-love is a life long journey. Sometimes we forget to love ourselves when life becomes difficult. But remember, it is when life becomes difficult that we need self-love the most.
I encourage you to view Rita’s inspiring work please visit her website NurturingArt.com where she offers her greeting card line, her book and her recently created Unconditional Self-Love Message Card Deck. Personally, I really love her card deck.
INTERVIEW BY: DIRK TERPSTRA – SOUL LOVE FOUNDER