Happy Accidents, the Yoga of Painting, & Jean-Baptiste

image jean baptists water shimmering

Aloha, Noble Friends!

With Thanksgiving near, I am thankful for you, my cyber-circle of friends, readers, clients, students, artists, dancers, humanitarians, teachers, and creatures.

What else am I grateful for? Happy accidents. There have been so many happy accidents this past year that I hesitate to call them accidents. Miracles is more accurate. Joyful surprises require patient watching and listening with what Rumi called, “the third ear,” the ear of the heart. That kind of listening is what gives the batik silk paintings of a gifted artist from Saint Lucia their luminous magic, which is definitely something to be grateful for.


Artist Daniel Gabriel Angelo Jean-Baptiste draws on the tropical nature of his Caribbean island home, surrounded by lush, color-drenched trees, birds, and aromatic flowers. His work, popular in the private art collections of Paul Simon, Nelson Mandela, and others, has an otherworldly depth that is surprisingly the result of – an unpredictable moment, a mistake, a disaster!

Jean-Baptiste was living close to nature in the lush rainforest of St. Lucia, in Choiseul, when it happened. As he painted one day in 1996, his three-year-old daughter Helen accidentally spilt a cup of water on a painting in progress.

“What looked like a disaster turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” he says.

The wet painting dried into a finish of complex textures and colors, and his “shimmering light water effects” were born. It was just so different and “out of this world,” that his discovery led to a unique quality in Jean-Baptiste’s silk painting that has influenced many artists around the world.

But there’s another quality. When he paints, he says, he becomes the tree frog in the mists of the rainforest, and feels himself as the sea turtle gliding in the deep blue waters of Anse Chastanet Bay. This honored teacher has posted high-quality teaching videos on youtube for anyone to enjoy and learn his methods. Check them out for techniques or if you simply want to meditate on water, color, and the beauty of life.

“What I teach is for the student to really discover their unique self in their artistic expression,” he says.


Thanksgiving as an idea and time to set aside for appreciating our lives, and both the intended and unintended progress, mistakes, and successes we’ve made along the way.

There’s an important distinction between the deep feelings of gratitude, family and sharing that a true Thanksgiving is, and the old-fashioned Thanksgiving, the one where you kill a turkey, invite everyone in the neighborhood to your house, have an enormous feast, and then kill them and take their land. That Thanksgiving has become a false symbol of a dying world, one where the dignity of all life was not respected.

In the new world where all life is valued and respected, Thanksgiving is still a time of harvest and sharing, and we feel full not so much because we’re stuffed with turkey, but because we are protecting and loving the world around us, its oceans, forests, and air, the animals and creatures who nourish our world and share in this inextricable web. Where we harm others, we harm ourselves.

As Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe so wisely said, “Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Because we’re human, and we evolved to be anxious so that we would be aware of threats and learn to survive in the jungle, we can be overwhelmed with worry. But we now know that we are more sustainable as a species when we choose appreciation over anxiety and anger, connect with cooperation instead of competition or domination.

During this holiday season, let’s relax our guardedness a little and invite more happy accidents into our lives, like Jean-Baptiste, and see what surprises may come.

Like his light shimmering water effects, what dreams may come!?
Happy Thanksgiving!


You can find Jean-Baptiste’s work at http://www.jean-baptiste.com

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