‘Either paint or drink heavily’

Christine Burke is not an art therapist. But, she is an artist and a former special education teacher who used art in the classroom for her students. Later, some health issues in the family led to her becoming a certified health coach.

She took those disparate elements of her life and mixed them with the stereotype of the starving artist to come up with the book, "The Well-Nourished Artist," just released. The subtitle is "8 ways to feed your creative soul."

But, as she said in a recent interview, the book is really aimed at the creative spirit in each person. If there’s any one group of people Burke is trying to reach, however, it’s "the young moms."

After 12 years in the classroom, Burke moved to Concord Township to raise her family. But, she also recalled several quotes she had heard along her path. One was from Maya Angelou: "There’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."

The Well-Nourished Artist, by Christine Burke, includes a foreword from Chadds Ford's Karl Kuerner.

Another quote was from Carl Jung: "Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of a parent."

Burke knew she had to get back to her art, something she had loved since childhood. It was time to raise her skill, so she enrolled for classes at Darlington Arts Center.

"I heard a voice in my head saying I could either paint or drink heavily."

She had another thought, as well, one directly linked to Jung’s quote. "I must start painting and writing so I don’t live my life through my children," she said.

While getting back to her arts at Darlington, she met and studied with Chadds Ford artist Karl Kuerner for 15 years. She said Kuerner has been instrumental in her development as an artist, not just in the execution of painting, but in attitude and the way she thinks about and approaches her work.

That work blossomed to the point where was accepted to show in the annual Chadds Ford Elementary School Art Sale and Show. This year was her second year there.

In the process of raising the level of her art, health issues arose in her personal life. After researching those issues, she and her teenage son became gluten- and dairy-free and the symptoms they had been experiencing have disappeared.

Burke took yearlong classes online to become a certified health coach and she sees a strong link between the physical health of the body through nutrition with the emotional health and well being derived when people nourish their creative spirit.

"There’s a lot of integrating all that a person is in coaching," she said.

She wants people to live their dream, or at least give those dreams an honest shot even for those raising a family. And she said not to let the opinions of others stand in the way.

Burke has faced her share of negative criticism. Though she had begun drawing at a young age — "I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil," she said — an art teacher in school told her she had no talent.

"If no one laughs at your dreams, you’re not dreaming big enough" she said.

The once little girl who started drawing by copying Charles Schultz’s Peanuts characters, said everyone, from new moms to starving artists should follow eight steps to nourish their creative souls. Each of those steps involves "accepting our own humanness," she said.

The first step is what she calls "gratitude with a twist." That not only means expressing what you’re grateful for, but those things you’re not grateful for. It’s a matter of owning those things so you can release them instead of holding them inside where they can control you.

Then there is dealing with "creativity thieves," such as the teacher who told Burke she had no talent. She said to use meditation to question those who poison the creative spirit with negatives.

As one might expect, Burke said to "use your emotions to create. Think of art as a place to put them so they’re not bottled up inside."

Another step is to meditate. Become quiet in order to hear what your internal spirit is trying to say. "Surrender and take inspired action."

Next is "self-care with a spin. It’s not just about the good things. It’s facing the things we have to do. Intermingle them. We all have darks and lights. It’s the human experience."

Then there is food. "Treat your body like a work of art," she said.

Burke also said people should "be bold, be brave, and be you. It’s about giving yourself permission to be who and what you are."

The last step is to "break the right rules. Creativity is defiant."

"The Well-Nourished Artist" is self-published and available through Amazon. The foreword for the book is from Karl Kuerner who said in part:

"The beauty of art itself is the creative spirit. In fact, it is the "Art Spirit." How hard is that to find? It begins with opening up to your passion and giving yourself permission…Robert Henri (from the Ashcan School of Art) wrote a book called The Art Spirit. I was fortunate to come across it at the beginning of my career. It changed my life. Indeed, you do come across brothers and sisters in the art field. One of those is Christine Burke. Her passion for life helped her create these next pages. Her love for art and the creative soul has shaped who she is today. People will find that her words in this are more than a book, but a way to look in one’s self and discover more roads are possible in their lives; after all, sharing one’s passion is contagious."



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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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