If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know I’ve been drafting a book during the Covid pandemic entitled, Who Stole Our Joy? For over two years we’ve been marinated in the grey and black swamp of fear. Singing and dancing were even banned for periods in countries like Australia. Importantly, so was travel.
After more than two years of being closed off from the world, we were yearning to rediscover the joy of exotic places and our love of leisure (i.e. taking a break!). Our last holiday had been over 26 months— one pandemic ago.
As I shared on my previous blog, back in March 2020 when we were deliberating whether to go to Tonga, signs of Covid-19 were distant rumblings on the horizon. A friend, who is very senior in the Foreign Ministry, said with no small degree of urgency, “If you are going to go, go now and hurry home.” We had no idea that the closure of New Zealand borders was imminent.
Back in New Zealand in 2020, everything seemed normal. Yet when we arrived in Tonga the customs people there were dressed in full-body blue protective suits. It seemed strange. Surreal. A little over the top, we thought then. Someone close to our Prime Minister told us she had said, “It’s just media hype.” New Zealand remained unvigilant.
How things changed. Travel quickly became a thing of the past. If you did get away post-March 2020, chances were you would not be allowed to return back to New Zealand. You would be locked out of your own country—regardless of vaccine or health status. Either that or you would have to endure lengthy, expensive, freedom-limiting quarantine stays in confining, repurposed hotels.
So in April 2022, when it was announced that travel could recommence and self-testing would become the new return-home standard, we leapt at the chance to get away for a major reset. We needed a change. We needed to feel joy again.
“Where should we go?” my partner asked.
“Fiji,” I said, instantly. “It’s our happy place.”
In April 2022, while the New Zealand Prime Minister visited Singapore, Japan and other countries, affirming, “New Zealand is open for business,” Fiji took a different approach. Recognising that for 26 months, global citizens had experienced extreme anguish, this tiny pacific country reopened for happiness. And they delivered generously!
Happiness is good for business. I share more statistics on the power of happiness in my career change and life transformation book, What Makes You Happy. Tourists returned in droves. When we arrived in Nadi it was like arriving on a different planet. Or rather, as though we had time travelled back in time. Cries of “Bula!” chorused everywhere. “Welcome home! We’re glad you’re back.”
And glad they were. With no social security system Fijians were left to fend for themselves. “I didn’t have any work for over two years,” the father of three who checked out our rental car told us. “It was very, very tough.”
Like Fijians, having money to pay my bills and afford my lifestyle makes me happy. How quickly we forget 2020, when the world stopped and business dropped in the blink of an eye. Layoffs. Furloughs. Forced pay cuts. The worst. Some governments, including New Zealand, bailed out their people and corporations with interest free-loans, deferred repayments, and printed money. Some commentators are noting that the toll is about to climb. Bailouts won’t happen again. Inflation is on the climb. “It feels too much like 2008,” Tim Denning.
As I write, New Zealand is still closed to most of the world. Not until late July will we open to the rest of the world. Things are going to get ‘bumpy’ to say the least. If the last few years have taught us anything is that you have to go for life while you can—at any moment, not of your own doing, someone, something, can whip it away.
Cling on for the ride—and hang onto happiness.
Off the top of my heart here are some of the many things that make me happy:
I share ways you can find what makes your heart sing in my career change and life transformation book, What Makes You Happy.
I took a little box of watercolour paints and some pads of watercolour paper and set an intention to go on a digital detox, just as I did when I travelled to Tonga back in 2020.
Spending time painting played a large role in switching off my devices. I was so prolific while I was in Fiji. Fiji inspired me and reawakened my love of vibrant colours.
Because of the many, many times that we have been loyal guests of the Warwick In Fiji We were extremely fortunate to have been introduced to the hotel manager and given a room upgrade to a presidential suite. I had plenty of room (and privacy) to paint, including a balcony with a sea view and a garden room too.
The housekeeping staff took great delight in seeing my tally of daily paintings. I can still see their astonished smiles and the chorus of “Miss Cassandra! Miss Cassandra!” which followed me around the resort.
Warwick In Fiji is our favourite place to stay. They have an adults-only pool and beach area which I love. Plus they cater to families so wonderfully too. Plus it’s only a short two-hour drive from Nadi, making it easy to maximise your time on holiday. We love to rent a car which gives us absolute freedom.
I purchased six books, including a few second-hand ones, before I left. Some from authors I knew, and a few new to me. Like Delia Owens and her book, Where the Crawdads Sing. Which I absolutely loved! Having leisure time away from household chores like cooking and cleaning and running a 10-acre property left me with precious free time to read all my books. Pure bliss!
I also enjoyed Hunter Biden’s memoir, Beautiful Things. As a former therapist and author of books to help people overcome alcohol addiction, I was fascinated by his story of recovery. President Biden’s son opens up about the trauma of his mother and sister’s death when he was young, his addiction to crack, his romantic relationship with his sister-in-law and the new love that halted his cycle of despair. I’ve always believed love is the drug that often leads to healing.
Recently I discovered the exciting work of Aida Tomescu. In an interview, she shared how getting on a plane and travelling tops up her inspiration well.
As one reviewer wrote, “Although Tomescu’s work is completely abstract she has a sense of colour and surface texture that might have envied. The yellows and reds in this exhibition are ferocious, the blues and greens are like a vision of the world from beneath the surface of the ocean.”
Fiji and her clash of vibrant colours had a profound impact on me. I became emboldened. Alive. Excited. I hadn’t felt that way in years. When I returned to New Zealand, just in time for Mother’s Day I decided to create an exhibition and share some of my Fiji-inspired works
My partner indulged my need to go on long drives and photograph the rainbow of colours with which Fijians paint their homes.
No sober depressing greys or sterile whites. Fijian homes sing ‘Out with sadness and in with joy’. . .oranges, pinks, pacific blues, and gorgeous greens…amongst other colours vie for attention
This earlier work, “New Leaf” created in 2020 was part of my New Beginnings series. A year later it caught the eye of a lady who had grown up in Fiji. If you look closely you can see the word ‘love’ infused in the canvas. This also took on special significance as her mother had recently died and it reminded her of the love she felt for her mum. She brought it instantly.
My client was so delighted to be reminded of the happy memories that the banana yellows and verdant tropical greens evoked, she took this photo of me with her new painting when she came to pick it up from my working studio and gallery, Art@rangitane.
I was so happy to be able to give my collector’s the gift of joy and reawakening wonderful memories. My new collector will feel these happy vibes every time she gazes at her painting in her home.
What does sustainability mean in the world of art? What does “green” mean, when it comes to creating organically? In some circumstances, there’s a clear answer, for example repurposing a canvas and recreating art in a blaze of nature-inspired colours. This is exactly what happened when I returned from my trip to Fiji—the background morphed from black, to dark green, to lime!
While I was away another new collector who had seen my work on view at Ake Ake restaurant confirmed she would love to commission a colourful piece of ‘happy art’ from me. Like me, she too has many happy memories of Fiji. I’m sure some of these gorgeous colours will seep into her customised painting. You can follow the commission process on my Instagram page> https://www.instagram.com/cassandragaisford/
Not long after I returned from Fiji a painting saturated in sunny yellows emerged from me, Sweet Surrender. I couldn’t resist sneaking out another painting for my ‘Bloomin’ Mad’ exhibition which opened on Mother’s Day, May 8, 2022, a few days after I returned from Fiji. Created in a moment of passion, I decided to name this yummy piece “Sweet Surrender.” It definitely has a Fiji ‘banana’ vibe!
As an intuitive artist following my inner joy, I know the magic in painting (and in life) is to remember that you just have to surrender to it and just go with it. In the end, despite much frenetic energy, ( including reworking an earlier painting) there really is a calm in the whole concept of Sweet Surrender.
I also love the following: “It’s my choice to be joyful. I’m giving up on sorrow”, Trevor Hall, Jupiter’s Call.
This is why I’m The Joyful Artist creating happy art. You may think,” gosh how does that help anyone?” but it does …believe me I know from the 20 years I have spent as an art, couples and child therapist, that creating art helps with anxiety and despair and depression and I know people who receive my paintings tell me how much joy they bring to their lives so that’s how I show up. I bring the gift of colour. Fiji brings this gift of colour too.
Sweet Surrender. was created in the aftermath of a stressful life event, and as with all my paintings, I seek to shift the energies. So I created with joy as I flowed with grace. The painting was also inspired by the beauty of nature—a force reawakened while in Fiji.
Somewhere along the way in my fifties, I discovered the work of Helen Frankenthaler… I loved the way she embraced a childlike love of beauty and her call to ‘let er rip’ – to embrace spontaneous joy in colour. I devoured her bio and found a kindred soul. She had a very traumatic childhood and suffered from anxiety and sadness and found release in her paintings.
“Each crisis, if properly realized, can turn into production,” she wrote. Twenty days later, with the freedom and curiosity of a child, she painted what is regarded as her greatest work, Mountains and Sea. As Alexander Nererov writes in this biography of Helen Frankenthaler, Fierce Poise, “The painting recalled the freedom that Helen’s sociology professor Erich Fromm had espoused, “We all know what a spontaneous act is and may have some vision of what human life could be if these experiences were not such rare and uncultivated experiences.”
Fromm saw the opposite of this freedom all around him in his adopted country, the USA. I feel history repeating all around me currently in the wake of the pandemic restrictions. I wanted to feel more love, less fear and to help others achieve happiness too. I set an intention to make child-like spontaneity my new norm.
Capturing, creating and collaborating with others the beauty of childlike play has become my passion and joy. I love painting on the wing and seeing people moved by spontaneity, joy, and ultimately life itself. A large part of the joy in creating Sweet Surrender was finger painting! Remember when dug our hands into paint and squealed with joy as the paint oozed through our fingers? Sweet Surrender is infused with this joy.
This painting and others in the Bloomin’ Mad (Botanical Art) Series are a call to embrace happiness, love, hope and healing in our lives to live with the purpose to uplift ourselves and each other. The collection is embodied with love, positive energy, Reiki spiritual blessings and tremendous vitality which is peaceful, enlivening and enlightening at the same time. These works of heart will bring joy to any home or office.
Fiji and it’s happy colour palette have always influenced my art subliminally, it seems. This painting, Pretty Gorgeous, is another of my flow paintings…my biggest yet!
The inspiration for the name came quite simply from the first remark the fantastic framer I entrusted with stretching the raw canvas onto her final frame, Peter Sharp, said. As he unrolled the canvas from its roll, he grinned and said, “pretty gorgeous!”
Do you agree? Is she pretty gorgeous?!💜💙 I painted this for an audience of one—Me!
The joy of creating abstract paintings is the many meanings and beauty people find in them. This painting came from the landscapes of my mind…but I love that Rachel found a flower there. And it was lovely that someone also noted the influence of one of the artists I admire, New Zealand abstract painter and sculptor, Gretchen Albrecht.
Picasso once said, “a painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”In this case, I was seeking freedom and liberation. Unable to travel freely at the time of creating this my painting, Pretty Gorgeous, took me to places I have both been and never been:)
We are all colours that are constantly changing, we evolve every day, we vary every minute, and it is fun to reflect why these expansive ‘flow’ paintings feel so different to me. Because my mood is constantly changing, the colours I am drawn to are constantly evolving too.
Gorgeously layered with a sensuously saturated palette of cerulean blue, tropical greens, radiant yellows, and flourishes of vibrant lavenders, Pretty Gorgeous embodies the new energy of flow, optimism, hope and renewal that our souls ache for after the tumultuous, confining time of Covid lockdowns.
I love this reminder by Dr, Hawkins about the power of art.
~ Dr. David Hawkins
Not long after returning from Fiji,(less than one week after returning) a lovely lady who was finally able to travel to New Zealand from Australia to visit her family, purchased one of my radiant flower paintings When Love First Tasted Your Lips.
In this video, I share a little about my creative process, where I gain my inspiration and the many ways art speaks to our soul. You’ll see me working on a painting which recently sold, called, “When Love First Tasted Your Lips”.
Clients often love the story behind the painting. In part, this is why I created this video. I hope you love it too.
Being away from social media, newspapers and fear-mongering press was amazing for my creativity. Along with painting, and photography, I took time out to write. Somewhat appropriately the book I was working on and pretty near completed is The Art of Life: Thriving Through Chaos.Insights and Inspiration to Spark and Sustain Your Creative Life.
This book is part memoir, part reflections on living on a pandemic and part sharing the inspiration and process behind my paintings. Isabelle Allende once said, “write what should not be forgotten.” I write to inspire, heal, encourage and cheerlead myself to keep being a rebel with a cause—to show up for love in a world enamoured by war.
My hope for you, dear friend, in reading this book is that you will be encouraged, emboldened, and energised too. Like Cynthia who wrote to me after receiving my newsletter, “I’m just sitting here trying to reply through blurry eyes full of tears after having a good cry & wondering where I lost myself & thinking how much I miss my happy bubbly self …That was just beautiful. Thanks for sharing that with me.”
Sometimes uplifting words, received at the right time, can reawaken our hearts and set us forth on a path of inspired change. This book expands upon the themes introduced in The Art of Life Inspiration Deck. To purchase this uplifting deck of cards navigate to my online store: https://shop.cassandragaisford.com/product/the-art-of-life-inspiration-deck/. Sign up to my newsletter to be the first to know when The Art of Life: Thriving Through Chaos. Insights and Inspiration to Spark and Sustain Your Creative Life is released.
As I share in my popular Midlife Career Rescue series of career change and self-employment books, you don’t always need to quit your current line of work to experience more happiness. As Laurie’s story below highlights, sometimes you just have to re-engineer where, how and when you do your work. Energy goes, where energy flows. If you’re not thriving, identify your stressors and make a change for the better. Doing this many years ago enabled my partners and I to operate location independent businesses. Writing, painting and creating in Fiji and other exotic locales has always been the dream.
I made a fun video shoot before packaging “When Love First Tasted Your Lips” to her new forever home in Sydney today.
You may enjoy this video from Dave Rubin where he discusses the life-changing magic of going on a digital detox
I hope you enjoyed this colourful travel tale. In late April 2022, we made a bold dash for freedom and experienced the life-changing magic of taking 12-days out of the world. It’s never enough! But having these memories and sharing this story with you, and the art that our travels inspired will keep this experience blooming in my energy field for a lifetime. Stay tuned for our upcoming news of any even bigger change. Sign up to my newsletter for news of my upcoming art and book releases, including:
The Art of Life: Thriving Through Chaos. Insights and Inspiration to Spark and Sustain Your Creative Life. And A Week Out of the World. – a celebration of life, unexpected joys and treasures that even the simplest encounter can yield of meeting people, of thousands of FTEs, (first-time experiences) and wandering down unfamiliar paths. This book follows my daughter and post a similarly stressful time as we travelled across the Pacific, to Samoa many moons ago.
Sign up for my email list and receive a free gift: http://eepurl.com/huqe1T
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I am an artist, storyteller, intuitive guide, mentor and Reiki master. All my creations are infused with positive energy , inspiration, and light. I believe in magic and the power of beauty, joy, love, purpose, and creativity to transform your life. My greatest joy is helping your realize your dreams. That makes my soul sing!
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