Category Archives: empath

Good Medicine, the inner and outer process behind a painting

I thought it might be interesting to follow the birth of one painting through a view of both the process pictures of paintings and the internal processes that lead to them. In creating my art, I move from the dialogue between my cracked identity and compensatory identity, through the dead zone of the unbearable, into the essence of a phenomenon like dreaming life dreams or loving self.

In order to paint like this, I need to live through the phenomenon in my own life, in tandem with painting.

Famous last words: I’ve broken up with drama

In August, I had a scary phone call to handle. A co-operative venture had filled my work life with drama. I used to be a drama junkie, so the emotion-laden telephone conversations, non-productive meetings, misunderstandings and general chaos were a deeply familiar pattern to me.

Veronica Torres, channeler of Eloheim always asks: How ridiculous does it have to get? For me, this means that sometimes a situation has to blow up really badly before I am ready to confront a blind spot of mine. Without going into details, the situation had come to that point on several levels.

I did what I do with my life and myself, took it to the canvas.

Dragon Fire

Then, baffled, sad, disappointed and at moments torn up, I dragged myself and my canvases to work counselling.

In that safe space I dared to let go of my compensatory identity, who is hell bent on finding the solution to anything. Nothing is too hard, too painful, too overwhelming to take in, contain, move around and transform. I let myself sink into the world view of my cracked identity who would offer to try to heal anything in the whole world, just to have a chance to feel loved and worthy of living. I allowed myself to go into the dead zone, that black hole of despair and feel, again, the dying inside of unbearable loss. The fear of which keeps me from setting boundaries.

Gradually the agony started fading and I found myself in my core. In touch with the dragon strength from my second painting. My work counsellor remarked on the tiny but perceptible shift in my spinal alignment when I made this connection.

Back to the scary phone call. It almost made the inner work of the previous two weeks worth it. We cut through any drama with vulnerable, honest communication and built an agreement that allowed for a freedom of work. After the call, I went to my roll of preprepared cotton canvas, flayed it open on the floor. Filled with the aftermath of fear, determination, dragon strength and sadness, I emptied a bottle of water (no water source in the studio) on the canvas.

The beginning stages of Good Medicine.

I taped plastic bags on my feet, because this energy needed my whole body to be expressed. I threw Golden fluid colors on the canvas, skated in the color with my plastic coated feet. Of course the plastic promptly broke and the colors seeped in.

Impulse by impulse,


throwing colors,

trusting the crazy jazz

of the emotions

moving my body

moving my colors

moving the energy

I kept working the underpainting of what was to come.

This is where I ended up, the paint is still wet here.

After a while, I peeled off the plastic bags, dried my feet and continued tossing paint onto the canvas.

A few days later, I took the roll to my art supplier slash frame building guy, at Taiteilijatarvikeliike Snow White to be fastened on stretchers, left it in the owners capable hands and forgot all about it.

If it comes up again and again, there’s something there

What did nag at me, after the phone call, was that the dramatic collaboration was one that I had jumped into eagerly at first. When the truth behind the scenes started revealing itself I had burrowed myself deeper and deeper into it, attempting to understand the roots of what was happening, ignoring all the warning signs.

The work opportunity in itself was more important to me, than the risk of energy drain. I stretched myself as much as I could to be able to stand the situation. Drawing boundaries came to my mind only when I realized I had to protect my health. Realizing this made me curious about what was going on with my relationship to myself.

I believe I create my reality and the vile thing about that is that blame kind of loses its function. Sometimes it would be such a relief to just blame others. So what was it about drama, energy feeding and victimhood that still held its appeal over me? [You don’t see my face as I’m writing this, so let it be stated that as I write I cringe, fidget and scrunch my face in embarrassment.] I would so much like to be over this, not be this human, vulnerable, repeating ageold patterns of behavior.

I have a hate-love relationship to solving these puzzles in my life. What I love is the end result of freedom and exuberance that always, every time and invariably infuses my everyday life after a foray into the inner landscapes. What I hate is diving into the ugly truth, into my very own private shit and sorting through it.


But this, my friends, is Good Medicine. Taking everything, all of what life presents to you, good-bad-indifferent and being curious about why it is happening in your life, what it brings up in you, what can be discovered. This is the adventure.

It’s all in the preparation

Okay, so I was sitting in my studio, wondering what would be the shape of my next art sharing event and what kind of a ride art would take me on this time. I had forgotten all about my huge canvas and was just nagging my muse for something rational that I could do and for pictures I would be able to post on Instagram to show that something is happening and keep the art sales going.

I stumbled upon a Crimson Circle SES course that was organized in Edinburgh. BAM! That sent off a huge impulse, so I made the arrangements and traveled there. I wrote more about that trip here.

In the meantime my huge canvas was having its own adventure in the framing shop and there was this musical interlude as necessary inner and outer preparations were made. A few more events had to take place before the scene was set for some more painting.

There was my birthday, when my Mom called me drunk and blasted open my heart in another trip to the core. Essential to this painting was also when I met my friend at Fazer’s Cafe and  got the text that my canvas was ready, I was drinking coffee and eating complementary color lemon-blueberry cake, talking about life, the universe and everything.

Complimentary color cake at Café Fazer.
Complementary color cake at Café Fazer.

My friend graciously agreed to came with me, to check out the store and the art supplies. When I saw the canvas, I took a step back. Humongous at 150x121cm!

My friend helped me carry it back to the studio. We walked the streets of Hakaniemi, on both sides of the enormous canvas. It fit both the elevator and even the narrow corridor at my studio. As we swapped stories about mothers and stared at the painting, I remembered the summer when my Mom was homeless and I spent more time with her than I had in years.

I kick myself now that I have no picture of the painting as it was in the art supply store. The truth is, I couldn’t wait to get my hands immersed in paint again. So I started out. It’s always difficult to continue the painting when the underpainting feels impressive or lovely in itself.

As I painted my thoughts raced back to the beautiful mirror that my friend held up to me when I told her about how I experienced Mom’s homelessness and walking beside her during a part of her experience. I felt my heart thaw, as I painted myself back to my core. Little by little my heart started to expand.

After the first painting session back at the studio.

It felt vital at this stage to share something about what was happening with this painting and inside of me with my crew, so I posted on Instagram and Facebook.

“As I paint I think about my mother who taught me everything she knew about love. Tenderly, as a conscious choice. She comes up again again again while I paint about loving self, because she also taught me everything she knew about hating self. I let color lead me while I attempt to contain the whole spectrum. Not so much about the past, but now. How can I love myself and at the same time love my mother? Yes she is drunk most of the time, changed beyond recognition, angry, bitter. And. She is still here. Still alive. Is there a way to stretch the skin of my heart so wide I can love us both and not hurt either of us? Who am I to dream of peace on a large scale if I cannot paint myself spacious enough to fit the mess of my own biological backyard inside of me? Self-love seems to be inexorably linked to all the love in my life on an experiental level.”

I lifted the painting on the wall, to see it from a different angle and continued painting, adding light and variety.

I deeply appreciated the responses I received, because they helped me see the parallel I was working on, my relationship to my Mom, who is hands down the most difficult person in my life to love and my relationship to myself.

A few days ago, I sent a text to her saying that I love her in good times and bad. I received a response that makes it a bit easier to continue the communication.

A change in tempo

Yesterday I had two deadlines for Minä Olen magazine, an importan telephone call, a sick firstborn and a client coming to pick up a painting. That’s when this painting started speaking. All the contextual, emotional and energetical groundwork done, it was time to paint!


The starting point yesterday.

Having had absolutely no idea what to do for many days at the studio, now I knew I wanted to balance the painting. But honestly, not much thinking was done yesterday. I alternated between important calls, writing the articles, painting, meeting a client, painting, writing with friends and clients on Facebook, painting and so on.


Spreading the greenish blue and adding a bit of flame.

The painting was speaking to me all day long.


It was pretty scary, slathering on this pale yellow. I had my marching orders, though, so it had to be done.

Layer after layer.

Ah, pesky bismuth yellow, maybe I like you after all.

And this is where I stopped working for the night, breathless with love. Today, back at the studio, writing this blog, I only see a work in progress and feel that inner itch to continue painting. But late last night, there was rapture.

I went home, alight with joy and showed the Engineer what I had created. Such a good man, he celebrated with me, exclaimed over the change that had happened, watched the pictures. We watched Newsroom together, sipped rum and I fell asleep in the middle of the program.

So, this is the journey of Good Medicine this far.

I’m feeling pretty emptied out now. Grateful to be able to live and work like this. Excited about where this adventure takes me next. Glad to be able to share it with you.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts about seeing inside the making of one painting. Is this something that interests you, or would you rather just have the painting speak to your directly, without the interference of the artist?

And then for something completely different

So, tiger wants to join the crazy melee of self-love, bewilderment and creating.

Eleven years ago, I made my final artwork of Taidekoulu Maa. An sculpture, sown together with of small pieces of superlon, taken from my childhood mattress. At first I wanted the final work to be part tiger, part woman. But then my warm head teacher asked me [didn’t tell me] how the sculpture felt, being half and half.

I remember resisting the change in my idea, at the same time as I felt the sadness of being just a half intensely.

In any case, the sculpture that was born and that was exhibited looked like this.

The sculpture made as my final work from art school.
The sculpture made as my final work from art school.

What I now see is that the sculpture was so descriptive of my artist identity at the time of graduation. Already a tiger, yes. But completely without skin.

Growing fur

The tiger with fur, made by Anna-Karolina Tetri
The tiger with fur, made by Anna-Karolina Tetri

So, when Anna-Karolina contacted me and asked me if she could make a skin of felt for my tiger, I jumped into the adventure.

The tiger was completely changed.

From a work of art into something that reminded me and everyone else of a plush toy. At the same time as I kind of liked the finished work, I also missed the naked tiger inside. Conceptually interesting was also that the first impulse of many people was to go and sit on the befurred version of the tiger.


As I started floundering my way into this newest collection, the tiger started tugging at me. This happens sometimes. Artwork starts to have its own mind. So I contacted the Fur-mama and asked her if I could buy back her part of the tiger.

Today at the studio, tiger joined the fray.

First steps into transformation.
First steps into transformation.

I have absolutely no idea how this project will come together. But I am having a lot of fun, as well as lots of moments of insight into the energy that I’m building with this work. Closeness and intimacy with myself or others starts growing when I allow myself to feel everything and then sink under those feelings, through sensations all the way into my core and dare let my defences be released.

I’m still learning about the difference between defences and boundaries, but getting there. So is tiger.

Black gesso being administered.
Black gesso being administered.

About Fear

This week has been about fear for me.

Monday, in Taekwondo training, my considerate instructor said it was time to test me for the yellow belt. The others had done the test before Christmas, when I was lying in bed with fever.

All my inner walls slammed up. I wanted to flat out refuse. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run away.

Instead I disconnected my brain and just waited for the test to start. I wish I could tell you that I aced it. Did not. I was pretty bad. But I did it. Tomorrow I get my belt.

What I learned during the lesson was that when I’m afraid, I tense my shoulders into a knot. I try to push myself into succeeding. It doesn’t work that way. Instead I prevent my body from doing what it knows how to do.

Hello Fear.

Hello Fear. Mixed media on canvas, 60x80cm, by Marie D. Tiger, 2015.
Hello Fear. Mixed media on canvas, 60x80cm, by Marie D. Tiger, 2015.

I went walking and running on ice yesterday. My intention was to explore how fear moves in my body. Just spend some time with it, experiment. I found a nice spot, a dirt road covered by bumpy, wet and slippery ice. Yellow sneakers, trembly knees, strong breaths out. Despite my mind’s screeching, fantasies of a broken nose and panic, my body knew what to do.

Relaxed, yet alert, my body, supported by my conscious breath, walked pretty normally. My feet kept slipping and sliding and correcting the balance with the appropriate movements. My shoulders kept trembling and numbing with the force of fear running like electricity through my muscles. But it was just sensation. An experience.

My taekwondo instructors keep telling me that the fear is normal, the bumbling around is something everyone does and the answers are inside.

I take their words to heart and bring them with me into the studio. Here I throw everything into the inner fire.

Work in progress.
Work in progress.

And paint for my life.

Tule syliin. Step Into My Arms. 140x100cm, mixed media on canvas by Marie D. Tiger.

What are you afraid of? What would help you stay relaxed and alert in the midst of feeling your fear?



The Big Squeeze

A windfall

More and more, I am becoming a fan of our shared humanity. The unpredictability of it all. The shadows behind every facade of perfection. The embarrassing truth.

In the beginning of August 2014, I was the recipient of a windfall. An opportunity to make art for a year. This was the first time since art school in 2003, that I have had a chance like this, to delve into art making with some real time. In my own art space, to boot.

Expectations soared, of course. After all, isn’t it the epitome of happiness, to be able to make art, almost full time? (I can hear the universe giggling in the background, while writing this.)

The work of an artist

What I had conveniently forgotten, of course, is the true work of an artist. To feel everything, experience all nuances of what is happening, to knock on inner doors or knock them down and drink deeply of the cup of life. Then, make art about it.

The Big Squeeze, water color 21x29,5cm, 2014 by Marie D. Tiger.
The Big Squeeze, water color 21×29,5cm, 2014 by Marie D. Tiger.

So, instead of feeling happy, suitably grateful, productive and inspired, I found myself resistant, edgy and defensive much more of the time than I thought proper.

All of my ideals of making art, all of the uplifted expectations of the artist’s life crashed head on with the raw loneliness of the studio, the reality of putting paint on canvas in a suffering world. To make art, instead of having a “real job”. There is a reason why we avoid empty space and big reaches of time. It all opens up the door to the question: Why am I here? Does anything I do matter? At all?

I asked myself repeatedly: If I feel like this while making art, what’s the point?

Vision rubbing against reality

What I’m coming to realize – excruciatingly slowly, again and again – is that there is no “there”. No perfection, no people who always succeed, no teachers who always walk their talk, no impeccable work communities, nothing finished. It makes me gag with disappointment, because the mixture of light and dark is so heady, hard to comprehend. But there is some relief, as well. Nothing has gone wrong. I can stay in this discomfort, aware of the temptation to seek solid ground and just hang out with the raw and tender moment.

It is the only place I can arrive at, is this moment. This is where my vision rubs against the reality of what is happening in me and around me. The big squeeze.

Work in progress, Celebrating Myself Home, 100x150cm, mixed media on canvas, 2014, by Marie D. Tiger.
Work in progress, Celebrating Myself Home, 100x150cm, mixed media on canvas, 2014, by Marie D. Tiger.


Where do your ideals rub against the reality of what is happening in your everyday life?


Empath Stories: Self-Love During Changing Times

The Untrained Empath: Feelings Are Good. Painted by Marie D. Tiger with watercolor 2014, 25x 16 cm. For sale: 370€ plus shipping, frame made to order.

This blog should have been written on Saturday, instead it incubated until today, Monday.

As an empath, I experience my feelings as both a blessing and a curse. The blast of them, while leading to great aliveness, is at times of imbalance, just way too much. Learning to discern which are mine and which aren’t, helps immensely.

I’m suspecting I’m not alone in saying that life has been full of changes lately. On Thursday, it was time to just rest, which I continued through the weekend. Today, Eren’s comment on my blog gave me the idea to write down self-love ideas that help me with self-care during these times of rapid change.


What does self-love in action mean to you, in the midst of your changing life?

Announcing Empath Saturday

The Untrained Empath: Wide Open. Painted by Marie D. Tiger with watercolor 2014, 25x 16 cm. For sale: 370€ plus shipping, frame made to order.
The Untrained Empath: Wide Open. Painted by Marie D. Tiger with watercolor 2014, 25x 16 cm. For sale: 370€ plus shipping, frame made to order.

It’s my birthday today.

To celebrate that, I am publishing my first piece of empath exploration, although it feels very vulnerable. I will publish one illustration of my empath experience, every Saturday, while they last.

The first ten watercolors in the series are painted while I was studying with Caroline van Kimmenade in her excellent program From Suffering Sponge to Sensitive Savant. She has also graciously allowed me to use the phrase “Untrained Empath”, which in my opinion summarizes the overwhelming experience of being one and the potential we can embody once we learn to understand our gift. Having said that, I want to add that there is no affiliate program involved, I only mention this program because I liked it.

I notice words elude me now, this is very much still a work in progress. But feel free to share what the images evoke and awaken in you, if you feel like it. <3

Happy Saturday.

You Do Not Need to Justify Your Creating

I was out meeting my accountant today. Things are moving in my company and we were crunching the numbers to see  how everything adds up. My book keeper is gentle as a doe, yet I walked away from my encounter both weary and overwhelmed. The urge to make art, create, move hearts and energy, transform creative blocks with freedom and exuberance seems to mix poorly with numbers.

Somewhat later, I talked to a friend. She asked me:

“What would you and your family look like, if you hadn’t been making art all of these years”?

This image immediately popped to mind. My parallel future self, without the presence of transformative art making, would be an obese therapist, listening to everyone else instead of creating herself.

Fat therapist - parallel future self. In the thought book, by Marie D. Tiger
Fat therapist – parallel future self. In the thought book, by Marie D. Tiger

Images of my husband working full time at some nameless company (because when you don’t have time for your art, giving it to someone else becomes verrrry hard), imbalances in my relationships with the kids, all the shopping I would do to make up for the lack of direct creativity flashed through my mind. Then I remembered.

Some years ago I was studying expressive art therapy. During those studies we were required to engage in therapy of our own. At one moment there, painting a sky big and blue, talking to the therapist, I had the clearest flash of insight; studying expressive art therapy was the perfect compromise for the little girl caught in between mommy’s and daddy’s wishes for me. An academic  degree (Dad) that incorporated the arts (Mom).

That moment and insight was a crossroad. I left my therapy studies (for the second time) and went on to pursue art making, for real.

That choice. Making art every day. Has transformed my life experience.

I’ve learned to stand and contain chaos, to let completely opposite feelings or concepts play with each other in the same space. Art has taught me to start where I am and say yes to whatever is born. Creating every day has taught me to trust the void of not knowing, lean into beliefs of uselessness and open up to uncertainty.

Without art my life would be more rational and controlled. And less alive.

It's not a numbers game, in the thought book 2014, by Marie D. Tiger.
It’s not a numbers game – it never was, in the thought book 2014, by Marie D. Tiger.

If you would create something, just for you, today. What would it be? [mental note: the more useless, the better. You do not need to justify creating.]






Encryption Key

Seesaw, drawn with markers in the thought book, by Marie D. Tiger.
Seesaw, drawn with markers in the thought book, by Marie D. Tiger.

Hey there,

It’s been a long time since I wrote in the blog.

June was chock-full of client work with interesting, dedicated people who threw themselves into making art and learning about their creativity. Now I’ve been winding down to holiday mode, spending time in summerland with my children. Time is starting to loose its meaning and I have difficulty remembering what day it is. Lovely!

On a more personal note, I have been exploring what it means to be an empath. This year, I’ve been working with Molly Gordon and Caroline van Kimmenade, both of whom I can heartily recommend. It all started out with the intention of checking out what is going on with the profitability in my company, my sense of having one foot on the break and the other on the gas and the recurring phenomenon of ending up either broke or exhausted.

With Molly, I have learned to instantly access my core, my deep trust in the goodness of life. I am now able to look out into the world and feel supported. No matter what is going on, I KNOW it is all alright. Nothing has gone wrong, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

The program “From Suffering Sponge to Sensitive Savant”, that I’m enrolled in with Caroline is a bit different than traditional coaching. This is pure training for an empath. I’ve learned to understand my ability of being able to viscerally feel what others are feeling, discern what is mine and what isn’t and what to do with inner phenomena that originate from someone else.

So far, I feel like someone has given me an encryption key to my life experience. Everything makes so much sense now. So, I’m vacillating between accepting where I am and making small changes in my everyday life.

The changes I’m noticing this far are:

– It’s easier for me to make art, take&make time for making art and hear what I need [as opposed to taking care of everyone else and ending up resentful and exhausted.]

– Although I am still super-sensitive and aware of emotional fluctuations, I am able to discern what is mine, what isn’t and I know what to do in both cases.

– I now KNOW, beyond all doubt that I was never broken.

– The exuberance, joy and lightness that I remember from my childhood grows stronger every day.

– Being with my own intense kids is so much easier, because my inner clarity is now a stable flow. I can maintain the loving kindness that they thrive in.

The challenges I’m aware of are:

– It’s a LOT of work. I get immobilized with an influx of emotional static and it takes a whole lot of sifting, sorting through, writing, jogging and breathing to organize all the sense-material coming in [but it is infinitely better than it used to be].

– It’s lonely. I used to morph out to meet people, like an emotional Barbapapa, always finding the facet of my own experience that fit what my empath senses were telling me was appropriate. Now, I’m getting used to a whole new way of communicating and just being me. Scary!


– I’m way off my comfort zone, practising something completely new and not doing it particularly well.

But you know what? It’s so worth it. Because for the first time in my life, I can genuinely say that I am starting to feel this affectionate regard for myself. Not awash with the feelings of others anymore, I can differentiate who I am and I like what I see. There is a sense of inner logic to my past, I can see how things have led up to this point.

I’m wishing you a sunkissed summertime, with lots of goodness and gentleness.

P.S. If you felt that twinge of recognition, Caroline has a few places open for empath training here. And you can read more about Molly’s coaching here.

You can buy prints in different sizes and cards of the Seesaw drawing.