Richard Stone: Lead With Your Heart to Move People

Rick Stone HeadshotRichard Stone is a visual artist, photographer, storyteller, and writer of both fiction and non-fiction. His creative career also includes working with IDEAS, a former division of Disney, as their StoryAnalytics Master. His work spans many media, from works on paper to acrylic on canvas to macro-photography. His writing includes a focus on storytelling, a children’s novel, and he is currently working on a new screenplay entitled “The Maggid.”

Your bio mentions that you work in 4 medium(s). Can you tell me more about how you create your art?

For the past 4 years, I have focused on macro photography of trees’ bark. I do all of my composition in the camera, rarely cropping images after they are taken, shooting RAW. Processing the images is fairly straightforward. I start out in Adobe Lightroom and do some simple adjustments to the image adjusting the exposure if needed. I then use the NIK software suite to do some sharpening, and some minor improvement of the color saturation.

RStone Lichen 3My preference is to print these images large—4’ x 5’ or even larger. There is something very exciting to see what was a 2” x 2” section of a tree enlarged to those sizes—very abstract.

In the past I have done a great deal of work using oil pastels on paper—building up images with multiple layers and then using tools to scrape into the surface to reveal earlier layers.

Have also done a great deal of brush and ink drawings—mostly abstract figurative. I’ve extended this approach by using brushes like brooms to paint abstractly on large sheets of paper, then have selectively have torn or cut out sections of the paper, cut the same shapes out of a piece of black foam core, and then married that with another image on the backside of the foam core creating an interesting effect dimensionally.

RStone painting 6 green leaf on greenFinally, have done a number of large works on canvas depicting leaves. The method—lay the canvas on the floor, and then using ketchup bottles filled with house paint (preferably semi-gloss). I compose by squeezing the paint onto the canvas.

At what point in your life did you start thinking of yourself as an artist?

In my early 20s. I dropped out of graduate school in psychology after I had completed my master’s degree and took myself off to the Art Institute of Chicago.

How would you describe your spirituality?

Probably more Buddhist at moment, but still am engaged with Judaism—more through its storytelling tradition.

How does your spirituality find expression in your art?

For me, the process of photographing a tree is a profound experience that brings me deeply into communion with this other being, joyfully becoming a witness to its beauty.

Can you share a story of how creating your art expanded your awareness of God?

Martin Buber talks about 2 kinds of relationships we can have with the world. I-It in which the world has utilitarian value for us; and I-Thou, in which we meet the other as a sacred being and as it is. For me this is what photographing trees does for me. And every encounter in this way is for me a profound experience of the mystery of this life.

How do you connect with divine flow when you are creating? Is it an intentional process that you can duplicate?

RStone Gumbo Limbo Low ResAttending to small details often is what takes me into this kind of flow. It’s just about attention outside of myself.

How do you connect differently to your creative source when you work solo versus when you are collaborating with others?

I have collaborated for years on a host of creative projects as a writer, having written a screenplay and a sitcom with some friends. The collaborative process proved to be great fun, and a profound act of letting go of any attachment to anything. If one of us didn’t like something the other came up with it was immediately dropped until we could find something that we all could agree was funny—produced a better script I think.

In contrast I’m working on a screenplay right now solo—I think not until I get some others to read it will I know whether I hit the mark or need to go back to the drawing board.

How do ideas come to you?RStone Aphrodite Low Res

Little things often set them off. I was driving one day and stopped at a light and there was a big clump of pampas grass in the median. I immediately imagined that it was the hair of a creature whose head was just under the surface. That led me to imagine that all the trees are actually the tops of the heads of large creatures that became known as Treemungermen—the key characters in an eco-spiritual children’s novel entitled The Kingdom of Nowt.

How do you decide which ideas to pursue?

If it’s something that I become somewhat obsessed about and think about all the time, then I pursue it.

If you were going to teach your creative process to someone else, what would be one or two of the key things you would share?

Find your own voice—and I mean that for writing as well as the visual arts. And lead with your heart not your head. Things that are intellectually interesting but lacking heart rarely reach an aesthetic threshold in my book, and don’t move people.

Thanks Richard!

See his photos at Richard’s books The Healing Art of Storytelling, Stories: The Family Legacy, The Kingdom of Nowt, and The Patient Survival Handbook (co-authored with Stephen Powell) can all be purchased on Amazon. His board game Pitch-A-Story can be purchased at

If you would like to be a featured artist on Art as Worship, email me at vlowry (@) While I’m no longer recording new episodes for the Art as Worship radio show, I’ll continue to feature artists using their written words to describe the connection between their art and their spirituality. Access the Art as Worship radio interviews on Empower Radio. Listen to an encore presentation of an artist’s interview each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio. Like us on Facebook at Art as Worship, then share your art and comments. Namaste!

Michael Belk: God’s Project

Michael Belk picDuring the past 30 years, Michael Belk’s photography has appeared in fashion publications including Vogue, Elle, GQ and Vanity Fair for clients that included Nautica, J.Crew and others.

Combining his gift for photography with a natural sense for sales and marketing savvy, Michael created a boutique fashion-advertising agency, Michael Belk & Company. He says his work has primarily been about doing something he loved while traveling the world, working with many great models and crews in the industry. Michael later owned a fine art photography gallery in Florida. MBelk 2246

In 2008, Michael began a project to produce a collection of fine art photographs that would depict messages of Jesus and show His relevance in our modern world. Published in late 2009, Journeys with the Messiah, consists of 45 images and the “parable-like” messages they depict.

“I felt a desire and prompting to create this series of photographs depicting the messages of Christ. In the end, it isn’t about the images—it’s about my relationship with God. He is the Creator. When I get carried away about the project from a business standpoint or from a creative standpoint, I stand back and take a breath. Then say to myself, ‘Not my project, His project. He’s just letting me work on it.’” ~Michael Belk

Listen to Michael’s Art as Worship interview on Empower Radio.

MBelk 2263He says, “I sensed that religion has given Jesus Christ a bad rap. Jesus didn’t come to start a religion. He came to testify to the unusual truth of his Father and how that frees us up to live these incredible lives while we’re here on earth. I wanted to show that Jesus’ message is relevant today—for people to realize that they can embrace Jesus for who he is rather than fear him.”

The images have been interpreted beyond the limited-edition, signed & numbered fine art original to include a coffee table book, behind the scenes DVD, posters and more. Michael travels to churches and other venues to present the images in an exciting audio/visual presentation. An exhibit and more images are planned.

With nearly 100 people on the team assembled to create the images for Journey with the Messiah, Michael believes in the power of collaboration. He says, “I learned in the fashion industry that Michael Belk taking a picture does not make the picture. It’s the collaborative effort of good hair and makeup people. Good costuming people. Good lighting people. Great assistance. Great producers. All of those things come together. God tells me what the idea is, but I’m always looking for ideas from people working with me as we’re putting the details of an image together. A collaborative effort is the most fun by far.” MBelk 2273

Visit to view the gallery of fine art photographs created for Journeys with the Messiah. Watch the four-minute video that beautifully shares the story of creating these photos as they were shot in the Italian city of Matera.

See more of Michael’s work, including his fashion photography, at

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Share your art and your comments on the Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!

Janine Hoefler: Worlds Open Up

Janine bio photoJanine Hoefler is a painter, photographer, lecturer and teacher.  She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Arcadia University and has taught art classes to both children and adults.

 “I’ve always had a real sense of empathy and sensitivity so whenever I can be quiet, worlds just open up. I find that Spirit talks to me and translates into my paintings. My art is a manifestation of Spirit.” ~Janine Hoefler inner-vision

Listen to Janine’s Art as Worship interview on Empower Radio.

Along with her career as a painter, Janine is an award-winning photographer and a speaker. She teaches individuals to take emotionally meaningful photos and how to bring families together with photography.

She has been a member of both the Bon Air Artists’ society in Virginia as well as the Professional Photographers of America. Now working primarily in watercolors, Janine says, “There is a certain spontaneity with watercolors—it’s the quality of the unexpected that I enjoy.”

Lucy-HoundcatJanine is the owner of Jazzy’s Smile Animal Painting and Photography, which is created to explore the love, joy and peace and spirit that animals provide to us every day. She says, “My family has been involved in animal rescue for many years. Pets are healers—a great respite from the intensity of life. People are transformed through relationships with pets.”

Janine currently resides in Virginia with her husband, two children and two loving and very opinionated dogs.

nap-timeVisit to find out more about Janine and view a gallery of her paintings and photographs. “Like” her Facebook page for the stories behind her most recent art.

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Share your art and your comments on the Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!

Seth Casteel: Dogs Inspire Me

Seth with Buster, the first underwater dog.

Seth with Buster, the first underwater dog, and a tattoo portrait of Buster.

Seth Casteel is an award-winning photographer and New York Times Best Selling Author. His series of Underwater Dogs photographs have been seen by hundreds of millions of people around the world and have become one of the most famous series of images in the past decade.

In 2007, Seth began volunteering to photograph homeless pets to help them find loving families. These improved photos showcased unique personalities, resulting in countless adoptions. Since then, Seth has developed a career as a Lifestyle Pet Photographer, accepting commissions and commercial assignments, collaborating with dozens of publishers and exhibiting his artwork in galleries around the world. SCasteel2

 “I like the fact that life is unpredictable. A dog jumping into a pool during a photo shoot inspired my career with underwater dogs. Dogs inspire me. They teach us so many things about how to be better as human beings.” ~Seth Casteel  SCasteel Underwater Dogs book

Listen to Seth’s interview on Empower Radio.

Seth’s work has been published in National Geographic, The New York Times and in hundreds of other magazines, newspapers and calendars. You may have also seen him on Good Morning America, EXTRA, Jeopardy!, The Insider, and Inside Edition. He has traveled the world in pursuit of his passion, working with animals on five continents.  Watch this fun video segment from Good Morning America. SCasteel1

He says, “If you have something you want to do—if you have a story to tell or something to say—then find a way to do it. There’s always going to be obstacles and some reason that you can’t. But that’s the fun of it—the challenge of it. If you believe in something enough, you can make it happen.”

Seth lives and works in Chicago and Los Angeles. He loves 80’s music and is a fan of the DeLorean automobile.

SCasteel Second ChanceVisit to find out more about Seth and view a gallery of his photos—underwater and on land. Find out more about Seth’s mission to help animals at “Like” his Facebook page for the most recent postings of underwater dogs and updates on events and appearances.

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Share your art and your comments on the Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!

Laura Biering: A Life of Creativity is a Spirited Life

Laura Biering, Owner and President of True Voices, is a certified Authentic Life and Leadership Coach. A 12-year veteran of the coaching profession, she has been around the block, as they say, when it comes to careers.  Before coming to coaching, she was (among other things) an opera singer and actress, a legal recruiter and a bank teller, a life drawing model (yes, that’s done nude) and a giant pickle. In addition, she is an Ordained Interfaith Minister and an Artist’s Way Evangelist.

Since finding her own True Voice, she has been working with individuals, partners and teams to create lives that are both deeply meaningful and downright fun. In other words, she helps others create realities that rock!

“I am created by a Creator, I am creative and I am supposed to create. A life of creativity is a spirited life. As we go about that in our own unique way, it makes us authentic.”  ~Laura Biering

Listen to Laura’s Art as Worship interview on Empower Radio.

Laura is the author of The RiskADay Journal:  28 Days to Being You Out Loud with Courage, Creativity and Confidence.  She is currently working on several writing projects, including a book of essays with the working title, Good Girl Gone Gay:  Some Not So Random Thoughts on Authenticity and Life.

She says, “If I am open to the Mystery, then the Mystery will appear in any creative endeavor. Things are created that I didn’t sit down and say, ‘Now I am going to create this.’ It’s always bigger, broader, wider, deeper or more than whatever outline I’ve had in my mind. That’s Divinity — that’s something different than I, myself, could produce.”

In addition to her experience, skills and training, Laura brings compassion, commitment, creativity, and humor to all that she does. She is passionate about Authentic Learning, Loving, Living and Leading, and enjoys retreating on her SE Georgia farm with her partner and their two, adorable, four-legged children, Dogberry and Little Bit.

Laura says, “It’s a cycle. As I create, I’m lead spiritually. And I’m lead spiritually to create. As long as I allow my own authenticity and accept my own expression as the gift that comes through me, they’ll never be separate.”

Find out more about Laura at

Take at least one intentional risk every single day and then reap the rewards. Purchase The RiskADay Journal  and take the 28-day challenge.

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Share your art and your comments on the Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!

Juliette Mansour: I Collaborate with God

Street photographer Juliette Mansour is a first generation American raised in the 1970s when other concerns besides artistic expression took precedence. After having completed graduate school studies, it made sense for Juliette to use her strength in learning languages and her ease with communicating with other cultures as a start to her professional history. She devoted her time as an English as a Second Language teacher – until an unexpected left turn inspired her toward self-taught web design, which turned into a career in Information Technology and web marketing projects. As the founder and owner of Casa Dresden, Juliette found a way to blend her love for languages, the written word, and cultural diversity with her career experience in IT, graphics and web development.

 “All my life I’ve been collaborating with God but until I hit a crossroads and was forced to redefine my spiritual life, I wasn’t ready to truly collaborate. Now, I feel more like a co-collaborator, willing to explore anything. So that’s what I did with photography…. Now, I just listen and do what my heart tells me to do.~Juliette Mansour

Listen to Juliette’s Art as Worship interview on Empower Radio.

Juliette Mansour Photography was created as the artistic branch of Casa Dresden. Today Juliette enjoys a comfortable balance as a sub-contractor by day, continuing her web design and marketing experience, while at night she hones her passion for her photography work. Juliette actively grooms herself in the genre called street photography, using both film and digital mediums.

While she still uses her digital SLR for event photography for small clients, Juliette prefers film and loves to lose herself in the darkroom.  Juliette says, “Film requires a different kind of artistry — it requires almost a spiritual side to the photographer. There is a lot more waiting involved. There’s something absolutely magical about being in a dark room and picking that one negative that really speaks to you. It’s in its raw form and all you have to do is shine the right amount of light on it. You stick that piece of paper in the chemical and watch the image materialize.”

Juliette is one of the few street photographers in Atlanta. Inspired her own fascination with street photography and the amazing back story of street photographer, Vivian Maier, Juliette founded The Atlanta Street Photography Group, which meets actively each month and posts on

About the art of street photography, Juliette says, “It is people living everyday lives. It’s that candid moment that you can find something really unexpected, something humorous, something sad. It’s about finding emotion and about what people are doing on the streets.”

Juliette’s recent street shot entitled, “The End,” was highlighted in a two-page spread in The Atlantan Magazine. She participates in Atlanta emerging artist exhibitions, competitions and local art festivals.

Juliette has an undergraduate degree in Romance Languages and a graduate degree in Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language. Casa Dresden offers freelance event photography and over 15 years of experience in bilingual online media planning, design and development. Read more at

Find out more about Juliette and her street photography at

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Share your art and comments on the Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!

Kathleen Kurre: Adventure Happens in the Present Moment

Kathleen Kurre is an accomplished executive and entrepreneur, with a broad range of experience on the leading edge of technology adoption and organizational change where people, process and technology intersect for success.

“Life is like the wave. You take your surfboard — everything that you know how to do — then get up on the wave. The sweet spot of life is your adventure — and adventure always happens in the present moment.” ~Kathleen Kurre

Listen to Kathleen’s Art as Worship interview on Empower Radio.

Kathleen’s work in the world of business and technology reflects her artistry in the world and includes teaching, speaking, writing and more.  She says, “I wasn’t really encouraged as a young girl in terms of my art work so I just went looking for other things that I could create. I’m really curious about things and I always like the leading edge. I like doing things that haven’t been done before. That’s really the definition of an artist. Even when I was in college and working with mathematics and technology, I realized that business is a wonderful canvas for us to create our lives.”

Kathleen has served as CEO of two venture capital backed healthcare technology services companies and of a social entrepreneurship, technology services nonprofit. Currently, Kathleen is President of Fusion Advisors LLC, which focuses on organizational change and adoption of new technologies.

She is on the faculty group for the Graduate Leadership Program at Georgia Tech for BioMed Engineering PhD students. Kathleen has served on the board of several companies and contributed to the start-up of new organizations.

She says, “We often think that the creativity comes from one place, but it comes from the heart AND from the mind AND from our physical body. It’s that total integration which is beautiful because that’s who we are. We are these wonderful physical beings and everything we do is through our physical body. We’re also these nonphysical beings and we get to work and play in the ethers. That combination is where the divinity is. That’s what we bring through in our artwork.”

She has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Purdue University and a Masters of Divinity in Spiritual Peacemaking from the Beloved Community in Ashland, Oregon.

Find out more about Kathleen at or read her blog at

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Share your art and your comments on the Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!

Connie Quill Bowers: I’m Enthralled and Enraptured in Nature

Connie Quill Bowers is an artist, a poet and a photographer. She travels all around hiking and writing and capturing moments of immense beauty and sometimes terror with her camera and an eclectic use of her imagination.

Listen to Connie’s Art as Worship interview on Empower Radio.

“A book featuring my poetry and photography was recently published and is titled Lyrical Space. The word lyrical means rapturously. When I’m in nature, I’m enthralled and enraptured. Stories and poems flow to me and I just get into the flow.” ~Connie Bowers

She says, “When you’re hiking, you don’t know what you’re going to find. You just follow this path. I think that’s the way it is in life. You just follow this path.  Maybe that’s the spiritual aspect for me — that life is a journey. You don’t know what’s going to come up next.”

Contact Connie through her website and purchase her book.

Listen each Wednesday at 9am Eastern on Empower Radio to hear another artist’s story. Share your stories and comments on our Art as Worship Facebook page. Namaste!