Comments from past participants

Soheila's art workshop with the children on the Pelican Estate was an excellent session. Soheila provided an organic way of working, allowing the children to express themselves freely and creatively. She engages with children of all ages and manages to keep them focused on what they are doing. Soheila is a very dedicated and experienced artist with much to give which I have to agree was great for the children. I would certainly have her back again.

Joan Morris , Chair Pelican Plus T&RA, November 2011

Dear Soheila,

Here I am in Devon, sitting and resting a while when you flowed into my mind, so I thought that I had better put pen to paper!

My creative nature started at a young age, mainly to get away from the conflict, a kind of escape route so that I couldn't be found when things were bad between my parents. My creativity was encouraged by both parents and so I continued into my adult life as a graphic designer after leaving school I worked with photographs and figures but my art of just being got very much left behind.

Later I moved into a different career path where any form of self expression was left on the shelf or should I say under my bed in my portfolio!

I then entered motherhood and freedom to play and explore pushed me once again, but I struggled with the lack of control which I had built up around myself for so many years.

One day at Culpepper gardens, Soheila was running an art workshop during the summer holidays, my daughter three at the time and I would go and paint and just be. Soheila would not teach as such, but would allow us to be, to feel, to look at what drew us to it, whether that would be a particular colour or something from her treasure box, we would create with no end product in mind, but to be within the present moment with heaps of encouragement and laughter to make us feel comfortable in doing something out of our normal routine of the day. Or, just to be in the here and now and do (or not do) what ever we felt.

This allowed me to free myself to see what felt right, to listen to myself and not get caught up with what something should turn out to look like or the right or wrong ways of doing something.

I am blessed to have meet Soheila that summer, because she quite litrally set me free to express what IS and not what SHOULD be. Not to work to my own expectations of perfection but to enjoy the moment.

Since that summer I have gone on to hold two successful exhibitions of my own, and am presently working on the third. Photographic galleries in Cumbria and Devon have sold some of my pieces of photographic work. I am also privileged within my full time work to help run a art group for homeless and vulnerably housed users of a busy day centre - with their own exhibition planned this month. My biggest achievement is still having the connection with myself without the fear of what is going to be produced, and just being a witness to what turns out on the canvass.

Thank you Soheila for opening my door!

Love always,

Karen September 2010

"My name is Samuel Sherwood. While studying for the MA History of the Book last year (2006) at University of London I became acquainted with Soheila Keyani. We became friends and during my visits with her I became interested in her work helping those with no artistic background to realise their potential to create art. The subject for my dissertation was science fiction book illustration, and when I began to entertain the idea that I would like to create an original illustration of my own for the cover of the work, I approached Soheila to help me. I was looking to produce a science fiction illustration that would in some manner encompass all the styles of eighty years of science fiction book cover illustration. I was not an artist and I had no confidence that I could create an illustration that was not laughable. This was a challenge for her as well because I desired a more specific image (an image incorporating the dissertation title and theme: *City at the Edge of Time*) than others with whom she had worked. She gave me confidence immediately though, by telling me that she would, "…stay with me until I had the image that I wanted." This seemed an impressive commitment to me considering my skill level. This she did, however, placing no limit on the number of our sessions.

She began by having me work with a variety of painting mediums, painting quickly on impulse. As well, she had me paint with both hands, with my feet, my teeth, and even blind folded. I complied with all of this, but it was difficult because I could not imagine how I would come up with an appropriate image this way. Amazingly, however, these off-the-cuff pieces (which she insisted that I keep and continue to look at) began to inspire me, and allowed me to see what I wanted to create in entirely new ways. In fact the exercise that seemed the most useless for me, painting blindfolded, ended up giving me a perspective that became a vital part of the finished work. There also appears to be a broadening of an individual's creative spectrum when encouraged to work in ways that might seem uncomfortable or bizarre, at least that is what I experienced as a result of these sessions.

Soheila continued to "stay with me" as I refined the image that I created. I was concerned about the final image having a certain confident polish. This concern was expressed in the type of paints I would use for this final image, and how to work with them specifically, the type of canvas or board it would be painted on, and since this final work had mixed media elements, how to matte them properly. I should also mention that there was a time limit on this process. We had one week from when I began to when I had to turn in the dissertation and leave England. Soheila continued to help me patiently through all this, even coming with me to the art store several times, and going well beyond the call of duty in helping me to find the appropriate place to have the final work scanned for the best price.

I am grateful to Soheila for these compassionate efforts on her part. The image that graces my dissertation has been complimented by several knowledgeable people since then, including Jane Frank – art agent and the force behind the internationally famous Frank Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy Art, and Brooks Peck, who is in charge of creating and building the displays for the Museum of Science Fiction in Seattle, Washington. I have also continued to paint and have completed several other illustrations I am preparing for an illustration portfolio. This all goes well beyond what I would have thought was possible when we began the process. It is a salute to Soheila's personal commitment and skill."

Samuel Sherwood 2007