“It’s no longer a ‘challenge’ to stay the course, but a ‘decision’ to do so.”
–Rhonna Del Rio-Ascolese
I connected with Rhonna through this little lark’s blog a couple of years ago. She wrote a lovely guest post for us about feng shui (soon to be available in the archives) and since then, I’ve enjoyed following her journey as an artist and yogini through her own blog and facebook page. Recently, she created a short documentary about her journey and it has since been nominated best spot feature, best cinematography, and best score at the OC Film Festival.
I was moved and inspired by her grace and determination and asked her if she’d be interested in doing a Q&A for our blog. She enthusiastically agreed, and the following is what we came up with. I hope you enjoy her story, words of wisdom, and the warmth and thought she put into each answer!
BONUS GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post and you will be entered to win a print of your choice of Rhonna’s work! Winner will be selected Friday, February 21st at 5pm EST
How long have you been practicing yoga?
My very first physical experience with yoga was a private lesson back in 2003 at the home of a work colleague who is now one of my best friends. However, it was not until summer of 2010 when I truly tapped into the spiritual part of yoga and I have been a devoted practitioner since then.
What piqued your interest to try yoga?
I was working for a high profile Architecture Firm. The mentality of the corporate world, hard work, and everyone around me was very talented and very focused on the thinking part of life but something about that world felt stifling for me, as if I needed to shake things up. I didn’t know it was the creative-heart that needed shaking up. One day, the firm hired a new administrative assistant and she brought this certain light about her into the office that I hadn’t witness from anyone in that environment. Well, turns out she was a yoga instructor on the side. Our daily conversations led to subjects that piqued my interest and curiosity about this thing called “yoga”. She was the one who gave me that first private lesson and eventually we went to a group class together, and eventually I started to go on my own. Through the years I was off and on and off the mat and by 2007, I became pregnant. Life as a new mom and my schedule found all the “excuses” why I couldn’t go to yoga and at that point, I didn’t go for several years! Fast forward to summer of 2010, a nearby studio called Yoga Vista opened and the very first day back on the mat was simply blissful! On that same exact day, it came to me and I wrote down on a piece of paper these precise words that day – It’s no longer a “challenge” to stay the course, but a “decision” to do so.
What kind of art do you do and why?
I’ve been referred to as Coffee Filter Artist, and so I have grown accustomed to that. The kind of art I make is so recent and long standing that the best words I can describe it with is that, it is Art of the Soul’s Expression. Up until I took on a yoga challenge that really dug deep into “awareness”, my creative background and studies were in Architecture. I tried to journal what I was experiencing in the classes during the yoga challenge, but instead, doodles of stick figures with yoga mats came through instead of words. As I continued on the process of “doodling” the images started to transform with more depth and volume and colors and metaphor. The return I get from each one is really beyond a tangible form because I feel a supernatural effect from each piece… the only words that come near to describing the art I do is that it is my souls’ expressions. Because of that, I continue to do this kind of art because the response from others and the feeling from within are all so inspiring and I believe it is helping create another avenue or outlet for hope and healing. A recent good friend of mine shared with me that when she looks at my art, she said, she sees the motion in it and that there is this transformative moving essence about it. Her statement was truly humbling and it’s those observations and shares from others that fuel me to keep doing what I do.
Tell us about this documentary. What inspired it? Why did you make it? And what kind of feedback have you been receiving?
I’ve had several art shows before the making of the documentary, and during each of these art shows, I realized that my art is not about the individual pieces, but rather it is about the transformative journey of how it began and where it is today and where it could be in the future. I found myself chasing time during the art shows as I explained to each viewer “The Story of Filter Art”. It was nearly impossible to really convey what I was sharing when they are only seeing glimpses and hearing pieces of the story about the art during all the commotion in the art shows. That is when it came to me that what I needed was to collaborate with someone who can create a storytelling format through a short film documentary. In came a close family friend’s daughter, whom I consider my own niece. She is the very talented young filmmaker Justine Sto. Tomas. So, on one inspired day, I called her up and we met and I shared with her my story and from that conversation manifested the creation of the documentary called “Filter”. I am so proud and grateful for her talent and collaboration. The feedback from the documentary has been so positive and inspiring and has been mutually beneficial – Justine got several nominations for the recent OC Film Festival 2014. I have received private messages saying thank you for sharing the Story of Yoga and Art Journey and how it has inspired others to continue on the path of yoga and creativity as well.
What is your otonome page all about?
I chose the name Otonome because it is the phonetic breakdown of the word Autonomy. At the time I left the architecture firm to do my own work on my terms, standing on my own two feet was a deliberate choice that I wanted to reflect in the name of my company. One definition of Autonomy is written as – “self-directing freedom and especially moral independence” I started Otonome back in 2004 when I was doing Architecture full-time, but also had the vision that it would one day become the umbrella for other creative avenues. Today it encompasses Architecture, Design, Feng Shui and Art.
How do you spread joy/positivity?
Wow, what a great question! I would like to pass this question to everyone reading this now too! For me personally, I am devoted to practicing Gratitude, everyday! When we carry gratitude with us wherever we go, the joy and positivity just happily trickles out on its own and onto the people that we pass by on the sidewalk, the yoga studio, the friends and family we talk with or strangers, cashiers, or fellow elevator riders we exchange smiles with.
What does yoga/art/feng shui bring to your life?
Gratitude! Each one of these, although powerful on its own, supports the other for me. There is always room to bring more outlets or avenues that help us plant love, compassion and kindness and is enough to find Gratitude even in the most challenging moments of our lives.
What 5 things would you recommend for healthy living?
I love this question too! And again I want to forward it to the reader here as well. For me, I always feel strongly anchored when all five senses are engaged.
First- Vision, I use Feng Shui to create the balance and in my home, by staying in the practice of de-cluttering and using my intuition and professional expertise to feel out what feels off-balance in a space.
Second- Auditory, I always play music that pairs up well with whatever mood I’m in or honoring that mood or moment throughout the day. I allow party music to blast if I’m feeling the dance moves and I allow deep soul meditative music when I want to go inward. I also welcome the sad sappy love songs to get the tears going when I need to release what is not serving me in the heart.
Third- Smell, I put on my incense and light healthy scented candles to allow the healing aroma to roam the space I am in.
Fourth- Speaking, I speak words of encouragement, share belly laughing jokes and I also tell inspiring stories of experiences in life that helps people know they are not alone in their journeys of up and down and in between, in life.
Fifth- Touch, my Yoga and Art. Together they heart-fully, physically and mindfully keep me on the path of healthy living!
Yoga and Art, “touches” my soul.
Rhonna del Rio-Ascolese is a Los Angeles based, Filipino-American designer and an emerging artist with a degree in Architecture. She has worked with renowned architect Richard Meier and is inspired by her yoga practice. For years, she has been working with still life art (buildings) via architecture mostly dependent on computer drawing and graphic programs. In early 2011, her new found practice and passion of yoga brought to life the desire to draw organically and emotionally from within, the thoughts emerging after each powerful yoga class. She revives recycled materials such as; small square coffee filters, large paint drop cloths canvases and integrates them as the foundation for her drawings and paintings. What you see is the birth of a new imagination for Rhonna del Rio-Ascolese. A creative freedom; finally connected to her soul and spirit. http://www.otonome.net/