Allie Lyon is an abstract artist and meditation/movement teacher based in Portland, Oregon. Allie’s lifelong experience with chronic aura migraines has inspired her abstract artwork, and her yoga nidra and meditation practices have continued to illuminate the radiance of the inner world in the same way. She believes that meditation and art invite us to peel back layers of our own understanding to get curious and discover the unique inspiration that lies within. In a world where we are constantly seeking outside of ourselves for answers, Allie’s teachings are an invitation home to the wisdom within oneself. Let’s remember to look within, together, and more often.
Mache is honored to partner with artist Allie Lyon. Allie was the winner of our first ever artist contest in 2022. She is the contributor for the "Aura" design found on our website, creating uniquely designed yoga mat storage tubes. We are thrilled to introduce her to you and learn more about her inspiration and creative process!
Mache: Thank you so much for this interview Allie. We would love to learn more about your background in art. Can you tell us a little bit about how and where you honed your skills?
Allie: From a young age, I always used art and writing to process my feelings: pages of journals and paintings stacked and hidden all around my room. I didn’t like to talk about my feelings, so art became my therapy. My dad gave me my first film camera when I was 10 years old & I became fascinated with being in the dark room in high school and college, seeing images appear when submerged in the quiet darkness.
From the age of 10, I’ve been living with chronic aura migraines. The debilitating & blinding pain that comes along & blurs my vision, leaving me immobile in a dark room with no light or sound becomes a pathway to deep self inquiry, clarity & inspiration. Immersed in darkness, light and colors would emerge and dissolve behind my eyes, shape-shifting into different worlds that could only be illuminated by the darkness. My pain became a portal to beauty. The imprints left in my mind created by the visceral pain of migraines are reflected in my artwork. Glimpses of colors & shapes dance together to create meditative landscapes, a reprieve from something so painful. This later became a theme: how darkness is a space for light to exist in.
I went to community college before receiving my BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in 2014. In community college, I was still figuring out what I was searching for. Most of my classmates focused on representational photography, but I was a seeker: I was always focused on questions rather than answers. Needless to say, my blurry photographs of color were not well received until I went to art school. Studying at SVA felt like coming home-I met teachers, friends and mentors that understood me, and people that challenged me and the way I look at and create art. One of my mentors and favorite teachers set me on the beautiful trajectory that I’m still on today, and will be forever by one assignment: Take a Photograph of Nothing. I was so inspired! The deep inquiry about what nothing meant inspired me to continue using the camera as a tool to explore my own inner world, and to invite viewers to do the same. One question opened up my world into a new dimension, and it was around this time when I started practicing yoga and meditation: similar portals into self inquiry, spaciousness, and the inner world.
Mache: Where do you live and how does it inform your art?
Allie: I’m originally from New York and have been living in Portland, Oregon for the past 7 years with my husband (we met in college!) and our pup Tango. I always joke that Portland put out my fire and turned me into water, which is totally true in the most beautiful way. Portland has allowed me to soften my edges and really get to know myself because it is such a slower, more gentle lifestyle. We moved here in 2015, and I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training, my 500 hour yoga teacher training, meditation and Yoga Nidra training. Studying meditation and yoga nidra offered me such a vast spaciousness into self inquiry, continuing to illuminate my inner world, and this continues to inspire my art everyday. The artwork I create is a reflection of my inner world, and I bestow a huge piece of gratitude to the healing place we live for giving me the courage to look inward.
Mache: What motivates you to be an artist?
Allie: I am motivated by questions about who we are and how we make sense of our world rather than finding answers. I was always interested in making photos rather than taking photos: making sense of what was happening in my inner world through a different approach with my camera, instead of using photography to capture a representational outer truth. My curiosity of vision and memory, and how migraines have affected my own vision and memory, is my biggest motivation. Breathing life into the inner experience, and letting the inward gaze manifest into the external world to be processed and studied as a pathway to better know myself is my true passion and purpose as an artist.
Mache: Where and how do you find inspiration?
Allie: I find inspiration through my meditation & yoga nidra practice and through living most of my life with chronic aura migraines. Creating spaciousness through stillness is how I connect with myself and receive inspiration. For me, it’s less about finding it elsewhere and more about diving into the depths within myself to receive inspiration that’s already within. These experiences have illuminated the internal landscape and inward gaze and have illuminated this other way of seeing. I’m also constantly looking through old notebooks of my writing and love searching for threads of experience that continue to inspire new work.
Mache: What is your favorite medium and why?
Allie: This is a challenging one! I am definitely a creature of habit, and I feel so at ease when I’m creating photographs. Lately, I’ve been pushing myself out of my comfort zone and leaning into painting more. It allows me to play and be curious because I don’t know what I’m doing. It can be frustrating sometimes, but also refreshing. I also do a lot of ink on paper pieces and that’s a really fun process. It’s so hard for me to pick something when I have so many choices, can’t you tell? All of the ways that I create feel like a collaboration with me and the medium itself: there’s a balance of intention and letting go. I have ideas of color and shapes, but allowing the process to take over is what it’s all about. I feel like I am most immersed in the present moment any time I’m creating. I also have a meditation and watercolor practice that I do everyday, and that brings me so much joy.
Mache: When is your favorite time of the day to create and why?
Allie: I definitely go through seasons of creating at different times of the day. I used to be such a night owl, staying up all night creating and writing. Now, I’m definitely more of an early afternoon creator. I practice yoga and teach in the mornings, and then take my dog on a long walk. Then, I come home to make coffee and prepare my space for creating. This has become my ritual for coming into creation with a clear mind and curious heart. To me, creation isn’t just in the making or producing. But, it’s in the moments of preparation, of writing, of letting myself become quiet enough to listen to the inspiration that’s stirring around my mind beneath the noise. This ritual has really allowed me to become an open channel to receive new ideas and inspiration!
Mache: Describe your ideal creative environment.
Allie: Plenty of space, a great playlist, a yoga mat in case I need a movement break, and some coffee :) I also have endless stacks of notebooks- a big piece of my process is reflection, so I go back through my notes a lot- both my musings about art and life and also my meditation and watercolor studies to inspire whatever it is I’m creating.
Mache: How do you manage a work/life balance as an artist? How does your own health and wellness affect your art?
Allie: My wellness and art practices have become so entangled that I feel like I can’t separate them. Someone once asked me” “If you had to choose to focus on yoga or art, which would you choose?” And I couldn’t choose because they are so interwoven together that one without the other, my work would not exist. I’ve always used art as a way to process my emotions, and this is integral to my health and well-being. When I create art, it isn’t always to produce an outcome. It is to allow the internal churning of my mind to have space to be noticed, acknowledged and processed. It truly is my therapy. A work/life balance is something I think I’ll always be balancing, and it changes all the time.. I think that’s part of the process. Taking care of my body and mind through movement, getting outside in nature, and letting myself simply be has taken so much time to integrate, but it is so helpful to learn how to create space in our lives so we can show up to our work with more clarity. I’m also a big advocate for trusting in the seasons of creation: I don’t like to force myself to make something because I feel like I have to. Being an artist is so much more than producing work: there are many layers inside of the process of creating that are more about stillness, honoring waves of stagnancy, background work, writing, the list goes on! By honoring the seasons of creativity, I can take care of myself and release the self-imposed pressure of having to constantly create, and focus on other quieter parts of the process too.
Mache: Why do you think art is important for the human spirit?
Allie: Georgia O’ Keeffe said it best: “I found I could say things with colors and shapes that I couldn't say any other way – things I had no words for.” Art is important for the human spirit because words can be limiting to our experience and art can allow our world to expand into greater dimensions of process and portrayal. Art is a portal we get to travel through to get to know ourselves, to process our emotions, to dive deep into the internal landscape and get to know our soul, our purpose, our light and share it with the world. What greater gift of self love than to know who you really are beneath the noise of everyday life? From this place of inner knowing and clarity, we can step into the world with more love, more awareness and compassion for everyone's unique, messy, beautiful canvas they're painting.
We would like to thank Allie for sharing her thoughts and process with us. You can learn more about Allie Lyon and her art on her website here.