Yoga & My Creative Heart


Happy #YogaMonday!

Mondays are all about yoga in my social media world (confession: every day is a yoga day in my real life world). Today, I am savoring the juicy feelings of gratitude I experienced while leading my workshop on Fierce Living from a Woman’s Creative Heart on August 22 at Embrace Yoga in Washington, DC.


The workshop gave me an opportunity to serve and share from my heart. It also blessed me with two creative yoga workshop participants, Krystal Tingle and Rhiannon Landesberg. Together, we practiced breathing exercises and our favorite yoga poses as we journaled and shared our reflections.


During the workshop, I wore my “Karma: Aham Prema” VIDA scarf I received the night before. It was a special moment because the scarf was created through my partnership with VIDA in May. We used my painting that appears on the cover of my yoga-inspired novel, “Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One” (Amazon) to make the design. It is a part of my VIDA Voices scarf collection which include three additional scarves that use artwork from my books, “That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetical Memoir of Self-Discovery” and “Digital Sisterhood: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online” (Amazon). Click here to learn more about my scarf collection.


Many thanks to Embrace Yoga and my yoga teacher Faith Hunter for blessing me with an opportunity to serve and share from my heart. Thank you Krystal and Rhiannon for attending the workshop.

Happy Creativity Thursday – Depicted/Connected: Paintings by Tim Okamura Coming to U Street in September

Photo Credit: Tim Okamura's painting, Sun Rise on U Street, 2013
Photo Credit: Tim Okamura’s painting, Sun Rise on U Street, 2013

Happy Creativity Thursday!

Today, I am excited to announce that Smith Center for Healing and the Arts is hosting an opening reception for the D.C. debut of Brooklyn-based painter Tim Okamura’s new portrait collection, Depicted/Connected on Friday, September 27, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U Street, N.W. (three blocks from the U Street/Cardozo Metro Station on the Green Line).

Photo Credit: Tim Okamura
Photo Credit: Tim Okamura

Depicted/Connected features 11 culturally diverse women who were primarily born and raised in the D.C. area. They are depicted through Tim’s self-constructed lens which captures how they have experienced the evolution of D.C. as a city. Through the paintings, he says, “I have sought to celebrate these women as individuals, connected to their environment, but also to discover through them metaphors for greater aspects of the human condition – connected to all of us.” If you are in D.C. on September 27, please plan to attend this amazing event. See you in September!

SIDE NOTE: Just in case you couldn’t tell who is featured in the painting above, I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s me. Tim included a door from Republic Gardens, a club I used to hang out in during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Ananda Leeke at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
Ananda Leeke at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

The club has a rich history too. It first opened in the 1920s when owner W.G. Tindel converted a brick rowhouse (1355 U Street, N.W.) into a restaurant with a backyard summer garden on U Street, the heart of D.C.’s African American culture and life (the reason I moved to the neighborhood 23 years ago). During the next 30 years, it became a major destination for fans of live jazz. Two of my favorite jazz musicians Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker performed there.

When I look at the sun-like gold window on the red door in the painting, I am reminded of Amaterasu, the Japanese sun  goddess. She is associated with the colors red, gold, and yellow. She represents royal power and returning life and joy after dark times, as the sun becomes stronger and warmer after the winter solstice.

Tim Okamura and amazing ladies at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
Tim Okamura and amazing ladies at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery


I met Tim on June 9, during his photo shoot for Depicted/Connected at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery. Smith Center invited me and five amazing women to participate in the photo shoot. The first thing I noticed about him was his easy-going spirit, positive energy, and kind smile. He was able to stay focused and have fun too.

Tim Okamura and Ananda Leeke at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
Tim Okamura and Ananda Leeke at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery

After the photo shoot, I went home and Googled Tim to learn more about his work. When I visited his Facebook page and saw his painting, “Les Nubians Combat Pour L’Amour” and “Courage 3.0,” I became an instant fan. I also listened to his 2011 interview on NPR’s Tell Me More with journalist Michel Martin. During the interview, he discussed his passion for hip hop, his hip hop radio show in Canada, and his ”Bronx Brooklyn Queens” series of paintings that feature African-American women of New York City. I Googled the series and fell in love with each painting. What a powerful body of work!

More About Tim (from his official bio):
He earned a B.F.A. with Distinction at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, Canada before moving to New York City to attend the School of Visual Arts in 1991.  After graduating with an M.F.A. in 1993, he relocated to Brooklyn, New York, where he continues to live and work. His artwork has been exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery in London, England; galleries throughout the U.S. and Canada; and he was short-listed by the Royal Surveyor of the Queen’s Picture Collection for a commissioned portrait of the Queen of England.  His work is included in the permanent collection of the Toronto Congress Center, Standard Chartered Bank, and the Davis Museum in Massachusetts, as well as the private collections of  celebrity clients such as John Mellencamp, Uma Thurman, and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. He is represented by Lyons Wier Gallery in New York, and Douglas Udell Gallery in Canada. To learn more about Tim and his work, LIKE him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Happy Creativity Thursday!


Happy Creativity Thursday!

Each month, I try to participate in an arts-related event in my U Street neighborhood in Washington, D.C.  I usually visit the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts. Last month, I  attended the opening reception for the Gallery’s Alchemical Vessels, an exhibition featuring ceramic bowls created by 125 artists.


Each artist made a ceramic bowl that reflected his or her own personal aesthetic and medium. Together, the ceramic bowls  symbolized the importance of creating healing space.


The creation of healing space is a core element of Smith Center’s mission and my intention as a Smith Center artist-in-residence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Click here to learn more about the exhibition.  If you are in the D.C. area on June 7, plan to attend the artists’ closing reception at 7:00 p.m.

Monday Musings, Digital Diet Update & Easter Sunday Photos

Photo Credit: Easter Sunday in Dupont Circle #1 by Ananda Leeke

Happy Monday!

What’s happening in your part of the world?

It’s chilly and rainy in DC today.  The photos (above and below) I took on Easter Sunday while taking a walk in my Dupont Circle neighborhood warmed me up. They also reminded me how much fun I’ve been having as I embrace my visual voice with photography on a weekly basis.  Click here to see more photos expressing my visual voice.

Photo Credit: Easter Sunday in Dupont Circle #4 by Ananda Leeke

My digital diet is coming along.  Last week I did a better job of turning off my laptop and HTC EVO smartphone in the evening.  I know my morning running and yoga practice are helping me stay centered.

This week I decided to use Monday and Wednesday as my primary social media days on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, and WordPress.  Wish me luck!

Next week I plan to write a blog about my artist-in-residence work (photos included at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  My blog post will include a poem I wrote and recited at the  Veteran-Civilian Dialogue Project held at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in March.

Enjoy your day and week!

Photo Credit: Easter Sunday in Dupont Circle #3 by Ananda Leeke
Photo Credit: Easter Sunday in Dupont Circle #2 by Ananda Leeke

Nurturing My Creative Spirit in April with Creating Time by Marney K. Makridakis

Photo Credit: Springtime in Crystal City by Ananda Leeke (2012)

Last month I made several creative commitments after I returned from the BlissDom 2012 Conference in Nashville.  See below.

  • To embrace my visual voice with digital photographs and videos that record authentic moments and tell stories.
  • To affirm my visual voice by sharing what I create on my blog, Animoto, Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube.
  • To nurture my creative spirit weekly with journaling, artist dates, and reading time (articles, blogs, books, and online creative communities).
  • To affirm, fully claim, and respect my creative journey as an artist in a professional manner.
  • To seek and pursue ways to expand my professional career as an artist.
  • To respect and treat my creativity as a business.
Photo Credit: Ananda Leeke's One Drop of Black Blood painting taken by photographer Leigh Mosley -
Photo Credit: Hamiltonian Gallery -

Here’s the good news!  I was able to take action on all of my new commitments.

  • I started carrying my digital camera with me every day.  That helped me capture my favorite Springtime moments.
  • I was able to share my digital photos on my blog, Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr.  It felt great to receive positive feedback from my social media friends.
  • I created three videos with Animoto that featured my photos from BlissDom and artwork.  The videos were posted on my blog, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube.  Posting the videos helped me see the value in sharing my work with others. It also gave me much needed feedback.
  • I started reading Kelly Rae Roberts’ book,  Taking Flight: Inspiration And Techniques To Give Your Creative Spirit Wings.  The book’s journaling exercises helped me get in touch with my creative spirit. I also took a walking tour of galleries in my neighborhood:  Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, Morton Fine Art Gallery, and Hamiltonian Gallery.  Seeing new art created by a diverse group of artists was inspiring.
  • I took a HUGE leap of faith to expand my professional career as an artist when I  submitted my application to the Hamiltonian Fellowship Program in DC.  The application process required me to write an artist statement and artist CV, and prepare a digital portfolio of ten pieces of artwork (see photo above of one of my paintings that was included in my digital portfolio).  After I finished my application, I decided to post my artist statement and CV on my web site.  Doing that helped me affirm my professional career as an artist and respect and treat my creativity as a business.

This month I am using Marney K. Makridakis’ new book, Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life, to nurture my creative spirit as I move through my Digital Sisterhood book writing journey and take small steps each week to embrace my visual voice.  FYI – I am also reviewing Makridakis’ book at her request.  Her PR team sent me a free copy to review a few weeks ago.

Photo Credit:

What’s going on with your creative spirit?

How are you nurturing your creative spirit this month?

Have you made any creative commitments this year?

The influence of India.Arie’s music and Spelman College on Ananda’s novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One

Hi All!

India.Arie’s music has been a powerful influence in my creative work.  Her first CD Acoustic Soul (2001) inspired me to keep moving forward during my novel writing journey.

Karma: Aham Prema (2005) by Ananda Leeke 

(Aham Prema means I am divine love in Sanskrit)


Her composition “Strength, Courage, and Wisdom” became a personal mantra for the main character Karma Francois in my debut novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (2007). 

I mentioned the song in Love’s Troubadours because India’s music chronicles a woman’s journey of self-discovery.  It vibrates with authenticity and vulnerability.  Surrender and self-acceptance are key themes.  Love’s Troubadours embodies all of these things.  Karma’s journey explores a woman’s pain, passion, and power with authenticity, vulnerability, surrender, and self-acceptance. To learn more, visit The book is available on

Spelman College is also featured in Love’s Trouabdours.  Several characters are Spelman graduates (Karma’s twin sister and cousin are Spelmanites).  To learn more about Spelman, watch the video below.

Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is mentioned in Love’s Troubadours too.  Watch the video below featuring a tour of the Museum  given by its director Dr. Andrea Barnwell , an art historian, writer, and critic.   I was able to visit the Museum and see the exhbit featured in the video in October 2009.  AMAZING! 

FYI – Art plays a major role in Karma’s life. It inspires, consoles, and teaches her. My novel offers you a wonderful opportunity to look at life through Karma’s eyes as an art enthusiast and museum curator. Through her eyes, you will learn about exciting artists and photographers from the African Diaspora, Americas (USA and Mexico), Europe, and Japan such as Lois Mailou Jones, Kara Walker, Renee Stout, Yayoi Kusama, Faith Ringgold, Chris Ofili, Ansel Adams, Marion Perkins, Elizabeth Catlett, Francisco Mora, Alexander Calder, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Maria Izquierdo, Jean Michel Basquiat, Andre Derain, Annie Lee, Betye Saar, Alison Saar, Amalia Amaki, Joyce Scott, Lorna Simpson, Constantin Brancusi. Eldzier Cortor, Amedeo Modigliani, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Archibald Motley, Adrian Piper, Hughie Lee Smith, and Charles W. White. Read the art blog post:

Enjoy your day!

Peace, Creativity, Compassion, and Gratitude for India.Arie and Spelman College,


Join Ananda for an author chat about the artwork in her new book That Which Awakens Me on 11.7@ 1pm EST on Ananda Leeke Live!, a program


Greetings All,

Join me on Saturday, November 7 at 1:00 p.m. EST for an author chat on Ananda Leeke Live!, my new show, about the artwork in my new book, That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery (available on in December 2009).  The live streaming web chat will allow you to connect with me in real time.  I will also answer questions.  Click here to join the chat:  Also, take a look at my artwork below. Be sure to see the photographs of my archetypes.  They each represent my creative interpretation of my complex personalities. 

If you miss the live show, don’t panic. You can watch a recording a few seconds after the live show ends.  

Enjoy your weekend!

Peace and Creativity,


PS:  Look on the right side of this blog for a schedule of my online book party events.  Join me for the online party! 




Picture 175

That Which Awakens Me: Kreative Grooviness (acrylic on canvas), 2005

All artwork by Ananda Leeke.

Copyright 2005-2009 by Madelyn C. Leeke


My Girlhood: Puf the Magic Dragon (mixed media collage on brown paper), 2008



Love Mentalism (acrylic on canvas), 2005


That Which Awakens (magic marker drawing on paper), 2008


OM (magic marker and crayon drawing on paper), 2008


Ancestor, 2008 (Ananda’s wise woman archetype) 

All Photo Credit: Leigh Mosley –


Archetypes 013

Ananda, 2008 (Ananda’s spirit woman archetype)

Archetypes 034

Kiamsha, 2008 (Ananda’s creative woman archetype)

Archetypes 101

Madelyn, 2008 (Ananda’s CEOEsq. woman archetype wearing a mask to protect herself)

Archetypes 076

Puf, 2008 (Ananda’s BoHo BAP woman archetype)

Archetypes 131

Cheryl, 2008 (Ananda’s diplomat woman archetype)



Sapphire, 2008 (Ananda’s sexy warrior woman archetype)


Broomhilda, 2008 (Ananda’s inner critic archetype)

African American Art at the White House and in Ananda’s Debut Novel, Love’s Troubadours -Karma: Book One


Cut by Kara Walker –


Happy Saturday!

I read a great post on Black Visual Artist’s blog that featured an article by Kinshasha Holman Conwill, deputy director, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History & Culture. It discussed African American art, one of my passions and a major subject area in my debut novel, Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One ( Click here to read the post:  The article was published in the July/August 2009 issue of The Art Newspaper:

I enjoyed reading about how President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have launched the White House campaign to bring greater diversity to its art collection—including more works by African American artists.  I agree with Conwill’s assessment that the Obamas’ efforts are having “a catalytic effect—stirring conversation, raising expectations. And that’s a good thing. The move is also throwing a strong light on African American art and the artists who create it.”  Several of the artists that Conwill mentions such as Kara Walker, Betye Saar, and Lorna Simpson are featured in my novel, Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (  I have included a blurb about the artwork in my novel below.  Enjoy!

Who are some of your favorite African American artists?

Enjoy your weekend!

Peace and Creativity,



African American Art Featured in Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One ( 

Art plays a major role in the life and museum curator career of Love’s Troubadours’ main character Karma Francois. It inspires, consoles, and teaches her. Love’s Troubadours offers you a wonderful opportunity to look at life through Karma’s eyes as an art enthusiast and museum curator. Through Karma’s eyes, you will learn about exciting artists and photographers from the African Diaspora, such as Lois Mailou Jones, Kara Walker, Renee Stout, Faith Ringgold, Chris Ofili, Marion Perkins, Elizabeth Catlett, Jean Michel Basquiat, Annie Lee, Betye Saar, Alison Saar, Amalia Amaki, Joyce Scott, Lorna Simpson, Eldzier Cortor, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Archibald Motley, Adrian Piper, Hughie Lee Smith, and Charles W. White.  Artists from other countries are also featured.  Click here to read more:

Are you looking for a great summer read that discusses African American art?  If yes, click here to purchase a copy of Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One from

Ananda Discusses Environmental Justice Art with Fine Artist Milton Bowens on Go Green Sangha Radio’s July 12th Episode

first union

The First Union by Fine Artist Milton Bowens



Fine Artist Milton Bowens –



Happy Friday!

I am getting ready for a juicy conversation on environmental justice art with my dear brothalove friend Milton Bowens, an Artist-in-Residency at the Richmond Health Center (Richmond, CA), on Go Green Sangha Radio’s July 12th episode at 7:00pm EST (4pm PAC).   Milton will talk about the work he is doing with students at the Richmond Health Center and his new collection of artwork, “Welcome To My Global Hood.”  Click here to listen to the show:

To learn more about Milton and his amazing artwork (yes I am a fan!), visit  Also, watch Milton’s YouTube video about his artwork:

One more thing … Check out Milton’s artist statement for his new body of work, “Welcome to My Global Hood.”  See below.  It’s incredible!  I love how Milton uses the word “eye” instead of “I.”  

Enjoy your day and weekend!

Peace and Creativity,




“Welcome To My Global Hood” – What is Environmental Justice? by Milton Bowens, Arts Change – Artist in Residency 2009, Richmond, CA

What is environmental justice? What is fine Art? How do these two things work together to empower, youth, community and the world abroad? Eye believe fine art is a singular construct made because it must be made, not just to fill a need in any particular market. Eye also, believe environmental justice is not just a slogan or metaphor but a right to ensure that the next generation inherits a healthy planet.
In response to the rapidly changing global crises, eye thought it was long overdue to address some of the more urgent issues from a fine artistic urban perspective. After posing the question “What threatens your environment”, to a group of more than fifteen inner-city children of varied backgrounds, ages and cultures from Richmond, CA and surrounding communities, eye received the same answer. Violence!
Not at all shocked by the response, eye understood that if eye started to talk about global warming and the dangers it presents, and how art could help change the way we see it, eye would be talking at and not with this young audience. So instead eye listened, with the goal of mapping out a visual story line that would ultimately become a blueprint for urban environmental artist activism.

Before these youth could truly become motivated and excited about creating Art and being a part of a global movement towards environmental change, like starvation and disease in Africa or protecting the Rain Forest, Polar Bears and Ice caps, we must first deal with the issues they face at home. I used Art as the tool to not only spark creativity and conversation but to help the Individual making the Art deal with his or her own individual fears. Art Heals.

Art and Social Change is a funny thing….once you’ve done it you can’t take it back. By reflecting on when you started, how you thought, how you felt and then the process of just how much you can grow and evolve in a short span of time, does something to the Artistic creator. It gives that Individual a sense of value that plays an important role in building ones self-esteem. It gives a voice.

When my students saw firsthand, that gang violence in Richmond, CA is no different than the violence in the Middle East or poor drinking water in the Bay isn’t any different than that abroad, or how the severity of today’s natural disasters are not unique to just this country, the light came on. Once that happens in a young person’s mind, it’s hard, if at all possible to turn it off.

They began to realize they are a part of a global community. This becomes the opportunity, the bridge that promises insight from a very different perspective, which ultimately leads to a uniquely thought out and timely body of work.
The goal for this body of work is to re-ignite the fire in the activism doldrums, visually doing away with that “we’ve heard it all before” attitude and to refocus artist, art collectors, art patrons and exhibition spaces on the power of art and its ability to spark change! And bring about real tangible action and not just talk, simply by being the visual witness.

Eye, extend a Heart-felt, sincere invitation to all viewers to take a little time and stroll with me through My Global Hood. Eye, welcome you! Then ask yourself the question can you see what Eye see?

Milton 510 Bowens