August 12, 2009

Yoga helps focus energy for busy Erin artist

As published in The Erin Advocate

Emma Bramma Smith has cast a wide net in her quest for inspiration and enlightenment. She brings together many influences in her paintings, blending images of nature with symbols from Celtic, Christian and Buddhist traditions.

Using India ink, watercolour, oils, acrylics and pencil, she creates a surreal quality, infused with a mysterious energy.

Merging with this work is her passion for yoga, which helps people discover and take advantage of energy within themselves. For Smith, that has helped both her spiritual growth and the channeling of ideas onto paper.

"Everything I am is in these pieces – I love what I do," she said. "Yoga has helped me become a better artist."

She exhibits at various shows, but the best way to get an idea of the range of her work is to visit her on-line gallery and store, at She is also in the process of moving to a new home at 176 Main Street in Erin village where she will be leading a new series of yoga classes on September 22.

Y'OM – Yoga on Main includes Kundalini Yoga, which focuses on channels of energy through the spine and employs mantra and meditation throughout the postures. She also does Tibetan Yoga, which promotes relaxation and letting go of burdens, and Flow Yoga, which develops graceful movement between postures. There are also meditation and youth classes. Email her at for more details.

Her art swirls with feminine imagery, and has echoes of medieval illumination. She is influenced by Romantic and Pre-Raphaelite painting from the 1800s, which embraced the exotic and rebelled against realism, scientific rationalism and the restrictions of classical art forms.

While positive energy dominates, there are dark hints woven into many pieces. "I feel sorry for evil," she said. "Love is a much stronger power."

In the fall of 2007, she completed a painting called Universal Heart, which combines many strands from her life. It is based on a vision she had in 2000, and on the spiritual connection she has experienced with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

It has a Celtic border and elements of plant and animal life, including lotus flowers, fish, doves and a heron, which represents the Dalai Lama. At the centre is a Buddha figure in a seated meditation posture, merged into a Christ figure with outstretched arms. The two opposite triangle shapes of these figures combine to make a six-pointed Star of David.

When the Dalai Lama visited Toronto's Tibetan-Canadian Cultural Centre in 2007, Smith was there, hoping to present the painting as a gift. She happened to meet the Indian Ambassador to Canada as he was going in to see the Tibetan leader, and persuaded him to take the painting in and present it to His Holiness. She was not able to meet him in person, but she hopes to be able to travel to India to make that dream come true.

In the meantime, as if meditation, painting and teaching yoga were not enough, she is designing costumes and sets for the InMotion Dance Company in Oakville and for the pilot of a CBC TV show. She has just finished teaching art and self-awareness at Olympia Sports Camp in Muskoka and will be teaching Tibetan chanting as part of a weekend workshop in Alton on August 29. She does illustrations for Mandala Magazine, an international Tibetan Buddhist Journal, is working on two yoga books for children and developing a sketchblog for her website.

She feels fortunate to have had friends of many different faiths when she was a child. With support and encouragement from her parents, she was able to develop a broad range of interests. Her father, Ron Smith, who Emma calls "my first hero, artistically", has a show of his own coming up. His striking landscape photography will be on display at The Teak Barn near Ospringe, as part of the Hills of Erin Studio Tour, September 26-27.

For more on the 21st annual tour, with 30 artists at 15 locations in the Erin-Hillsburgh area, go to