I am an artist, art educator and spirit medium. I have been able to draw realistically since around the age of five, which coincided with the realisation that I saw and walked alongside many people who were invisible to others. These visions never frightened or concerned me, indeed I found them comforting and good company. There were many other spiritual events in my youth, including out-of-body travel whilst seeing my physical body comfortably lying on the bed. I also had, and continue to have, precognitive dreams which would be proven by the news in the following days. These are memories which have never left me, a vital part of my life.
As an artist I can draw or paint anything. Then, as an art educator, I realised that when I was teaching portraiture I could draw the people I saw in my mind’s eye. During one session, I was drawing an elderly man with whiskers and a beaming smile when suddenly a lady remarked, “That looks like my grandfather and what a good likeness. But he died many years ago.”
At this point in my life, I did not want to give away my secret that I saw people, places and objects that were not part of the physical world. Yet this one experience helped me to understand that indeed I had the ability to create portraits of those who had passed over into the afterlife. This was quite a revelation since I had no experience or understanding of what spiritualists call the ‘spirit world’. I thought that everyone saw what I saw!
My perception of the world around me had many more people in it than were actually visible to the physical eye and these visions would happen in the most extraordinary places. Many years ago, after a meeting in London, I visited the British Museum and sat in front of the statue of Sekhmet, next to a gentleman with a large black folder. I was curious and asked whether he was an artist; he said he was a poet and if I looked at the papers in the folder I could read one of his poems. His work was very ethereal and not what I had expected. When I had to catch my train I stood up to leave but realised I had not thanked him; when I turned to him, he had disappeared in a split second. I believe now that he was a spirit teacher encouraging me with my own writing.
When I was thirty I met Ged, a healer, and he took me to a meeting at the local spiritualist church in Liverpool. This was my first experience of a religious practice other than Roman Catholicism, and it was very different! The Scottish medium Mary Duffy gave the service and I received a message from her, saying that I was a spirit artist. Not understanding what to do about this, I said, “Well, I am an artist already.” She replied, “You also see those in spirit so you will be able to use your gift to draw them and help those who can’t see to understand.”
Fortunately, other people did understand and were ‘brought’ to me. As Head of Art in a girls’ school in Toxteth, I would occasionally have student teachers working alongside me on teaching practice. One of these was a young woman called Linda Nichols. She came and went and I thought nothing particular of it until a few years later when I was invited to a spiritualist meeting in Liverpool city centre. I had found it difficult to locate the building and was late. As I eventually walked through the door I heard the speaker say, “Ah, here she is, the lady in red.”
“Yes,” I said, bemused, “I changed into this outfit just before I set out for the meeting. How did you know?” She had a spirit drawing for me and a message. Whilst that was interesting enough, the amazing thing was that the artist was none other than the student teacher who had completed her practice with me in my school.
“The spirit world has many different ways of getting us to work with them,” she commented.
It seems that I had been slow in understanding that point. These early events, more fully described in my first book Portraits from Spirit, were taps on the doorway of my mind to understanding how the spirit world works.
Later, as an educator of art, I realised that ‘spirit art’ was not only unknown in the world of Art, indeed it was deliberately ignored. This much was clear from the rejections of my articles written for art journals: this “cuckoo form of religious art” had no place in art history. Despite being part of the Spiritualism religion since about 1852, the art and artists from its inception were not accepted within the British art world.
There has been a slow growth in public events featuring spirit art, such as the Georgiana Houghton exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery, London, and works seen at the Lily Dale Assembly, New York, the College of Psychic Studies in London, and The Ancient High House gallery in Stafford, England. Yet art historians still categorise such work as ‘Outsider Art’ when its creators are clearly spiritualist. My own work has come under a barrage of criticism both from art historians and theologians since I began demonstrating spirit portraiture publically in many European countries and in Britain.
However, I have never given up working alongside the spirit world and have dedicated over fifteen years to completing a book that collates the history and methodology of spirit art, classifying it for the first time into six different types. For someone with structural dyslexia, my second book, The Art of Spirit, was a hard task!
The most incredible of the paintings I have seen was brought to me by a friend, Annette Tollis. Featured on the front cover of my book, it was created by the Bangs Sisters in America and known as Pearl (c.1898). This painting was created by a technique called precipitation. Using spirit energies alone, with no human touch, materials from the spiritual ether had been dropped onto the canvas; when finished it looked like an oil painting of the most exquisite type.
Another was a pastel drawing of Hollie created through me at a public demonstration. There was an audible gasp from the audience as the drawing was completed and I said, “…and she has butterflies in her hair…” The grandmother had a picture of the child on her mobile ’phone with butterflies in her hair for her mother’s wedding. At that moment, the pure love for the child and from the child for the grandmother could be felt by everyone.
There have been many difficult times while progressing my knowledge of spirit art. Yet there has been great joy in knowing that I have helped people unknown to me by creating portraits of their loved ones without ever having met them. There is also pleasure in understanding that, spiritually, I cannot create the art alone: all spirit artists have a team of invisible helpers, including the person who receives the art. Without this spiritual support producing the portraits, landscapes and images of familial objects, the deceased person would not be recognised.
The process begins with the love that passes through the consciousness of the deceased and of the artist, and it finishes with an outpouring of love from the recipient. Without this channel, the drawing or painting would be worthless. It is the continuous love that matters.
Where do I go from here? As an educator, writing about the methodologies and processes that support the creation of spirit art alongside examples of it, I hope to be helping the ‘new wave’ of artists, some of whom are embracing new technologies in their work. I am also collating portraits of living people that I have drawn, so that healing may be given to them through the drawings. The work of the spirit through art continues and grows, helping ever more people on their spiritual paths.
Ann Bridge Davies is a professional artist and medium, and author of The Art of Spirit, published by Local Legend and available worldwide.