One of the biggest questions I get in my life is, “What does the Lion mean in your paintings?” I can never answer this question with a simple sentence, because the Lion in my paintings mean more to me than just a few words.
I have been an artist since I was a young child. In my youngest years, I grew up in a loving family that also held abusive situations behind closed doors. Art and nature have always been places where I found peace in those times, as I could always be found playing in the woods, or drawing in my room.
From age 9-17, my family went through a lot of major changes. I began to struggle a lot with my mental health- but I hid this very well. My grades also began to slip, and I wasn’t sure I would even graduate high school. The only class I ever did well in, was art.
Due to a big court case we were going through for several years, we grew up with very little money. We had hit bankruptcy, but my mom made sure we never felt the stress of this as children. We always had food to eat, and clothes to wear as she went over and beyond to provide for us, even if she was in lack.
My dream as a young girl was always to be an artist. I dreamed of getting into an amazing art school, and one day having my paintings sold all over the world.
I actually got into my top school of choice- Savannah Collage of Art and Design- but because we were still struggling with recovering from bankruptcy at the time, collage and student loans were just not an option for me. So I let those dreams go and believed that art would always be a side hobby of mine, as I continued to draw and write poetry from places of pain I held deep inside of me.
I let my art slip away for a bit after I was 18, and I worked at various jobs to simply pay bills. I got into a relationship at age 20 that led to a very fast marriage, and an even faster divorce.
During the divorce, as I hid out in a hotel, laying on the bed looking at the ceiling, all I could think is ‘how did I get here?’. I had hit rock bottom. It felt like my whole life had de-railed and ended.
(above: I was asked to be a model for a wedding photographer when going through my divorce. I asked if I could use my old wedding dress, wanting to redeem it, and wear it one last time. These photos were taken at one of my favorite beaches where I have often had ‘dates’ with just me and God.)
I never expected to be going through a divorce at 21 years old. As I picked myself back up in this time, I found the hobby of jewelry making and even began to paint again. This was where my art took a turn into my Spirituality as I began to hear God speak to my soul in these times of creating. My poems also began to flow from a new place of hope and light.
It was in this season that I first saw and fell in love with God as my Lion- my protector, and my courage to be all of who He created me to be.
My life has taken me several places since this season, and I’ve had many ups and downs along the way. I began to travel the world, teaching art classes in India, and the US, and served a ministry school in England, where I met my wonderful husband, Shanen Soltani Icely.
(above: My time teaching beautiful women and children in India)
(above: Me and Shanen on our engagement weekend and wedding day; Trinity painting which was painted in my eager anticipation of being united in marriage)
In life now, I continue to experience highs and lows… and sometimes those low times feel like there is no way back up.
As a 30 year old woman I am still going through inner healing for things that occurred in my childhood and in my past- but I’m okay with this. I may not be where I want to be, but I can see clearly where I am, standing next to my Lion, finding that I am so much farther than I was at the start of it all.
As I’ve continued to paint, God continues to speak to me through my art- which is why there is also many paintings of storms, surrender, rebirth, and of course, the lion, that you can see in many them.
My art never came from a place to make money.. it has always come from a place of raw vulnerability between me and God. A place where I come to Him in the talent He has given me, and in that place he speaks to my soul as the paints move across the canvas.
My art is not accepted and loved by everyone, but that’s okay. I need people to dislike what I do, for I find having people give negative feedback or question my personal relationship with God has been one where I have learned to not let the opinions of others effect who I am.
When I was 18 I let go of my dream of graduating from an art collage and being an artist. Now, although I didn’t take the path that the world told me I must, (collage, degree, ect)- I have paintings that have sold all across the world. I published my first book this year called Kisses of Eden – Poetry, Paintings, and Spirituality by Sarah Camille Soltani Icely. (Now on Amazon)
At this moment, I am more than who I dreamed of being at 18.
No life is without struggle, and I personally don’t believe that anything should hold us back from the dreams we have inside of us. Fulfilled dreams do not equal a life without difficulty… In fact I believe just the opposite.
To anyone who may feel like they’ve lost hope in dreams they have within them, my two words of encouragement would be 1: Keep going. No matter how low you feel you may have fallen; or how many more times you stumble and fall in the future. Never give up your passion. And 2: Let go. Let go of the way the world teaches you, and be you. As you pursue your dreams from that place of being true to yourself, God will be with you, and together you will make your own path to the dreams He has put in your heart.