Karalay (Karolina Cegielkowska) lives with passion and of passion. She is a true creator who paints, writes fairy tales for the Soul and creates calendars and posters. She is a strong believer that we all have hidden talents and art is not a goal itself but a tool to reconnect with ourselves within the matrix we live. To share positive perception and help others in the process of reconnection, she runs intuitive drawing and painting workshops.
LSA: Thank you for your time Karolina. Your story and journey from an architect to a full time artist is very inspiring. When was the first time you painted? How did it start and how has it evolved?
KC: Thank you, Agnieszka for inviting me to this interview.
I am 44 years old, and my adventure with a big architecture office began when I was 22. This job was meant to be temporary, as I needed some funds for my student exchange program in Detroit. Unexpectedly, it has extended into a long-term relationship after the exchange program expired. At work, I designed mainly office buildings and large housing estates. It was a very valuable time. I had learned a lot and met wonderful people. The work of an architect is creative, but it is also very stressful and exhausting. After 10 years, I was tired; I was missing something… and I didn’t exactly know what…
The breakthrough came when I got to know the idea of the meditation labyrinth, which for centuries has been a tool for transformation, physical and spiritual healing. Following the path of this maze is a symbolic journey inside yourself, a place where all the answers are. This is where the story begins. Soon after, with a group of friends, I had the opportunity to create such a maze; it was one of the attractions during the Warsaw Night of Museums in 2010. Its prototype is on the floor of the Chartres Cathedral. We painted a pattern with a diameter of 21 meters on the asphalt. The original is smaller. We prepared the instructions for using the labyrinth. The labyrinth was met with great interest. People walked on it all night. This experience, of combining artistic work with a performance, but also based on a deep inner experience, has changed so much in me that I decided to risk losing a stable, orderly life in order to seek my way. And so my great adventure began. That’s when I started painting. For many years, I painted every day. The first painting on canvas was the meditation labyrinth.
Then I decided to paint the chakras – energy centers in the human body. Mandalas fascinated me. I painted “circles” for a very long time. Then it was time for Personal Angels: paintings made to order, small formats painted with a specific intention.
During this time, I discovered that I have tremendous sensitivity and compassion; I was developing my intuition and exploring the knowledge of how images can affect the subconscious. At the same time, I started studying Feng Shui. I was interested in how shaping space can affect a person’s life. These were my attempts to approach architecture from a different angle. When working on large projects the recipient is anonymous, I was looking for a human being in all of this. This research led me to a coaching course. I was interested in a human being and developing the potential that lies dormant in all of us.
LSA: To share the beauty of creation you decided to run workshops?
KC: I run my intuitive drawing and painting workshops for adults, to help people disconnect the “I can’t” program and to bring back joy to their lives. The joy is lost by those who do not create just because they are afraid of judgment. I do not teach techniques, I help to unblock and regain contact with an important part of ourselves – the inner creator. And this also translates into other areas of life. Most of my students started painting after a ‘one-off’ weekend workshop and they say drawing and painting relaxes and de-stresses them. I also had an opportunity to work with children. Most of them have access to free self-expression. So they are great teachers for grown-ups.
LSA: We met during one of your workshops and I remember your fascination with Huna philosophy, can you please tell us more about it? What is so interesting about it?
KC: Huna is the Hawaiian philosophy of a happy life that stole my heart the moment I learned about it. It is very simple and very joyful; it turns our thoughts towards the light. There is a lot of optimism in it.There are seven principles that help us raise vibrations to a higher level and direct our thoughts to solutions. The idea of painting all seven principles of Huna evolved into a workshop that I led together with Marta Gierczyńska – a teacher of Hawaiian Lomi-Lomi Nui massage and intuitive dance. The workshop was called ‘Over the Rainbow’, and each of these beautiful Hawaiian principles was painted and danced. It is very important that a change, a vision, a new image, and a new solution that appears in the head and/or on the canvas, is also passed through the body. We often experience sudden revelations during our creative work. They are the turning points and that’s when great emotions arise. They always accompany change. Working with the body makes the change happen faster and easier.
LSA: What other projects are you involved in? And what are your plans for the near future?
KC: We live in pandemic times. It is my great teacher in many fields. It has made me more open to the suggestions that arise than to force my plan when conditions are not right. Suddenly, external circumstances severely limited the possibilities of organizing workshops and meeting with people. The general atmosphere of fear and uncertainty also affected me. After the first moment of frustration, I decided not to fight reality, but to surrender to what it is and to put my energies where I can. I have been working on a few small interior designs including one for myself. I was also sketching which resulted in a book full of drawings. A cartoon diary from the pandemic era came out of this. This regular drawing form of recording emotions suits me very well. Maybe someday I will publish selected fragments of this work, but I haven’t found the right form yet. Besides, it’s very personal, so I wonder how much I want to share with the world and how much I want to keep for myself.
For several years I have been writing Fairy Tales for the Soul (https://karalay.com/en/portfolio/fairy-tales/). It is never a scheduled activity. Fairy tales appear when they want. When the first sentence starts to run through my mind, I put everything I can postpone for later and write. At the moment, I have seventeen of them. Four of them are published on my website. The rest are waiting for their time and for the publisher.
There is also one fixed point on the agenda in the year. Since 2015, I have been preparing calendars with my illustrations. This is my favourite time of the year. These calendar illustrations are always a prophecy for the New Year. Graphical record of the energy that is already emerging… I am often surprised by the precision myself. In 2021, a volcano appeared on the poster. A few weeks after this illustration was created, volcanoes around the world increased their activity, and several of them erupted. For me personally, the volcano is a symbol of energy release. Showing the world what has long been invisible or even hidden.
LSA: What is your biggest dream?
KC: I would love to have an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. I was there once and loved it. It is architecturally extremely interesting; the exhibition is located in the spiral gallery that forms the body of this building. I like to imagine my works hanging there, the thought makes me feel as excited as a kid in a toy store.
LSA: Do you have any advice for beginning artists?
KC: Experiment. Do not be afraid and discouraged, or rather act in spite of fear. Be honest with yourself. Being yourself, the ability to separate your desires and dreams from others and to follow your own path, I consider the most important in life. This is a key to creativity. And although it is not always easy, I take up this challenge every day and I recommend that to others.
LSA: Where can we find your work?
KC: You can see some of my works on my website karalay.com. You can also find me on Facebook (Karalay) and Instagram (Karalay_KarolinaCegielkowska), where I publish more current content. Recently also on Posters Market. You can also visit my workshop in Warsaw.
On-line Posters’ Market https://targiplakatu.pl/sprzedawca/karalay/
Photo credit: Kinga Lennon, Sławomir Hubicz, Karalay
Interview by Agnieszka Kowalczewska