Artist Spotlight – Introducing Sue O’Kieffe


Journey To Mandala

You could say that it all started with some pretty stones and you may not be that far off.

Sue O’Kieffe was born in Minneapolis in 1951, an only child who spent most of her time alone. Sue tells me that the earth was her ‘Mother’ and she spent many hours as a child learning songs from the birds and collecting and filling her pockets with pretty stones. One of her fondest memories as a child was finding a small turtle and naming him Pancakes due to the shape and color of the underside of his shell. Her father fashioned a leash by taping clothesline to the back of the shell so Sue could take her little friend for walks, although she does not feel Pancake ever truly appreciated the gesture. Sue’s world was full of art from an early age. Drawing, coloring, writing stories and plays were a natural way for this introverted little girl to express herself. The family piano she considered one of her companions as music was also an important element in her life. At the age of five Sue proudly proclaimed that she would be an artist when she grew up only to have her mother reply that “it would not happen because she was not good enough.” Regardless of this statement, Sue says that her creativity was nourished and encouraged and feels that her mother’s own internal struggles as an artist prompted the ‘knee-jerk’ response. Today, fourteen years after her mother’s passing, Sue feels her presence in spirit and knows she is still encouraging her art and creativity and occasionally receives validation of this when she smells her mother’s perfume.

Sue first began playing with patterns through embroidering, knitting and crocheting and in her 30’s had become captivated with bead work  She began working with beads in her embroidery, making jewelry and even started making her own beads using polymer clay. As her journey continued she learned about the healing power of colors and began incorporating this knowledge into her artwork. I believe that the meditative nature of the art that Sue was creating was opening her up even more to Spirit and the message that her Art could heal on some level. Sue shared with me that along the way working with tiny beads took a toll on her eyes and body. I find it to be a common pattern with those people who are working in any type of spiritual or healing work; there comes a time when Spirit launches you onto your soul’s path and you realize that everything has led you to where you are today. When Sue could no longer work with the meticulous nature of the tiny beads, she began searching for another medium and the synchronicity began.

I believe that the 1990s were a defining moment for Sue, this young introvert who had spent most of her life working alone with her art. She found a group of non-judgmental women who were interested in Collage. They would meet twice a month making collage a process rather than a product. She tells me that it was her first experience creating within sacred space embracing the Divine Feminine. Sue says “these bi-monthly meetings were magical to me; it was a place where I could begin to heal from that early childhood wounding.” Sue worked with this group of women for four years and says that she “loved the respect and safety of the group”. My impression is that for those four years these women were her family and the sisters that she never had growing up. On a Saturday afternoon at one of her ‘sisters’ homes she had the opportunity to play with Photoshop and the moment her hands hit the keyboard she knew that creating digital art was her soul’s calling. In 2005 Sue went back to school to learn digital media and “all things Adobe” and by the time she turned 55 she decided to finally own the title of Artist. It was during this time that they found a tumor on her carotid artery. As she embarked on a healing journey, she discovered the karma that needed to be healed in this lifetime. In a past life trauma she discovered that speaking her truth was not safe. Learning to be in her truth and power has been a huge part of her healing journey. “I coughed for 6 months after my surgery. They nicked my vocal chords when removing the oxygen tube. I see it as the period when I was coughing up my truth. This was also the time I learned about Auralite crystal. This crystal helps us access our core Truth. I know that one of the roles I play with my art (and to a lesser degree with the Auralite itself) is to assist others to get in touch with their own truths.”

Sue recalls as a little girl how she used to love to rub her eyes because of the colors and patterns that it would create behind her closed lids. She brought back my own childhood memories mentioning her mothers’ Spirograph that she used to play with as I had my own Spirograph as a child. Sue’s first real experience making Mandalas was in a workshop in late 1997 facilitated by a local artist trained in the process created by visionary mandala artist Judith Cornell. The media was black Canson paper and Prismacolor pencils. They would lay many layers of white before laying the colors overtop. Sue says that the workshop was a powerful experience as well as transformative. She again mentioned that through this experience she was able to connect to the Divine and “loved creating within the container of the circle.”

After purchasing her first computer she began searching for Mandala art and discovered an artist by the name of Komra Moriko and through this research knew deep inside that she would create Mandalas based on the beauty of nature. I asked Sue about the process for creating her digital Mandalas and she said that she is a story teller; that each Mandala is comprised of a story of how it came into being. One such story was the day she visited a nursery which was not her preference as she would rather be out in nature; however, their selection was good and diverse. On this particular visit she kept seeing a hummingbird flying around her and as it flew away she looked down and found a crow feather at her feet. Sue says that it was a gift from the hummingbird so she took the feather home and photographed it and created a crow feather Mandala. Sue says that the Mandala comes and then the name; “telling the story is a way of capturing the mood, essence, and spirit of creating the mandala. The mandala comes first. The story, for me, is an additional backdrop that hopefully adds more detail and meaning to the image. Ultimately, though, I hope the viewer will find their own story and meaning in the mandala imagery.”

Talking with Sue was a very comfortable experience, as if I had known her for years. She is funny, witty and shared with me that at one time she dreamed of being a professional clown; she even has a rubber chicken that was gifted to her by a friend. After reading Patch Adams she was moved to be on his staff, although never was serious about pursuing that adventure. She gives credit to the friend that gifted her the rubber chicken for helping her get in touch with her ‘Happy Self’. A form of healing occurred for her and she embraced this silly side recently by getting a new hat; a clown hat to go with her red nose, clown shoes, sock puppet and of course the rubber chicken. She admitted that she does like to be spontaneous and silly and it was coming through in our conversation. Sue is truly a warm and compassionate soul.

Sue continues to honor her Earth Mother by taking her camera with her everywhere capturing photographs of nature. She is nurtured by nature during these photo-shoots, and then she hopes to nurture her viewers with the mandalas she creates. On many of her walks she says that she communicates with the plants and that they speak to her and she tells their story. She incorporates crystals, being the keeper of auralite, flowers that were gifts from friends, and anything natural if there is a story to tell. As this media has evolved for her so has she evolved in her methods of creating the beautiful Mandalas. “Being out in nature and filling my eyes with her beauty, capturing it all on my camera, and then bringing her gifts home and transforming it all in Photoshop is a deeply nourishing and fulfilling process.” Sue will also meditate asking her guides what would like to come through and uses Divine guidance to assist in telling a story. Sue also creates personal ‘True Self’ Mandalas through assisting the client on a guided meditation. “Creating True Self Mandalas inspires me. I love helping my clients connect with their True Self and then intuiting a personal symbol of their True Self in mandala form from the information that they share with me. It makes me really happy to assist others to see who they really are. I know that I came into this lifetime to be part of some amazing planetary changes as a healer and lightworker and to create mandala art to assist humanity with these changes.”


Sue can be found on Facebook and Etsy:


Here are just a sampling of Sue’s beautiful mandalas with their story. Viewing this inspiring work it is easy to place Sue among those we see as ‘Beautiful Spirits.’

Crow Caws Gold 
Sue O'KieffeCrows and ravens are common on the North Coast of California. Whenever I go to the beach or walk in the woods, I see these magnificent black birds soaring overhead, playing in the air.
 As I was creating this mandala I heard the name Crow Caws Gold.  In medieval alchemy, because of its black color, the crow represented nigredo, the unformed state full of potential. It is the first step in the process of turning lead to gold.
I was guided to use ten rays for this mandala. Ten is a number associated with creation and the
Universe. It also represents Divine Law. Ten is the end of a cycle and the beginning of another. Ten is the number of life and death.
The black color of crow represents night as well as the dark of the womb. Likewise the cycle of night and day, death and rebirth are also part of crow’s medicine. Crow is about the magic of creation.
 Crows are intelligent, observant and aware. Though a color of the night, they are a daytime bird that remind us that the magic is everywhere, if we are open to seeing it.
Fierce Transformation
Sue O'KieffeFierce Transformation Mandala marked a shift for me in the way I approach mandala making. While I’ve always known that I had guidance and “outside help” while creating my art, I’ve never actively sought it out until very recently by asking “what most wants to come through and be expressed?”

Ahh Mandala
Sue O'KieffeMy first mandala of 2013.

A couple of weeks ago, when meditating with one of my pieces of Auralite, I heard him (my gender bias)  request that I create a mandala from his image and to include the energy of hydrangea with it.  A friend of mine gave me a bouquet of hydrangea from her garden as a winter solstice gift that I have since dried. I took photos of both to use as source images for this mandala. Ahh is an acronym for Auralite/Hydrangea/Hydrangea. I created  one auralite and two hydrangea mandalas and blended them together to create this third. It does have a feeling of opening up and going Ahhhhh, doesn’t it?

Resonant Heart Mandala

Sue O'KieffeThe first time I noticed these coleonoma flowers up close was right after a refreshing spring rain. The pink energy of the blossoms seemed to radiate soothing love. As I was completing the mandala, I was reminded of the calming energy rose quartz offers during times of stress. I created a rose quartz mandala from a photo I had and used it for glowing sparkly texture that is in the space surrounding the mandala. I love the way the energy reaches out and draws you in, like the beating of your heart.

In developing consciousness, we are able to reach out and draw in with our breath. Breathe in love through the heart and breathe out gratitude through the solar plexus area. Breathe in appreciation and breathe out courage. This exercise helps us to develop and maintain positive attitudes ( Thanks to the Heart Math Institute for this meditation).

May you be soothed and strengthened by the energy of this mandala while developing your own resonant heart.

Inviting the Christ Light

Sue O'KieffeChristmas Eve morning 2012 I had a dream, and I heard these words:

So many of you keep thorns around your heart, keeping Love out. My message to you is to do some pruning. Open up. Let the Love and Blessings of the Christ Consciousness fill your heart.

And I saw what looked like a nest made of thorns. Luminous yellow petals floated into the center — petaled droplets of Love.

I heard myself ask what wanted to come forth, as I witnessed the mandala being created in my dream state. Hawthorn and rose quartz showed up, as well as the number 8.

It just so happens I have a small hawthorn tree right outside my apartment. And I will tell you that the thorns on that tree are formidable. But hawthorn also contains chemical components that regulate arterial blood pressure, making it an excellent heart stimulant. This is a tree for the heart.

And rose quartz is a dear friend. She offers many ways to open the heart to the appreciation of all things.

In my waking state, a yellow rose, long regarded as a symbol of  Love, said Yes to me as a representation of Christ Consciousness.  Eight is a number of infinity.

Three mandalas were created from these sources, and then blended and merged together to offer the energies contained within in each element to bring healing and inspiration.




About Author

Kimberly Ward

Column: New Beginnings Holistic Wellness | Kimberly Ward is a Certified Psychic, Medium, Shamanic Practitioner, Healer, and Ordained Spiritualist. Kimberly has been an empath her entire life, just “knowing” things on a deep an profound level. She uses cards in her readings as well as clairvoyance to tap into what is happening in your life. Through mediumship and Shamanic work she can identify passed loved ones and spirit guides around you. Find out more at her website,

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