What happens when a yogi becomes addicted to aerial arts?

I met Nadine Johnson when she was the yoga instructor on the yoga and aerial arts retreat that I attended in Costa Rica in May run by Go Well Beyond and Aerial Artique. She was an excellent teacher, especially since she is an aerialist herself and understood what we needed from the yoga practice to recover from the aerial sessions. Nadine exudes a sense of calm and poise which I think is reflected in her aerial practice. I wanted to try to capture this in her portrait.

‘Golden Hoop‘: Ink and gold leaf on watercolour paper, portrait of Nadine


I loved spending time with Nadine on the yoga and aerial arts retreat. We got to chat a lot during meal times where all of the attendees stuffed themselves silly with delicious healthy food.

It was lovely to learn from Nadine. She is an excellent yoga teacher, showing each student different modifications to suit their individual needs. Her vast knowledge really showed through the way she explained challenging poses. Seeing her performing the poses was also a treat as she has an extremely graceful way of moving.

Nadine’s classes were also the first time I had ever tried restorative yoga. Along with all of the other amazing experiences at the retreat, the restorative yoga made me feel so rejuvenated. Nadine also introduced me to the use of essential oils with yoga. I loved the combination to play to so many senses at the same time and have since gone out and brought myself some oils to continue to use them.

Side by side comparison of reference image and ‘Golden Hoop’

Q&A with Nadine:

What made you decide to try aerial?
I joined FitMob, a predecessor to ClassPass, and started trying all sorts of fun and unique classes. My first class was at the Circus Center. The teacher was strict and loving at the same. I really like that. Later, I found out that she had been in the Pickle Family Circus in the 80’s. As a kid, I probably watched her perform.  And, now I get to benefit from her talent and experience. That’s amazing! I never dreamed of being a ballerina growing up, but I always liked watching women on the trapeze.
What were the best qualities about some of your teachers when you were getting started?
When I was in design school, all of my teachers were professionals in the industry. They told stories about working on Hollywood sets in the 40’s or in New York and London in the 70’s. There’s something extra, something intangible in learning from someone who’s lived the work. I always seek teachers who have a depth of experience to pull from and empathy for those of us who are just starting out. I’m lucky that I have amazing professionals like Maia, Stephanie and Elena to learn from.
What is your favourite aspect of aerial?
I love being up-side-down.  I love being high in the air. I love the flow and finesse that you can find in sequencing and playing in a lyra while defying gravity
How would you compare aerial to yoga?
They’re like cousins. There are similarities.  It’s all movement and meditation, of sorts. But, they are two different things. I practiced yoga for over 20 years when I started aerial. But I was an absolute beginner. I had to find strength and flexibility that’s different than what I use in yoga.  The mindfulness of my yoga practice has kept me from getting injured in aerial.
Has the things that you like about aerial changed from the time you started to now?
It’s been about 3 1/2 years now and I feel the same as I did before. I feel at home in a space where a really strong woman is seen as beautiful and feminine. That’s pretty rare in this world.
What are the qualities that you aspire to in your aerial practice?
I aspire to make it look effortless. I’d love to use my other talents to bring more creativity to costuming and sequencing. And, without getting political, Id like to promote more diversity in this art by example.

Reference Image

I love the beautiful shape that Nadine is creating with the lyra in the shot she sent me. Her lines are lovely and the hoop frames her beautifully. The photo was taken at Aerial Artique during a training session. I wanted to focus more on the shape of Nadine’s body and the hoop rather than the lighting or the background, which is why I tried to create a simple portrait.

What happens when a yogi becomes addicted to aerial arts?

Reference image  of Nadine at Aerial Artique


What happens when a yogi becomes addicted to aerial arts?

Progress photos of ‘Golden Hoop’

Creative Process

For the portrait of Nadine I wanted to keep the colour scheme simple so that the shapes and form could be the star of the artwork. I used drawing ink on watercolour paper to paint the figure. Two layers of ink were used, one slightly diluted to create a grey tone.

Once I had painted the figure I wanted to give the portrait something a little bit special. I still wanted to keep the background clean because I thought that a busy background would overpower the figure. So I decided to add some gold leaf to the hoop to make it pop. I think that the little bit of bling is just the ticket to finish off the piece.

‘Golden Hoop’ on my bookshelf with my pretty books and a potted plant


 What happens when a yogi becomes addicted to aerial arts?

Prints of ‘Golden Hoop’ available in my online store


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