If you would like to know a bit more about my journey, this page shows you a list of my qualifications followed by a more detailed description of my life.
Qualifications and Training:
- 2005 – 2010: Social Work studies.
- 2007/08: six months of NGO work in India, learning yoga and meditation.
- 2009: six months research in India for my thesis on “Yoga and Education”.
- 2010 – 2014: Work as an educator in Kindergarten in Berlin.
- 2014: Forest photography exhibition in Berlin.
- 2010 – 2015: Life-drawing classes.
- 2015: Work as a teacher in a secondary school in Belgium.
- 2015 – 2018: Druid College apprenticeship.
- 2015 – 2018: Trackways bushcraft training from a native American lineage.
- Since 2018: Bardic Training with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.
This is a short story of my life, with a focus on my relationship to the forest and visual arts.
Born in 1986, I grew up in a small town on the edge of a nature reserve in the german speaking area of Belgium. My family name Dubois is of french origin and means from the forest. One of my earliest memories is of looking at the branches of trees whilst lying in a baby carriage. From the age of 5, I joined a scouts group and started playing games in the forest. I later found out, that these were the same woods, where my grandfather risked his life smuggling coffee over the German border in the years after the war.
At the age of 12, I frequently joined a forest guard, who took me out in his jeep and showed me the forest from his perspective. I was determined to spend as much time in the forest as possible and joined a specialized forestry school in the french-speaking part of Belgium. I stayed there for 3 years until the age of 15 and learned basic woodland management skills and trees identification.
As a teenager, I asked myself all kind of questions. I wanted to know why people are afraid of the dark forest. I took my bicycle and visited the forest at night. I remember standing on a field on the edge of a woodland, feeling both called to go in and wanting to run away. I went back several times before I walked in and managed to sit down. After the initial fear dropped and my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I started to feel the peaceful and harmonious atmosphere of the trees and laughed at myself for being so afraid. At the age of 16, I spend my first night sleeping out in the forest on my own and it felt like a big step towards adulthood.
At age 16 to 20 I experienced a sequence of traumatic events and heartbreaks. I became depressed and addicted to the various poisons our society offers us, to numb and distract ourselves from pain. I felt confused and empty inside and suffered from a lack of true initiation. A voice inside me always knew that there is more to life than getting drunk or chasing after power and money. My sensitivity allowed me to look behind the surface of society but didn’t make my life any easier. During these difficult years, the forest became my friend and a sanctuary, where I felt close to creation and the mysteries of life. When sitting in school, I spend a considerable amount of time drawing on my notepad, exploring patterns and cartoon-like characters.
In the years that followed, age 20 and 24, I experienced a spiritual awakening, that sparked off my quest for a meaningful life. I studies Social work and started reading books about psychology, therapy, Buddhism, shamanism, mythology, enlightenment and magic. I travelled to India twice, for six months each time, where I learned Yoga and Meditation from a range of different teachers. Each summer, I hitchhiked with a small backpack on my shoulders and slept in forests all over Europe. I travelled from Belgium to Finland and from Berlin to Portugal. I thought, if society doesn’t offer me initiation, I’ll go and find it myself. It was at this time, that my passion for drawing fully developed. I always travelled with a sketchbook and marvelled at trees and plants, visited museums or sketched on the street.
Age 25 to 28, I moved to Berlin and started working in a Kindergarten. Working with kids allowed me to combine my passion for art and nature. I started taking and later offering life-drawing classes, which have taught me a lot about anatomy, composition and developing hand-eye coordination. At the weekends, I would often take a train out of the city, to hike and camp in the big forest of North-East Germany. I came face to face with eagles, stags, snakes and wild boars.
I studied Nature, using my camera as a way of connecting creatively. When I was drawing in the forest, I become aware of a dreamlike conversation that was happening between me and different beings of the forest, visually reflected in the drawings in front of me. This new possibility of “speaking” to trees, water-beings and other creatures captivated my imagination and became a major focus of my creative work at that time.
In October 2013, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease transmitted by a tick I brought home from the forest. The first symptoms started to show up and I had to stay in my bed for nearly three months, taking high doses of antibiotics. Not knowing if I would recover or not and seriously impacted by the symptoms and side-effects of the medication, I had plenty of time to review my life. I described my insights about ticks and Lyme disease in a previous article.
Looking back, I see this turning point as a shamanic initiation, which can sometimes come with a shock or disease. It was during that time of suspension between the worlds, that I felt called to visit England and the ancient sacred sites of this magical island. After recovering from the disease, I decided to fully live my purpose.
At age 29, as an intermediary step before travelling to the UK, I lived in my hometown in Belgium, worked as a religion teacher in secondary school to finance the conversion of my van. It was a time a reconnecting with my roots and my ancestors. It was also a time of personal and ancestral healing. The forest and the ticks in it, seemed threatening and my fear of getting ill again impacted me strongly, but my love for the forest was stronger. I learned how to sharpen my awareness and move beyond my fear. I kept drawing and created many new pictures using ink, watercolours and acrylics.
From July 2015 onward, I lived in England for most of the time. I recently found out, that I have a strong ancestral current, connecting me to this country, which makes me understand the deep feeling of familiarity I experience since I first came here. I fell in love with the land and its people and met my partner Kathy. I travelled in my van, visited many magical places and lived on biodynamic farms and in woodlands.
Over a period of 3 years, I trained in both Druidry and bushcraft from a native American lineage. Many of my early experiences in Nature were confirmed by my teachers and put in a new context. I can now clearly see and describe what I experienced intuitively when I was younger and feel empowered with tools for connection, that I passionately share with others.
It was during that time, that I started Forestheart, as a way of sharing my creative work and to communicate with the wider community. Since then, I refined my own style of drawing and started offering workshops. I also work as a social worker, to help teenage boys connect with themselves through nature-connection and bushcraft.
As this journey unfolds and develops, I am committed to working in service to the big community of humans, animals, trees, plants and others beings, who share this beautiful planet Earth as our home.