Did you know there is a relatively new field in therapy that uses art and the creative process to help people resolve inner conflicts, improve health, and much more? The first time I had heard of this was through my aunt who was a practicing and licensed art therapist. Since my background is in psychology and I love art, I thought this was such a great marriage of interests and became curious about it, because let's face it, who couldn't use a little zen in their lives from time to time?
What the heck is Art Therapy, exactly? Well, as defined by the American Art Therapy Association, Art Therapy is: ".......... a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the art therapist, use art media, and the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, or restore a client's functioning and his or her own personal sense of well being".
Wow, sounds fantastic, right. Make art and become a better, happier, more well-adjusted person while you"re at it.......sign me up!!!! As I often tend to do when curious about a subject, I got some books and did some online research. I was wondering if I could somehow connect my art with some inner emotions and what the result would be (both with the artwork and with the personal growth part). Now, if you are really serious about this, I'm sure you would want to contact a licensed professional ... but being the DIY kind of gal, I decided to do a little light-hearted experimenting on my own.
Based on my research, I learned that a lot of people like to use art journaling as a way of conveying their emotions using their art. Art journaling is a lot like keeping a diary except adding art, and whatever else you like, to enhance the experience (for example: ephemera, paint, poetry, photos, stamps...whatever moves you). Serendipitously my bestie Lindsey just happened to lend me some books on the subject, as we had been discussing the connection between art and emotion. I always felt that I had those two things compartmentalized. What I discovered was something very interesting.
I gleaned from my reading that the process of art journaling is supposed to be somewhat spontaneous and intuitive so I gathered all my supplies ahead of time and I set out to spew some emotion on paper! I got a blank sketchbook, turned on some music, gathered some materials and let myself go. In the end, I had a soggy mess in front of me and the exercise felt unauthentic and a little forced. Hmmm. What was I doing wrong? Was I shallow, void of emotions, and/or blocked? As my kids would say, "epic fail".
When in doubt, go back to what makes you happy. I decided to just draw something I liked and then something magical occurred to me. For me, it was actually the process that put me in a meditative state. It reminded me of something I read in a great book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards (a very popular book with beginners and seasoned artists alike [I highly recommend it!!]). I am paraphrasing here, but basically the book explains that there are 2 sides of your brain. The right side which represents the creative and the left side which represents the logic. The premise in the book is to try to block out your logic (left) side which bosses and often informs the creative (right) side in an effort to help you draw what you see, not what the logic side of your brain perceives. In an example to help the reader better understand, the book explains a scenario in which the logic side shuts down. Have you ever been driving a long, boring stretch on the highway and suddenly you realize you are nearly home and you don't remember a large part of the drive? Well, that is when your logic brain takes a break. You see, the logic brain does not like boring repetitive tasks and will recede allowing the creative brain to take over. That, my friends, is when the magic happens! Another example of this is a discussion I had with a massage therapist. I asked him what on earth he thought about during all those long quiet hours while working on a client. He told me he wasn't thinking at all and that he was deeply involved in the tissue. Different medium, same concept.
I notice when I am in this state, that hours can go by and that when I "come to", I feel relaxed and content. It is how many people describe meditation or how they feel when exercising.
Which leads me to the popular trend....adult coloring pages! Have you noticed these things popping up everywhere you go? I think I can attribute their rising popularity to the fact that this is one of those tasks that can force the bossy logic brain to take a power nap and let you slide into some right brain bliss.
Wanna give it a go? It is so easy to make your own coloring page! Just take a picture you like and with masking or painter's tape (these tapes are great because they are less likely to tear the paper upon removal), affix to a window with a lot of light. Tape a piece of paper over the top of the picture and then trace the picture. I decided to use pencil so that I could correct my mistakes if need be but use whatever you like! A dark magic marker would be great, as well. If you used pencil, trace over that with ink and erase the pencil lines ( ....... or don't! Whatever makes you happy! That's the goal, after all.) If you are lucky enough to own a light box, this is another great tracing method but no fancy is equipment is necessary!
Now here is the fun part! Grab your favorite coloring implements (colored pencils, watercolor, markers, crayons etc) and get in the zone!
Just in case you don't feel like making your own coloring page, I made one for you to try.