New Experience with Art Therapy

Today's lesson: it's nice to be (60 years-396 days) old and still have new experiences. When I got up this morning, my first thought was, "I've got to clean out the lint trap in the washing machine," (a first! and I did, but never mind,) and my second thought was, "I need to make a self-portrait!" Ha!

I was going to post about the second round of Jade's Women's Creative Wellbeing Workshops after all five sessions finished but I can't wait.

Saturday, I was tired. Sunday I felt better and did a bit of housework. I missed the first session of this round traipsing around Abel Tasman, so Jade gave me a make-up session on Monday, but I was tired of being tired, again, and disgruntled because after loosing some weight, I thought I was supposed to be energized, more consistent, not this off/on thing. and productive. But I was ready and keen for the session.

The theme was "Our relationship with creativity and developing a visual language"; I have a tenuous relationship with my creativity and was astounded to hear myself likened it to a cat! As you know, to say I don't like cats is to put it mildly; it's a snobbish, unrequited love, always on her terms; I know she's been around when I see the food disappear or evidence left in the litter box. Or it comes home whenever she likes to brush against my leg and meow annoyingly. So unlike a dog's happy, straight-forward love. Slightly disturbed but unphased, I did a blind drawing, not looking even when changing colors, "feeling the motions, textures, (and something else,)" and not drawing with intent.
A2 with water-soluble crayons. I like the movement of my arms when I draw curves and circles, it feels natural; but because I'd been thinking about weaving since Saturday, I intentionally added a plain weave look, (actually basket weave, but it's A2 and I wanted it visible.) Ooops. Afterwards I was to look for, (and my memory gets vague,) shapes, symbols, or anything that mean something to me, and I found none. But I felt rattled; it's too frantic, and somehow that threatened my equilibrium, as if I would loose my hard-earned calm over one drawing after all these years. After the session I was agitated and did some backgrounds in my sketchbook which turned out alarmingly vivid.
This is the self-portrait I did today. A2, water-soluble crayons, acrylic paint, gesso, gloss varnish and medium that gives body to the paint. This is me this week, feeling a bit bipolar with a small b. Yellow green appears to be my happy color these days; the hair contains gesso so the color and texture are flat. The darkest blue contains gloss varnish so one eye looks wet, and the right half of the lip contains the medium so the red paint is thick. I can't remember if I used brushes, but I used fingers, palms, wet paper towels and plastic spoons to manipulate the crayon and spread the paint.

My notes say: "Art Therapy was supposed to calm me, wasn't it? This is the opposite. I'm surprised with what came out of me; have I been suppressing all this, what? At least I'm doing something; better than just feeling exhausted."

The two parts are not totally separate, so I have a bit of chaos in the calm half, and vice versa. But I managed to include some calm in the chaotic half on the edges, because at least I know when I feel frantic.

After our second group session today, I asked Jade what to make of all "this"; I told her I didn't know what I wanted to ask/know, or how I wanted her to help me. She said, (if memory serves, and I paraphrase,) in art therapy, we look for meanings/symbols, in shapes, colors, our behavior/reaction (?), which matter to the maker. We also talked about planning and intention in art vs. this almost self-generating art, especially in comparison to weaving. And that I can still stun myself. Although I would still like the chill/calm as my default mood, you know.
Today's theme was "Honoring Our Journey - Heroe's/Heroine's Journey" and we painted however we saw our journey/s.  A2, acrylic paint, gesso, gloss varnish and body-giving medium.

  • My happy colors are yellow-green with gesso; the paint is flat because when I'm happiest, most content, I feel calm and sometimes don't even talk. All my efforts are to get me to this Shangri-La. It has some bright yellow highlights, depicting heightened-happy. I'm not sure what the darker green means but I was aware there are subdued or even hard-won-happys. 
  • Red is the more passionate path to happy and it's glossy. 
  • The dark colors coming up from the bottom are hardships, but because my hardships are not really "real" hardships by any measure, it's not black but Payne's Gray. Bottom right corner is pretty solid, but the paint is thinner; some other parts are more built up but there are plenty of white gaps because I recognize the lightness (?) of my hardships. 
  • The patchy, built-up sandy parts are me working towards calmness. The same color, but flat, containing gesso, at top left is the calm I've learned/earned in the past 15 years. 
  • White is the calm I hope I've always had. It's mixed with navy blue below, which is my regular effort; not too hard, not too easy. White and navy overlap and are mixed in places because there has always been an optimistic me who believed things will turn out right in the end. There is a small area of Payne's Gray next to the navy blue, but a little bit of "hardship" doesn't stop me. 
I see my destination addiction in this. I'm always going forward, seldom looking back, so "now" is in front of the picture, where I am, and Shangri-La is where I want to reach/arrive. No matter where I am in life, this seems to be my constant view of life. Just like the top piece from nine years ago!