This week I've been finding solace in paint.
Bright colors, dark colors, muddy colors. Acrylic, watercolor, gouache. It doesn't matter, really. I'm using them all, sometimes together, for no other reason than to create. It feels really good in a grief-riddled time to not be bound to words, and instead use color, texture, shape and symbol to express any and all that needs expression.
This blog post is an invitation for you to do the same. It is encouragement to nourish and self-soothe because so many of us desperately need it. It could also be a dare, if you prefer (wink, wink).
At this point you might be thinking: I need this! ... but I'm not really an artist.
I hear this a lot from clients and it begs a bigger discussion about who in our culture gets to be an artist, but for the purpose of this blog, I'll say this: You don't have to think of yourself as an artist.
Creativity, I believe, is a birthright. As is, healing. And so it seems to me that the two would naturally flow together. If you're interested in starting an arts practice, but are not sure how to begin I've compiled a few suggestions to get you started.
1. Start Small - Many people find themselves overwhelmed by large sheets of paper or canvas. No problem. I often recommend starting with a 5x7 visual journal platform so that there is no pressure to share your work - it's just for you. You can also take a look online at the many sizes of paper and canvas available. Choose what feels comfortable.
2. Start with a Squiggle - Yes, just a squiggle. I've intentionally left out any kind of art prompts from this blog because I think we can benefit so much from letting creativity emerge. That said, if you are feeling stuck, you can always start by doodling and seeing where it leads. Curiosity is the name of the game here.
3. Trust your Intuition - If you are using materials that don't feel quite right, go ahead and explore another medium. Perhaps paint feels too messy or pencil feels too rigid? Maybe collage takes the pressure off of creating a pretty picture, but you can still express in a way that feels good? Lean in and trust.
Lastly, remember that using art for expression and healing is about the process, not necessarily creating a pretty picture to hang on the wall - though that often happens anyway.
I'll add that in the near decade I've been an expressive arts therapist, my relationship with mediums has shifted over time. Sometimes I do feel called to use words for expression, particularly if I'm feeling the need to nail down a thought or an idea. At other times I'm called to curate playlists to capture a mood or shift a mood. While the focus of this post is visual art, the invitation above is actually to explore, to create and to express in all the ways. There are no limits.
If you're interested in learning more about expressive arts therapy, please feel free to reach out. You can also check out some of my own art process on Instagram @bay_area_feminst_therapist. I'd love to see yours!
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,