art

Art, chakras & self-inquiry, oh my!

Oooof, what a year it's been so far, huh? For me, lately it's been more essential than ever to stay grounded and in touch with my body -- to listen deeply, to be nourished, and to express (literally meaning "press out") what I am feeling and carrying within. That's why this new offer comes at a perfect time for me, and I hope for you, too. 

I am thrilled and honored to be among the soulful artists and teachers in the next cycle of the inspirational 21 Secrets online workshop which will explore the theme: EMBODY. I am one of 21 teachers you'll hear from in this course, each offering a uniquely artistic approach to embodiment.

In my 21 Secrets segment, you'll join me on a colorful journey across the rainbow bridge of your chakra system. Oooo, one of my favorite topics to study and teach! We'll walk through the chakras as a developmental timeline, from womb through adulthood. You'll gain insight into how each chakra's qualities manifest in your life, and express your findings through art! Healing, honoring, and celebrating your body in your own artistic way will help to keep you connected to and caring for yourself in a time when it's imperative. And you all know how I feel about self-care!

EARLY BIRD SALE starts TODAY! Here's what's included:

  • A downloadable 150+ page eBook that contains 21 art journaling workshops packed with videos, photos, templates, and clear instructional content that is yours to keep and refer to again and again. This will be delivered to your inbox on March 27th at 9am Pacific, and it'll be yours forevermore.

  • Unlimited access to all workshops at once! You pick and choose which ones you do and when. There is no time limit or deadlines to meet — these workshops are yours to keep.

  • Membership to the private 21 SECRETS Facebook community where you can share, be inspired, and receive warm, supportive feedback.

  • The opportunity to learn a variety of art journaling approaches and techniques from the comfort of your home/studio.

  • Belong to a supportive online artist community that has been growing strong since 2010! 

Pretty awesome, huh?

The whole package is priced amazingly at $98, and you early birds can get $10 off using the code: emBODY when checking out between now and midnight Pacific Friday, February 11th.  

For more information & to register, click here.

 

Making space for a creative home

This blog entry is a repost of an article I wrote, which was published in Grounded Magazine in their Autumn 2014 "Make" issue. I'm revisiting it on this Spring Sunday morning, as I listen to my now 3rd grade daughter in her singer-songwriter creative zone in the other room. Unfortunately Grounded Magazine is no longer being published, and I wanted this piece to live on, so I will share it here with you. Wishing a spacious and creative day to you and yours!

creating-with-kids

My second grader and I linger at the table after breakfast on a brisk Autumn morning. I sip my light and sweet slow-drip and watch my mind fill with a Sunday to-do list: return emails, grocery shop, send birthday card. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a twirl of our handmade driftwood mobile near the window. For the next few moments, my thoughts flip-flop between warm days along the coast and plans to pick up butter and stamps.

Meanwhile, my daughter is grabbing a jar from a nearby shelf and is intensely engaged with acorn caps she collected on a walk yesterday. With profound focus, she is stacking them, lining them up, closely studying their shape and texture. She perches one between her thumb and pointer finger, declaring, “A perfect size for a fairy hat! Hey Mom, let’s make flower fairies!” Her proposal abruptly snaps me right back into the present moment, waking me from nostalgia for days passed and plans for the day ahead. One of the most profound gifts our children offer is reminding us to return to the present moment.

“Let’s make flower fairies!” is my daughter’s way of inviting me to enter her world of imaginal play and creation. She wants to connect in the most natural way children know – through immersion in the flow of creative expression. It’s so sincere and beautiful, and my iPhone is buzzing and there are dishes from breakfast and wet clothes to be dried and.. and.. and…

As both a mother and a mindfulness-oriented art psychotherapist, I have learned the deep, lasting, and mutual benefits of making art alongside our children. I can say, from personal and professional experience, this practice is not easy in modern parenthood. When we sit down to draw with our children, it’s either the ding of our inbox or the relentless voice of the inner critic distracting us from true absorption in the activity.

Slowing Down

A creative home life requires making mental space and time much more than it demands an expertly appointed craft room. Cuddling on the couch with a bag of seashell souvenirs and a spool of yarn from the junk drawer to create a garland will be meaningful as long as we are able to be fully present in those moments. Our undivided attention is what fills children up most. The added benefit is that if we really show up, it can be deeply gratifying for parents, too.

The best way I know how to enter into creative space with children is to slow everything down. Slowness is the antidote for the modern din, like an inverse yoga pose to balance all the rushing around. We can use the slow pace of the natural world as inspiration for the rhythm of our creative home lives. Step out for a family walk to absorb the colors, light, and offerings of each season, opening all senses to the experience.

Dancing with the earth models deep, meaningful living for children, reaffirming that each beautiful detail is worth honoring. When we experience the world through a child’s perspective, we are able to tune into the hundreds of colors on the skin of an apple. We can recall the magic of watching yellow and blue paint mixed to a vibrant green for the very first time. Slowing down each step validates a child’s inborn need to investigate the process. In preserving this innate gift, we challenge our own glorification of efficiency and multitasking. Bringing mindfulness to our experiences heightens the ordinary into something extraordinary. It allows space for us to feel something and to respond to it. This is what art is meant to do.

Making is our birthright as human beings. Children are aware of their inherent ability to create and are visibly enthusiastic about the life-affirming magic of putting something new into the world. Often adults have abandoned our inner makers for more socially sanctioned pursuits. The gabby inner art critic we carry can rest when we dive into a project with our children because they don’t expect us to be Martha Stewart or Wayne Thiebaud. Above all, they want to connect with our smiling eyes and benefit from seeing our committed engagement with the creative process.

Setting the table

Art materials are food for the soul. When preparing a creative activity, whether for my art therapy adult clients or for my young daughter, I imagine I’m hosting a special dinner party with an intention of making my guests feel cherished. Much like a chef pairs specific flavors so as not to clutter the palette and overwhelm the senses, I edit the selection of materials. The menu varies, but the setting is always deliberate and the meal nourishing.

I prepare the space with intentions of simplicity, beauty, and rhythm. I let in natural light and fresh air, assessing the space for distractions that could pull my family away from creative absorption. I turn off and cover electronic screens. I sweep away clutter that interrupts the eye. If I’m distracted by the worry that the “meal” will be messy, I simply cover the floor with an drop cloth, put butcher paper or oilcloth over the table, and we don smocks. If I still find mess to be an obstacle, I don’t cancel the party; we dine al fresco instead.

Just as I would select food at the market for dinner, I incorporate natural materials that are local and in season into our buffet of creative offerings. This reinforces a child’s attunement with the rhythms of the earth and helps parents come back home to these inner movements of the soul. Natural objects account for half of the “art materials” in my home. We gather acorns, sticks, shells, stones, leaves, flowers, and pine cones and store them in large, clear jars on a dedicated shelf.

Rather than a huge collection of art supplies, I invest in fewer, high-quality materials that promise a powerful sensory experience. Aside from basic paintbrushes, scissors, and glue, a few of my favorite art media are Stockmar beeswax crayons, liquid watercolors, Lyra Ferby colored pencils, wool roving, a variety of yarn and string, and white paper (140 lb. for painting and 80 lb. for drawing.) Knowing each type of art media holds an inherent metaphor, from the yielding way watercolors blend together to the resistance of a sharp pencil on paper, I purposefully select materials that will help balance the current mood.

Combining earthy items with traditional art materials makes for an elegant creative provocation — an art invitation without the intention of a specific product, inviting experimentation and free self-expression. I sometimes set up a provocation before my daughter comes home from school or prepare it before bed, so it greets us in the morning. Some favorite pairings on our art table that offer limitless possibility are:

  • leaves + clay
  • driftwood + acrylic paint
  • smooth stones + ink
  • acorn caps + wool roving
  • twigs + yarn
  • flower petals + clear contact paper
  • pine cones + colorful pompoms
  • a wildflower bouquet + colored pencils

Trusting the process

Children feel held when there is rhythm and appreciate a time each day or week devoted to making. Co-creating a ritual to mark creative time as sacred will bracket the experience as heightened and special, like lighting a candle or ringing a bell to begin and end art sessions.

Embracing an experimental mindset when making with children helps us to honor the process. This doesn’t always mean letting go of the idea that we might create a product or a useful craft; rather, it allows for meandering, messes, and mistakes along the journey. I trust that the art materials will tell us which way to turn next, and I listen to them with focus and wonder so my daughter might do the same.

Like all cycles, each creative process winds down to completion. Together, we clean our materials with respect and care. We set aside time to reflect upon what we have made, as this part of the creative process allows for integration and meaning-making. A child’s art holds his or her stories, emotions, worldview, and self-concept, so we treat the art with the same respect as the artist. I withhold my opinions and projections, being responsible to ask my daughter open-ended questions about her process and her creation.

When the candle had been snuffed or the bell has been rung, my daughter is often recharged and seamlessly moves into solitary play. My to-do list is still waiting there for me, and I face it feeling more balanced, satisfied, and connected. In my maker-momma bones and my art therapist heart, I have intimately come to know the value of mindfully making creative space where flower fairies can fly.

A story of flow: Birth of the SoulSpace Oracle & my Etsy shop

Wow, I wasn't expecting this, but today I opened an Etsy shop! I attribute this whole manifestation to the concept of flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (looks like a mouthful but is pronounced chick-sent-me-high) discovered that people find genuine satisfaction during a state of consciousness called Flow. In this state they are completely absorbed in an activity, especially an activity which involves their creative abilities. During this “optimal experience” they feel “strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.” And well, that's sort of how my offering an oracle card deck for sale on one of my all-time favorite sites happened. I have been an avid collector of oracle or divination decks for at least 15 years, and for the past decade I've been wanting to create my own deck for my own personal use. Each time I purchase a new deck or when I pull my daily card or spread from a favorite deck, I've always had that thought in the back of my mind that it'd be so meaningful if the cards I pulled were my own creation. When I saw the extraordinary artist, Tara Leaver, offering a 2-week ecourse to create your own oracle deck, I was sold. Two weeks seemed doable, and like just the spark I needed to light this fire under me. So I dove in, and one day I set up a bunch of little bits of watercolor paper, not knowing where I was headed with the art... just trusting and listening to the materials and playing. No audience in mind, no product in mind.

And it was FUN! I got truly absorbed in the flow of the liquid watercolors oozing on the page. And just like that, 30 images were created. Next, I sat down with each little painting and listened to the art. This is something we art therapists do (and teach our clients to do) quite a bit. I listened (with a sort of ear turned inward while my eyes were fixed on the image) until a word came for each image. I had an intention that the flavor of the words might give a 'how I want to feel' sort of vibe that I had found last summer while reading Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map. A few images had other ideas in mind, and produced more shadowy elements, which I completely welcomed in, as they offer balance and wholeness. I used little alphabet stamps to spell the words on the bottoms of the cards.

I went on a trip to L.A. that weekend, and I brought the cards with me because I felt like they may not quite be finished. While I was in the hotel room one day, I drew a little bit on each card using both black and white inks. They suddenly felt complete -- in an easy, flowing sort of way. And they were already so satisfying to pull a card-of-the-day, and know it was my very own creation.

I began to post photos of the cards on my professional Instagram page, and to my surprise, I received inquiries about where they could be purchased. As a healing arts practitioner who provides a service, I hadn't thought of myself as one who offers products or sells my art, but it got me excited to think of doing so, so I followed that whim with humble curiosity. A quick google search provided many options for self-publishing my deck, and a chance conversation with my neighbor afforded me a scanner to borrow one afternoon to digitize the images.

Scanned. Uploaded. Ordered. Shipped. Poof! This was happening... and with oddly less effort and more serendipity than I've felt in a while. This is what happens when flow is underway... we can ride the wave and take a stance of allowing, just watching it unfold. I watched this oracle deck come into being almost all on its own, and I love it when that sort of magic aligns.

And now my little 30-card deck is for sale on my new Etsy shop, Art and Soul Space. The SoulSpace Oracle, aptly named after The SoulSpace Series, an ecourse I'm teaching in self-care for healers, where we use oracle cards and art as a part of everyday micro-self-care rituals. My first printing of this deck is a small run, as an experiment, just for fun. If I get a great response, I'll reprint, and perhaps even create a 'part 2' adding cards to this deck. I'm thrilled that it's out in the world, and the biggest thing I had to do to manifest it was to get out of its way and allow it to happen.

An art therapist's favorite art supplies

I am often asked by clients, colleagues, and friends which art supplies are my favorites. I've not met an art supply I don't like, but I do have some standouts that are in heavy rotation in my studio. I believe in presenting my clients (and myself) with quality materials that foster positive, satisfying experiences. I display them in an attractive way, much like setting a buffet table for a most important dinner guest. I prefer natural light, beeswax candles cleanly burning, sometimes diffusing essential oils into the air, and in some cases, playing appropriate music. Creating a safe, pleasing sanctuary is part of the ritual of making art in my healing studio. This is not an exhaustive list of art supplies, by any means. It's just a sampling of a few staples in my personal studio stash. You can click the orange links in the body of this post to find these supplies on Amazon (affiliate links) or on other non-affiliated sites.

Paper:

First, it's important to me to offer yummy paper. For basic drawing, I use this white sulphite drawing paper.  When watercoloring, I like 140lb cold press watercolor paper. I make a 12-15 sheet pack of watercolor paper last by cutting or tearing it in half or into fun, small sizes.  (I actually prefer tearing the paper against a metal ruler because it leaves a pretty, raw edge.)

Making marks:

Sharpies are a go-to art supply for me - I like to Zentangle and make zendalas with Sharpies. I also draw with them and then apply watercolors because these permanent markers will not run.

When it comes to colored pencils, I have two favs. For a standard, fine point, you cannot beat good ol' Prismacolors. Sure, they're more spendy than Crayola, but quality over quantity counts so much in art supplies in setting yourself up for a successful, easeful, richly expressive experience. I also love the luscious softness of Ferby Lyra colored pencils. I recently found these woodless colored pencils, and I'm hooked on them.

I always love creamy oil pastels and materials like them. I offer these oil pastels in my studio, as well as these thicker, creamier color sticks, which have a lipstick-like consistency but allow for satisfying broad strokes when working large. (I love the metallic set, too!)

Watercolors:

Wet-on-wet watercoloring with liquid watercolors is one the most soothing activities for me personally, and for many of my clients. Mmmmmm! These are my favorite (and inexpensive!) liquid watercolors. I present them ceremoniously in these wonderful jars with these great wooden boards in my studio, and super-soft brushes aplenty.

Cake watercolors are old standbys for me, too. I prefer the palettes, vibrancy, and smooth application of these by Loew Cornell.

For 3-Dimensional Creations:

Because I don't have a kiln in my studio (yet? hmm..someday!), I rely on air-dry clay. I'm partial to the terra-cotta colored self-hardening clay. I also like white and gray tones, depending on the project. It's surprisingly strong when it dries, and can be easily painted with acrylics or inks.

I'm a fan of washi tapes of all colors and patterns. I stock baskets of yarns, ribbons, silks, cloth scraps... I offer wool roving, beeswax, buttons, and collage materials. I also love to keep natural wooden objects in my studio, such as wooden peg people, eggs, and Matryoshka nesting dolls. I get many of them at Casey Wood, but the basics can often be found on Amazon.

Most of all, I love art materials that are freely acquired from our abundant momma earth -- natural materials. I have stashes of sticks, driftwood, shells, stones, acorns, pinecones, feathers, leaves, garlic peels, twigs, moss, etc. that lend themselves to all sorts of art projects. They're free, gorgeous, and allow for such open-ended creating -- easily my favorite part of my studio.

You can check out some of my favorite supplies by clicking on the links to them in the text above and in the Amazon box below (scroll thru 5 pages in box) where you'll find extra goodies.

Happy creating! You can shop the list of my favorite supplies in my studio here.

Art therapy isn't just about the process - the product matters.

I define art therapy as the use of art materials to externalize one’s inner world for the purpose self-inquiry, transformation, and integration. These days we hear a lot of "it's not about the product; it's all about the process." Sure, I love the process arts, and the process of creating art is deeply significant; AND that's just half of the journey that takes place within an art therapy session. After the art is created, a third entity enters the therapy room, joining the therapist and client, and that entity is the art product, and it also matters - deeply.

Process: Creating art

The creative process begins with the nebulous ingredients of emotions, thoughts, ideas, and unconscious urges. Through the application of art materials, these unseen entities solidify and manifest as concrete shape and form. Art therapists are trained in when to offer which types of materials, which art prompts to give, and how to support the creative process as it is unfolding. Perhaps most importantly, we bear witness and hold space for our clients to create.

Product: Making meaning

Art therapy does not end with the experience of the art product being created; rather, the art therapist works with the client in a second direct experience of the image – deciphering meaning from the art produced. The product matters not in the level of artistic skill displayed or the "beauty" of the image. All of the art world or art industry rules are thrown out the window in art therapy. This is a whole different ball of wax. All marks made are art.

By directing the client’s attention upon the art object, it begins to mean something to the client. Making meaning of objects first occurs early in life as an infant interacts with the world, and organizes objects in its visual field so that they begin to carry importance or meaning. In a similar way, when a client discovers a line or a color in their art, they can begin to make meaning of it and see previously unrealized perspectives.

In this process of unfolding meaning, the role of the art therapist is a facilitator and one who journeys with the client. This includes the art therapist knowing how to suggest inferences based on the graphic evidence and encourage the client to speak about the image. The concept of isomorphism in art therapy is often used to describe how the art product is an external representation of the internal state of the client, or as art therapist Janie Rhyne says, the art's form leads to content or meaning. For this reason, as an art therapist, I aim to stay image-centered, elicit a phenomenological description of the image, and keep in mind all facets of the client, their environment, and their culture.

When looking at art a client has created, I exercise my training in mindfulness to suspend my own projections and impulses to interpret, thus allowing the client’s image to arrive with freshness into my awareness. Unfolding meaning from the image is a collaborative process between the client and the art therapist, held in the safe container of the therapeutic relationship. It works beautifully when I can witness my client creating art in session, followed by hearing the descriptions and stories about the image being told by its creator.

Full Circle

An art therapy experience is a round trip journey: It manifests content from one's unconscious mind out  into the art materials. Then from the new creation, meaning is made and newfound discoveries are integrated back into one's psyche. This journey may occur within a session or over a span of several sessions, and however long the path, an art therapist is uniquely and specifically trained to walk alongside you all the way there and all the way back.