Creative Insights: Karen Wallace

Seeing Ourselves as an Evolving Art Project

As an Art Therapist, I enjoy helping people perceive therapy, as fun, pleasurable and non-threatening. If we can gain some distance and start to look at ourselves as a creative project in the making, then perhaps we can be more relaxed and playful in seeing how this self of ours can evolve. If we allow ourselves creative license to experiment and explore, then self-development or self-growth can become as intriguing as any other art project we are invested in. Art Therapy works on many different levels helping our bodies relax, our minds get clear and focused, and provides an outlet to express emotions. It is an integrative therapy that engages the whole self. Clients come to see me for different reasons, but they all want change of some kind. Using Art Therapy to explore change is a wonderful creative way to work with the messy, scary part of it, and the joyful and inspirational part of it. The winter is a great time to slow down, reflect and get focused. I’d like to introduce you to an Art Therapy exercise that is a fun, reflective and interesting way to play with change. I use it with individuals and with groups. You may want to gather some close friends to your studio to do this with or do it alone in your art journal. You will need paper, pen, a large collection of interesting images from magazines, old calendars, cards, etc., a background for your collage (cardboard, canvas board, etc) and glue.

First write down 3 to 5 things that you feel good about, proud of or happy about that you accomplished in 2010. Say these out loud to your friend or group and then blindly or not, choose one picture from the pile. Next, say how you see this image relating to your accomplishments. It may be serious, confirming, humorous or insightful. But make some connection. Then use it to start your 2011 collage. You may also want to write the words on your collage or draw, doodle or paint them on. Then, after everyone has a turn, write down 3 to 5 things you want to leave behind you in 2011. These can be anything from painful memories to worries and/or physical possessions. Share out loud these and again pick (blindly or not) one image for “What you don’t want to bring with you into 2011.”

Now add these to your collage. Feel free to embellish as you go taking all the time you need to doodle, paint, add images, thoughts, words, etc. The last part is 3 to 5 things you would like to embrace, discover, practice and or include in your life in 2011. Read these out loud, pick your image and now settle in to complete your collage. To finish, you may want to end the new 2011 collage with one word, one image that may be a grounding or core image or word for the New Year.

This therapeutic exercise gives you an artful way to reflect on and feel grateful for the past, focus on what you want to clear or work on in your life and name what you feel moved to accomplish in the future. When we want to change some aspect of our life, these are the three ingredients; starting with what we are already feeling grateful about in our life, identifying something or some things that are blocking or holding us back and clearly naming what we are to ready move towards. Afterwards, journal about what steps you need to take now to create this change or changes in your life. What do you need to help you clear the list of things that you feel ready to let go of and what do you need to help you take the first steps to move towards your new desires? If you have an art group, this is a good exercise for you all to do in your art journals, or on canvases. If you are more of a word person, do this exercise verbally and ignore the art part. Of course a roaring fire, candles, popcorn, wine and music are also additions to this project. Be kind and gentle to yourself as you ‘self create.’

Yours Artfully, Karen

Read Karen’s Contributing Editor Profile here.

Listen to a podcast with Karen and Ricë Freeman-Zachery here.


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