Pulse Points is a series of posts on Create Mixed Media where five mixed-media artists are each presented with two survey questions gleaned from the pages of The Pulse of Mixed Media: Secrets and Passions of 100 Artists Revealed by Seth Apter.
How do you feel if you don’t tap into your creative ability regularly?
“Restless… claustrophobic… cranky… constrained… anxious… ill used.” These are just some of the words used by the panel to describe the feelings that arise when they are unable to stretch their creativity muscle. Do they sound familiar? It is clear from the responses that creating provides a sense of balance and calm for most of these artists. According to Sue, “When I am in my studio, surrounded by my supplies and working on a project, the rest of the world just becomes background noise.”
Quinn notes that, “working creatively makes me feel complete, as if I’m using both sides of my brain and coming up with fresh approaches.” This sense of completeness is echoed by several other panel members, as well. Christine described creativity as “an inherent part of our humanity” and Jill has begun to “recognize the essential nature of being creative, instead of feeling, like I used to, that my need to make art is an extravagance.”
The need to create was mentioned by all the panel members, who often likened their studio to an essential body organ. According to Sue, “my studio is the center of the universe for me. Tapping into my creative energy is just as important to my well being as eating and sleeping.” Jill adds, “If I go days without being in my studio I feel like I am neglecting one of my senses. Creating is as important to me as seeing.”
The other side of the coin was expressed by Carla, who described her creativity as being modulated by her mood, rather than the other way around. “If I’m creating, that means I’m in a pretty good place emotionally because expressing myself creatively is where I go first when feeling good. If I’m not tapping into my creativity, it probably means I’m going through a long bout of depression and therefore am not creating.”
Many of the panel members felt that their creative expressions went well beyond their artistic pursuits. For example, Christine said, “my creative passions and abilities are integrated into almost all areas of my life, so it is hard to imagine not having any creative outlets. Hard to imagine not only because I would wither without them, but also because it feels like an impossibility.” Quinn said, “Creativity isn’t limited to the arts,” and added, “whether it’s art or writing, creativity is the sharpened point of the pencil, rather than the eraser.”
Do you think of art as therapeutic?
For some people art is art and for some people it is much more. Of course in the hands of an art therapist, art becomes a therapeutic tool to change lives. But the act of creating art in any setting can have a powerful impact on the emotional well being of the artist as well. This was repeated frequently by the members of the panel, each of whom described having had personal experience in this area.
For Quinn, creativity is a doorway into a healing state of mind. “In the worst times of my life, I’ve found that the quiet, introspective process of thinking and creating brings out new ideas and helps build small bridges of calm between turbulent thought and ideas.” She goes on to say that by “getting lost in the work”, art helps one “feel grounded and rooted in the familiar (which) helps create meaning (which) heals a damaged life.”
Christine says, “I have used art to process, work through and express all kinds of emotions, struggles and issues in my life.” She goes on to make the distinction between the mindful and the physical aspects of art making, both of which can be therapeutic. “I have been very intentional at times, such as when I was doing serious art journaling during my divorce.” To this she adds, “there is also something pretty incredibly therapeutic about the physical act of making art – making a huge mess, sanding, painting, splattering, pounding, burning.” We have all been there.
Jill looks to art for its therapeutic value as well. “When I feel totally stressed out, unable to come up with a solution for some life issue, some time with my journal or a painting or map usually does what they say miso soup does: cures whatever ails me.” She goes on to “wonder how people who do not have this way of self-expression get out their angst, and even their joy.” This speaks to the fact that once you experience the healing side of art, you tend to seek that out as needed.
Sue, in contrast, “finds it impossible to be creative when I am feeling stressed or worried because I can’t generate the focus that I need to make art.” However, she says, “there are definitely circumstances when I turn to art making as a way to channel a specific emotion.” She recalls a time when “I lost a good friend to ovarian cancer and experienced a tidal wave of sadness and loss. I spent a lot of time sitting at my loom weaving…because I was so focused it allowed me to funnel the emotional upheaval so that it didn’t completely engulf me.”
For Carla, art is therapeutic…but with a twist. She sees it as preventative medicine. “I don’t really ‘work out my angst’ through my art. I’ve tried but when I’m feeling down or depressed, I just can’t draw or paint. However, when I’m feeling good I turn to drawing, painting, and creating…it’s so fun. And, as far as I’m concerned, having fun is one of the most therapeutic things I can think of: laughter really is the best medicine.” The take-home message here: do not wait to create to work through issues but rather start to create now to help keep them at bay.
Be sure to check out Seth’s previous blog series on Create Mixed Media called Your Blog, Your Way.
Seth Apter is a regular contributor to CreateMixedMedia.com, the voice behind, The Altered Page and the author of the book, The Pulse of Mixed Media (North Light Books, Spring 2012). His two instructional videos, Easy Mixed Media Surface Techniques and Easy Mixed Media Techniques for the Art Journal are now available in the North Light Shop.