Art For Healing and Transformation

The power of the arts (art, music, dance, writing etc) to heal the body, mind and spirit has been documented and studied extensively.

I'd like to say upfront that I am not an art therapist.  I am a creative soul on my own healing journey and would like to pass on to you what I have learned along the way.

In my quest to find inner balance and serenity, I use experimental art, expressive art, doodling and writing to clear away any stress and negativity.

There are many ways to use the arts to achieve a more positive state of being.  The simplest act of just coloring, dancing or listening to music that uplifts you can be enough to melt away stress and tension.

However, if what you are really seeking is a way to dig deeper for personal growth and well-being, then you may want to try more expressive approaches.

An expressive approach means you are creating what you feel - it's about the process of creation - about getting to what is underneath the surface and allowing it to be seen or dealt with.  Your end product is not so much the object created, but instead, what was revealed to you in the process.

It requires you to develop a tolerance to look at something that might not be acceptable or what was intended.  If you are open and willing to let go of what has been holding you back, you will find yourself on a path to self discovery.  A path that can lead you to better understand yourself and uncover hidden strengths and talents.

I recommend using a Daily Doodle Journal for many reasons:

  • When you doodle, you are more apt to doodle what you feel - you are more connected with your inner state.
  • It is more spontaneous, with less expectation of a certain outcome.
  • You can do one quick entry or do a few quick pages until you see the energy shift.
  • If done on a daily basis, over time, you will see patterns emerge that you are able to identify as certain emotional states. 
  • This daily practice allows you to take a slower approach to personal growth and change that is much easier to accomplish.
Periodically, trying other techniques will help develop and transform your creative spirit.  With practice, you will find your personal creative style evolve and become more distinct.  But, there will be times when you might want to use a more abstract, primitive or child-like approach to your work.

This allows you to get to the heart of the matter more quickly.  It allows you to better express what you are feeling at the moment.

In the example below, I used tempera paint on bristol vellum.  I  was in a positive state and had a positive outlook about where I was with my life, but there were some "remains" of where I had been lingering on in the background.  This painting is a great example of reframing - taking a negative image and putting it info a more positive light.  I will expand on this concept in another post.

The dark image of the bullet riddled, bandaged and wounded heart was not the intention at the start. The process started happily with the long curving strokes in the middle.  When I  added the black strokes, feelings of the past started to creep in.  I tried to fend off them off, but they just wouldn't go away.  I wanted my paining to be "pretty".  I finally gave in and painted the wounded heart.  And once I did, the remainder started to flow with the symbols of rebirth and transformation.

I have never felt compelled to draw or paint embryo-like images, but that is what I felt compelled to do at that moment and didn't understand it.  While I felt a lot of hesitation to put it in the painting, I was also feeling a great release of positive energy.  I still have that same conflict when looking at it.

It may seem like an odd image to someone if they are observing it with the expectation that artwork is meant to be displayed.  This type of art is done strictly for what it reveals to its creator and sometimes it is better left for their eyes only.  Otherwise they may leave themselves open to others' criticism as they try to understand it or judge its level of expertise.

In taking a risk putting this out there, I hope you will see the value in what is being revealed.  Writing in a journal would never have adequately conveyed the message and feeling that this painting reveals.

So my challenge to you is:
  • Can you allow the images that want to appear to emerge in your creations?
  • Can you refrain from judging them harshly?
  • Can you appreciate and recognize what is being revealed to you?
Two great books that I highly recommend for more in-depth information on this subject:
  • Art and Healing - Using Expressive Art to Heal Your Body, Mind and Spirit by Barbara Ganim and...
  • Point Zero - Creativity Without Limits by Michelle Cassou
Happy Doodling!