Years ago I was a true skeptic when I heard about healing art, even though I was an artist myself!
As a Private art teacher I had seen the power of art as it transformed many people’s lives when people opened themselves to learning something new which brought them joy, yet I hadn’t directly experienced art as a tool for healing!
In hindsight it was obvious to me that I was denying the power art had in my own soul… that is before I was
moved to, no scratch that, obsessed, compelled, hmmm, how to put it? I couldn’t sleep, so I got up in the middle of the night to put down on paper and express what was inside before I could go back to bed and get some rest!
When did this happen? Well, early in my second marriage, we thought my husband’s cancer had returned, and while we were going through the process of testing, the emotional roller-coaster was getting to us.
I hadn’t planned on creating these pieces, I was doing “pretty art”, and those oil paintings are up on my Fine Art America site for viewing too if you wish. I was a little shocked when these pieces came out, pulled out of me on those sleepless nights.
Each morning I would wake up to see my husband standing transfixed, staring into each piece, tears in his eyes… he said that what I had painted exactly portrayed what he was feeling but didn’t know how to say it.
We framed each piece and hung them up on the living room wall, and each visitor who came into the house was immediately drawn to them and stared into them. They too had tears in their eyes when they finished looking.
Some of the people connected with them because they had gone through cancer, or a family member had. However, some of the people had been through abusive backgrounds, and the pieces spoke to them too.
I was asked to participate in an exhibition in New York City, as part of a group of artists from the Southwest USA, who were bringing healing art, not long after 9-11, and so I flew in with my pieces. I was very honored to be included, and so of course I went!
Many people found a great sense of peace looking into these pieces, some even cried and I remember thinking I was amazed that these hard-boiled New Yorkers were moved by my art!
I think the one person who touched me the most was a young boy of around 11 years old whose mom was sick with cancer; he visited with each one for around 20 minutes, and afterward thanked me for flying to New York to show them.
Many people told me I needed to make reproductions and have them available for other people to experience what they had.
I kept this advice at the back of my mind, but didn’t know how I could go about doing it when I didn’t have access to funds to make the reproductions or to market them. So the idea stayed percolating quietly waiting for its time until I learned about Fine Art America.
Quite soon after the New York experience, I participated in a healing workshop at the (former) Sunstone Cancer Center in Tucson, where I was one of the teachers helping cancer survivors create their own art pieces, and one of the participants, a counselor who was also grappling with her own healing journey, looked at me in amazement when she saw that her own artwork she had created showed her progress through to her healing.
She had spent years writing in journals, and here was one piece of art she had created which was full of symbolism, and when I gently pointed out the meanings, she cried; her entire journey was shown to her. She said she would have to read through pages and pages of what she had previously written to be able to get a sense of how far she had come, and what she had struggled with.
So truly, healing art really exists!
I have experienced it myself, and have seen it in many people’s responses through many workshops I’ve given since then!
I’ve gone on to use art-making as a profound way to work through many of my own inner struggles, to deal with stresses of different life traumas, and to be able to see and express my own truths in a safe way.
Art Making is safe!
The process of making art, incorporating words, colors, images, textures, mark-making, etc. is a safe way of releasing pent-up inner emotions without fearing judgment or reprisals!
The end results aren’t as important as the process! There’s no need to worry about creating “pretty art” or trying to please someone!
The process itself is very cathartic and the release is wonderful, if not scary at times! This is a safe way of releasing inner anguish without worrying about hurting anyone!
If anyone is alarmed by what they see, remember, the process of getting it out was the most important component, and not keeping it inside to fester!
The pieces can help point us towards where we need to heal.
The process of creating art as part of a therapeutic journey yields unexpected clues into our own psyche: areas we have suppressed, areas we need to heal and grow in, and some of our “true” feeling we don’t want others to see!
The revelations we see may frighten or shock us, but unless we look inwards at our shadows, it’s very difficult to honestly learn about where we need to grow!
Having inner shadows doesn’t necessarily make us Bad People!
We tend to run from our shadows, fearful that if we acknowledge them it will mean we’re Bad People!
Until we can look inwards honestly, we keep it stuffed deep down inside allowing it to fester inside.
Most of the time those shadows consist of emotional and spiritual PAIN we have shut down and blocked out so we don’t have to feel it anymore! With that pain also comes unresolved ANGER.
By creating art to express those inner emotions, we find relief and release.
One piece of art isn’t always enough!
From experience I found out that creating one piece of art won’t deal with all the inner aspects of healing the deep emotional scars, nor will it suffice in expressing what’s currently happening in one’s life!
Rather, it becomes a tool for healing! Creating art to express one’s emotions is a process to be employed over and over!
Do you need to keep or frame the art created during this time?
You can if you wish to reflect on your healing journey, track what you’re feeling, and learn about yourself.
I’ve had deep emotional pleasure in ripping up very powerful art pieces! I’ve found emotional release in burning some pieces in a barbecue pit while praying to the Creator to help me heal.
You don’t need to be an Artist!
You can be totally new to making art, or feel your only talent is drawing a stick figure!
Using art as a healing tool doesn’t require experience or talent, it’s all about the tactile process of immersing oneself into the piece, and allowing the mind, spirit, and emotions to be released, sometimes for the first time!
You don’t need expensive supplies, or a studio, or even an art teacher!
You can do this solo!
Suggestions for this process
- Use whatever supplies you have on hand, even if it’s copy paper, pens, and highlighters!
- If you have some art supplies available for your use, allow your hands to grab whatever they feel drawn to! Your subconscious mind instinctively is attracted to what you need!
- Use the colors you feel the strongest emotional pull towards!
- Allow your mind to be free from intellectually telling you what to do, don’t worry about trying to create anything pleasing or even recognizable!
- You are allowed to mix and match different materials!
- Even if all you feel capable of doing is to make some marks or a paper or canvas, that’s okay!
- Do you feel drawn to adding some words?
- Do you feel the need to glue or even to stitch other elements to the piece?
I’ve worked on a few pieces at once, I’ve taken old pieces and repurposed them by painting over or even ripping them up and then using the pieces in new ways.
Tune into your emotions and just channel them into the pieces!
If the finished pieces seem too grotesque or scary to keep around, you don’t need to! I have found it very cathartic to destroy them after, symbolically tearing them out of my life, or even burning them (safely) and visualizing my pain and suffering leaving my body and going upwards with the smoke!
This is your journey, you get to set your own rules!
Here are some more related posts:
I wish you peace and healing!
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The Muse Trilogy 1, 2 & 3 are available on
Fine Art America for viewing, and as fine art prints!
I hope they will bring you peace too!
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Guided Journals help you work on a particular issue by answering questions to help see patterns and to find solutions:
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