ART AS THERAPY
Posted on September 02 2017
This is a familiar term yes. But I don’t think it’s often explained. I think a lot of people may think it’s as literal as “draw something from your childhood that terrified you” which is terrifying in itself. WHO CAN EVEN DRAW FROM THEIR HEAD?!?!? I need source material all the time.
The therapeutic side of art that I’m interested in has to do with process and the creative process reflecting life. And by process I mean how you get from gathering inspiration and ideas and eventually turning it into an original piece of art. And the original part is VERY important. Because finding an image of someone else’s art and painting it exactly the same is not a creative process. I’m talking about gathering imagery, exploring theme, colour palette, composition, balance, emotion, listening to music, watching movies. Then letting it sit. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Drawing or sketching, thumbnailing. Then experimenting with a medium- trying something new and throwing caution to the wind. Then eventually somehow producing a finished piece.
All these steps reflect important life skills. Problem solving in finding a way to express your inspiration without copying. Exploration of new techniques without being shown- finding your own way to do things. Courage in taking risks with the work- feeling like you might ‘ruin’ a piece but knowing that it won’t be great unless you go for it. Dealing with monotony and boredom when doing the laborious parts of creating. Learning patience when you want to start a piece but you don’t quite feel ready and need to go back to researching. Patience when you just want to finish but you have to work up the layers and do the laborious parts. Restraint when you’ve discovered that exciting new trick like adding tiny dots of accent colour and you want to apply it to the whole piece but by doing so you’ll exploit the trick and it will look overworked. All of these skills are mirrored in life.
Creating new work is a treacherous path and along the way there’s a million roadblocks. There’s a million mirrors being held up to everything you’ve made yourself up to be. From what you were taught by your parents and upbringing to the events that happened in school, to whom you have decided yourself to be at this present moment. All of this comes flashing before your eyes when you make one single mark “what he hell is that?”, “it doesn’t even look like anything”, “I’m shit”, to bigger ego based fears “I’ll be laughed at”, “I can’t call myself an artist unless I’ve sold something”. ALL OF THIS. It’s deafening. And brutal. But it’s something you have to push past. I think a lot of people stop there because it’s so unpleasant and they become the people who say “Yeh I used to love art in high school”. At this point where you’re being shouted down by all of your own bullshit I think you have to start the questioning. “why do I feel that?” “who’s thoughts are these?” “who’s beliefs are these?”. Because they don’t have to be yours. They’re actually not. They’re just something you picked up one day because it seemed to make sense at the time or everyone else was saying it. But they can be dropped as easily as they were picked up- you just have to be aware.
And this is where quietness comes in. Mindfulness if you will. You can’t hear your own mind if someone else is yelling over it. Whether that’s people or tv or the white noise of our overstimulated digital lives. If you make the effort to be truly present when creating you can really start figuring out how you came to construct yourself and start picking out the things that don’t work for you. The most important thing when creating is learning to back yourself at every turn. A mark may look like nothing, or shit, or ridiculous but you have to give it a chance to turn into something. I think a good rule is to hold off judgement of your work (ideally forever- but that can take some time to achieve) for a certain period of time. And it’s hard. We judge- it’s what we do. But just be kind to yourself. I always think if we were as tough on other people as we were ourselves we’d be complete arseholes. And some people are- all the faceless trolls hate themselves far more than the people they abuse. Be kind to yourself and have faith that you’ll always be able to make a mark into something great. Otherwise it’s like trying to create with a hand brake on- something constantly dragging on this exciting forward moving energy. It’s like one step forward, two steps back.
Give yourself permission to create with reckless abandon. And just leave off that judgement bit at the end. It’s way more fun than drowning in your own bullshit.
Now read that all again in Tony Robbins' voice. MOTIVATING! (and terrifying).