I Still Can’t Draw

I can’t draw very well. I admit it. When I was taking figure drawing classes in art school, I had regular practice and I actually got pretty good at drawing realistic portraits. But now, well, let’s just say my skills are sketchy at best. The question is, does my limited ability to draw realistically limit me as an artist and by extension, an art therapist?

I would say that it frustrates me at times, but ultimately does not limit me as an artist or art therapist. I find that when people say that they are not artists or are not creative, what they usually mean is that they cannot draw realistically. This self-excludes a large portion of the population from the creative realm! Drawing realistically is only one of many creative outlets. It is a skill subset, not the definitive criteria for being an artist. Because of my training as an artist, I understand the elements and principles of design, color theory, art history and everything else that goes into formulating my creative ideas and work. I do not have to master every skill to call myself an artist, and neither do you and neither do our clients.

I tried to teach a client to draw a portrait this week. I showed her the correct proportions and talked about line quality and shading. However, my drawing came out looking pretty goofy even though it was “following the rules.” We laughed about it and it actually sparked a really great conversation. She thought I knew how to do everything and it was eye-opening for her to see that I can’t do everything and that I was comfortable admitting that. I was willing and able to expose myself as human, not just as “all-knowing therapist.” I believe that there are times in the therapeutic relationship when it benefits the alliance to reveal our own foibles and let the client see that we therapists have the same challenges and struggles of life as they do. Revealing my weaknesses as an artist does just that.

So go and create in whatever way and form your heart feels called. And let’s all work on letting go of our artistic insecurities. They don’t serve us well as artists and art therapists.


Spaces & Places: Where We Create

Join me in this exciting project!



“It’s exciting to announce a new art collaboration coming in February being organized by The Art Therapy Alliance! Spaces & Places: Where We Create will be an art therapy community photo documentary project developed by Magdalena Karlick, ATR, LPAT, LPCC and Gretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC inviting participants to submit a photo of their creative work space and favorite tools of the trade.

Through social media and digital photo sharing with Flickr & Instagram, this collaborative project aims to provide education, awareness, inspiration, and understanding about the spaces & places, settings, populations, and materials that art therapists, art therapy students, expressive arts therapists, and art organizations work in and use for their practice.

Photos (or video!) that this project will be looking for include:

– Images of your creative space: Where you work, intern, or your own personal art-making space;

– Commonly used art supplies and media in your art therapy work or internship with clients;

– Favorite technique: An art intervention or technique approach with individuals or in groups;

-If your creative space has changed: Before and after photos

Submission guidelines and more details to be announced when the project officially launches! Information will be posted to Spaces & Places: Where We Create project page @ http://www.arttherapyalliance.org/wherewecreate.html on February 13.”


To-do #1: Breathe.

By 11:15 a.m. on January 1, I had already broken my New Year’s Intention. Twice.  What pray tell was this intention? Exercise more? Eat better? Make more art? No, it was simply that I declared a moratorium on volunteering.

I am feeling fairly swamped lately by all of the things that I have willingly agreed to do. But when I am really stressed out, the fact that I chose these activities is little solace. Thus, the moratorium on volunteering which is proving very difficult to stand by. So difficult in fact, that I have considered ditching the idea altogether. After all, how hard are the things I am asked to do? Most of them are simple, don’t take much time, and help out the person doing the asking. Who can say no to that? Clearly I can’t.

Being engaged in a community and a profession means that many wonderful service opportunities come my way. How can I realistically think that I can say no to them? I think the real trick and the real intention is to find a balance so that I can help out and still have some fuel left over for myself. Over the past few weeks, I have been way too stressed out. This is a recipe for disaster for me. I invariably get sick when this happens and I let go of my self-care routines.

I spent this weekend getting myself back on track with my diet and exercise routines, taking care of household chores that were piling up, reconnecting with friends, and trying to relax and stay in the moment. Oh sure, I have a long list of things to do for school, work and church. But just for this weekend, I let myself have some breathing room and stopped forcing myself to maximize every free moment.

My new New Year’s Intention is to volunteer to take better care of myself. Crossing things off the to-do list isn’t as satisfying when I can’t enjoy the fruits of my labor. Getting things done for the sake of getting things done provides little comfort at the end of the day. The real problem that drove my original intention is not volunteering too much but rather that I left little time for my own rejuvenation. Now, let’s all take a big cleansing breath! Happy New Year!

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