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.