Small Beauties


Back in September, I had a reallllly bad day. I received some upsetting news that left me very agitated. What to do? Go to bed and cry? No, I needed to do something active. The biggest task that lay before me was to plant some 50 -odd bulbs. They had to get in the ground before the first frost.

I dug holes and buried bulbs and stopped every once in a while for a crying jag. My neighbors truly must have thought I had lost my mind. One of my strongest memories of this day was my fervent hope that by the time these bulbs came up I would be in a better place emotionally. I worried that seeing the newly sprung flowers would only take me back to that sorrowful place.

The bulbs are coming up now. And here is the gift:  my grief has transformed. I truly am in a different place, just as I hoped I would be all those months ago. Transported by the beauty of the hyacinths, tulips and daffodils, I am reminded that nothing ever stays the same. As the Little Prince said, “time soothes all sorrows.”

The bulbs came up.

I am artist, hear me roar


What are the qualities that make one a good art therapist? Does one have to be a skilled artist to be a good art therapist? I was asked this question recently and I think it is an important one.

In previous posts I have discussed the important differences between creativity and artistic skill. I would posit that it is necessary for one to have a passion and affinity for the arts, including some intensive training in technique, in order to be an art therapist. What is required is a facility with the arts, a knowledge of art history, a thorough understanding of the creative possibilities and an ability to guide a client through the creative process. Is this you? Are you thoroughly grounded in the arts-the making of it, the history of it, the care-taking of the creative process? Imagine a music therapist who knew the words to all the songs but couldn’t play an instrument.  Are they still a music therapist? Can you lead if you can’t play the tune? We have to be able to play the artistic and creative tune.

You may have already read my thoughts about being able to draw. Drawing skill alone does not equal artistry in my book. I cannot draw realistically, does this diminish my ability as an art therapist? No, of course not. Drawing realistically is a particular skill subset, my strength lies in my overall creative sensibility. And so does yours.

I definitely think you have to self-identify as an artist in order to be an art therapist. How else can you truly support others on their creative journey unless you are on one yourself? I like music, but that doesn’t make me a music therapist. I embrace art, I practice art making, I am trained as an artist. My identity as an artist is truly the underpinning of my identity as an art therapist.

Get Off the Couch and Make Art


I was laid low this week by a terrible cold, the worst I have had in recent memory. I spent all of it, 7 days, on my couch in my studio. This couch doesn’t get much use as a couch. Mostly I pile papers and bags on it and use it to hang up my coat. Sometimes visitors to the studio actually  sit on the couch. I got this piece of furniture when I moved to Massachusetts almost 18 years ago. You could say that we go back a ways together. It started living in the studio when I decided that I wanted this to be a cozy and inviting space. Mostly it invited me to fall asleep on it in front of the television. I had 7 whole days to lay on this couch and think about how else I could create a comfortable space for myself while delineating my work space.

That’s really the problem, you see. I can’t have my studio space double as my living room. It is getting way too easy to zone out in front of the television on my cozy couch. This in turn is taking away from my focus on my work that is theoretically supposed to get done in this space. I really don’t need any help distracting myself from my work.

So out went the couch and in came my bookshelves with all of my art books. What were they doing out in the kitchen anyway? Now this studio sends a different message. It says “this is where creative work happens.” It says “roll up your sleeves.” It says “turn off the television and make some art.”

What changes can you make in your environment that will make it more conducive to engaging in your creative work? What is it about your current arrangement that is holding you back? How can you create a nourishing yet stimulating space for yourself?

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