Altered by Art: The Transformative Medium of Beeswax Collage

Altered by Art: The Transformative Medium of Beeswax Collage


This is the video that I made for the 6 Degrees of Creativity project. In it you will find soup to nuts instructions for doing beeswax collage. In response to a query, no, the collages will not melt unless you leave them in your car on a hot day. I hope you enjoy the video, I certainly had fun making it! And check out 6 Degrees of Creativity 2, happening now at



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.

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 @ on February 13.”


Riding the Artistic High

Nothing like a huge learning curve to get the creative juices flowing! When I signed on to do the 6 Degrees of Creativity project, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I say that with love. I am coming out the other side of making my film and it has been quite a journey.

There were many challenges along the way. For starters, I don’t own a video camera. Lesley University was kind enough to loan me one for 6 days. Then I realized that the editing software that came with my computer was not quite up to snuff for what I needed to do, so I tracked down a better program and got that installed. A friend gave me a really nice computer but I have been unable to get the sound working (until yesterday!) so I was trying to edit without being able to hear anything. Not the easiest task I must say. I burned disc after disc so that I could try to finagle the sound. Yikes. Learning the software was another challenge, and I never did quite master the audio features even after I got the sound working on the computer. I spent two solid days filming, and ended up tossing half of it.

But I don’t mean to complain, because working on this project was a real gift in the end. About halfway through, when I got the audio more or less lined up with the video and made a halfway decent first cut, I finally got a sense of the finished product. And let me tell you, I was downright yahooing, fist-pumping, tears rolling down my face euphoric! I found the creative high-you know, the one you get when it all starts to come together. I compare it to a runner’s high, that endorphin rush you get when you have pushed your body to the max. This is what I keep coming back for, why I keep pushing on when I get stuck on a project-because I know the pieces will start to fall into place. This is that “trusting the process” concept that we art therapists love to talk about.

I also feel really great about being able to find solutions all along the  way. I  was the producer, director, actor, and editor of this film and I had to solve all kinds of technical, creative and artistic problems. This was not an easy undertaking but in the end I feel awesome about being able to conquer so many challenges and come out with a pretty decent film.

I hope you will join us in the 6 Degrees of Creativity workshops!

Register Now for 6 Degrees of Creativity!

I sure hope you will join me and my colleagues as we present this exciting and inspiring online workshop series! If you register through this link, a portion of the proceeds from your purchase supports my artistic endeavors. I hope you will come along for this artful journey!

Thanks for your support of this project!!!

Art Storm

This past weekend I, along with the East Coast of the United States, was in the path of Hurricane Irene. I share a home with my brother and we rushed to and fro to bring in every single thing from the porches and yard, procure supplies and in general batten down the hatches. And then we waited. And waited. For two days. We had a few trees down in the neighborhood and lots of wind and rain but mercifully we emerged unscathed from the storm. What does this have to do with art? Well, I had an unexpected bounty of time and while I spent some of it working in an altered book, I had trouble dedicating much time to art making.

Part of the problem was anxiety about the  storm. I had a terrible stomach ache and couldn’t sleep. Another problem was that I had a lot of preparation to do for my classes and I spent a great deal of time reading and working on my lectures. But then there was the un-allotted time where I could have made art but did not. I wrestle with this all of the time-when do I push myself and when do I take a rest? Is not art making a form of rest at times? Why is art making one of the last things I push myself to do? I  want  to devote my full attention and energy to art making-and I rarely have that  kind of attention and energy when all the other tasks of the day are completed. I think that  I want to make Big Art every day but when I did that on my Art Vacation the mental exertion and challenge of it totally wiped me out. Ah, I go around in circles all of the time trying to find this balance, trying to make something really special part of my daily routine, seeking nirvana and catharsis  on a regular basis.

So the art storm was not a storm of art making unfortunately. Rather, it was the internal storm that goes on in my head and  maybe even your head  too. I will  probably never resolve the conundrum of how to relax and  make art while still needing the tension to make art. I hope that I can learn to exist peacefully with the thought that there is no resolution, that for me anyway art making and creative  tension will always  go hand in hand and I should just go in my studio and make some art.

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