Thursday, June 14, 2012

Art Therapy and the Sound of Silence

For people working one-on-one with an art therapist the most profound
art pieces allow them to face a situation from a new perspective. These
are the paintings created from somewhere deep in the emotional body.

Clients often come in to the therapy room with a story to tell and with a
 therapist's suggestion it segues into art-making and images emerge.

Sometimes newer clients require a small directive (how about you as a
tree?) but there is so much their Inner Selves wish to communicate, we just
have to allow for that opportunity. 

I would say that this is the stumbling place for new therapists. In order 
to give creativity some space there may well be times of silence and uncertainty. 
As a community we're not used to that - give us noise, speed and a measure of chaos!

Waiting for inspiration can be painful, unless you are confident (art therapist's job) that
something will arise. Trusting the quiet moments of no movement can lead 
to inspired creativity and personal growth. 

Cookie-cutter activities may soothe and entertain, but art therapy experiences can be transformative!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Creative Spark!

Perhaps you've already seen this video? After one week it has 'gone viral' and caught the imagination of a continent! There are t-shirts coming and a scholarship has already raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for Caine, and also in support of creative programs for young people in the East Los Angeles area.

When participants start art therapy - especially private sessions, one of the difficult aspects is letting go of their Inner Critic to allow them to create freely. Having made the decision to give themselves a time out they get a quiet, uninterrupted hour (or more in a group) to allow their creativity some stillness and space to show up and be noticed. Once that begins there is much relief and some deep healing can begin!

It is interesting thinking about the story of Caine. He is 'our' hero as he gets into Flow and creates an arcade of his dreams out of cardboard. Wow! Every day he goes to work with his father - all through the summer - to make his dream a reality.
We see his enthusiasm and the loving support of his father. Some great parenting happens when Caine wants to buy a grappling hook of sorts for one of his creations, but his father resists the urge to help and get his son one. Instead, Dad lets Caine know he is confident that he can make it himself - and he does!

I think what really captures our hearts is the way Caine is ignored! He has no customers, and in the fall his schoolmates don't even believe him - and make fun of his arcade t-shirt.  
Many of us can relate to a time when no-one else seemed to believe we could do something. The desire to create and share something was strong, but maybe we allowed that to be quashed because of lack of support and fear of failure. 
Seeing Caine follow through and stick with it, even though nobody comes, is a vibrational match to what we envisioned for ourselves! He is the unsung hero!
Then there is the pivotal visit by "his first customer" and (Divine intervention?) a film-maker who asks permission to make a small movie about Caine and his Arcade....and the rest is unfolding in L.A. and online! 

I hope for Caine's sake this is a spark in public awareness that raises some money for school and creative programs, and then settles down again so Caine can continue to create from a place of stillness and solitude. No matter where you are, with these key ingredients creative sparks fly....and your life continues to unfold as it should!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Astonishing Results of Working with Clay!

More and more people are finding that tapping into their creative selves feels good. Not only that but it has a carry-over effect into other aspects of their lives if they stay with that creativity. 
I have been running workshops focussed on discovering more of our true selves through non-judgmental art-making. I was offered the opportunity to present these workshops at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto using clay as the art material, and have been awed by the response participants have to and with the clay! ( )
If you have ever sunk your fingers into a fresh ball of prepared clay you will know what I mean when I talk about the intensity of feeling and emotional reaction one can have. In psychological terms you are experiencing a pre-verbal, visceral reaction that was developed when you were a baby exploring and playing with food and sand and dough...whatever you could get your hands on!
Now of course, you’re in a more verbal stage so playing with clay allows you to regress to a place where words are not necessary.  You will likely still find the texture and responsiveness of it irresistible - as did your ancient ancestors who formed clay for utility and decorative reasons since the beginning of time. The exciting thing is that you are creating something out of nothing, and putting aspects of your self into what is formed!
In an open, unplugged, non-judgmental state interesting shapes can be formed. There is delight in the power we have to create three-dimensional expressions of our inner world AND our outer world. If we want we can pound it down to a simple ball, and then re-form or transform the original shape. You are absorbed in a state of creating where time stands still and your thinking mind has a reprieve. It is deeply satisfying.
Once created the three-dimensional piece has many sides to touch, observe and consider. You may well wonder at the power you have to produce images where the original intention was not clear. Where do these images come from? It is an expression of something beyond words.

“Dr Gene Cohen (Creativity Cracks the Aging Code. ) says that as we enter our 40s and 50s, our brains start firing on all cylinders. We begin using both sides of our brain more (the logical and analytical left side and the artistic right side), which stimulates us to be more creative — and being more creative prompts us to integrate both left- and right-brain capabilities in a happy cycle of artistic energy. As an added bonus, we become more confident and comfortable with ourselves as we age, and so we may cast off the need to conform: After 40, we want to showcase our true selves through the way we speak, act, dress and the things we do. And we may shed the “should have” way of living we previously endorsed, embracing instead the life we really want to live.”

 Clay work can evoke memories and fantasies, it facilitates change within you, and gives you access to a bigger picture of where you are. That is an astonishingly large offer from simple, humble material!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


No matter what it looks like, I must say that I have found the making of art to be a great source of happiness and satisfaction for me. During difficult times I have turned to a paintbox and brush, or markers and pens and no matter what I've turned out, the making of it was a very soul-satisfying, emotional release.

Dr. Gabor Maté in his book "When the Body Says No" talks about how we all have to foster emotional competence in order to handle stress and stay healthy. He maintains that repressing our stress and ignoring our body's messages causes illness. 

Depression is on the rise in our North American community and one of the big reasons is that chronic, daily stresses in people's lives are so harmful to our bodies, but we are not informed enough to know how to handle it.

I run a painting workshop every week where you can come and give free expression to your emotions and stress. Creating images without any rules about how or what is created is very freeing. It feels good to "create from your soul" and learn more about your own feelings. 

Each week we start with a quick "de-brief" and mindfulness exercise, and then have 1.5 hours to paint. The last 15 minutes are for the group to have a discussion and share their experience with depression and emotions.

Consider coming to a safe place to explore your feelings and some of that trapped stress!

MONDAYS (except holidays) 1:00 - 3:00 o'clock, in the basement of 249 St. Clair Avenue West (side entrance) which is just west of of Avenue Road.
$40.00 per session or 10 sessions for $300.00
Drop-ins are welcome, email ahead is valued!

Contact me for more details.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Einstein put things succinctly when he said, “We cannot solve our problems with the mind that created them.” To change our world, we may need to think in new ways and develop a new story to live by. How often do we forget that the quality of our lives is not governed by how much we possess or how important we become? We're so "busy" it seems hard to take the time to acknowledge the unfilled space we feel within; or how much happiness we're experiencing. Giving yourself some time to think about that is a gift! A spa for your mind!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Embracing change

The goldfish in our outdoor pond are moving to a kind neighbour’s.
These fish have developed great evasive skills and hardiness in order to survive racoons and other predators, over-wintering, and feeding on whatever falls in the pond.

Needless to say they are difficult to catch and yesterday I was having difficulty netting even one! As I emptied yet another net-full of leaves from the bottom I noticed one orange bit flipping in the garden! Rescued, the little guy settled very still in the pail.

Eventually he was taken solo to his new home. When the pail was tipped he was very reluctant to move, and held back in the pail. When the pail was fully tipped he stayed put and I wondered if he was injured.

Then – he made a hesitant move forward; several of his old buddies darted out and suddenly he was dashing around in this beautiful pond with lots of space, a waterfall, lilies and many other fish to live and play with! Fish heaven on earth!
It occurred to me that this is such a metaphor for what goes on in our own lives! Change is resisted. We use evasive tactics to hold on to what we are, and what we have. Such resistance can injure us or make us emotionally, even physically sick!

Yet the times that we decide to just go with the flow and ‘swim with the current’ are when we discover that the change we were avoiding has opened new possibilities and new beginnings for us. In fact, considering all that we are presented with, our new perspective can allow us to see that there never was anything to be afraid of, we are enjoying ourselves, and the change result exceeds our expectations!

Keep this in mind next time you find change looming and yourself feeling like a fish out of water.