Artful Reminders: Let It Go

"Let It Go" reminder art that I created.

“Let It Go” reminder art that I created.

If you let go a little you will have a little happiness. 
If you let go a lot you will have a lot of happiness.

If you let go completely you will be free.

(Ajahn Chah)

 

My 3 year old son was finishing up his oatmeal this morning when I heard him say, ‘it was an accident!’ I turned around to find a cup of spilled milk. It was puddling under the placemat, seeping onto the floor, and had soaked my magazine.

Instead of taking a deep breath, I found myself saying, ‘Why do you keep spilling milk? You have to pay more attention!’ He stared at me with big hazel eyes. As I furiously mopped up the milk I knocked into the same cup and the rest of his milk spilled out. Everywhere. The irony was not lost on me. I had told him to pay more attention, and I was not paying attention myself.

Still in a huff, I lamented about the milk saga to my husband. He paused for a moment before saying, ‘I almost don’t want to say this. But you know what I’m going to say right? Don’t cry over spilt milk. There’s a reason that saying was created. It’s because countless parents get worked up over stuff like this every day. I get it. But really, let it go.’

Simultaneously in the background my son started singing ‘Let It Go’ from the movie Frozen. He’s only seen the movie once, but the song has stuck. Clearly, the universe was throwing me all sorts of juicy lessons all at once.

I scooped my son up into my arms and hugged him. Then I apologized. I said, ‘I’m sorry that I got angry. Next time I get angry I’m going to try and practice what you do in preschool, and take 3 deep breaths when I get upset.’

Then I asked him, ‘If you see me getting angry over something silly like this, and you remember, can you sing the ‘Let It Go’ song to me? Maybe that will help me remember to let things go more often.”

His face lit up in the way that only an innocent (yet deceptively wise) 3 year old face can. And he said, ‘yes mommy!’

My husband later mused that I might not want to hear the “Let It Go” song in the heat of the moment if this song intervention catches on. But really, that’s the best time to hear it. Not when you want to hear it, but when you need it most.

The Takeaways?

First, we don’t always remember to pause before reacting. Whether it’s a toddler, a client, or a loved one – when that primal ‘fight or flight’ response gets triggered, it’s easy to launch into reaction rather than pausing for a mindful moment. Clearly, my fight response got triggered and I launched into a tirade rather than pausing and breathing before mopping up the spilt milk. Here’s the key though – I did some reparative work and grew from the experience. First, I apologized to my toddler. I owned my reaction and shared my thought process with him. Secondly, I asked him to help me in a creative game of sorts by telling him that he could sing the “Let It Go” song for me if I needed a little reminder. My hope is that he (and I) will retain the larger message after the spilt milk: pause, breathe, and when all else fails – sing a little song! My goal? To build connections with my son and model ownership over my feelings as well as my mistakes so that he can feel comfortable doing the same as he continues to grow.

I’m not claiming that I won’t get in a huff the next time he spills milk. But maybe I will take a breath before reacting and have a slightly calmer response. It’s all about practice. And being a parent, a therapist, or just being human gives us constant opportunities to practice letting go.

Visual Art Reminders

If you don’t have a toddler around to sing out your most needed reminders, how about creating your own visual reminder? Maybe you don’t need to focus on letting go. Maybe you need inspiration in other areas such as, working towards your dreams, staying focused, keeping an open mind, or self-care. You can create visual reminders for anything and everything!

The image at the top of this post is a quick pen and watercolor piece that I made the same day that my son spilled the milk. I added the words ‘let it go’ to the milk puddle in the drawing to help me focus on the important message I got that morning. I should probably post it by the kitchen table, where we are most likely to need the reminder and where many of the important transitions of the day happen.

Art Therapy Work

My art therapy clients have enjoyed creating their own visual reminders during individual sessions and groups. Artful signs can be created for many reasons and types of reminders. They can range from playful reminders to very specific ones.

For example, many of the clients I’ve worked with struggle with substance abuse and are in various stages of recovery. They have found it incredibly helpful to create artful signs with inspirational sayings, quotes, and reminders that they can post in their rooms and around the home. Their signs often focus on the reasons they are working towards sobriety and ways to stay focused on their goals.

The signs can be created with any art materials and be small or even poster sized. I suggest using a nice thick paper that will hold up over time when displayed. If freehand drawing is overwhelming or not your client’s cup of tea, they can create a sign using collage. For the words, write it out by hand or print out a favorite quote to add to the imagery.

I will often have a bag of pre-cut quotes that pertain to the theme of the group. Clients often enjoy sifting through the quotes and pulling out ones that resonate and have personal meaning.

Here are a few examples of quotes that I might provide for a group focusing on substance abuse and mental health issues:

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” (T.S. Elliot)

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” (Art Williams)

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” (Lao Tzu)

A number of  years ago, my own art therapist created a visual reminder for me during one of our sessions based on one of my favorite quotes:

"Smile, Breathe, & Go Slowly."

“Smile, Breathe, & Go Slowly.”

“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

It hangs in my studio to this day, and every time I see it I feel more grounded and centered in what matters most.

Often clients will feel a strong pull towards a particular quote that they were unfamiliar with. It’s amazing how a few carefully selected words and an image can be such powerful daily reminders and sources of inspiration. Explore song lyrics, passages from books, poems, and movies. And of course there’s a plethora of inspiration and quotes online. Here’s one of my Pinterest boards with some of my favorite artful reminders.

And here’s an image I created with colored pencil shavings that I keep close by:

"Get out of your head, and into your heART." Created with colored pencil shavings.

“Get out of your head, and into your heART.”
Created with colored pencil shavings.

Now that’s a great reminder for all of us!

 

 

 

 

Summer of Art

Wood Burned Creations Sara Roizen

Wood Burned Creations
Sara Roizen

“Art is to the community what the dream is to the individual.”
– Thomas Mann

It’s shaping up to be a summer of art. The past months have been a flurry of activity in my studio in moments carved out between baby naps, adventures out, musings of a toddler, and all of the moments that make up daily life. Painting, doodling, vinyl record mandalas, and lots (and lots) of wood burning.

There are creative seasons of life that mirror the actual seasons. Active times, dormant times, and the transition times. I’ve been enjoying this active creative season of my life. The warm summer breeze gives me an added lift and moves my art making along.

On Friday night, my family and I attended the artist’s reception for the Arts Fest community art exhibit at Endicott College. One of my large paintings, ‘Birds of a Feather,’ was included in the show. It was a beautiful evening with speakers, music, and a wonderful turnout. I was struck by the amount of community support for the arts here in Beverly, MA. My toddler enjoyed running around to the food stations and snatching pieces of cheese and bread, and I enjoyed soaking up the creative energy!

 

The group art show reception at Endicott

On Saturday my husband and I woke up bright and early and loaded up the car with all of my latest wood burned creations for my booth at Arts Fest on Cabot Street in Beverly.

Arts Fest was an all day event that featured 150+ artists and artisans, music, food, and artsy kid’s activities. It was my first time participating and I was blown away by how amazingly organized it was. The Beverly Arts District (BAD) staff and volunteers are incredible and the Arts Fest drew tons of visitors. My husband and I got to meet so many people as they wandered into my booth, struck up conversations, and supported local artists. Many of my wood burned creatures and vases found new homes! I was thrilled to be booth neighbors with my friend artist and art therapist Amy and her son Ian as well as The Artful Life.

Art, art therapists, and community! Now that’s my perfect day. And a perfect season.

Wood Burning Art Booth

Wood Burning Art Booth

Wood burned flock in my Arts Fest booth

Wood burned flock in my Arts Fest booth

 

This way!

10,000 Likes: Art Therapy Spot Evolution

10,000 Art Therapy Spot Facebook fans and counting!

This morning I hopped onto my Art Therapy Spot Facebook page. While I was replying to some comments and jumping around the page I realized that Art Therapy Spot had reached over 10,000 followers!

Wow. How and when did that happen?

I went back to the first post I ever made on the page back in June 10, 2011:

I’m brand new to the “fan page” world, but I’ll get the hang of it!  🙂

I started my Art Therapy Spot Facebook page a little while after graduating from Pratt Institute with my masters in Art Therapy. This blog (started in 2008) and my Facebook page became a place for me to share my excitement and discoveries in the field of art therapy. I drew from my own experiences as an art therapist and all of the amazing articles and resources I was coming across.

My blog and Facebook page continue to be focused on art therapy, creativity development, news from the field, inspiring quotes and writing, mindfulness, and related healing modalities.

The original Art Therapy Spot 'logo' watercolor image I created.

The original Art Therapy Spot ‘logo’ watercolor image I created.

I have chosen to share my own art and creative process on my blog and Facebook page because it is central to my identity and evolution as an art therapist. I try to weave in my personal creative process with interesting and hopefully illuminating snapshots from my work as an art therapist. It’s important to me that I continue to share the role of art as a healing and inspirational force in my life too. After all, I became an art therapist because art has been an integral part of my daily life and experiences since I was a child.

My Facebook page and this blog are not created or maintained as any type of business, but purely as an act of love. I post and share because I know there are many people out there who are also interested in the field of art therapy. I have received many messages through my blog and Facebook page over the past years. I am always thrilled when someone reaches out.

Many people send messages asking to know more about the process of becoming an art therapist and if it is right for them. I share any resources and pieces of my own journey that I can offer. Countless others send me a message sharing personal stories about the healing and transformative role of art and creativity in their personal journeys.

I could talk about our field of art therapy all day and all night. Good thing I have a forum to do so!

Thank you for being a part of the Art Therapy Spot community, for sharing your stories, sharing the creativity, and sharing the love. I’m so glad you’re along for the journey as Art Therapy Spot continues to evolve, along with our field.

Yours in creative adventures,

Sara Roizen

 

 

Vinyl Record Mandalas


vinyl record mandala ~ acrylic & paint marker on vinyl ~ Sara Roizen

‘Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.’

– Wassily Kandinsky

 

A few years ago my husband brought home some discarded test press vinyl records from the music company where he worked. He knew that I was drawn to non-traditional art materials and surfaces and had a feeling that I would enjoy painting on the vinyl records. His intuition was correct and once I started painting on the vinyl records, I was quickly hooked.

vinyl record mandala ~ acrylic on vinyl ~ Sara Roizen

vinyl record mandala ~ acrylic on vinyl ~ Sara Roizen

The circular form of the records and the grooved surface provided an engaging and joyfully challenging surface to work with. I experimented with paint markers and acrylic paint and began to figure out the best way to apply the paint and markers. My earliest pieces in the series were mostly paint marker on an acrylic background. I posted them on my art site for sale before the holiday season, and was excited when people started showing an interest in them and buying them. The first collection is now sold out, and in the past few months I have been working on a second collection for an upcoming show. Details coming soon!

vinyl record mandala in progress

vinyl record mandala
in progress

I’ve received a lot of questions about what type of materials I use to create the vinyl record mandalas in addition to people looking for tips for working on vinyl. I love sharing ideas for art materials and my process. Of course there is no right or wrong way to do this. (You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?) But here are some materials and tips that might help jump start your own explorations.

Materials

Paint: I mainly use acrylic paint in combination with paint markers. In terms of the brand of paint, it’s really a matter of personal preference and budget. I tend to buy a combination of higher end professional acrylic paint but also fill in with less expensive (but still very good quality) acrylic. The two professional grade paints that I use the most are Golden and Liquitex acrylic paint. Spend some time on the Golden and Liquitex sites if you’re interested in learning about the different types of paint they carry. There’s a lot of helpful information, tutorials, and art examples. I will often use the ‘Basics’ line of liquitex which is slightly less expensive but nice to work with.

Some of the art materials I use to create the vinyl mandalas ~ acrylic, paint pens, & hand carved stamps.

Some of the art materials I use to create the vinyl mandalas ~ acrylic, paint pens, & hand carved stamps.

Many art and craft stores also carry a house brand. For example, Michael’s carries a brand called Artist Loft and I have found that paint to be economical and good quality.

Paint Markers

There are many different brands of paint pens and markers. Some are oil based and some are water based. I only use water based markers. I don’t like the smell of the oil based markers. My favorite brand at the moment is Sakura Pen Touch Markers. They come in a variety of colors and pen tips. I often use the white pens on darker acrylic backgrounds. The metallics also create striking line work on top of a darker background.

Since there are so many brands of paint pens and markers, my advice is to buy 1 or 2 of each brand offered when you walk into the art store or order them. They are not usually very expensive. Then experiment with the brand, pen tips, and colors to see what you enjoy working with most. The one other thing I will mention is that paint pens do dry up rather quickly so I’m always replenishing my supply.

vinyl record mandala ~ acrylic & paint pen on vinyl ~ Sara Roizen

vinyl record mandala ~ acrylic & paint pen on vinyl ~ Sara Roizen

Other Art Materials

In addition to acrylic and paint pens, I have been creating my own rubber stamps and using them on some of the vinyl pieces. The tape cassette mandala (second image down from the top) was created using a stamp that I carved out of an oversized eraser. Using stamps in conjunction with painting and layers helps give the mandalas an added depth and level of complexity. Plus, the process of carving each stamp is enjoyable in and of itself.

Using stencils and collage are two more techniques that can help build interesting layers. I repeatedly use my circle stencils to block out smaller mandalas within the vinyl record mandala.

vinyl record mandala ~ acrylic on vinyl ~ Sara Roizen

vinyl record mandala ~ acrylic on vinyl ~ Sara Roizen


A few tips

It can take some practice in order to get comfortable with working on vinyl. The grooves and variations interact very differently with the paint then canvas does. I usually don’t use much water with the acrylic because it will start to slide of the vinyl if there is too much liquid. Try applying the paint more thickly. Keep in mind that there is a natural flexibility to the vinyl record. This is a great aspect of it and acrylic is a naturally flexible plastic. Still, if paint is applied very thickly then it could crack if the vinyl bends too much. It’s an interesting dance between rigidity and flexibility. I enjoy the creative tension inherent in this process. And this brings me to the art therapy component….

Vinyl Record Painting & Art Therapy

When I was working at a few different adult shelters in NYC I brought vinyl records in to my art therapy groups a number of times. My clients were immediately intrigued by the alternative surface. Many of them fondly recalled listening to records when younger. I would often open the group up by asking clients to imagine that they were about to paint the soundtrack to their lives. I asked them to envision the album cover and the record artwork. After they had meditated on this for a while, they would often begin to paint on the record. If there was time at the end of group, many of them spontaneously created track lists for their piece. The song titles were just as illuminating as the visual aspects of the records. Those who were inclined would then share the finished record mandala and the album cover and track list if they had come up with something.

The process was playful and yet deeply engaging and meaningful. Most of my clients took the painted records back and hung them up in their temporary rooms at the shelter. The pieces became conversation starters among other clients and staff members. Months later, a few of these same clients visited me at the shelter and said that the record had been the first thing that they hung up in their new apartment after finding housing.

vinyl record mandala ~ acrylic on vinyl ~ Sara Roizen

vinyl record mandala ~ acrylic on vinyl ~ Sara Roizen

To read more…

If you’d like to read a little more about my vinyl record mandalas, check out this interview I did with a lifestyle magazined called Llamas Valley.

My vinyl record mandalas also popped up on Bored Panda a while ago, which was a neat surprise!

Stay tuned for more vinyl record mandalas. In the meantime, why not try picking up a few used records and experimenting with some record art too? Share your explorations here.
I’d love to hear about them.

vinyl record mandala ~ Sara Roizen

vinyl record mandala ~ Sara Roizen

Intention Mandalas

Open Heart Mandala Sara Roizen

Open Heart Mandala
Sara Roizen

Find yourself and express yourself in your own particular way. Express your love openly. Life is nothing but a dream, and if you create your life with love, your dream becomes a masterpiece of art.

~ Don Miguel Ruiz

Yesterday was the last day of 2015!
I was fortunate to spend a couple of hours in my studio as the golden light crept across the snow outside.

While drawing, I silently meditated on the past year. It was full of transitions and new adventures, with a move from NYC to Massachusetts and the birth of our second child. Now that we are fairly settled, I have been increasingly focused on my art and art therapy paths. I am excited to put down my creative roots here and see what grows.

I stopped making ‘official’ New Year’s resolutions a while ago. I used to make rather concrete resolutions related to healthier eating, exercise, and career goals. Like many people, I would steadfastly chip away at my New Year’s goals for a while and then revert to my normal patterns. This year I felt a strong pull towards holding an intention instead of making a resolution. To me, an intention is something that you gently hold in your heart and continue to reflect on each day. It can be somewhat abstract in nature, and more of a guiding inner framework.

As you probably know, I love creating mandalas. Yesterday as I reflected on my intention for 2016, I was inspired to create two mandalas. I will hang them up in my studio as a daily reminder. The two words that came to mind for my first mandala (top image): open heart. This is my intention – to live with a more open heart every day. This sounds like a very broad intention, but in my mind it is very simple. Simple but not always easy. Each moment, experience, and interaction can be met with a closed heart or an open heart. Another way of framing this is choosing to respond to life’s moments from a place of fear or love.

beginning the mandala

The second mandala I created is inspired by the heart chakra mandala. Chakras are energy centers within our bodies and there are 7 chakras. Each chakra relates to a different spiritual and physical aspect of our being. The heart chakra is located in our chest and governs the heart, cardiac, and lymphatic systems. When the heart chakra is closed or blocked, we have a hard time connecting with others and with ourselves. We make fear based decisions and live from a smaller sense of self. When this chakra is open, we are connected, grounded in self-compassion, and move through life from a place of love.

As I sat down to create this mandala, I felt my breathing slow down and my shoulders relax. The sense of the daily rush faded into the background. There was a feeling of ‘enoughness’ instead of lack. I could almost feel my heart expanding as I drew each line. As usual, I did not trace out a deign beforehand. Instead I trusted that each line would end up where it needed to be. My mandalas are never perfectly symmetrical. I like it this way. It’s not about a quest for perfection. It’s about embracing each perfectly imperfect moment with an open heart.

Here is my finished heart chakra inspired mandala. Every time I look at it, I will be reminded of my intention to live from an open hearted space.

What is your intention for this year? What would your intention look like if you express it visually?

May your upcoming year be filled with joy, growth, and creativity. 

Heart Chakra Mandala Sara Roizen

Heart Chakra Mandala
Sara Roizen

Gratitude Mandalas

Gratitude Mandala ~ Sara Roizen

Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.    ~ Rumi

Yesterday I caught myself complaining again as I attacked the mountain of dishes in the sink and tried to clear away the fog from my bleary eyes and brain. Clearly, my morning cup of coffee had not kicked in yet. As I let out an audible groan, my husband and toddler both glanced at me from their respective spots in the kitchen.

My husband is a bit of a Zen master – or at least that’s what I’ve dubbed him. It comes naturally to him. When he’s confronted with a mountain of dishes (or a mountain of anything) he tends to just dive in and deal with what’s in front of him without much of a complaint. He figures that ‘it is what it is’ and groaning about it won’t make things any easier. He often accepts things for what they are and simply takes action.

I’m a fairly positive person by nature, but I’m inclined to be a bit more all over the emotional landscape in comparison. During my tougher moments, my live-in Zen master (husband) usually has a jewel of wisdom. Below is a snippet of our conversation from the morning mentioned above:

Me: UGH. There is always a mountain of dishes for us in the sink, laundry piling up, and just so much to do. It’s not even 8:30am and I’m ready for bed. This is pointless. I feel so overwhelmed by the day already.

Live-in Zen Master: I know. It’s frustrating. There are a ton of dishes, and laundry, and things for both of us to do today.

Me: (Suspicious side glance. Lets out tiny huff and relaxes shoulders somewhat.)

Live-in Zen Master: But to put it into perspective – look around for a minute. At our house, our children, and the beautiful view out our window. Ya know, life is pretty good and there’s a lot to be grateful for.

Me: Yeah. You’re totally right. There is a lot to be grateful for. I need to remind myself of that more often.

That morning’s conversation was a wonderful reminder for me. I realized that for the past few days I had been in a negative mindset for the most part. Every time something went wrong, my mind kept gathering additional evidence to support my negative thought. It’s hard sometimes, seeing as how our brains are actually wired for a negativity bias. Psychologist Rick Hanson describes the negativity bias in simple terms:

This bias developed because the ancient mammals, primates, and early humans that were all mellow and fearless did not notice the shadow overhead or slither nearby that CHOMP! killed them. The ones that survived to pass on their genes were nervous and cranky, and we are their great-grandchildren, sitting atop the food chain, armed with nuclear weapons.

Your brain is continually looking for bad news. As soon as it finds some, it fixates on it with tunnel vision, fast-tracks it into memory storage, and then reactivates it at the least hint of anything even vaguely similar. But good news gets a kind of neural shrug: “uh, whatever.”

In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.

The problem with the negativity bias is that we are no longer cavemen, but our brains haven’t quite realized that. Of course there are real threats in the world and things that our biological negativity bias is useful for. The issue is that our brains are stuck in negative overdrive most of the day without us even realizing it.

There are many ways to shift the brain from negative to positive. This will be a continued topic that I’ll keep exploring in future posts. Right now I want to focus on one of the simplest yet powerful methods I have found to increase positivity and overall wellbeing: cultivating gratitude. It is a seemingly simple yet powerful practice.  It is so simple that I have often overlooked the practice in the past. Gratitude is one of the topics that we spent the longest time exploring in my Happiness Art Therapy Group.

Sometimes gratitude comes completely naturally. When my children were born and placed in my arms I felt an indescribable sense of gratitude. It can also come in smaller everyday forms, such as gratitude for the cup of coffee in my hands that is warming my body and waking me up. Focusing on one thing that we are grateful for begins to open our hearts – gradually shifting us from our fear based negative thinking to a love based positive state. I have found that each new thing that I express gratitude for creates an even greater ripple effect.

Gratitude Mandalas
Creating gratitude mandalas takes the practice of gratitude to another beautiful level. All you need is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper. The mandalas in this post were created with white paint pens on black paper. I love the contrast of the white line work on the black paper. If you want more color, grab some colored pencils or watercolor paint and a fine brush. You can trace a circle or draw one freehand. If it helps, find the center of the circle and mark it in a way that serves as a visual centering point. Next, take some deep breaths and focus on relaxing your mind and body. Then, begin to write down anything that you feel gratitude for within the circle. Experiment with the direction of the writing, the size of the words, and the way they flow.

Your gratitude words can be something on a larger scale such as ‘my family’ or something seemingly mundane such as ‘the way dust motes dance in the light.’ Perhaps you can create multiple gratitude mandalas – some that focus on the broader categories, and some that celebrate all of the smaller things you feel grateful for. One of my gratitude mandalas (top of page) was created with small everyday things in mind and finding beauty in the mundane: piles of books, paint pens, podcasts, and lazy breakfasts. I wrote things down in a stream of consciousness without editing my words or overthinking them.

A few days later I created another gratitude mandala (image below). Instead of using words, I

Gratitude Mandala Sara Roizen

Gratitude Mandala
Sara Roizen

silently meditated on the things that I am grateful for as I began to draw. The mandala is a visual representation of the gratitude I felt that day. This is an example of creating art while holding a specific intention of gratitude. To me, this mandala looks like it is expanding outwards – which is exactly how my heart felt while I was creating it.

I will share some more art therapy ideas for cultivating gratitude in future posts. In the meantime, create some of your own gratitude mandalas and feel free to share them here!

Explore the practice of gratitude more:

Gratefulness.org
A beautiful and inspiring site entirely devoted to cultivating and practicing gratitude.

NY Times Article: Choose To Be Grateful: It Will Make You Happier
This article really resonated with me and hopefully with you too!

Greater Good Berkeley – A collection of articles about gratitude
A nice listing of various articles related to gratitude.

Positive Art Therapy: Art Therapist Janet McLeod
This is Janet McLeod’s art therapy site and it is full of interesting interviews with other art therapists. The focus is on the integration of Positive Psychology & Art Therapy and there are many posts pertaining to weaving gratefulness into art therapy practice.

Small Works Show

'Off Center' Sara Roizen wood burned mandala

‘Off Center’
Sara Roizen
wood burned mandala

Just a little art news!

Two of my new wood burned mandalas are part of the Annual Small Works Show at Porter Mill Studios in Beverly, MA.

All of the art in this show measures 12 inches or smaller. And my mandalas just qualify at exactly 12 inches in diameter.

I wrote about my love of wood burning a while back:

Life Without An Eraser (Or Why I Love Woodburning)

It feels wonderful to slowly be stepping back into the art community now that we have been living here in Massachusetts for a little over a year. It’s a vibrant and constantly evolving art scene and I’m excited to be a part of it.

If you’re in the area, stop by for live music, wine, and of course lots of art!
The reception coincides with the Holiday Open Studios at Porter Mill. Four floors and over 45 artists will have their studios open!

Porter Mill Studios
95 Rantoul Street
Beverly, MA

5th Annual Small Works Show
Main Gallery
Reception: 5pm

'Nine Seasons' Sara Roizen wood burning on maple

‘Nine Seasons’
Sara Roizen
wood burning on maple

Nature As Co-Therapist

Mandalas & nature collaborations

“The self expands through acts of self forgetfulness.”
~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Sun streaming through red, orange, and yellow leaves against a deep blue sky. A sketchbook stretched out in my lap. My baby taking a nap inside. This was how I spent an hour yesterday during one of the most beautiful New England Fall days I’ve seen in a while.

As I sat there utterly absorbed, I felt a sense of peace and fullness. I was outside by myself, but there was a palpable sense that the art materials and nature were my companions. Perhaps I briefly entered that ‘flow’ state, that has been described by writers such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I describe flow as an experience where the individual is completely immersed and focused in the present experience. Although I think that flow can be experienced in many activities, it seems that creative and self-expressive pursuits lend themselves to this type of optimal focusing. For me there is a loss of self-absorption when I am in this state. As the quote above describes – it is an act of self-forgetfulness. Forgetting the self is no small feat – especially in this day and age.

I believe that forgetting ourselves for even a minute actually brings us closer to our truer selves. Spending time in nature and creating art in nature is one of the simplest yet most powerful ways I have found to let go.

In his book Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide To Letting Go, art therapist Shaun McNiff devotes a chapter to creative collaborations with environment and nature. McNiff’s own work draws deeply from observations and times spent in nature. He also encourages readers to explore directly making art with nature. Rocks, leaves, sticks, mud, and grass are all examples of nature’s raw art materials. McNiff writes:

“The deep satisfaction gained from this type of environmental art is related to an absence of possessiveness and self-consciousness. There is no thought given to taking something home with us. The creative act is pursued solely for its own sake within an ephemeral context. The virtues experienced by working directly with nature help us to create in a similar way when we are in the studio.”

In my personal art work I often incorporate rocks, found sea glass, and sand into my mixed media paintings. I have been inspired by my walks along the ocean and the dynamic and ever changing relationship between the water and the land. I will often embed the natural elements into layers of texture mediums and I utilize palette knives and layers of color in my process. In my recent drawings, I keep returning to the wave motif and imagery. The swirling eddies and crests of the ocean provide constant fluid ideas.

From the Sandstone Series Sara Roizen acrylic, molding paste, sand, rock, & sea glass on canvas

From the Sandstone Series
Sara Roizen
acrylic, molding paste, sand, rock, & sea glass on canvas


Art Therapy & Nature

I have brought many of my art therapy groups outside when the weather allowed for it. At one of the supportive housing locations in Brooklyn, the veterans that lived there had a beautiful back yard that included seating, a community garden, and even a mama cat and her kittens that were being cared for by the residents. No matter what emotional state the group members were in, being outside immediately provided an expansive yet relaxed quality to the group. I was always amazed to observe as everyone’s body postures shifted from guarded and hunched over to reclining and letting shoulders drop as we made art and talked. At other shelters and housing facilities there was not a space outside to create art in, or the neighborhood was not safe enough to provide a secure group environment outside. In these locations I found other ways to incorporate nature into my groups such as bringing in found natural objects such as rocks, sticks, and leaves. These pieces of nature became the inspiration for drawings and sculptures. Bringing simple house plants into the group and having members paint and decorate the pots was another way to bring nature in from the outside. Painting pots might sound overly simplistic, but it is the act of making something special and creating a unique container for nature that imbues the act with meaning. In addition, giving the clients a living plant to care for added another layer of meaning and ritual to their daily lives. The plant served as a transitional object that lived with them and bridged the days between each group.

During my art therapy work with chronically ill children, the children were not able to leave the hospital due to medical constraints. Being inside for a prolonged period of time is hard enough for adults, but even more challenging for children. Some of the children had not been able to go outside for months at a time due to extended stays. In addition, many of the children could not be given actual pieces from nature to work with because they could only use materials that had been sterilized and/or never used by someone else. With these patients I focused on the qualities of the weather and the seasons to help provide a sense of natural rhythms. We worked with collage imagery from nature and spoke about favorite seasons, activities based on the time of year, holidays, and related family rituals.

Fall leaf inspiration

Fall leaf inspiration

Collaborating With Nature

There are countless ways to collaborate with nature directly and indirectly. Here are some examples to get the inspiration flowing!

  • Collect smooth rocks and pebbles and create an outdoor stone mandala either individually or as a group process
  • Paint or draw on stones and leave them in different outdoor or indoor locations. Imagine the delight that these found stones might bring someone else as they are going about their busy day!
  • Trace leaves or found pieces from nature to create an overlapping abstracted drawing. Use black and bold lines to trace and then fill in each section with paint to create a stained-glass inspired piece.
  • Sit outside on a windy day with watercolor and paper and let your hand capture the feel of the wind or sit by a stream or the ocean and let the water current guide your own mark making.
  • Paint or draw directly on leaves. They can be used to collage with or coated with mod podge and incorporated into a mobile.
  • Collaborate with a garden and create small (or large) sculptures to place throughout the garden. You can also place figurines and other small found objects around the garden and create an ever-changing scene. This could be a wonderful process to explore with children as well.
  • Trace shadows from overhanging tree branches and plants by sitting directly under a tree on a bright day. The shadows create beautiful, intricate, and abstract patterns.
  • Gather natural objects from outside and bring them inside to create a small altar in your home. The altar can change seasonally and as new materials are found and added.
  • For those of us living in areas that get snow in the winter – an obvious idea is to sculpt with snow! Adding sticks, pinecones, and other materials adds another dimension to the snow.

This is a rich topic and I will continue to explore the integration of nature, art, and art therapy in future posts. In the meantime, here are a few links that might interest you as well.

Faith Evans-Sills creates striking mandalas using nature:
Faith Evans-Sills Mandalas

Art therapist Amy Maricle’s post on utilizing nature for anxiety relief:
Mindful Art Studio

Jason deCaires Taylor creates incredible underwater sculptures that continuously morph as animals, coral, and other sea life interact with them:
Underwater Sculpture

Andy Goldsworthy is famous for his amazing direct collaborations with nature:
Andy Goldsworthy

Artist Nils Udo also utilizes the earth and elements of nature to create evocative work:
Nils Udo

Artist & art therapist Hannah Klaus Hunter incorporates leaves and pieces of nature into her rich and layered monoprints:
Hannah Klaus Hunter – The Shift Series

ferns

Sara Roizen – fern drawing

Back To Blogging – Because Imperfection Is Just Right

Meditating on change... Pen on paper Sara Roizen

Meditating on change…
Pen on paper
Sara Roizen

I’ve been on a little blogging hiatus here at Art Therapy Spot, but I’m diving back into it now!

My husband jokes that I use the word ‘whirlwind’ to describe this past year at least three times a day. So what has been swirling around in this supposed whirlwind?

A move from NYC to Massachusetts, the addition of a second child, figuring out where my art therapy path is taking me in my new home, and migrating my blog over from Blogger to WordPress (to list the biggies).

I was waiting to make the new blog go live after I had cleaned it up some more and settled on the new aesthetic and formatting. However I realized that this blog will continue to be a work in progress and in the meantime I had stopped writing altogether. I’m still learning WordPress and I have a feeling it might take a while to really master. That being said, it’s easy to get tripped up in the pursuit of an ideal version of a blog or anything for that matter. I reminded myself that I need to start where I am, which is of course, exactly here. I often write about the inherent beauty of imperfection. So, here’s an opportunity to practice what I preach!

Welcome to my new blog…a perfectly imperfect work in progress. But it’s in motion, like all good creative pursuits. I hope you accompany me on this evolving adventure and continue to gain inspiration and a sense of connection while you are here. Stay tuned for much more!

Art Therapy Interview: Amy Maricle

‘I love when conversations and energy just flow.
Not forced.
Not coerced. Just present.’
– Dau Voire

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of having artist and art therapist Amy Maricle over for an artist’s date.

We spent the day up in my studio talking about art, art therapy, our careers so far, being moms, and many other things. The day flew by and we are eagerly anticipating our next artist’s date.

I am inspired by Amy’s warmth, creativity, and experience in the field. Her interests and focus on mindfulness, spirituality, and client-centered collaboration resonate with me on a deep level.

During out time together we decided to interview one another so that our blog followers could get a taste of our conversation and hopefully draw some inspiration from it like we did.
Amy posted her interview with me recently on her blog:

Art Therapy Podcast: Sara Roizen

Now I’m excited to share my interview of Amy (audio below). Amy talked about the path that led her to becoming an art therapist, what she loves about art therapy, and her experiences in private practice. I think that listeners will be especially interested to hear some of her tips and encouragement for anyone interested in taking the leap and starting a private practice.

To find out even more about Amy’s therapy work you can visit her site:

Amy Maricle Counseling ~ Foxboro Art Therapy

Be sure to enjoy her blog as well, which is packed with video tutorials, guided practices, and inspiration about creative self-care, managing anxiety, and many other topics.

Enjoy the interview and we’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!
🙂