Here is the final invitation design – 2 mandalas that are side by side and touching. Each mandala is unique and individual, but they merge in the place that they meet.
The process of working on this book has brought up many feelings and associations for me, such as mother/daughter, my evolving identity as a woman, birth/rebirth, and how we create meditative spaces for ourselves in the midst of our daily lives.
If you would like to see one of the images on a larger scale, just click on it and it should open up in a new window:)
It’s been a hectic time of year, but I am approaching the end of my first semester at Pratt. I must admit that there have been some stressful times, and as I write this I cannot help but realize that I have one last paper to complete by Wednesday…
My husband Adam has been an amazing emotional support throughout this first semester…hopping on the roller coaster ride of emotions that has marked these last few months. However, I can safely say that there has never been a dull moment. And that’s the thing about going into the field of Art Therapy. It might be intense and overwhelming at times, but each day brings a completely new set of experiences, challenges, and realizations.
On another note, thank god that Adam is such a cook – he has been nourishing my stomach as well as my brain with his amazing feats in the kitchen! As I write, he is serving up a slow-cooked pot roast, complete with carrots, potatoes, onions, and an Israeli couscous mix to boot. The dinner bell is ringing in the background as I type, and off I go!
It really does…
I am already nearing the end of my first semester in graduate school and lately everything has been very surreal to say the least. My internship is becoming more intense by the day, and with the end of the semester we are all juggling multiple papers and projects in the midst of Thanksgiving and the other upcoming holidays.
Like the figure in my painting to the left, I do feel in limbo at the moment…floating between the conflicting feelings of wanting to hibernate (following the natural slower rhythms of Winter) and feeling the need to speed up and accomplish more each day.
Each day I am trying to remind myself to take a deep breath and break things down into simpler parts. Since time will pass no matter what, I want to try and enjoy each moment that arises and worry less about the moments to come.
In preparation for creating my first altered book in class tomorrow I made a trip to the famous Strand bookstore today and had a field day digging through their collections. It was a very cold day today and my tummy was growling but I could not be distracted from the rows of $1.00 books that awaited my exploration.
It was interesting to search for books that appealed to me on an artistic level, rather than strictly for their content in words. I found myself plucking out colorful and fanciful children books, an older book on Egyptian art, collections of fairy tales, and a very odd photography book of people in different bodies of water…
I will bring a few books to choose from during class tomorrow, and the others will rest at home in my studio and hopefully make the journey into an altered book in the near future!
An altered book is a book (can be found, bought used, or new) that is taken and transformed through any myriad of processes, including but not limited to: painting, cutting, collaging, stitching, gluing, or adding 3-d objects to it. The idea is to use the beginning book as a springboard for creating a completely new and personal piece. The pre-existing art and text in the book can serve as inspiration and often leads to free association and greater creative possibilities and explorations.
Next week in my Art Materials class we will be creating our own “altered books” and so the hunt is on for a book that I can use! Although any style of book can be used, it was recommended that we look for hard cover books (for a stronger foundation) and think about using a children’s book for the first time, as they are rich in imagery and text that we can really play around with.
In the meantime, our teacher shared a wonderful site of an artist that makes altered books, among other multi-media pieces. I was very inspired by her work and encourage you to check out her website:
upper left: Karen Hatzigeorgiou
13″ x 19″
lower right: Karen Hatzigeorgiou
The King’s Garden
13″ x 16″
Since I have started school, studying art therapy, many people have asked me to describe exactly what art therapy is. So, here is a brief description of Art Therapy, taken from the experts – the American Art Therapy Association….
“Visual expression has been used for healing throughout history, but art therapy did not emerge as a distinct profession until the 1940s. In the early 20th century, psychiatrists became interested in the artwork created by their patients with mental illness. At around the same time, educators were discovering that children’s art expressions reflected developmental, emotional, and cognitive growth. By mid-century, hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers increasingly began to include art therapy programs along with traditional “talk therapies,” underscoring the recognition that the creative process of art making enhanced recovery, health, and wellness. As a result, the profession of art therapy grew into an effective and important method of communication, assessment, and treatment with children and adults in a variety of settings. Currently, the field of art therapy has gained attention in health-care facilities throughout the United States and within psychiatry, psychology, counseling, education, and the arts. For more detailed information on the history of art therapy, please see AATA’s publication list for A History of Art Therapy in the United States.”
Art therapists work in a wide variety of settings, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Hospitals and clinics, both medical and psychiatric
- Out-patient mental health agencies and day treatment facilities
- Residential treatment centers
- Halfway houses
- Domestic violence and homeless shelters
- Community agencies and non-profit settings
- Sheltered workshops
- Schools, colleges, and universities
- Correctional facilities
- Elder care facilities
- Art studios
- Private practice
The above information was taken from: www.arttherapy.orgI will keep posting interesting articles, thoughts, and other related topics to art therapy in my blog, so check back often!*Above Image: “Painting” Alex Grey 1998Check out his amazing work at: www.alexgrey.com
I come from a painting background and tend to describe my own creative process in terms of painting, but when I speak about creativity here, I mean it to refer to any type of artistic expression – including music, dance, drama, writing, and other forms of creating.
I began to see the artist’s and the client’s journey as taking different forms and phases throughout life. I feel that the two creative processes share remarkable similarities. To make it easier to explore I divided the continuous journey into different phases that were inspired by my own experiences so far relating to my artistic evolution as well as my overall growth as a human being so far. These creative phases are described here.
- The Foundation
All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life. – M.C. Richards
As a child I’m sure that my art materials were fairly limited and might have included things like crayons, paper, (and maybe markers when I had shown a little restraint in handling the crayons). As I got older my material vocabulary expanded and came to include many more materials like paint, clay, textured pastes, and various surfaces. As I became familiar with each material it would open up the option to explore even more materials.
With my new clients we have to begin by building on a foundation of trust and empathy before deeper therapeutic work can take place. It can take a few days to start to build a foundation, or even years as we often hear from therapists regarding their ongoing work with a client.
- Starting to Explore
Creative work is play. It is free speculation using the materials of one’s chosen form. – Stephen Nachmanovitch
I see this stage as beginning as soon as I was able to begin to manipulate materials – whether it was banging pots and pans together as a toddler, or scribbling on paper with crayons. At a young age, almost any surface and material becomes a possible noise maker or artistic creation – even surfaces that parents would rather keep “un-artistic” !
In art therapy, once a basic foundation of trust has been created between client and therapist, the exploration can begin. It might begin tentatively as the client begins to take small creative risks. Over time the experimentation with forms or feelings may expand. Perhaps in the beginning the client will only feel comfortable using materials such a pencil and pen – materials that allow the person to feel relatively in control. Perhaps color is out of the question, until the client begins to feel a basic sense of security within the therapeutic setting. As time progresses, the art therapist and client will ideally expand the exploration of new materials and techniques.
- Greater Incorporation of Materials and Understanding
When the soul wishes to experience something she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters into her own image. – Meister Eckhart
By the time I was in high school and creating art, my knowledge of art materials and various techniques, theories, and other artists had greatly expanded. I began to create work that was directly inspired by certain famous artists that I resonated with at the moment. My work in high school was extremely eclectic as my interests in the art world were constantly shifting and changing shape as I learned more and studied different artists. One week I was doing pencil drawings, the next pen and ink, and then the week after that, trying out oil paints for the first time.
Some clients come to therapy with an art background and others do not, but either way I have found that as the sessions unfold most clients will begin to incorporate newer and unfamiliar materials into their repertoire if given the possibility. Exploration of materials can cause a client to feel anxiety, excitement, or often a mixture of both feelings.
- Finding Resonance with Certain Materials
The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves. – C.G. Jung
Over time and especially starting in college, I began to develop a stronger pull to certain materials over others – particularly acrylic paint and mixed media such as texture pastes and collaged materials. Although I love to experiment with other materials, these are the ones that have fascinated me and resonated with me the most over the last number of years.
Similarly, in the relationship between therapist and client, certain approaches may start to emerge that prove more effective than others. This could take the form of different theoretical approaches that the therapist utilizes, or simply small routines that begin or end each session. An art therapy client will usually be drawn to certain materials and techniques over others. Some of my current clients work almost exclusively in pen and ink on paper, while others work week after week with acrylic paint on canvas. Each client feels a certain resonance with certain materials, whether it is a conscious or an unconscious one. The client’s choice of materials will often change to reflect his or her changing mental and emotional stage.
- Building a Personal Vocabulary with Materials and Symbols
Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.
– Agnes De Mille
Finding a certain resonance with materials in the case of the artist, or with methods in the therapeutic relationship allows both to gain greater coherence creatively and therapeutically. After this has started to happen, certain imagery and symbols in the studio begin to emerge fairly reliably despite the varied number of pieces. Similarly, with therapy the therapist and client will begin to see patterns emerging in the themes that are explored. They will keep emerging even if one or both people are not directly addressing them.
It is up to the artist or the client to hold each new symbol or theme up to their own light and decide whether it will be integrated into their sense of self, set aside for later, or discarded all together.
- The Continuous Dialogue
A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places. – Paul Gardner
An artist’s body of work will continue to evolve for as long as the artist keeps creating in life. Similarly, even after a client has stopped seeing a particular therapist, the dialogue that was started in the therapeutic relationship will ideally be carried out of the therapist’s “office” and out into the world. The dialogue will change forms and evolve within the context of old and new relationships as the client has new experiences.
This is yet another aspect that creating for the artist and the art of therapy have in common. Neither one is black and white, especially in the fact that both are ongoing. An artist may complete a specific painting, but then it is onto the next piece and the next. Each piece consciously or subconsciously informs the next in some way. Similarly, the experience of therapy itself ideally expands outwards into widening circles within the client’s life.
Since I last posted that is! Life has been one big adventure – especially lately! To give a little update, Adam and I just got married on September 21st in Gloucester, MA. It was an amazing weekend that still seems surreal to us. The weather was gorgeous and we were married outside by the ocean, surrounded by loved ones. The entire weekend was one wonderful chain of get-togethers, and a chance to spend time with everyone, take walks along the beach, and get our fill of New England seafood:) We are just getting back “into the swing of things” now – here in NYC.
A few weeks before our wedding I started grad school! I am pursuing a Masters in Art Therapy at Pratt Institute and am already about 7 weeks into the program…I cannot believe how quickly the time has been flying already. It is amazing to finally be completely immersed in my chosen field. I could not be surrounded by better classmates, teachers, and supervisors. It has been interesting getting back into school work after being out of undergraduate school for about 6 years! However I am intrigued by what we are learning and am devouring books (almost whole:) I felt that my writing was a bit rusty for the first few weeks of school, but I am starting to find my rhythm again.
My school art therapy internship is at Housing Works here in NYC. Again, I could not be happier with my internship and feel so fortunate to be there. Housing Works is a wonderful organization that provides many services to people living with HIV and AIDS. If you have a moment, please visit their website: www.housingworks.org
I have been running art therapy groups, learning the paperwork ropes, and will soon be starting some individual art therapy sessions with clients there as well. There is never a dull moment there and I am simply absorbing as much as possible every day that I am there.
I am looking forward to posting some thoughts on Art Therapy and my experiences at school and in my internship. It’s a fascinating field and I cannot even begin to share half of what I’m experiencing and absorbing, but I can always start somewhere:)