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!
ūüôā

 

 

 

Removing Barriers in the Studio

A glimpse of my growing studio inspiration wall

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.’
~ Rumi

This Rumi quote hangs to the right of the painting easel in my new studio. It’s one of my favorite quotes because it resonates on so many levels. For me, art is love expressing itself in visual form.¬†Like love, the art needs to find a way out, but I am no stranger to building barriers within myself in unconscious attempts to slow the flow of art energy. I’ve written about this in many posts and find that it’s important to acknowledge the ebb and flow of my own creative process. It’s part of why I am able to sit with an art therapy client and nod understandingly while they list ten reasons for not wanting to make art that day. I get it. I really do. I also understand how deeply freeing it can be to acknowledge those barriers and then gently (or brazenly) push through them sometimes.

I’ve lived in many places and carved out areas to make art in all of them. Sometimes I’d set up at a kitchen table, a (slightly mildewy) basement, or on the floor of my bedroom. I took over the second bedroom in our Queens apartment for my studio for a number of years, until the birth of our first son. My fantasies about painting in the same room while he napped are amusing in¬†retrospect.¬†Still, I dutifully set up shop on our small kitchen table for a little while or worked on a smaller scale in my mandala journal while he crawled around next to me.

returning to my mandala journal

In September my family made the big move from NYC to the ‘burbs’ in Massachusetts. It’s an area that we know and love, with the ocean close by, trees, space, and a slightly slower pace of life. The transition was emotional for me, even though it was a change that I was craving. Transitions are always challenging. Each day took on a dream-like quality as I found myself busy with unpacking and getting oriented to our new home and area. In addition, I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and a bit preoccupied with queasiness and fatigue!

One of the most amazing things about our new home is that I once again have a room that I can claim as my studio space. The attic was converted into a beautiful light filled room by the previous owners. It was the most amazing space I could imagine for a studio and yet I avoided it for a few months – even after the boxes of art supplies were unpacked and I could have started using it. I experienced a sense of guilt and also longing every time I contemplated heading upstairs to my studio. It was as if the space was too perfect for me to use. Perhaps a part of me was struggling to feel worthy enough to fully inhabit the studio. The litany of doubts and self-critical thoughts slowly marched throughout my head. This has been a pattern of mine for as long as I can remember. I put the barriers in place (as in the Rumi quote) and they are all of the reasons why art should not be a priority for me. Then, when the pain of being trapped behind those self-imposed barriers becomes too great, I get back to my art! A morning art-making session with an artist and art therapist that I recently met was exactly what I needed to start removing my art barriers again in our new home. We sat in the studio and just chatted while working on our own art projects. After she left, I spent the rest of the afternoon in my studio making art. It felt incredible. It was like coming home to myself.

a corner of my studio

In the first paragraph of Art Is A Way of Knowing, artist and art therapist Pat Allen writes:

‘Images take me apart; images put me back together again, new, enlarged, with breathing room. For twenty years I have kept a record of my inner life in images, paintings, drawings, and words – sometimes haphazardly, sometimes more diligently, but continuously throughout my days as an art student, art therapist, teacher, wife, mother, and artist. My existence was marginal, uncompelling, because my feelings, necessary for a sense of meaning, were missing. Art making is my way of bringing soul back into my life. Soul is the place where the messiness of life is tolerated, where feelings animate the narration of life, where story exists. Soul is the place where I am replenished and can experience both gardens and graveyards. Art is my way of knowing who I am.’

so much painting storage space!

Pat Allen’s description of the role of art in her life resonates with me. Art embraces the messiness and the beauty of our existence. It takes courage to sit in front of a blank canvas without the distractions of everyday life. I realized that part of me was afraid to sit down and provide space for all of the recent feelings and experiences to find their way out through the art. It seems easier to keep pushing them down sometimes. But the first brushstroke has a way of clearing the way for the next, and the next, and so on.

Today during my art therapy group at an assisted living facility we all sat before blank surfaces. The acrylic paint was already beginning to form a slight crust on top from sitting out in the air. I could feel some of the anxiety and hesitancy of the group members to begin, even though they had all come to my art therapy groups before. The familiar mantras at the beginning of group, ‘I’m not an artist,’ ‘I don’t have a clue what I’m doing,’ ‘What should I do?’ ‘Does this look ok?’ I sit there and breathe in all of the insecurity. I encourage them to do the same. Then I say, ‘Let’s begin. Somewhere…anywhere. I promise you that brushstroke following brushstroke will lead you somewhere interesting.’ They begin and after an hour it¬†suddenly¬†seems like there isn’t enough time. Art has a way of suspending time, slowly drawing us away from self-critical thoughts, and revealing pieces of the self. I am inspired by the courage of my group members to trust me and the process enough to dive in each time. In turn, their willingness to create something from nothing has me heading back into my studio at the end of the day – eager to see where the art takes me.

On that note, I’ll leave you with one more inspirational quote. It’s about reframing our¬†relationship¬†to fear and a seemingly¬†subtle shift in perception can make all the difference:

‘Replace fear of the¬†unknown¬†with¬†curiosity.’ (unknown)

So, what are you curious about today?

a new small painting in progress

Inspiration vs. Stagnation

photo: Sara Roizen

“If I stay long enough in the studio, just stay with the work even if it doesn’t feel great or seem satisfying or directional or conclusive, if I just stay to tend and garden, then my mind gradually yields control to the more automatic labor of painting, and with that comes a sweet spot in the process further down, a worn groove, a sense of ease.”

– Anna Schuleit

Let me paint a picture for you. (And stop me if it sounds familiar):

You’ve been meaning to get back to your creative project. Perhaps it’s a painting you started months ago that is staring at you from across the room. A recipe you’ve been meaning to try but are a little intimidated by. Making a handmade thank you card for your great aunt. Planting some new flowers in your garden. Dusting off your vinyl collection and actually sitting down to listen to an entire album uninterrupted. Writing a blog post. (Is it obvious that I’m also writing about myself here?) 

Here are a few things that might happen instead of jumping right into that creative project:

– You hop on to Pinterest just to grab a little inspiration and 2 hours later realize you’re still following link after link and looking at other people’s amazing projects. Oh, and your toddler just woke up from a nap so no time today for art!

– You decide that the pile of dishes or the toys on the floor are the top priority in the next hour.

– You have a ‘to do’ list, but the thing you are most passionate about doing today somehow ended up at the bottom of the list.

– It seems like too much fuss to gather your art supplies (substitute writing supplies, gardening, cooking, or any other word) and so you switch on the TV to gather a half hour of mindless but (you suppose) relaxation.

I’m just describing a pattern that I often find myself in. And to be clear, none of the above behaviors are bad. For me, it’s more about balance and if I’m honest with myself I can tell when I’m in a period of stagnation brought about by procrastination. There is something to be said for slowing down and doing less. This happens with the seasons, especially here in the Northeast. Nature slows down right about now and with less daylight hours most of us go into mini-hibernations of our own. 

Of course there are cycles of intense creativity and productivity to balance these times of stagnation. However, it seems almost too easy to fall into a habit of not creating. Creating can be anything at all and I don’t place a time value on it. Sometimes it’s ten minutes of doodling or even creating a rock sculpture in the backyard with my son. Or it could be marching up to my studio, cracking open my paints, and facing that gigantic blank canvas in the corner. 

Paint galore…

The inner therapist in me is getting curious and wondering about my resistance to creating. It’s certainly a theme that I continually explore with my art therapy clients. I think there are different reasons that pop up depending on the situation. Some of my themes are: not feeling worthy of making the time and space to create, being intimidated by the process, and placing a higher value on getting other things (like chores) done. Creating can feel like a luxury rather than a necessity. Sometimes I can almost delude myself into thinking that is true. But it’s not. I know this because if I am not making art or being creative in some way, my emotional and even physical self suffers. It doesn’t happen all at once, but I will gradually start to notice that something is ‘off.’ In my mind, it’s like taking a daily vitamin. You don’t realize how much it helps and also enhances your life until you stop taking it for a while. 

Getting back to my Pinterest example…
We all benefit from absorbing inspiration, whether it’s perusing Pinterest, taking a long walk, flipping through magazines, or strolling through a museum. The question is are we spending every second on gathering inspiration but avoiding getting down to our own creations? At this time in history we are surrounded by (and often bombarded) by a constant stream of images, opinions, and advertising. It seems to be increasingly difficult to unplug and go within. I will admit that when I’m in my studio I often feel an urge to hop into my iPhone and pull up a few more images for inspiration rather than sitting with myself in the uncertainty of creation. However, when I can sit in that uncomfortable place for a little while the anxiety is almost always replaced with excitement. It’s interesting how closely related anxiety and excitement can be isn’t it? The amount of energy that I am able to nurture and release when I make art is profound and deeply healing. All it takes is pushing past the stagnation. Doing that is simple, but not always easy. 

There is a humorous quote that many of us can probably relate to from Gene Fowler. He said about his creative process: “Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” 

So while we’re on the subject of writing, here are four of my favorite books on nurturing and making space for our creative pursuits. Each book also addresses the obstacles to creating from a personal perspective. I hope that you check one or all of them out and let me know if they help spark your own creative process. Just remember – read a chapter at a time but create in between! ūüôā

Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go, Shaun McNiff
Art is a Way of Knowing, Pat B. Allen
Studio Art Therapy, Catherine Hyland Moon
Art & Fear, David Bayles & Ted Orland

Books to inspire your creative process

Mandala Journal Evolution

1/29/14 mandala pages ~ Sara Roizen
6/7/14 mandala page ~ Sara Roizen

 

‚ÄúMy mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which was presented to me anew each day‚ĶI guarded them like precious pearls‚Ķ.It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation.‚ÄĚ

~ Carl Jung

My 16 month old son is sleeping in the next room as I create this new blog post about my continued mandala journal. While re-reading my last blog post I realized that he was only six months old at that time of writing. Ten months later and this current mandala journal keeps growing, but it is almost at the end of the available pages. Time to get a new little art journal, yet I feel incredibly attached to this one. How apt, is it not? As my son grows I reminisce longingly when I see photographs or think about the first few months of his life and my life as a new mother. Yet I am enthralled with his current state of being as well as mine. This is the dialectic of creation as well as parenthood I suppose – looking back with an aching heart, soaking up the present moment, and being curious about the next phase all at once.

1/28/14 mandala page ~ Sara Roizen

My old studio space in our two bedroom apartment is now our toddler’s room. I create at our kitchen table, on the couch, or on the train ride to work. For now I create in little snippets such as my mandala journal, rather than in series of paintings on canvas. Returning to painting on a larger scale is in my near future, but for now I am reminded of how important it is to carve out these small pieces of time and space. I am reminded to ‘practice what I preach’ when I tell my art therapy clients that all it takes is a quick doodle here or there or even stopping on a familiar walk to snap a picture of a previously overlooked scene or object.
It is all of the little moments stitched together that create texture and depth in our lives. So I keep opening up to my process, one circle at a time.

5/28/14 mandala page ~ Sara Roizen
5/25/14 mandala page ~ Sara Roizen
5/7/14 mandala page ~ Sara Roizen
7/9/14 mandala page ~ Sara Roizen

Life Without an Eraser, (or Why I Love Woodburning)

 

Sara Roizen ~ ‘The Family” ~ Woodburning

 

“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†–¬†John Gardner

I don’t remember when I first picked up a woodburning tool. It was probably between high school and college. Perhaps I was strolling through an art store and stumbled across the pyrography section and thought ‘hmmmm I wonder what I could do with these tools?”

I do remember stocking up on wooden boxes and spending hours in my room with the incense burning, angst-ridden music playing, and my woodburning pen as I immersed myself in the rhythmic process of burning line after line into the wood boxes. During college I used my woodburning practice as a reprieve from art history exam studying, my slightly verbally abusive freshman year 3-D teacher, and as a way to ground myself when feeling overwhelmed.

I adore the sweet woodsy smell that the burning creates and the way my hands have learned just how much pressure is needed to create a line without overdoing it. I hardly ever sketch a design out beforehand. My usual style is to let each mark inform and create the next line. I never know what is going to emerge. It’s impossible to erase a woodburned line (well, I suppose sanding it down for a long time could eventually) but overall, the lines are permanent. It’s a visceral process and it requires a certain amount of presence and focus – especially in order to avoid burning yourself!

Art Therapy Work
I have not utilized woodburning within my art therapy group practice yet. The need for multiple electrical outlets for the woodburning tools as well as some safety concerns are all part of the equation. However I think that woodburning could be an interesting exploration within individual art therapy work. There is an engaging paradox with these materials and this process. It is both aggressive (burning) and also meditative (intense focus).

 

Sara Roizen ~ Woodburning

In many ways it is a study in dialectics Рthe aggressive energy paired with the need to lean back into the moment. Rushing ahead with these materials will guarantee a burn-hole or contrastingly, a scarcely visible line. Leaning into the line-work with the perfect amount of energy and withholding will create clean and vibrant lines.

Perhaps this process will help our clients to explore the ‘push and pull’ in our daily lives, selves, and¬†relationships.

Tips:
Softer woods such as pine and balsa wood work best for woodburning. The feel you are looking for while woodburning is reminiscent of a hot knife through butter.

Focus on your in and out breath while woodburning. How does the wood smell and how do your hands experience the heat as you create each mark on the wood?

There are many different woodburning pen tips that you can buy. I tend to use the most basic, although you can get decorative tips (that create more of a branding mark).

 

Example of woodburning tools
Sara Roizen ~ Flock of woodburned birds!

Remember how hot the pen can be, and it remains hot for a while after it is unplugged. Do not leave it near any flammable surfaces.

Most importantly, be mindful of the client that you are working with. This is not a process that I would personally use with a new client, a client that is currently self-harming, or someone that is struggling to control more straightforward drawing materials for example. Becoming familiar with the process yourself is also a good idea so that you are comfortable with the feel of the materials and any problems that could arise.

Have you used woodburning in your personal work or within your art therapy work? Interested in trying? Feel free to share your thoughts here.

 

Sara Roizen ~ Mandala woodburning ~ The Tribe

 

Ink Painting & Art Therapy

Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
“Learn how to meditate on paper. Drawing and writing are forms of meditation. Learn how to contemplate works of art. Learn how to pray in the streets or in the country. Know how to meditate not only when you have a book in your hand but when you are waiting for a bus or riding in a train.”
     ~ Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968)
These are a few recent ink paintings on paper that I have created. I started this series during one of my open studio groups, after being inspired by a group member and his ink paintings.

The technique I have been using is “wet on wet” and is commonly used with watercolor and ink painting. You begin by doing a light water wash (spreading water over your surface with a larger brush) and then add your pigment (paint or ink) to the paper while the wash is still wet. You can wet the entire page before adding paint/ink, or you can only saturate certain areas of the page, which is what I have been experimenting with for the most part. As soon as you drop or apply the ink to the paper, it bleeds across the page as it follows the water. In some ways you can predict the way the color will flow, and in other ways you can’t! You can blow gently on the water pools to coax them in certain directions, or you can even move the paper around to move the water/ink. Experiment with the “blotting” technique, where you gently dab a paper towel, cloth, or sponge to the paper, which lifts off some of the pigment and water. This creates interesting textures and can add depth to the painting.

Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Ink Painting as Art Therapy
Last week, I used this technique in two of my art therapy groups at work. I gave a brief demo of the wet on wet technique, and provided my group with canvas paper, watercolor (metallic colored!), high pigment liquid watercolor, and of course water. I encouraged them to experiment with the technique, and not think too much about creating a finished art piece. Instead, I asked them to see what happens when they added more or less water, more or less color, moved the piece around, blotted it, etc.

While painting in group, we processed how this art technique can be related to life. Many of my group members shared that they had a difficult time “letting go” in general, and getting out of their own way at times. When I asked them to explore where that fear might be coming from, one of the basic themes that kept emerging was the idea of “trust” and how so many of my group members had not learned to trust others or themselves after years of trauma and negative experiences. Therefore, the process of letting go was often difficult for them, since they had no basis for trusting that things would work out if they were not in tight control.

After creating the paintings, group members shared how pleasantly surprised they had been at the way their pieces had come out. They were also surprised by the fact that they had been able (for that entire hour) to let go of the finished result, and simply enjoy the process of exploration. A few members expressed how much easier life might be if they could apply this way of painting to their way of interacting in the world. As we ended the group, I encouraged each person to think about one area (outside of group) where they could try on a more relaxed and open perspective, whether it was just smiling at the annoying person on the crowded train, or enjoying their next meal in a more deliberate and slow manner.
Finally, a short quote for you to contemplate:
“Letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems.”
~Bill Watterson~
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011
Sara Roizen ~ ink on paper ~ 2011

Therapist Artwork During Sessions

Sara Roizen ~ acrylic on paper
A few days ago (on my Facebook Art Therapy Spot Wall) I posted some images of artwork that I had recently created during art therapy sessions with my clients. 

Someone asked me some very interesting questions about my process in terms of making art during sessions. Below is my first response to some of these questions, and I hope this will inspire some more dialogue around the topic. 

I was asked: Is your art work reflecting the thinking of your clients? Is it a way of catharsis? Or do you sort out their problems by analyzing there art work?
Sara Roizen ~ acrylic on paper
Sara Roizen ~ acrylic, decorative paper, and mod podge on paper
There are different reasons that I will (or will not) choose to make art with my clients during a session, and more than anything it tends to be an intuitive decision at the time. One way of looking at therapist art making during sessions is having another form of “dialogue” with my client in addition to the verbal dialogue that it taking place. In looking at my own artwork after sessions, it often serves as a visual record for themes that came up during the session.
      
Although art therapists are trained in the theory of art “analysis” most art therapists do not actively analyze a client’s artwork during sessions. I feel that the client’s own associations to their artwork is the most important aspect when looking at the client’s artwork. In order for the processing of art to be meaningful, it is key for the client to find their own personal meanings within their artwork.
I will often create post-session art as a way to process my own feelings and thoughts after a session with a client. A while back I wrote a blog post and shared a few art pieces I had created after sessions, as a way of processing countertransference. A while back I wrote a short post about creating post-session imagery as an art therapist, and included a few abstract portraits I had done of some clients. If you are interested in checking out that post, follow this link: Art Therapy Spot: Countertransference
Sara Roizen ~ colored pencils on black paper

Do you ever create art during or after art therapy sessions with your clients? If so, how does your own art process help you to gain insight into your sessions? Does it deepen the therapeutic dialogue, or has it ever been a hindrance?

Join the conversation! My art therapy spot blog has a Facebook page here: Art Therapy Spot: Facebook

Sara Roizen ~ silver paper and colored pencils on black paper
Sara Roizen ~ acrylic & tempera on paper (applied with palette knife)

My Magazine Article! Adoptee Artists

cover of the Adoption Constellation Magazine
I was one of three featured adoptee artists in the latest issue of The Adoption Constellation Magazine. This magazine explores the diverse voices of the adoption triad and encourages an ongoing dialogue about topics related to the adoption experience.
 Below I have shared my essay on how my own artwork has influenced my experience of being an adoptee. To find out more about this magazine, follow this link to their site: The Adoption Constellation Magazine 
Enjoy! 
______
The Power of Art: Adoptee Artists 

The Artist’s Path to Self: How does the adoption experience translate into art?   

Three adoptee artists use art as a medium to gain a greater understanding of their adoptions and themselves.

“What did your face look like before your parents were born?”  -Zen Koan
A few years ago I had a dream about my birth mother. I was walking through a crowded room and everyone was dressed in masquerade clothing and masks. As I meandered through the large hall, the back of a woman caught my attention and I immediately knew she was my mother. In the dream, I held my breath as I waited for her to turn around. She turned for only a moment, and I saw she had the face of the Mona Lisa. Her face then shifted into another face as she melted into the crowd. I ran after her, but could not find her again.
my article and two featured paintings
Thinking about the dream, I later realized that not knowing my mother may actually fuel my constant desire to create. Without knowing my mother’s face, I am free to create one for her, even imbuing her with the face of the Mona Lisa.
My adoptee and artist identities have often been inexplicably linked. My search for self parallels my path as an adoptee and an artist. I trace this search visually through the artistic process. My art draws from archetypal images, such as the Great Mother, Mother Nature, and from other mythological women, to help me form an image of my mother. The struggle to form an identity and likeness for my mother is mirrored in my painted depictions of floating figures and faceless apparitions.
Symbolically, I reclaim my lost mother through the artistic process, evoking her through dialogues with my paintings. Art has given me a way to meet my mother metaphorically on the page or on the canvas. Abstract landscapes evince terrain that I have traveled in my search for self, and for my mother. Shifting figures of women hover in limbo ‚Äď waiting to be born or to move on to the next stage of life. 
Those who know their biological family trees are assigned to a specific branch on the tree. Perhaps not knowing my family tree has freed me to paint my own family trees ‚Äď in various colors, shapes, types, and settings.
As an art therapist, I often tell my clients to ‚Äúfocus on the process more than the finished product.‚ÄĚ When I think about my constantly evolving search for self and for my mother, I often remind myself of this philosophy and how it can apply to all of life as well. Perhaps it has never been about finding myself, but about the act of creating myself in each moment. 
______

A Few Works on Paper

My latest drawing obsession material!

I am currently pretty crazy about Prismacolor “art stix.” They look like hard pastels, but they are actually woodless colored pencils. They are a bit pricey, (you’re paying for amazing quality) but this evening I marched into our local Michael’s store with a 50% coupon in hand. (Hint: always print out coupons for Michael’s! They constantly have 40-50% off of one item deals!)

I often join in the art making process during one of my weekly open art therapy studio groups. Lately, I have been drawing with art stix on black paper. The rich colors on top of the black paper creates a striking contrast and the colors really pop. I am not sure exactly what has been drawing me to this materials combination lately. Perhaps it seems to capture the intensity of the group process, as well as the energy. 

Working on black paper is a very different process from working on white paper. The black paper seems to suck the colors in and create depth, whereas the white paper seems to allow the colors to bounce off the surface.

Here are a few drawings and one collage from the past month – created during my weekly open studio group. 

color stix on black paper ~ feeling energetic that day!
color stix on black paper ~ needing to wrap myself in a safe cocoon
color stix on black paper ~ healing rings expanding outwards
color stix on black paper ~ looks like I needed more structure that day!
magazine photos on black paper  ~ intense feelings finding an outlet in collage