If You’re Feeling Blue…

I often post inspirational quotes about art, creativity, and life in general on my Art Therapy Spot Facebook page. Over the past few months I’ve seen how many people seem to enjoy the little inspirational reminders every few days and it always puts a smile on my face to see these quotes being shared with others. Part of the reason I do this is because I think we can all use these pauses in the midst of our busy lives. It’s easy to get stuck in autopilot mode, multi-tasking, and to lose sight of the bigger picture.

I noticed that this quote attributed to an 8-year-old named Hannah Cheatem was a very popular one and since sharing it I’ve been using it as an exploration tool as I move through my own day and with my art therapy clients. She said: “If you’re feeling blue – try painting yourself a different color.” 

This quote is a reminder of how naturally children are able to think outside of the box when approaching life situations. Most children have not yet been overly conditioned by society, other’s expectations, and patterns of behavior. Adults (myself included) may find it challenging to create flexibility in our daily routines and ways of perceiving the world around us. Even more importantly, we may view ourselves in a rigid way and have difficulty grasping the fluid nature of our moods, feelings, thoughts, and ways of being. Here’s an example of what I mean:

A few weeks ago I was leading an art therapy group at the emergency transitional shelter where I work. My clients are homeless adults who are living with HIV, mental health issues, and substance use. These individuals have lived through many traumatic experiences and are usually in crisis mode by the time they come to live in our building. They are needing to reestablish basic living essentials such as a safe place to live, medical and psychiatric treatment, and financial resources.

One of my group members is a woman who has made art therapy groups a priority every week. From our conversations and what she shared with the group, I learned that she had been struggling with severe depression for years and had expressed some suicidal ideation. This is always taken seriously and her case manager and other staff members had already drawn up a safety plan for her and continued to monitor her closely. 

Over a number of art therapy groups, I began to see her open up during the hour and a half. She began as the quietest member and became one of the most verbal. She was able to articulate her thoughts and feelings beautifully and simultaneously had insightful and supportive feedback for the other group members. I noticed a change in her affect as the weeks progressed – from the way she sat up straighter in her chair to the increased smiling and easy laughter. 

However, when I would do an informal check-in with her regarding her current level of depression she would seem to catch herself and say something like ‘well I’m still depressed all the time, and always will be.’ At first I would just take her comment in and reflect back my understanding of her statement. However during one check-in with her during group I deliberately had her pause after her comment. I shared my evolving observation that her affect (smiling and laughing) during group no longer seemed to match her self-reported feelings of depression and hopelessness. My observation clearly caught her off guard for a moment as her face reflected back surprise. She then shared that what I had said did resonate with her, but that she was so used to feeling depressed that it was hard to imagine seeing herself in a different way.

This interchange opened up into a fascinating and powerful conversation about how she labels herself and tends to limit herself this way. I was sure to acknowledge that her past and present depression is a real thing. The goal is never to invalidate a person’s feelings and experiences. A feeling is never wrong. However, the therapeutic balance is in validating her feelings and then also (gently) helping her to expand her self-definition to include being someone who can also have fun, engage in creativity, and even enjoy herself. The sadness and the happiness are allowed to exist in the same holding space. As her therapist, one of my goals is to show that I can hold both of these emotions for her within the group setting. The longer term goal is to help her trust that she can hold these different states of being herself and that one state of mind does not negate the other. Both states of
mind simply exist at different times, and sometimes even
simultaneously.

 
The art therapy process helps my client to create physical objects that become proof of her ability to work through a variety of creative methods and problem solving, to be flexible in her approach, and to become aware of how varied her moods and styles are. This is one of the reasons that I encourage my clients to experiment with different and non-familiar art materials and ways of working. It helps them to strengthen an inner trust of the process when they see repeatedly that they are capable of responding to the art object within the moment, even without any prior training in art. 

A powerful component of group art therapy is that the group can serve as a larger form of validation for the individual’s creation, mirroring back their appreciation for the art created and interacting with one another in a way that they are not used to in the outside world.

Although this particular group tends to be more non-directive in nature (open studio art therapy), there are many art therapy directives that can be helpful to explore in terms of helping someone become more flexible in their self-definition. Creating self-portraits is a powerful method of self-exploration, especially if given the opportunity to create self-portraits over an extended period of time. These can be symbolic, abstract or more realistic. They can be done with drawing materials, paint, collage, sculpture, or photography.

Here are a few of my previous posts to check out if you are interested in reading more about art therapy and self-identity exploration:

Art Therapy & Body Image
Art Therapy Techniques: 3 Self-Portraits
Mask Making & Art Therapy

Enjoy!

Textural Abstract Landscapes

One of the finished textural pieces:
sand, sea glass, shells, molding paste, & paint

Last week I led an art workshop for a fantastic group of teens from Temple Shaaray Tefila in NYC. These teens are participating in a program called Gateways and Tents, which is a partnership between Shaaray Tefila and Ohel Avraham – their sister temple in Israel. Some of the teens will be traveling to Israel soon, and in March a number of the students from Israel will be traveling here to NYC. One of the program goals is to help the students explore their sense of Jewish identity, think about their relationship to Israel, and engage in creative team building experiences. 

With that in mind, I was asked to create an art workshop that would be engaging and get the teens to start thinking about the land of Israel, on a physical and emotional level. After brainstorming with the program director Hope Chernak, we decided that a very ‘hands on’ painting workshop would be wonderful and I decided to utilize my background in creating textural multimedia paintings to share a new way of art making with the group.


I began with a brief powerpoint presentation, where I shared some of my work with Israeli and Palestinian teens from a few summers ago. These powerful images of artwork helped inspire the group and also introduced them to some of the current issues in Israel, as well as ways that art can act as a bridge between groups of people. To read more about my work in this program and see some of the art click here: Artsbridge Blog Posts


Next we moved into the other room, where tables had been set up with a whole ‘buffet’ of art materials. I gave the teens a brief demo on how to work with a few of the molding pastes (acrylic texture mediums) and then gave them the directive to ‘create an abstract landscape that reflects your current thoughts, memories, or ideas about the land of Israel.’ I encouraged them to think about Israel symbolically even more so than literally and to trust the process as they experimented with the different materials. 

A ‘buffet’ of 3D materials to create texture:
shells, rocks, sea glass…

I was stuck by how quickly the teens began creating and how fearless they were in their textural explorations – not to mention how inventive! The pieces that they created on canvas were overflowing with originality, personal symbolism, and beautiful textures.

A few of the teens worked with a paintbrush but the majority of the time was spent molding and shaping the texture mediums and objects with an assortment of palette knives. Painting with a palette knife is a very immediate and engaging way to manipulate materials and often helps the artist to loosen up and ‘play’ with the process more.

Some of the students created multiple layers – scraping away areas that they didn’t quite like and then adding on more to shape it differently. One of the most powerful things about art making is that it helps us to become more accepting of so called ‘mistakes’ because we learn to work with the image until it feels right for that moment. This is why I often tell people that there are no mistakes in art. Each mark on the canvas leads to the next, in the same way that each life experience moves us to the next. Similarly, I’m sure the teens and their sense of Jewish identity will be shaped by their time in Israel and the experiences leading up to it. It is my hope that they will continue to utilize creative mediums (drawing, painting, writing, music, dancing) to explore and express their evolving identities.

I’m looking forward to creating more workshops and exploring this theme…
Enjoy some more of the creations from the workshop below!

One of Hope’s canvases!
      
Another finished piece, exploring the elements:
shells, rocks, molding paste, & paint
One of the pieces, reflecting land and water using many textures
including pieces of pretzels and chips!
Gel medium applied with a palette knife
and acrylic paint
All of the finished paintings!

The Art of Travel

Sainte Chapelle stained glass windows ~ Photo: Sara Roizen
One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.   Henry Miller
My husband and I just returned from a week and a half adventure in Paris and Amsterdam. I had been to both places before a number of years ago, but felt that I was able to see the two cities with new eyes – as if I had never been before. 
While moving through the streets, cafes, museums, and historical sites I often felt as though I was walking through a dream. I couldn’t soak up enough of the cobblestone streets, the old architecture, and the way the modern life intersected and mingled with the history. At times I fought jet-lag and exhaustion from our seemingly endless walking, and I noticed that my moods were predictably unpredictable each day, with a kind of ebb and flow. This was not one of those relaxing-on-the-beach vacations and each day was packed. However my husband and I (as usual) found a wonderful balance to each day, with one or two sites/activities planned but surrounded by the unexpected and unplanned. If we were on our way to a museum and happened to get pulled down a medieval street for a few hours, that was just as it should be. 
Subway map drawing ~ Photo/Art: Sara Roizen
The opening quote for this post captured the essence of travel for me. It was less about the specific destination, and more about seeing with fresh child-like eyes. A wonderful effect of travel for me is coming home (in this case to NYC) and seeing my own city from a different perspective. My husband is a photographer, and on his way to work yesterday he realized that he was looking at NYC with the eyes of a tourist and visually framing the various scenes that he would photograph if he had never been here before. They were sights that he passed by daily on his way to work, but had taken little notice of before. 
‘The Thinker’ at the Rodin Museum, Paris ~ Photo: Sara Roizen
In the past few days since being back I have been thinking a lot about how I can nurture this fresh way of seeing. I began thinking about the Zen concept of ‘beginner’s mind’ and how I could apply this to my days. One way of slowing down to see things is to draw, paint, or photograph them. To sit down for any length of time in front of an object or scene and really sketch is an automatic way of seeing it more closely.

I also thought about a Julie Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. I read it years ago, and one of the main prompts that has stayed with me is what Cameron calls ‘the artist’s date.’ An artist’s date is a time you have set aside for yourself (ideally at least once a week) when you do something by yourself and for yourself that delights the inner child and artist within. It does not have to be art related per se, but anything the inspires you and pushes you to try or see something new. It does not have to be time consuming, expensive, or elaborate and for that matter you don’t necessarily have to leave home each time. For example, you could create a small sculpture that is made entirely from recycled items, peruse a used book store and grab a few books that entice you, or sit quietly in a cafe with a type of tea you have never tried before.

The choices are endless, and so are the opportunities to see each day with the eyes of a traveler…even without leaving home.
Notre Dame, Paris ~ Photo: Sara Roizen
Adam soaking up the Louvre with his camera ~ Photo: Sara Roizen
Sacre Coeur, Paris ~ Photo: Sara Roizen
Amsterdam ~ Photo: Sara Roizen
Ferris wheel in Paris ~ Photo: Sara Roizen

My Article in BeInkandescent Magazine

“Fading Woman” Sara Roizen

I’m very excited to share that I recently wrote an article called How Art Becomes Therapy, about my personal path as an artist and art therapist for a wonderful e-zine called BeInkandescent.

This current June issue is called The Business of Healing Yourself and features my article along with a number of other inspirational articles by individuals in the healing fields.

Follow the link below to read the article!

BeInkandescent Magazine Article

My article can also be found on the 100 Truly Amazing Women Site and there are many wonderful articles to check out there too…

Enjoy!

Non-Dominant Hand Art

Sun Mandala ~ Sara Roizen

About a week ago I had surgery on my right (dominant) hand to repair a torn tendon. It was the first surgery I’ve had, and needless to say my anxiety was high at times. There was also the fear surrounding my right hand being  ‘out of commission’ for about a month as I heal from the surgery. As an artist and art therapist both hands are usually covered in paint each day, and yet I had been given strict orders not to use my right hand for now. Hmmm…

I made a deliberate choice before the surgery to frame this whole experience in a positive and creative way. The timing seemed serendipitous, since I had been noticing how fast life had seemed to be moving recently – the days all blurring and feeling as though I was not fully present each day and moment. This has definitely slowed me down, as I navigate each day with the use of only one hand! (For example, typing this post is an exercise in patience and stamina without both hands!)

At work my art therapy clients have adapted beautifully and I am noticing how empowering it can be for them to take even more responsibility for the set-up and clean-up of the art therapy groups. I’m also seeing how disarming (pun intended) it has been for new group members who might feel intimidated to begin making art. When they see me drawing or painting with my left hand they often decide to try – and my spiel about the ‘process and not just the finished product’ now seems more poignant. I am also learning to ask for help when needed, whether from other staff or my clients. This is often difficult for me, and it is turning out to be a good learning experience. 

I started making art the same day that I came home from surgery. I just couldn’t stay away! It has helped me to tolerate the discomfort in my hand and to focus my energy on something I love. There have been many theories about non-dominant hand art and writing. Many believe that non-dominant hand writing/art helps to bypass the conscious/logical side of our brain and help us to access the unconscious. I have personally explored non-dominant hand writing as a way to do inner child work and access more primal and raw emotions and experiences. In addition, there are some studies that explore how non-dominant hand work utilizes the brain differently – some believe that it helps to integrate the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
The pieces in this post were all created with my non-dominant hand. I have been using metallic (silver/gold) permanent markers on black paper and also creating water paintings with my new ‘Buddha Board’ (perhaps a separate post on that later!) I am noticing how relaxed I am when creating non-dominant hand art. Creating art usually helps me enter that ‘zone’ that many of you are familiar with. However I’m finding that I’m entering that quiet space (zone) even more quickly in this current art work.

I would encourage any of you to try creating some non-dominant hand art to experience this for yourself! Try it out and then report back here with your observations!

Wishing you a wonderful holiday weekend… 

🙂
City Landscape ~ Sara Roizen 
Overlapping ~ Sara Roizen
Cocoon Woman ~ Sara Roizen
‘Buddha Board’ art ~ Sara Roizen
Chrysanthemum ~ Sara Roizen
‘Buddha Board’ Art ~ Sara Roizen
Bodhi Tree ~ Sara Roizen
‘Buddha Board’ Art ~ Sara Roizen

The Little Moments

Photo: Sara Roizen

“The little things? The little moments?
  They aren’t little.”
   – Jon Kabat-Zinn                                        

Today on the 5 train (headed to the Bronx) a man with an orange sharpie and a pad of paper drew a quick sketch of me. When finished he held it up to share. The drawing was expressive and almost abstract with lots of energy and attention paid to detail.

He kept repeating this drawing gesture with different people on the train. Each time he held a drawing up he would make eye contact with the subject of his drawing and smile. I began to notice that my fellow passengers couldn’t help but smile back after a few seconds. Soon people became eager to figure out who he was drawing next and became engaged in that connection as well.

The simple act of sketching someone’s portrait became a way of slowing down and taking the time to really see another person – in this case, a train full of strangers who had been previously isolated in their own private worlds. How beautiful.

6 Degrees of Creativity 2: On Sale Now!

Just a reminder that 
6 Degrees of Creativity 2 
is now on sale!

 It will be on sale 
April 1st – June 30th 2012

It is only $49 
for all 6 workshops!

Follow the link below for more information and to register:

6 Degrees of Creativity 2 – Registration

These workshops are especially open to all art therapists, art therapy students, artists, and any other creative folks interested in exploring creativity and art-making through a unique social network and community approach. 
6 Degrees of Creativity 2 opens July 1 and runs until December 31, 2012.


Looking forward to having you join us on this adventure in art-making and creative collaboration! 

Writing-Inspired Art Therapy

“Siddhartha” acrylic & collage on canvas, Sara Roizen

“When Siddhartha listened attentively to this river, to the song of a thousand voices; when he did not listen to the sorrow or laughter, when he did not bind his soul to any one particular voice and absorb it in his Self, but heard them all, the whole, the unity; then the great song of a thousand voices consisted of on word: Om-perfection.


From that hour Siddhartha ceased to fight against his destiny. There shone in his face the serenity of knowledge, of one who is no longer confronted with conflict of desires, who has found salvation, who is in harmony with the stream of events, with the stream of life, full of sympathy and compassion, surrendering himself to the stream, belonging to the unity of all things.”  

From: Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

I created the painting above a number of years ago after reading Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. The book evoked so many powerful visual images for me that I felt inspired to create a piece of art in response. The passage that I shared above is the part of the book that stayed with me, long after I had put the book down. I wrote the passage on transparent paper and incorporated the text into the piece as well. While creating this piece I let myself surrender to the stream of the creative process, as I layered color and collage and let the composition create itself. 


Fast forward 15 years or so…During my last art therapy group, a number of the clients began incorporating words into their art pieces. One group member created an abstract layered painting on canvas, and then carefully stenciled the words “We are one, Love.” Another client made a piece that reflected her favorite passage from the bible – a passage that had brought her strength during difficult times. One woman spent the time writing a poem about what love means to her and then shared it at the end of group. 

collage with quote: Sara Roizen

I was fascinated by the spontaneous addition of words to the art process and began thinking about the relationship between writing and art therapy. 

A few months ago I had attended the Expressive Arts Therapy Summit here in NYC and had attended a workshop led by art therapist Erin Partridge, titled Personal Hope Book: A Container of Resilience. The workshop included a discussion about Erin’s work in a high security prison setting, with treatment-resistant men. Erin found quotes about hope that resonated with the group members and was able to engage the group members in the process of creating “Personal Hope Books” where each page in the individual’s handmade book included a quote about hope and accompanying art work.

There are numerous possibilities to explore in terms of directives when it comes to using writing within art therapy. Below are a few ideas:

  • Before group, write feeling words on single pieces of paper (such as sad, joyful, ashamed) and put them in the center of the table. Ask each group member to select a word that reflects what they are feeling at the moment and then create a piece of art that visually represents that feeling. Or, ask them to create a piece of art that represents the opposite of the feeling they have chosen.
  • Provide the group members with a number of printed out quotes around a certain theme (such as the hope quotes mentioned above). Ask them to incorporate the quote into a collage/mixed media piece.
  • Chain story/mural: (Great warm-up activity too!) Have the group members participate in a chain story – where each person writes a few sentences of a story and then folds the paper down so that only the last part of the sentence can be seen and then continued by the next person. When the story is finished it can be read aloud, and then a group piece (such as a mural on paper) can be created to depict the story.
  • Transforming stress: (This is an idea that I created a little while ago after one of my clients brought an entire pile of bills/forms to our session and dumped them on the table!) Have the clients bring any forms, bills, etc. that are stressing them out at the moment and then make photocopies of them. (Just be sure to block out any personal info on the forms). Then, have the clients create a “stress collage” with the photocopies. Encourage them to get some frustration out by ripping, cutting-up, and layering the copies and to add color (with paint, markers, etc) to the piece. Additional words can be added on top of the photocopies.

One final note: Be mindful of language barriers and/or the fact that some clients may struggle with reading. This can be handled, (without drawing any attention to the client) by simply reading the quotes/words out loud at the beginning of group and arranging them in a way on the table so that the client(s) can differentiate between them clearly. 
Happy creating!

6 Degrees of Creativity ~ Workshop Description

painting in progress – close up – Sara Roizen

I’m excited to share the title and description of the workshop that I will be teaching during the upcoming 6 Degrees of Creativity 2 online workshops!
Feeling your Art: 
Exploring Texture and Process

When was the last time you gave yourself complete permission to simply play with art materials and get lost in the exploration process? Textural art naturally entices viewers and artists alike and invites interaction and spontaneity. In this workshop you will be introduced to a variety of techniques for creating texture in your art using acrylic mediums, modeling pastes, gels, and palette knives. You will create textural ‘playgrounds’ for your paint to travel through with the layering of textures, colors, found objects, and any other materials that inspire you. The experimentation process with texture will be framed by suggested ideas and directives that are designed to delight and inspire the eternal child within you.  In this workshop, the process and play drive the work of art.
Sara Roizen: “Birds of a Feather”
acrylic, tissue paper, & mixed media on canvas
24″ x 48″
I have been utilizing texture pastes within my paintings for a number of years and am constantly delighted by the process! I am thrilled to be able to offer this workshop and looking forward to sharing inspiration, creativity, and art-making with you! Here are a few examples of pieces that I have created over the years using texture pastes, collage, and other mixed media techniques! Enjoy and stay tuned for information on registering for 6 Degrees of Creativity 2.
Take a look at the incredible workshops that the other 5 instructors are offering: 
Stitch Therapy – Fiber Art Painting with Kelly Darke
Still Point in a Changing World: Creating a Mindful Studio Practice with Hannah Klaus Hunter   
The Altered Image: Hands-On Photo Manipulation with Fiona Fitzpatrick  Journey Journey Shoes with Magdalena Karlick
Creative Goodness with Gluebooks with Gretchen Miller
Sara Roizen: “Untitled”
acrylic, ink & pouring medium on canvas
12″ x 12″

Sara Roizen: “Dreaming of Hokusai”
acrylic & mixed media on canvas
18″ x 24″
Sara Roizen: “Untitled”
acrylic, molding paste, sand, rock, & sea glass on canvas
5″ x 5″
Sara Roizen: “The Dream”
acrylic, collage, and sand paste on canvas
5″ x 5″
Sara Roizen: work in progress, liquid pouring medium & acrylic

6 Degrees of Creativity!

I am thrilled to share that I will be one of the 6 instructors for the upcoming online art workshop:

6 Degrees of Creativity 2
creative goodness through art-making, connection, & collaboration
6 Degrees of Creativity is a unique online workshop and community with a goal of inspiring and supporting the artist within as you tap into your creativity and build meaningful connections. We often work alone in our studios or in our role as therapist (or art therapist!)  Here is a chance to tap into a creative community, replenish yourself, get inspired, and collaborate!
This round of 6 Degrees of Creativity will start July 1, 2012 until December 31, 2012.

For more information:
6 Degrees of Creativity
Blog: 6 Degrees of Creativity Blog
Connect on facebook here: 6 Degree of Creativity facebook

More details about registration and workshop descriptions to follow! 
and….Save the date!  
6 Degrees of Creativity 2 goes on sale
April 1 until June 30, 2012