Studio space ~ Breathing space

My painting practice has been an integral part of my experience as an art therapy student. This summer I look forward to spending even more time in my studio.

The studio is like an old friend, that is always there waiting patiently for my return…

My studio shifts constantly, but is always packed with inspiration & works in progress. Here are a few pictures of my studio in its current incarnation:)

Countertransference and art making

Creating art has always helped me to process my feelings and experiences. For me, painting is a dialogue between my unconscious and the surface and materials that I am working with. Since beginning my internship at Housing Works, I have been utilizing the art process as a way to gain greater insight into my clients: my countertransference with them, and as a way to become more creative in how I work with them within the individual and group art therapy session.

Countertransference refers to the different types of emotions that a therapist may experience while working with an individual client. More specifically, countertransference is about the therapist’s unique personal history and how that may consciously or unconsciously impact how they react to or feel about a particular client. Countertransference used to be seen as an impediment or obstacle in therapeutic work, but over the years many therapists have come to see countertransference as a valuable tool that can bring heightened awareness to the therapetutic dynamic. For this to occur though, the therapist must first be aware of their countertransference and then decide how best to use it in a therapeutic capacity.

My clients struggle with many challenges – all of them are living with HIV or AIDS, and in addition, many have mental illness, chemical addictions, and past incarcerations. Working with these clients brings up many strong feelings for me, and this is where the art process has been so powerful in helping me to explore these feelings on a deeper level.

I have been creating portraits of my clients for the past few months now as part of this exploration. Obviously, the client’s names are not included and I am sharing portraits that are very abstracted and stylized in nature. I do not feel that any of these images would infringe on the privacy of my clients due to their non-representational nature.

I have included a few of my portraits of clients in this post. Each one has been a transformative tool for me and has helped me to better understand some of my countertransference with each indiviudal client.

altered book…in progress

I wanted to share a few pages from my first altered book. An altered book is any pre-existing book that has been creatively transformed by the artist through any artistic process, such as collage, painting, folding, cutting, stamping, etc…This book was orginially a book called Healing Waters by Linda Troeller – who is a photographer that traveled around the world and documented different bodies of water that are used for ritualistic and healing properties. I love the concept and imagery in this book, and used mostly acrylic, collage, and some writing to transform the pages into my own personal visual journal. The book is not yet complete, but these are a few pages that I have completed so far…

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:)

Sketches from Mexico

I finally had a chance to scan a few of my sketches
from our time in Mexico…Since we were on the move quite often, I found it tricky to really “set up shop” in one location to paint on a larger scale. However a small tray of watercolors, pens, and pencils did the trick. Now that we are back in NYC with my studio accessible, I might develop some of my sketchbook imagery a bit further and play with the imagery that emerged during our travels.

It was wonderful for my husband and I to both have our artistic means of exploration and creating – Adam with his photography and me, with my sketchbook. In the coming months we plan to work together to create a personal book that will combine our photos, drawings, and pieces of the journal entries that I kept.

I have been doing a lot of sketching at home lately as well. For me, a sketchbook is a more intimate form of creating, as it can be open but also closed and hidden from view. It is more journal-like in format than a canvas could be, and allows for more risk-taking sometimes or simply exploration of different types of styles depending on my mood that day…


Earth Window Series

I’ve been working on a group of paintings that I’ve been calling the Earth Window Series. The paintings in this series have been taking on many different sizes, palettes, and textures, but they all share a common motif – which is the “window” or the usually squarish geometrical shapes that seem to be finding their way into them. The painting to the right is a newly finished piece from the series. The picture below shows this same piece at an earlier stage. The very first layer of this piece (not shown here) was created by applying washes of bronze colored paint & earthy colors like burnt sienna & yellow oxide.

Over that color layer I used blue painter’s tape to mask off different shapes. A slightly darker color was then painted over the tape, so that when the tape was removed the image beneath stood out. To create the white splatter lines I drizzled gesso (a surface primer) across the surface in both thick and thin line patterns. I truly enjoy the spontaneity of this process and have been exploring it in my newest paintings. This technique borrows directly from action painters like Jackson Pollock (more on this in a later post). Briefly though, in action painting, the materials are applied to the surface in a very spontaneous manner, such as dripping, splashing, or smearing.

In the final layer, I applied more blue painter’s tape to the surface (and this is where the “windows” emerged yet again!) After creating a composition with the stencils I did a final wash, adding some deep reds and sections of deeper blue to add depth and help the window images “pop.”

Here are a couple details from the painting…