Archive for the ‘Art Therapy’ Category

As I continued to struggle with working with color, I decided for some reason to try Pointillism in Robins Egg Nest in White Birch Branchesmy images. Using dots of color with magic markers, I created images that came to my mind. I found relief in the fact that I didn’t have to mix colors just choose them from a box of 100 markers with thin tips. The first image I created was an ACEO (Art Cards Editions and Originals 2.5″ x 3.5″) of a Robin’s Egg Nest in White Birch Branches. My cousin owns the original for this one. He said he had taken a liking to it and wanted to try it for himself.

I found as I worked that I could enjoy the process more because one stress factor was eliminated … that of mixing color. Another stress factor that was relieved was that the markers were strong and stable. Not like a paint brush with flexible bristles that you had to exert more control over. So the only things I had to worry about were choosing the colors and shading, and I could just enjoy the rest of the process.

Over the years I created more with pointillism until I got tired of it and wanted to try something else. But for the time I used the technique, it worked for me and served a purpose. Here are more things I created using pointillism in color.

How about you? Have you ever tried a form of art to relieve your stress. Did it cause more or less stress?

Psychedelic Butterfly

Two Butterflies Among Daisies Butterfly Pointillism


Read Full Post »

When you are an artist, frequently you work with color. You apply it in different ways on Robins Egg Nest in White Birch Branchesdifferent kinds of surfaces with different types of tools. Your job is to control the colors, understand how they relate to one another, communicate something to others with them, and decide/plan what the visual outcome will be. What you can’t control 100% is another person’s thoughts or reactions to what you have made. They do not know the different decisions you made to arrive where you did and why. They may not even care unless they have a relationship of some kind with you. But even then, they only have their reactions to go by in the final analysis. They may love it, or hate it, or be indifferent to it, even if they know you personally.

The reason for this is thAbstract Japanese Waterfallat we react to colors, shapes, and textures differently. We are individuals and as such we have separate brains, emotions, preferences, personal history, and understanding. Often colors are an emotional choice for us. Many people love the color Blue. It’s endearing, it’s soft and romantic. It’s the color of the sky, the ocean, flowers, and more. Things we tend to love and be gently attracted to. Even a harsh Blue can still be enduring because at it’s base is Blue. Red on the other hand can agitate us if it’s too harsh. It is an aggressive color, loud, dominant, and also loved. Red is a very important color to the Chinese, especially for celebrations. Red is seen as a power color as well. If you have to give a business presentation and it is important for you to demonstrate that you are in control, wear Red. (Please note: Make sure your presentation is well prepared and delivered because just wYellow Cat In The Gardenearing Red won’t save you … smile). Green is a calming color. People associate it with growth, and living things. It makes us feel secure. The only time it doesn’t feel secure to me is when I see it on hospital personnel or hospital walls. Then it makes me feel sick.

There are whole websites devoted to the Psychology of Colors and how they affect us. Colour Affects is a website in the UK with some very interesting information on eleven colors and their psychological affects on us. This is a very interesting read. Click on the name in this paragraph to go to their website and discover the properties of color on our mind, emotions, and reactions.

Mel MaskFor me personally and as an artist, I’ve been gravitating towards creating art with a variety of colors. I’ve used watercolors and markers primarily to create realistic and unusual pieces that my mind and emotions come up with. I’ve displayed some of them throughout this blog post. How do you react to the colors used? Do you sense peace or irritation? Are you soothed or confused by the colors? Do you love them or hate them? Please share any thoughts you may have about your own color preferences.

Read Full Post »

Another Art Therapy Technique that I experienced in Grad School was the Bridge to Life Drawing. This was actually an assignment that was given to the ladies in a drug rehab at my first clinical location. Bridge to LifeThey were to depict their current situation on the left of the bridge, and then what they hoped their situation would turn out like on the right side of the bridge. It’s akin to a time line. Mine is leaving conflict, uncertainty, fear, and the past clutching at me, and walking into calm, hope, a solid future, etc. It gives a person a visual idea of where they want to head with their life. A goal to achieve.

You can put yourself anywhere on the bridge. Mine came out a bit cartooney but it got the idea across. I put myself in the middle of the bridge because I felt that I hadn’t arrived yet, but was just getting out of the negativity, and beginning to cross into a cheerier atmosphere that was full of hope and sunshine instead of gloom and doom.

Visual depictions of our thoughts help to clarify and illuminate them. I have often found when I try to visually show what my mind and emotions are experiencing, things become more clear. Visual communication adds a dimension to what we understand about ourselves and others. It rounds out our perspective of life as well.

What about you? Have you tried to visually depict a problem you are having or something you wish would change by showing what it looks like now, and then what you wish it looked like? Please share your thoughts.

As always, this technique is not meant to be a diagnosis. You need to work with a trained professional for that. However, if you do notice something that draws your attention as a result of drawing a situation in your life, seek professional help and allow them to guide you in an appropriate manner.

Read Full Post »

The Scribble Drawing has been used as an Art Therapy Technique to reveal subconscious thoughts.

This was an image I created after my experience at a drug rehab working with women in Scribble Drawing HandsArt Therapy and Counseling, as a student in Grad School. I chose to do a scribble drawing because I’d had a lot of personal success with my own emotions and thoughts coming out whenever I did one. I saw a lot of hands among the scribbles, so I created them in different colors. Afterwards I realized that I was working with alot of different types of women, different colors outwardly and inwardly and they were all helping one another come to terms with their lives and make changes for the better.

What is a scribble drawing?

It is a line drawing on a piece of paper that meanders over the entire surface of the paper. Lines must cross in order to create shapes.
Here’s how to make a scribble drawing:

1. Choose a light color of pencil and a piece of paper. 8 1/2 x 11 inches is a great size.
2. Allow your hand to gently and leisurely move over the paper and all around on the paper. Cross over lines so that images and shapes will form.
3. Fill the paper up but don’t make it a tight chaotic mess of winding lines.
4. Stop and look at the images on one side. Do you see anything in the images? If not, then turn to another side, and another until you’ve looked at all sides.
5. Take the side you see something in and begin to shape it into the thing you see. Use colored pencils or crayons to make the image come alive. You can add shading, and even color outside the lines if this will help to develop the image you see. You can add anything you want to it to keep the image as true to the image you see as possible.
6. Once finished, take a look at the result and write down your thoughts about what you see, why you think you saw it, what significance you think it might have for your life, etc. In other words, analyze what might have been stuck deep inside your mind or emotions that is now revealed. Please note that all of your lines will still show unless you erase them, but it isn’t necessary to erase the lines not used.

Here are some Google Images for Scribble Drawings that have used the technique explained: https://www.google.com/search?q=art+therapy+scribble+drawing&es_sm=93&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CB4QsARqFQoTCK_FyvK92MYCFYIqPgod71wNKA&biw=1790&bih=765&dpr=0.75
**** Disclaimer **** Please do not use this technique in an effort to diagnose yourself. Use this technique for fun or to help you to see where you need to get more trained and professional help. It is a tool, not an end all for diagnosis. And sometimes, with someone else’s eyes and impressions on it, it can expand what you know about yourself and how you come across to others.

Have you ever made a scribble drawing? It can be used to keep children occupied or as a way to start a drawing when you have no ideas but feel like creating something. If you try one as a result of this post, share your results if possible. Also share the results of one you made before reading this post. We look forward to reading your comments.

Read Full Post »

What is a Mandala? It is an image that has equal designs on several sides. It can be compared to a kaleidoscope or snowflake image. If you Google either of these words or mandala, you will see some very beautiful designs. These have been created in stained glass windows, on paper, with sand, mosaics, and more. Here are two of the mandalas that I have created in the past. One with magic marker on paper and one on foam core with natural elements. The natural one has different birds and butterflies in it and those parts aren’t uniform but the rest is as uniform as possible.

Mandala by Mel MossMandala by Mel

Wikipedia has a detailed page on the history of Mandala’s, different cultures creating them, and lots of samples to look at. Mandala’s have been used spiritually and psychologically. Psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that the whole self was found in a mandala. Some of his thoughts can be found at CreatingMandalas.Com . He had a habit of sketching them each morning. I’ve also heard it said that while creating or coloring a mandala, a person can become calm and peaceful. Are you irritated with something or someone? Start sketching or coloring a mandala!

An easy way to get a mandala started is to take a square or round piece of paper and fold it several times. If you want 6 spokes, fold it 3 times, if you want 8 spokes, fold it 4 times. A square paper will yield 4 to 8 spokes but a round one can yield 6 or 8 or more. My magic marker mandala above has 8 spokes and the natural one has 4 spokes. Unfold the paper and smooth it out so it lays flat. Then simply create shapes on one spoke. Repeat them exactly the same way on the remaining spokes. Then color them.

Anyone can create a mandala. When I was in Junior High I used a fountain pen (Bic wasn’t invented yet) to draw these mandalas. I drew them about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. I simply enjoyed figuring out shapes and repeating them. When I had created several, I decided to save the paper until I figured out what to do with them. It wasn’t until I was going through Grad School in 2009-2010 and majoring in Art Therapy and Counseling, that I found out that they were called mandala’s. I knew if I waited long enough I would eventually find out what they were. It only took me 50 years to come across this knowledge … LOL!

Mandalas do not have to be fancy and perfect. Sketches will do. For some people creating a mandala might be too much. If so, start one and don’t complete it in one session. Do a little at a time when you feel like doodling. It will get done eventually and you’ll be able to see the final result. For me as an artist, I just enjoyed seeing what shapes I could create and also control a wet medium such as ink in a fountain pen. These were welcome challenges for me, but not everyone has that kind of bent. You can still benefit from making simple mandalas. Mandala images to be colored can be printed off the internet. Google free mandala coloring images and see what you come up with. Then just simply add color. Kids love to color these.

If you’ve ever created a Mandala or colored one, what did you think about doing it?  Please share your experiences.

Read Full Post »

Let The Art Speak

Class: Art Therapy – Introduction
Tri-C West – Summer Quarter T/Th Evening 6-10pm
Article Review Submitted by Student: Melanie T. Campbell
Date: 6-23-09
***No part of this article may be used for any reason unless obtaining prior written permission***

Let The Art Speak
by Jacqueline Carr
Release Date: 4-28-06

Lisa Falls is the subject of this article, which is a review into the world of an individual Art Therapist. Lisa, an Artist who is originally from New York, shares about her work and how it has benefited those she has worked with.

Lisa came across the therapeutic use of art by accident. When her neighbor’s young daughter, six at the time, could not express her feelings about the impending divorce of her parents, she became silent about it. When Lisa gave her the chance to make art, she was able without suggestion or provocation, to express her feelings, the sadness, frustration and confusion surrounding their separation. The article shares Lisa’s opinion that art is one of the best ways to cope with life changes and challenges at any age level.

Lisa’s life is a busy one since relocating to Mission Valley, California. She has her own private practice with the population age ranging from four to ninety-nine. She hangs her clients’ work on her walls, as well as photographs she has obtained from fellow artists. Lisa works with individuals, families and groups, in and out of her office setting. Her work takes her to hospice and assisted living facilities. She is also an advocate of Art therapy and regularly presents information on it’s use and value.

One of the on-going programs she has set up in 1999 at Sunrise Assisted Living at La Costa in Carlsbad, is called Art Expressions. It has been a benefit to patients and families while giving six to ten residents at a time, the chance to practice motor skills and speaking. Lisa uses several art mediums to accomplish positive changes in the residents, such as painting, mosaic, collages, sculpture, and memory books. Over time, residents gain confidence in their motor skills and verbal abilities, such as June with Altzheimers who was able to paint a landscape and feels pride in her work, when she had previously found it difficult to speak and was not able to write.

Many positive results come from Lisa’s programs, when residents pick up art making again or try it for the first time. It encourages their families when they see what their loved ones can accomplish. Having been in an Alzheimer’s facility dealing with a parent with the disease, I know that seeing this type of improvement in loved ones is invaluable and gives hope. Activities such as this, keep the Altzheimer patient connected to the real world, focused, and boosts their self-esteem. The article notes that Eugenia Welch, Director of Sunrise Assisted Living, observed that residents participating in Art Therapy are more willing to be involved in every day life. In the group setting they find a commaraderie among the other residents in their same situation and then they don’t feel so isolated in dealing with the changes in their lives. One very sweet comment that was shared in the article had to do with one resident that was reluctant  to come to the program, and then once they did would not leave, commenting, “I’ve got my mind going again, I’m staying right here.” A wonderful testimony to the effects of Art Therapy on a seemingly incurable disease. Other benefits Welch observed are an increased enthusiasm for communicating with others, new friendships, and release from dwelling on ailments. It gives them the opportunity to focus on life outside themselves.

Patient in-care facilities are often dealing with the loss of a spouse, the ravages of disease, stroke, and having to move out of their home, to name a few. As I get older and am forced to start dealing with increasing memory loss, the fear of not being able to function as I did in younger years, the scope of life begins to get smaller and smaller. A person’s independence diminishes with it as well. If Art Therapy can restore some, if not all of this to a patient or resident in a care facility, then this alone would be ample proof for the need and validity of the use of Art Therapy treatment.

If all this wasn’t enough, Lisa Falls finds the time and energy to oversee the Art Therapy Extension, and teach serveral classes at UC San Diego Extension. Participants after completing courses such as using Art Therapy in specific populations, ethical and legal isues, and issues surrounding cultural diversity, are eligible to seek Registration and Board Certification in the Field of Art Therapy. Lisa believes that Art Therapy is a “key skill for any medical practitioner”


Article found online at: http://extension.ucsd.edu/news/display/dsp_newsarticle.cfm?vAction=view&vEventID=260

Read Full Post »

Class: Art Therapy – Introduction
Tri-C West – Summer Quarter T/Th Evening 6-10pm
Student: Melanie T. Campbell
Date: 6-23-09
***No part of this article may be used for any purpose without prior written consent from the author***

Therapeutic Environments
by Kathy Hathorn
President of American Art Resources

From a paper presented at the American Society of Healthcare Engineers International Conference on Planning, Design and Construction
Nashville, Tennessee
March 8-10, 2000

Kathy Hathorn discusses imagery for therapeutic environments, in this article focusing on what imagery is correct for certain patient populations and what is not. She also discusses specific needs of each population and the ways to identify the type of Art that is best purchased for those environments. Kathy’s mission is to assist in the process of creating healing environments through Fine Art.

When creating therapeutic environments in a treatment care facility, Kathy stresses the appropriateness of the type of Art in the seven major areas covered in the article. To give the reader a way to identify with her point, Kathy uses an example of a painting of a mountain stream swirling gently through rocks with the sun shining on them. She places the reader in two separate and distinct patient environments. The first of a jogger who has hurt their ankle and is sitting in a emergency waiting room hoping that their ankle isn’t broken. They close their eyes and imagine themselves in the serene scene experiencing it. Time may seem to move more quickly, and the pain less noticeable because the picture has had therapeutic value as a distraction of their situation. The second scenario is that of a woman waiting to get an ultrasound with a full bladder. The painting then becomes a reminder of her painfully full bladder instead, and has no therapeutic value at all to her.

Kathy states that Art selected based on the needs of special patient populations has these benefits:
    1) Mitigates the stress involved with a particular environment.
    2) Provides the patient with a sense of security.
    3) Tends to facilitate the bonding of the patient and the care facility.
    4) Gives the facility an image of excellence.

The seven areas examined in this article are: ICU Patients, Heart Patients, Cancer Patients, Rehabilitation Patients, Geriatric Patients, Psychiatric Patients, Women’s Services, and Pediatric Patients. Before reading this article I was not aware that care facilities went to such great lengths to be sensitive to their patients. This is a far cry from the day when I was in an extended stay hospital with green walls and a completely sterile visual environment. Many hospitals today could visually equal 4-Star Hotels – an example of this is Lutheran Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio with beautiful floors, woodwork, and even a few stores on the main level to cater to dental and other needs of patients and visitors. (Visit Link at the end of this article).

ICU Patients
Because this unit has so much special equipment and often only has curtains for walls, Kathy says it is hard to place Art that will not be distracted by the equipment necessary for the patent’s survival. Kathy states that this is often a brutal area due to it’s emphasis on last minute life saving. She suggest that Art that is reality based, such as photos of Nature with sunlight and full-spectrum color, are better choices because ICU Patients often suffer from hallucinations related to just being in ICU and not what put them there. She stresses displaying an image without ambiguity. Regardless of Art selection, the goal should be to offer comfort, support, and dignity to the patient and their families.

Heart Patients
Kathy shares that Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the US today. Much anxiety and acute stress are experienced by both men and women, even though treatment procedures have become more stream-lined and less invasive. She suggests back-lit photographic images in the ceilings of areas where patients must wait for long periods of time, or in procedure rooms where patients’ vision is towards the ceiling. Cardiac catheterization is an example, She shares, of the need for patients to lie still on their backs to avoid hemorrhaging from the semoral artery in the leg, which must be cut during the procedure. She states that Roger Ulrich, Ph.D. has documented the positive outcome in heart patients who view these types of images. Art that displays care and support rather than abstract imagery had better positive results for heart patients in studies at Uppsala Hospital in Sweden as well. Improvements ranged from more normal blood pressure and heart rate, less need for pain meds, fewer complaints of discomfort, and a slightly less duration of hospital stay. Kathy includes the fact that Art can also be used to educate heart patients in ways of eating healthy and exercising.

Cancer Patients
Treatment for Cancer can be a frightening and highly uncomfortable experience for those needing it. It can feel foreign to them as well as have debilitating side affects. Some treatments last for several hours and have long recovery times. Kathy stresses that due to the nausea associated with some treatments, the Artwork chosen for the treatment area needs to be “clear and still”. Images need to be Nature related and reflect life and hope. Bare trees and adverse weather scenes are not good choices. Kathy cites Nasa Scientist Yvonne Clearwater’s research findings, that patients prefer scenes with distant horizon lines. Pictures also with winding paths are preferred, Kathy notes. Figurative Art can be a problem in oncology units because patients tend to compare themselves with the figure in the Art. An example would be a bald cancer patient looking at a painting of a person with a full head of hair. Empty chairs, closed doors, flowers such as lillies due to what they represent, Urban scenes without greenery, are all inappropriate for cancer patient areas.

Rehabilitation Patients
Kathy stresses using very clear, realistic pictures without double or reflecting images are appropriate for this diverse population. Patients find fuzzy impressionistic style pictures hard to focus on, as some experience nausea. She also points out that some patients become very frustrated and violent sometimes, so the need for serene and static Art is best in patients’ rooms. Distant horizon lines are also helpful here as well, since patients stay for prolonged periods of time. Daylight colors should be used in the paintings and figurative Art is okay if not ambiguous in facial expression or body language. Patients here can have reoccurring dreams of their accident, loneliness, fitful sleep and more.

Geriatric Patients
There are several considerations when dealing with the growing population of elderly. They often have no control over many things in their lives, they begin to lose clear vision of certain colors due to changes in the eyes occurring with age. Their ability to cope with stress in their environment continues to diminish, and they become frustrated with their inability to handle things they used to handle. Kathy shares that appropriate Art for this area can include images that mimic everyday life, and familiar objects in the home, things that they remember from “their time” or the old days. Images with evidence of life is essential. This is also true for Altzheimers patients. Often frames with pictures they remember or objects familiar to them, are placed on the wall outside the doors to their rooms to help them locate it. My father and I made one for his room for a month stay at Arden Courts. Other objects in showcases in the hallways like quilts, doilies, model cars, etc. help to create a familiar and comfortable atmosphere. Kathy stresses that care facilities should use a variety of images throughout rather than repeat only a few, to create an atmosphere that’s more like home.

Psychiatric Patients
In this category, there are several considerations depending on the kind of care the patient needs. Rape or abuse victims if faced with figurative Art, need figures that are clear and complete, since ambiguity would frighten them. Those who have injured themselves or are in detox, need positive images and colors. However the colors should not be overstimulating. Psychiatric disorders need to have Art free from the abstract. Figures need to be whole persons, extremes in colors need to be avoided. Inappropriate also are: optical illusions, animal faces looking directly at the viewer, busy patterns, and distorted figures. Patients with stress related issues or needing behavior modification, need positive and realistic images. Children need images that will nurture and stimulate at the same time. The space for each of these populations should be evaluated for it’s use first, Kathy says, and whether it will be used for groups or individuals. Patients can often handle some forms of Art in a group situation that they can’t handle when faced with it on their own. She strongly suggests that working with the unit program directors will produce decisions that will more effectively meet the needs of each space being considered.

Womens’ Services
Figurative Art depicting home life and family are appropriate within the social status of those coming to the facility. The only exception is in units where mothers are grieving the loss of babies, or struggling to keep their babies alive. Relate the image to racial backgrounds as well. In general women are more apt to use these facilities than men in a reoccurring manner, so the imagery chosen needs to reflect this. Women of all age groups and needs must be considered in order to give them a sense of belonging while in the facility.

Pediatric Patients
Art in this population needs to be endearing, engaging and nurturing. Kathy cautions against chaotic imagery, wildly kinetic scenes, an over stimulating environment, or colors that are too powerful. She explains that engaging Artwork stimulates the natural curiosity of childhood – her word “magical”. Scenes based on intellectual appeal such as the Ecology, National Parks, endangered animals, and all kinds of friends are appropriate. For endearing Artwork there needs to be gentleness, respect for human dignity, Art that evokes childhood memories in adults, and respect for life itself. Nurturing Art needs to comfort children when mom and dad go home for the night, such as original photographs of animals with human-like traits. Preferably traits of humor, playfulness, love, family, and companionship. This Art can also promote the bond between child and family.

Kathy says that the benefits of choosing Art to match each population are “astounding”. Stress is reduced, the patient feels more secure, patient and care-giver bond, and it puts the care facility in the best light possible.


Article found at: http://www.americanartresources.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=61

Lutheran Hospital, Cleveland, OH: http://www.lutheranhospital.org/

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »