Friday, April 15, 2016

#131 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - De-colonization

"Simple Life in the Back Roads"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper. 
I read an article on Art Therapists for Social Responsibility FB group, "We Need A Decolonized, Not A 'Diverse' Education."  It was short, and well worth reading and pondering.  One thing that jumped out at me was the idea of inhabiting or occupying marginal spaces, "...practice inhabiting marginal spaces..."  was the directive.  So much of our lives within the dominant culture is about trying to get to the "center," to look like we fit in there, hoping to pass for dominant culture, and hoping no one ostracizes us for our differences.  I believe THIS is the essence of colonization, identification with those we perceive to be cool or powerful.  So much of our relationship with the dominant culture is about being colonized, and that it happens with our consent (sort of).  But we  may not realize it unless we practice inhabiting marginal spaces from time to time.

So how do we find and occupy these marginal spaces?  How do we learn to appreciate the margins?  As artists, I believe the fastest route to authenticity and de-colonization is by creating art every day, for ourselves, for our own enjoyment.  With practice, art making can be a quiet time of reflection, a time of turning away from the pressures of the dominant culture and a time for exploration of the "back roads," and if you allow it, beyond the reach of the mediocre and ever so boring, mundane mainstream.  There is a great deal of life and freedom in the marginal spaces, which leads to a happy artist's life.  May we all find and enjoy the simple and beautiful life in the back roads.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

#130 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - A little self-care goes a long way towards a happy life

"Be Very Happy"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
Sometimes when we are under stress and need the most self-care is exactly when we forget to look after ourselves.  And this of course adds to our stress and takes away from our happiness.   So the first suggestion here is PsychCentral's 49 Phrases to Calm an Anxious Child .  A whole list of phrases and ideas to reduce stress and anxiety for children, but actually reading through them is very soothing.  For example number 26. “Let’s list all of the people you love.”  This post credits Anais Nin with the quote, “Anxiety is love’s greatest killer.” The author, Renee Jain, says that if that statement is true, then love is anxiety’s greatest killer as well. By recalling all of the people that your child loves and why, love will replace anxiety.  Hmmm, sounds good.

During times of stress and anxiety, we can have bouts of insomnia when stressful anxious thoughts rattle around in our minds.   Combine the list of 49 phrases with a very cool website, The Sleep Sloth!
You can program the sloth to talk to you personally, and you can teach it to tell you what you most want to hear, perhaps one of the above 49 phrases?

What do you think?  Just looking at these two websites can send you in a nice self-care direction and towards a happy artist's life.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

#129 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artists life - Create Secret Messages

"#secretmessages"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
This happy adventure began with an image from Mandy Steward that Gretchen Miller posted on FaceBook.  You know, one of those little creativity sparks that pop up in life from time to time!
So I clicked on the image and I got magically whisked to Mandy Steward's blog and website.  Oh my.  So she has a secret message society with monthly inspirational zines, a wonderful eBook called "What is a Secret Message" and a Magic School.  Whee. 

What is a secret message? A Secret Message is a reminder of sorts for something you innately know at your core. Like a colorful fortune cracked out of a cookie at just the right time. I believe when you find one it can help air out your lungs, melt your heart and bolster your Soul.                                                                                                   - Mandy Steward
What could be better, more fun, more happiness inducing than to think about what secret messages you might be on the look out for and then to create them for yourself? 

"Warning: may cause breathlessness. May cause the first daring trembles of hope. May cause furtive joy.
                                                                                     - Hillary Rain

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Visual Art Journaling for Teens & Adults in Treatment: Creative, Messy, Contained

  "Let Go of Certainties"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

Registration for the Master Class Visual Art Journaling for Teens & Adults in Treatment: Creative, Messy, Contained at Fourth Annual Mid-Atlantic Play Therapy Training Institute is now open.  This class will be a day long intensive from 9:30 - 5:00 on Saturday the 11th of June, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia.  The course will offer you a way to present art journaling in your therapy groups or in individual work.  We will be using simple office supplies and collage materials to create journals and then using a variety of “directives” we will explore art journaling as a way of building strength, resiliency, and self-care.

Over the past few years, I've been creating and posting morning pages every day on FaceBook and my blog 14 Secrets for a Happy Artist's Life.   Here's what I have learned so far. 

* If you practice something every day, you get better at it.  
* If you practice something which encourages thought and reflection every day, you become more thoughtful. 
* If you practice something which makes you happy every day, you get happier every day.

As a student, I used to wonder why Edith Kramer, art therapy pioneer, repeatedly encouraged us to create art every day.  She also encouraged us to keep a journal for things we were learning, for the ideas and questions that come to us.  She suggested that these activities, if engaged in fully, would help us grow into our best selves, that we would be able to see our strengths and resilience unfold.  There are a lot of intrinsic rewards built into utilizing our inner strengths and nothing that promotes freedom, independence,  and a sense of self worth better than the realization that we have the power to create our own inner satisfaction and intrinsic rewards. Over these past few years of Morning Pages exploration, I have to admit Edith Kramer had a point about all of this.

This Master Class will be about helping ourselves and the people we work with to grow into the best selves possible, about engaging in a daily art practice, the benefits, challenges and joys of such a practice, and even some specifics for collage work.  In the past I have created eCourses, ‘Zines, and FaceBook groups in which participants can continue to play.  This master class will provide you with links, on-line support, and an eZine to download so you can continue with your own practice at your own pace.  If you have thought about art journaling for yourself or your clients, this may be the class for you.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

#128 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artists life - Try a little counter intuitive radical acceptance

 "Gift"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

I was working on my morning pages while listening to a dharma talk from one of my favorite Buddhist monks, Bhante Sujato.  Suddenly my ears perked up and I had to stop and rewind the talk a tiny bit.  He said:
It is painful and difficult  (pause) 

and we shouldn’t try to pretend otherwise  (pause)

It will break your heart (long pause)

And if it hasn’t broken your heart then you haven’t started practicing.  (pause)

I had to rewind it a few times to realize he was speaking of meditation, because what I was hearing was life is painful and difficult, and we shouldn't try to pretend otherwise.  And we know life will break our hearts if we are fully engaged with it, if we are living and loving with our whole hearts.   And I am thinking that is actually the point, to allow the heart to be broken. 

It's counter intuitive to embrace the sorrow you can feel in Bhante Sujato's words.  Everything in us balks.  But if we are willing to make that leap we find we really aren't alone.  And there is a very deep sense of some sort of abiding joy in this. 

Yes, it is painful and difficult but try a little radical acceptance of that fact and see what happens.  We are all here together. 
"We are Heart Artists" collage by Lani.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

#127 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artists life - Art Journaling

"Once Upon a Time"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
I sure don't why I didn't think of this one earlier, but Art Journaling or a little art every day is a sure fired way to create a happy artists life.  So I got out my new set of cards from Orly Avineri, The (art) Journaling Game, and picked one at random. 

1. Collect a few small simple images of single things. (Child reading, woman with flowers, elephant, and some text)
2. Cut around them and paste each one of them randomly on an uneventful page or on one that is subtle or simple.
3. Note how the small images become symbols and how they relate to one another to tell a visual story.  (That's one of the fun parts, having a little inner dialogue)

Then the card has a little bit of wisdom:
"Everything about art journaling is symbolic, metaphorical, allusive,  Process becomes concept whether we are aware of it or not."

Nice, eh?  That small amount of time that it takes to look for the symbols, allusions and metaphors is so dearly appreciated by the inner artist.  Try it.  You might just raise some serotonin! 

Sunday, December 06, 2015

New Workshop Alert - Decolonizing the Art Room

"Always Coming Home"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

Susan Anand and I are creating a new collaborative workshop for 2016.  It will include a didactic piece (a short lecture with slides) on the decolonizing, empowering, and resilience building possibilities of puppets, narratives, and collage based on the lifelong work of Edith Kramer.  This will be be followed by hands on experientials creating simple paper puppets, houses (as per Gretchen Miller), simple box (suitcase, trunk, or backpack) and book structures, ending with a collaborative narrative and environment.  A discussion will follow that will look at various populations that can use this format.

We are scheduled to present this at the American Art Therapy Association Annual Conference in Baltimore in July.