Thursday, December 31, 2009

"You know incredible things happen when we are open to possibilities!"

Collage by Lani

Adela sent me the link to this lovely video, a perfect way to say good night to 2009 and good morning to 2010. It's simple, and full of great kindness and stillness. A perfect little revolution on film!
Thank you Dewitt Jones, you give me courage to soar! Happy new year everyone! And remember to celebrate what's right with the world! (If the video looks a little cut off, click on the blog title and it will take you to Yahoo videos where you can see it in full)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rev O' Lution: Simplicity

Simple collage by Lani

Voluntary simplicity is "a manner of living that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich, a way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living..." Duane Elgin

And what artist in their right mind would want to live any other way than authentic and conscious with inner riches? I can't imagine. I guess the trick would be to remember that I have a choice when complex situations arise.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rev O' Lution: Stillness

Create Stillness Collage by Lani

I can feel this process of evocative words combined with collage creating "revolutionary" rumbles below the surface. I tried one of Simone Alter-Muri's Post Modernist Art Therapy leads, and explored Jenny Holzer's Truisms to see if I could find a truism related to stillness. I found "all things are delicately interconnected" and worked a collage around that and stillness.

Morning pages collage by Lani

On a related topic, in a kind of "all things are delicately interconnected" kind of way, Simone Alter-Muri has a dear friend, a professor of Transpersonal psychology, who is living with terminal cancer as a “sick well person”. Now that is one of the biggest tests for creating stillness that a person can face. Simone shared Aric's story with us during her Positive Psychology workshop at the American Art Therapy Association Conference in Dallas last month. Simone had given him a call, and he told her he has blissful ignorance about his cancer. “I go to the MD but I am not interested in watching my cancer go up and down. Cancer is just a label that the doctors gave me, I experience physical sensations and the doctor labels it as cancer. Actually the creative force is my healing” He is writing a book that includes art, poetry and his journals. He does not accept the idea that cancer is a death sentence. It is just cancer. He goes to the doctor and listens but feels that there is something beyond the canvas. Something is so beautiful that he does not feel the darkness of death but the beauty of living moment to moment.
“Living with cancer is beyond the canvas, I am put to the test what stroke to put on, and it’s a journey I am in the moment. I am not talking to you in humbleness I am not invested in the cancer nor am I in a battle with it. I know I will not survive but who really knows when they will go? I am practicing blissful ignorance not watching the cancer numbers go up and down. I am moving ahead in my life the best I can perhaps not positive psychology but choicelessness. I surrender to the greater appreciation of the moment. Practicing quality of life is a choice.”
(Aric's personal communication to Simone Alter-Muri, October 30, 2009)
I love this. It gives me such a still, happy feeling to think of living in this moment-to-moment way, beyond the canvas. Thank you Simone and thank you Aric!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Rev O' Lution: Friendship

Collage about friendship and looking within by Lani

Continuing to work on my new year's Rev O' Lution, I play with this idea of friendship. Do we offer friendship to those who are most similar to us, or does offering friendship to others pull down walls of difference? What about those internal walls? Would offering friendship to the parts of ourselves we feel to be unlovable create a greater feeling of integration? Harold Kushner says "When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world." And when you are kind to yourself? I imagine that must change everything!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gretchen's Rev O' Lution

Over on Creativity in Motion, Gretchen's highly creative, delightful blog, there's a revolution brewing. Instead of coming up with a list of new years resolutions, last year she had a list of qualities which she wanted to reflect on and attract more of in the new year. So now she's looking over that list and thinking about what she has learned in the past year. So I'm thinking I need to create a Rev O' Lution for myself. What qualities would I like to create more of in my life and what art work would I pair up with that?

Altered photo by Lani

Friendship - I'd like to learn more about friendship. I'd like to study what it takes to be a good friend to others and to myself. I suspect loving kindness and gentleness and goodness might be qualities that are related to friendship.

Stillness Collage by Lani

Stillness - I'd love to learn more about stillness, that quiet centering that helps us be here now, that helps us appreciate this moment right now. It's the stillness that allows what is to be, and in that stillness we find flow. Peace, flow, and a quiet joy are qualities connected to stillness.

Simplicity by Lani

Simplicity - I'd really like to learn more about simplicity and how to live a sustainable life. I have a feeling that simplicity and sustainability are deeply connected. What has struck me most about this past year is how the more complex things get, the more rushed and pressured I feel; and of course then I am more likely to react mindlessly rather than act with awareness. So paying more attention to simplicity should be a good antidote to rushing and pressure.

In keeping with the quality of simplicity, I think I will leave it at these three qualities. I think by approaching these qualities with interest and wanting to learn more, they should grow in my attention and experience.

Collage by Lani

"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker. "
~ Helen Keller

Monday, December 14, 2009

May your holidays be simple and good!

Just in case the whirlwind of the holidays get away from me, here are my holiday wishes for you. I've been watching the dog whisperer, Cesar Milan, and the antics of our Bergamasco's and I believe a very happy life is possible with a few simple basics. Here they are: May you have a warm hearth, good friends, and good treats in your food bowl. Of course I might throw in a little artistic inspiration and art challenges as part of my holiday wish for you. If you click here you will find a freebie from Gale over at Paper Whimsy. Use it to create a card or ATC. Have fun and have a safe and warm holiday!

Monday, December 07, 2009

A couple of wonderful "Make Art" links

"Make Art" Collage by Lani

Art is magic... But how is it magic? In its metaphysical development? Or does some final transformation culminate in a magic reality? In truth, the latter is impossible without the former. If creation is not magic, the outcome cannot be magic. (Hans Hofmann)

#1 wonderful "Make Art" link: For all kinds of artistic inspiration, advice, tips, and community, visit The Painter's Keys.

#2 wonderful "Make Art" link: Seth's posted his next Secret Sunday along with a new "inspiration link" so do take a look! (I particularly liked jaihn's link to 2nd Grade Visual Journals gallery on Dispatch from LA, most excellent!)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Culture, Assumptions, and Art

Collage by Lani

Another interesting event at the American Art Therapy Conference was a focus group "Understanding Cultural Identity and Difference" with Savneet Talwar, Shelly (E.M.) Goebl-Parker, and Megan Robb. Their goal for this focus group was "to examine how individuals negotiate hybrid cultural and social identities in everyday life and its impact on art therapy practice." Some discussion was raised about war zones and inner cities and the chronic nature of stress and trauma in those settings. This got me thinking about assumptions I might be making about trauma, culture, and recovery. I suspect that for me art therapy has been something that is brought in after a traumatic event, trauma recovery being something separate from the "event" and occurring after the event. But art therapists working in war zones and inner cities described situations where the therapist and the people they work with live in continual threat and chaos. How do you do trauma recovery work in the middle of trauma?

Collage by Lani

Assumptions are such tricky things. One woman wanted to talk about the assumptions of a particular group from which she was experiencing oppression in her normally oppression-free life, and a bit of exclusion from those she felt she should not be excluded from. I found this very interesting. It is so much easier to see the misguided assumptions of others and to try to address these with a list of "should's" and "ought-to's" than it is to examine our own assumptions. She was wanting to correct her oppressors and of course I was wanting to correct her! But what if correcting others is really not as helpful as we would like it to be? What if correcting our own biases is also somewhat counter productive? Could it be that we create resistance to being corrected?

One thing that I have found helpful for my own self inquiry, is to take an artist's approach, looking at the layers of history and cultural baggage as potentially interesting layers of texture and color. Then I'm able to accept what is, without resistance, and to alter, transform, or just make some interesting art with it. This may be related to having explored and been influenced by the realms of positive psychology and the associated search for resilience.

What if instead of looking for the cultural weaknesses in others, we begin to see the strengths and beauty within our histories? Wouldn't that help us see the strengths and beauty of others? Wouldn't that create a welcoming and inclusive environment? I believe I will try this approach from now on.

"Vinnie and Ganesha" collage by Lani

Photoshop surprise and fun!

Diane Cook has posted our collaboration for the Echo prompt "Surprise" from Chrysti and Susan. Diane's shot was taken of a South Texas wildflower, with an added layer of burned texture from les brumes. My image is on the left. It's a combination of two images, one of a puppet-making workshop participant and the other was an attempt to create an interesting layer for texture by shooting towards the light through an antique bottle (which I really like doing!).

"My puppet can sing!"

For major photoshop layers and textures fun, Adela sent me these links! Great stuff here, lots to learn!

I've also been enjoying Get Totally Rad's website (although they are pricey, just visting will give you ideas!) and Oscraps Altered Art/Collage items in their shop for digital scrapbookers. You can find some interesting textures, overlays, and actions from digital scrapbooking websites for a lot less money than from photographers. Have fun and let me know what you find!


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Nurture New Beginnings

"Nurture New Beginnings" Collage by Lani

Another great thing I learned at the American Art Therapy Association Conference in Dallas was from a great panel on making mistakes. "Transforming Past Mistakes into Future Lessons..." by Nicole Brandstrup, Gretchen Miller, and Jordan Potash, in which each presenter talked about a mistake they had made, and how when they were willing to examine and learn from this mistake they discovered a gold mine of learning. Although each presentation had so much to offer, what my mind jumped on in particular was from Gretchen's piece. I think it explains so much of why art making can be so helpful, in a very basic level which I may loose sight of at times.

Gretchen said that she believed the main reason for her "failure" with a particular art intervention was...

... because I was focusing too much on “the thinking brain” and relying on assumption of need connected to this, rather than staying with the needs of “the emotional brain” related to trauma.

I needed to become more equipped to not only treat trauma, but become a voice for trauma informed care in future milieus I would work in and to advocate for youth facing these issues. As a result, I have spent the last few years working on trauma certification and becoming a Certified Trauma Consultant through the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children. This specialized training has provided me with the tools and knowledge to approach my art therapy work from the brain stem up and to be more thoughtful in understanding how to implement sensory-based art interventions before jumping right into cognitive processing.

How perfect, working from the brain stem up, giving that most primitive aspect of the brain its due. I think this is excellent advice for all of us, whether we are working with others of working alone in our studios, we can always provide our brain stems with positive experiences as we work. I suspect this is why my favorite spa is so popular, they know how to provide our brain stems with very positive experiences. Now to build more of these experiences into my life and art! Thanks Gretchen!

One of the many mistakes I made as an art therapist was one of omission. I had been working for many years with a dissociative patient, using clay, paint, cloth, fibers, dolls and puppets, and she had given me some hints about how her work might have become more ethnically and culturally syntonic. I wasn't paying attention at the time, but when I thought more carefully about this mistake, it actually informed the happy direction that much of my work has taken, so in some sense I was also able to transform and learn from the mistake. More from Dallas and on the multicultural possibilities of art therapy soon. Stay tuned.

Altered antique photo by Lani

Thursday, December 03, 2009

More links, inspiration, & ideas!

"Psychosynthesis Exercise: Evocative Words" Collage by Lani

One of the most enjoyable and evocative art experiences I had in Dallas was Simone Alter-Muri's art-making workshop using concepts from positive psychologists like Martin E.P. Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as well as Roberto Assagioli's principles of Psychosynthesis. We worked with matchboxes and glass globs, collage materials and evocative words from one of the many psychosynthesis web sites. Three short lectures on positive psychology filled our minds with good intellectual fare and the generous art materials and lists of words evoked a lot of very positive objects that we could use as personal reminders of (as Simone put it) "...hope, enjoyment, and trust ...the very conditions that allow us to go on living." What a generous workshop!

Here's my little matchbox and here's a list of evocative words which I will keep in my little box.

My sweet friend Nicole Brandstrup sent me a great link today, to Dirty Footprints Studio where Connie Hozvicka plays and inspires. Here's her definition of a Creative Juicy Life:
Dreaming in full color.
Breathing deep and feeling alive.
Laughing so loud it scatters all fear.
Loving so large there is no room for doubt.
Creating each day into your best one yet.

It fits right in with where I seem to be at the moment, with the whole positive psychology and art theme going on here. So I explored a bit. She's got some wonderful interviews, podcasts, links and a terrific question or perhaps it's two questions. What does living a Creative Juicy Life look and feel like to you? or "What makes your life CREATIVE?" and "What makes your life JUICY?"

I like nothing better than giving some thought to these questions so of course I answered them:

What makes my life creative today is having my own art room and creative space and time to play with images, ideas, and 3-D stuff. Having the freedom to play, really. That's what makes my life creative.

What makes my life juicy and rich in ideas and images is being able to connect to other artists and all their juiciness so easily! Using the internet for a great big art museum/artist's cafe/gallery is really key to having an artistically juicy life.

Thanks for asking this delightful question!
Try any of the above links, inspiration, and ideas. Try answering the question "What does living a Creative Juicy Life look and feel like to you?" and let me know what you think!