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.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

#121 - #126 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life (especially during dark times) - Create with love

"With Love"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

During times of sorrow, it is important to remember to take care of ourselves and others, to be as kind as possible (even when your social media is screaming with troll-like verbal abuse). 
Remember “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.     - Martin Luther King Jr.
 In an October blog post for Emotional Geographic, Gretchen Schmelzer writes about five things we can to do to help our children and ourselves after a traumatic event.  I believe these translate beautifully into artful activity.

1.  Gretchen suggests you turn off the TV so as to cut down on the activation of the stress response system that gets highly activated each time you watch particularly trauma inducing news.  The idea is to create a calming environment for yourself and anyone around you.  Instead of TV try making some art while listening to some Baroque music (replicating soothing rhythm of hearts beating in utero.

2. Gretchen reminds us that trauma shatters our experience of safety so we all seek some reassurance that our loved ones are okay, and we want to believe that this will never happen to us. She suggests that while we can’t promise that nothing bad will ever happen to us, we can reassure ourselves and others that we will do everything in our power to protect ourselves and those around us.  Remember what Mr. Rogers' mother told him when he was a child, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”  Create art around this theme.

3.  Remember your routines.  Consistent routines are a huge help for all people, not just for children.  They help us feel more solid and secure. Trauma is about feeling caught off guard, while familiar, nurturing routines help us feel more contained and safe.  Pay attention to the nurturing routines in difficult times.  They will carry you through.

4.  Feelings of helplessness can be overwhelming.  Gretchen suggests helping kids to paint thank you cards to helpers.  Art as a gift can be a wonderfully empowering activity.  Have you seen the short video conversation between a father and child in France around the bombing?  It's lovely and it's being said that it's even allowing some French people to 'let go of their tears' which of course is a very helpful thing.  Do watch it if you have a chance.

5.  Finally her last "thing" is simple, create more light and love.   "Let’s resolve each day to bring a little more light and a little more love: smile more, let the person in front of you pull in to traffic, pay someone’s toll or coffee, offer to get up and let someone who looks tired sit down, bring dinner to a friend or neighbor in need, call your pastor or minister and ask of there is someone who could use a little more support this week, plant a few more flowers. As a Girl Scout we were always taught to leave a place cleaner than we found it, and perhaps more now than ever we need the corollary—to leave a place ‘lighter’ or ‘more loving’ than we found it."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

#118 - #120 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - Simplify

"Simplify Our Life"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

While working on my morning pages I had a line up of YouTube video's playing.  They were very interesting, very liberating in simplifying way.  And they made me feel very happy in a liberated, simple kind of way.  Perfect for this artist living a happy artist's life.
The first one was "A rich life with less stuff" - The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.  Basically they tell a story about downsizing the "stuff and clutter" that makes our lives overly busy and meaningless while building up the important aspects; like passions, meaning, and purpose.  Minimalists live deliberate meaningful lives, passionate and purpose driven.  They are happy people and happy with less stuff and clutter.  And very interesting workable methodology.  They have a website and books. Lots to explore.  So that's Happy Idea #118.
The second video to pop up was "The art of being yourself" with Caroline McHugh.  She talked about her work in real life with the sweetest Scottish accent.  She helps people become themselves.  She believes that we all need to be as good at being ourselves as we can.  "Just be yourself" is something we tell others, very easily.  Children are good at it and our elders are good at it, but adults often have a hard time.  We all have our own "thing," our own "sense of strength" and our own "queendom."  It was a lovely, inspiring Ted talk and very simple.  "Just be yourself!"  Here's Caroline McHugh's website.  Follow the link and just scroll over the images and feel the inspiration.  I may need to get that book.  Beautiful!  (Happy Idea #119)
Finally the third one to pop up was a simple way to survive party's and social events without resorting to altered states.  "How to engage in better small talk," with Malcolm "Minister Faust" Azania. Very interesting.   Really his idea is simple, engage with people and find their interesting stories with just a few simple questions.   For example rather than asking people "what they do," he asks what they do for fun, or what did they do for fun when they did have fun.  He interviews people for a living, finds their stories.  So here's his list:
1. Food. “Tell me the story of your most powerful associations with bread . . . ” Azania related a story of asking that question of a friend who told him about when his dog ate a loaf and an half of bread dough.

 2. Favorite teacher. It’s amazing how much people want to answer this question.  Who are the heroes without their teachers . . . the ones who helped them transform?

3. Forest. Ask about their connection with nature.

4. Film & culture. People will tell you remarkable things about how their favorite book or movie affected them.  Instead of asking,  “Have you read book X?” ask “Tell me about a book that changed you.” Or, “Tell me about your favorite book dealing with X . . .  or about Y . . . or by Z.”  Other questions: “Tell me about a movie that makes you cry.” And,  “Who would you want to play you in a movie?”

5.  Forlorn or fond. “Tell me about the songs that profoundly remind you of your own youth and why.”

6. Fear. Ask them about their fear—a fear they’ve overcome.  “Tell me if and when you ever personally overcame racial tension.”

7. For the Win. “Tell me the story of one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for you.”  Or, “Tell me about a time when you discovered that you were stronger than you thought you were.” 
And here's his website.  Have some simple fun today!  Collect some stories.  (Happy Idea #120)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

#117 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - Finding Wonder

"Finding Wonder"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
Part of the joy about having a time set aside to do some daily art is this idea of exploring and trying new things, experimenting with textures, colors, and fun collage elements. Part of the joy is finding that sense of wonder is alive and that it can animate us.

So here are a few joy and wonder filled links for you:
Momentous Institute - an amazing website out of Texas, lots of great ideas for educators, parents, and mental health workers.  They have a great blog with book reviews and resilience building ideas, just awesome.  They also have some free apps you might want to look at.  (mindfulness based and soothing)

Also FlyPaper has some new textures, Fine Cracks.  Love me some great FlyPaper textures.

"The creative source is a room hidden inside you. Wonder is a door that - for an instant - opens to give you a glimpse inside. Wonder entertains mystery, builds a nest for the unknown and unknowable, and it lures you down the path less traveled." -Mari Messer from Pencil Dancing

Thursday, April 30, 2015

#116 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - Boosting Resilience with Compassion and Altruism

"Open the Window"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
I just listened to a great Kelly McGonigal lecture on YouTube!  She was looking at the research behind her new, soon to be released book The Upside of Stress.  She talked about Shelly Tayor's research on the correlation between resilience and the "tend and befriend" mindset that is often observed in very stressful situations. The research shows that stress can help us connect and strengthen relationships if we engage the "tend and befriend" response, rather than the "defeat" or "freeze" response.  (The "defeat" research was horrifying!  Horrible, but gives a clear understanding of learned helplessness and anomic depression)

She cited some interesting and rather wonderful research with inner city youth in Vancouver that were given a task of volunteering with elementary school–aged children (full text available from JAMA when you click on the link).  The researchers were looking for connections between pro-social behavior and the improvement of adolescents' cardiovascular risk profiles.  What they found was those who increased the most in empathy and altruistic behaviors, and who decreased the most in negative mood, also showed the greatest decreases in cardiovascular risk markers ( C-reactive protein level, interleukin 6 level, total cholesterol level, and body mass index) over time.

Looking for the 116th way to have a happy artist's life?  Watch Kelly McGonigal's video and find more ways to boost pro-social behaviors, empathy and altruism! 

"Open the window at the center of your chest and let the spirits fly in and out"  - Rumi

Monday, March 30, 2015

#115 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - Learn to be a part of here.

"To be happy, learn to be a part of HERE"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
This one is simple but not so easy.  Have you ever noticed that your most difficult times in life occur when you are very much concerned with either past injustices and wrongs or fears and anxieties about the future?  Don't take my word for it, think about it.

AND have you noticed your happiest moments are the moments where you are most HERE?  True, right?

So learn to be a part of here a little more often.  Guaranteed to open the door to a happier life.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

#114 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - Boost your nutritional neurochemistry! Awesome!

"Shimmering"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
This morning I woke up to yet another huge fresh pile of SNOW, dumped down with no regard to the fact that it's already spring, the end of March.  I could get a little depressed.  But instead I listened to this interview from Rick and Jan Hanson. It's part of the Foundations of Well-Being program, but offered freely here.  She covers diet, vitamins, laboratory testing (and how to think about the results), and practical physiologically-oriented interventions for better sleep and mood that don’t require medications. Of course I was also working on my "morning pages."  So I did my art while enjoying this fun, wonderful, and hope filled interview.

Monday, March 02, 2015

#113 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life - Daily doses of smallish art

"The Mystery of Creativity"  collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
 The thing about art is that it really can make all the difference between an existence and a life of wonder and joy.  Part of my daily dose of fun includes creating a collage before breakfast, fiddling with it digitally and then posting on FaceBook and now LinkedIn (because they need more art there!).  I advocate doing this because some days I can sure use a little reminder.  Some days (especially THIS endless winter) are just a little, er, less than marvelous. 

Of course I KNOW life has endless winters and difficult times.  Plastering over the "bad stuff" really doesn't do anything.  I do know this.  So every day a little quiet time with art and building up strengths and resilience, playing with collage, color, layers, textures and text are a way for me to cope with the shadow times and a way to celebrate the joyful times, as well.

For this collage, I was picking out words that resonated and trying different combinations.  This is the sentence that popped up, "The Mystery of Creativity is Wild, Free, and in Us!"  And of course it is!  And because of that our possibilities are pretty wide open and they really are ours.  Just take a little time every day to work on them. 

Wow, this totally makes me happy and it's a nice inner satisfaction kind of happy, an internal reward.  Better than chocolate.  Way better.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

#112 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life, love who you are, it's a great place to start.

"Creating Magic" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

Gretchen Miller challenged me to participate in an art chain, to post art every day for five days over on FaceBook.  Well, I've been doing that for a couple of years now, but I thought why not go through my archives and see what resonates the most right now.  So what I discovered is that creating art every day as part of my daily practice, has made me happier, braver, and more resilient.  Each day along with the art there will be a little text of encouragement, a reminder to engage in creative and meditative practices, to remember that we can imagine new, richer possibilities, to bring more color into the world, and to allow the daily practice to be a door that opens on to all sorts of possibilities.

With my fairly comprehensive background in art therapy, masters and doctorate in the discipline, I keep coming back to the simple idea that by making art, and doing our very best, we learn to feel deeply happy, to pay attention to our life and the things that matter, we actually learn to love who we are a little more every day.

A daily art practice can create a restorative, kind, and creative environment for ourselves and we can then create a restorative environment for those around us.

Ysaye Barnwell tells two related stories about her song, “No mirrors in my Nana’s house.” She had a friend who lived with her grandmother. There were no mirrors in her grandmother’s house. "How did you know how you looked in the morning," Ysaye asked. Her friend told her, "I looked into my Nana's eyes and I knew I look just fine, the beauty that I saw in everything was in her eyes. I never knew from her that my skin was too black, or my nose was too flat, or that my clothes didn't fit." The second story was about a distraught child who went to her grandmother after being teased in the school yard. “Someone called me such and such” the little girl said. The grandmother responded, “If you want to know who you are you look into my eyes.” Ysaye suggests we should get our perceptions of ourselves from people who love us, by looking into their eyes, by listening to them describe us.

I would take that a step further and suggest that we get our perceptions from our internalized Nana's, from that kindly part of the self that can comfort and reflect back to us that we are really alright just the way we are.  In her song "Wanting Memories" the voice is of a young adult reflecting on her childhood and the values learned from her Nana.  After her Nana's passing she wants to be able to see the world with the same love that she saw in her Nana's eyes.  She wants to access that love and wisdom that she has learned from her Nana. 

I think all of us want to access that love and wisdom that we learned from those who loved us unconditionally.  It's what helps us grow more resilient every day.  Love who you are, it's a great place to start.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

#111 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life, share the inspiration.

"Art is a Staple" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

The Guardian had a nice feature, photos of their readers favorite literary quotes in their own handwriting.  That got me thinking that text in the form of quotes in Morning Pages would be such a friendly thing to share on FaceBook, instead of funny/snarky memes.  What if we created our own memes, with our art & favorite inspiring quotes, things that possibly others might enjoy as well? I thought I'd try it with today's morning pages and guess what?  It makes me pretty happy!  Just like a warm coat in winter!

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Edith Kramer workshops at the 2015 Spring Institute

Photo from Herschel Stroyman
Our workshops from the Summit got great reviews and are back on the road. We will be appearing at the Spring Institute, April 10 - 12, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Alexandria, VA.

Saturday April 11, 2015
9:30 am  -  5:15 pm
Art as Therapy, Art as Life: Hands-on Lessons from Edith Kramer

Lani Gerity, DA, ATR
Martha Haeseler, MA, ATR-BC
Susan Ainlay Anand, MA, ATR-BC, ATCS, LPAT

Pioneer art therapist Edith Kramer worked with various materials and art techniques to help people deepen their experiences with themselves, the art materials, others, and nature, all while making art. Some of these techniques originated with Florence Cane or Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, others with her teacher Johannes Itten. Some were Kramer’s own. This team of longtime art therapists, students of Edith Kramer, have spent their working lives using art to build strengths and resilience, much in the way that they were taught by Kramer in her workshops and her course “Art for Art Therapists.” Registrants will participate in Kramer’s collaborative and strength-based techniques for promoting well-being, strengths, and inner resources. Learn how art therapy can support emotional, psychological, and social well-being, as well as how it can optimize daily functioning in the lives of clients, patients, therapists, and communities.

Registration is available separately for both Saturday and Sunday Kramer-oriented sessions. Attend either or both.

Eligible for Credits: NBCC, ASWB, ATCB

Sunday, April 12, 2015
1:00 pm  -  4:00 pm
Living Lessons from Edith Kramer: Sculpting Possibility with Clay

Lani Gerity, DA, ATR
Martha Haeseler, MA, ATR-BC
Susan Ainlay Anand, MA, ATR-BC, ATCS, LPAT

This team of art therapists, students of art therapy pioneer Edith Kramer, have spent their working lives using art to build strengths and resilience, much in the way that they were taught by Kramer in her workshops and her course “Art for Art Therapists.” Kramer worked with various materials and art techniques to help people deepen their experiences with themselves, the art materials, others, and nature, all while making art. She developed a rich repertoire of ideas about working with clay while working with blind children in New York City. In this half-day workshop, participants will have the opportunity to explore these collaborative and strength-based techniques that will help them integrate Kramer’s core concepts through working with clay, including: how clay work can support emotional, psychological, and social well-being; how clay work can optimize daily functioning in the lives of clients, patients, therapists, and communities. Through these experiences, which focus on clay in the art room, participants will learn a broad range of clay-based interventions that enhance strengths and independence.

Eligible for Credits: NBCC, ASWB, ATCB

Edith Kramer Self Portrait

Saturday, January 31, 2015

#110 out of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Share the good stuff!

"Doors" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.

When my friend and fellow art therapist, Martha Haeseler, told the folks at the VA where she was working, that she was going to retire, someone said “teach us everything you know before you go.” That made Martha wonder what she knew that she could teach before leaving.  She decided that the best thing she could leave behind would be some of the precepts that had guided her along the way; sort of a “Martha’s Rules for Living.” She made up cards with these rules, for anyone who would like one.  So here are Martha’s Rules For Living:  

Make art, and trust in the art materials
Find and hold onto the good
Tame the dragons
Bring your whole self to everything you do
Approach each day with curiosity and good will
Sometimes humour saves the day
Wash your brushes
Be kind, especially to yourself
Welcome the unexpected
Do not be afraid to feel your feelings
Persist until you find your second wind
All you need is love

I enjoyed reading Martha's List a great deal and realized that I might enjoy making my own list, because thinking about the "precepts you live by" can be interesting, and because they may change over time (a fun exercise, a bit like updating the 14 Secrets for a happy artist’s life).
So here's today's list of secrets for a happy life, the creating of which made me very happy.  Thank you Martha!

1. Develop a daily art practice
2. Always look for the good and if you can’t find it, create it
3. Clean up after yourself
4. Create art with your monsters
5. Be curious (don’t worry, we can never know everything)
6. Practice kindness as much as possible (it’s always possible)
7. Have adventures
8. Love what you do
9. Share what you love, share the good stuff

Thursday, January 08, 2015

#109 of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; 4-7-8 breath.

"Heart Artists" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
A lot of our suffering and our moments of NOT having a happy artist's life have to do with anxiety about the future, feeling worried about what may happen one day.  This can cause us to lose sleep and affect our health on every level.

So here's the coolest little intervention, which reduces anxiety, encourages relaxation as well as an overall sense of well being, written about in a very understandable way on Byrdie's Blog and then demonstrated in a video by Dr. Andrew Weil.  

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

#108 of a thousand ways to have a happy artist's life; Gift Your Art.

"Stories are told to us" collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.
Here's a way to create a happy artist's life which combines generosity and daily art practice!  Read on...

I've been puzzling how to incorporate my daily art practice into a creative deed 365, as per Gretchen Miller's Creative Deed 365, since in a way posting my art every day on facebook and over at the 14 Secrets blog was a creative deed in itself. But then it came to me, I could send out a digital version of my morning pages to random recipients in my address book. Why not?  What do you think?

If you would like to receive a random creative deed, leave me a message here in the comments.