I started doing “Mindfulness Drawings” at the beginning of this month, February. I got the idea from a patient who showed me their journal and how they were trying to write down the time and do something to get them more in the moment doodling things.
It’s a great idea and has brought me back to drawing in an observational way. It’s also a great way to draw everyday things without judging your drawing harshly.
It started like this one below in my journal, done on Feb. 4. I wrote down words that were either in my head or observations of the environment or conversation if I was with other people.
I was thinking about mindfulness principles in this one here, like “Observe and Describe” from DBT Mindfulness. In DBT there is also noticing when you’re in “rational mind”, “emotional mind” and “wise mind”.
The drawing below shows the heart hole puncher I drew as I was using it to make Valentine’s. I drew most of it during a phone session. My communications expert friend had told me recently, “Communication creates reality.” and I shared it on the phone. It was resonating for me and my patient.
This image below is the other side of the page posted as the first image, with the words “Observe and describe.” I was looking at my watch and a clock so I drew the hands of my watch as well, and the song quoted was going on in my head about time…
The image below from Feb. 9 is in my journal. I started drawing scissors a lot because they were there. I hadn’t yet gotten inspired to make the objects talk.
This one above is the other side of the journal drawing from the same day/time.
The one below was done last Friday, when I discovered that the heads or objects on the page were talking to me and about me. It started with the objects saying whether I drew them right or not and kept going. I had been drawing these heads from the coffee mug I made out of my images. The heads are from a collage piece; I noticed I was thinking about posting this picture of this drawing on Facebook which I do a lot, so the heads made a bet about when I would post it!
This one above is from earlier yesterday. I had been drawing pens a lot and hadn’t drawn a bunch of pens in a cup as it seemed too hard. I was thinking of Morandi’s still lives and looking at post cards of them. I think I’m also thinking of Morandi as he mostly did still lives of everyday objects, and this series is starting to be about objects which are used, mostly basic office materials or art supplies, cups, etc.
This one above is on a piece of drawing paper and done last night as the date shows.
These drawings have become a way to be reminded to be mindful, in a different way than the bracelet. Drawing things you see often does get you into a different level of discovery, of looking closely at things you see every day.
This morning I drew the keys on my keychain; I’ve been challenging myself to just draw things, which get rid of judgment, another aspect of mindfulness, which is to be neutral about what is going on right here right now.
The added discovery of the objects talking to each other or saying things is partly thanks to my reading more this year, and thus reading more graphic novels, which inspire me to make my own talking pictures…
I used to have a very jaded view of Valentine’s day as a marketing ploy for chocolate, flowers, stuffed animals with hearts and other stuff, as well as this idea of high expectations and not a great day for single people, of which there are many in NYC.
Even when not single, I thought this holiday was tacky and so mainstream boring; every day challenge is to be loving and celebrate love and give gifts that are not expected. However, since having a child age 3 and up, my point of view has totally changed. I see how the day can be fun and a celebration of love not between romantic partners, but for family, friends and the idea of inclusion in terms of school age kids’ making valentines for everyone in their class, especially age 4 to at least 8 or 9, when gender is not so important and children are excited to make valentines for their friends and family. Of course being an artist and art therapist, I have used the day as an occasion for making art with my child and patients.
The idea of making your own valentine came from my child when she was 4 or 5. We were cutting out little hearts to decorate for each person in her class. The first one she made she liked so much she asked if it could be for herself. “I like this too much; I want it to be mine!” she said, excitedly. How cool was that. From the same person who said, “of course you have to love yourself,” when we were talking about who we loved the most. What a great idea, while making valentines for others and focusing on who you love, to make one also for yourself. I think she ended up keeping two of her own. We always make one for the teacher and she makes me one and I make her something extra special each year. All home made with art supplies.
This year was no different. Valentine’s Day happened to fall on a Friday, one of my busiest days in my practice. I went to work thinking, I want to make valentines’ cards with my patients and invite and challenge them to make themselves a card. I had a few phone sessions which worked out well for this directive too.
The main idea is to make yourself a Valentine’s Day card and in so doing , remind yourself to love yourself. WIth each patient who did this, I asked them if they would be comfortable for me to make them a card. Nobody refused! For adults this was definitely more oriented toward female clients, or it might have been that everyone I did this directive with was comfortable already with making art in the session, so they happened to all be women.
Anyway, for the people who came in person, I had lots of materials out all day, including: colored cardstock paper for the card, sharpies colored and metallic, decorative paper, foam heart shapes and other shapes, jewels, rhinestones and lots of fun stickers… I had fun in the session making each patient their card, and discovered a new kind of card — the triple decker card. I had cut a small peice of colored paper for a card and realized it needed to be bigger, so I added another card and glued it on top. Sort of like a stacked cake.
This directive is a simple example of how great art therapy can be for helping people appreciate and accept themselves as they are right now, not who they have been or want to be. Also, accepting a card from me seems to be a sort of connection to their own therapy process and their appreciation of their work on liking themselves in art therapy. The card from the art therapist functions on many levels; as a “transitional object”, as a concrete object to represent the therapeutic relationship, as an indication of the trust that has built in the relationship with the therapist, and as a positive kind of statement about being in therapy and feeling good about it.
Making Valentine’s cards all day long from 8am until 8pm was definitely a fun and different way to spend Valentine’s day. I think throughout the day about 6 of the 8 sessions I had involved making Valentine’s. With the phone sessions, there was a fun part of the process involving knowing what we were making and having a surprise email afterwards, emailing back and forth photos of our cards and knowing that the patient would be getting their card next week.
I also made a Valentine for my colleague during our peer supervision and she made herself a birthday card. At the end of the day, I realized I had not had time to make a card for myself! As an art therapist I am a firm believer in doing the art you ask your patients to do always, so I knew I would be making one for myself. Yesterday while drawing with my daughter, we ended up making Valentine’s for each other; I had already given her two on Valentine’s, but as I started my own one, she asked for it, so I had to make a whole new one for myself. I had fun doing it, especially enjoying writing the phrase: “Happy Valentine’s Day to Me”, with the idea that anyone can look at my image of my valentine and say it to him/herself!
I am happy to be less jaded as I age, and a convert to all things childlike: hearts, rainbows, glitter, beads, Valentine’s Day, stencils, coloring pages, mosaics, all of which I had much disdain for when in art therapy school. Thankfully, I now know better and have a much more broad view of art making and art therapy.
Happy Valentine’s to me and to you and your Self! Make yourself a Love card as a reminder to love yourself every day…
Photos: Top, my own card to myself, Sharpie on collaged paper cut out heart
First on bottom: Triple decker pieced together card for a patient, mixed media on cardstock
Second on bottom: detail of above
Third and fourth: other valentine’s cards made by me for patients
Fifth and Sixth: front and back of a card I made for my daughter
Last photo: Part of a Valentine made for a patient
My 17 day vacation officially ended yesterday afternoon when I returned to NYC and went back to work to see evening patients…
It was a great vacation, again like last year, at the same place, the froggy pond cabin in upstate NY near Cuba, NY, spending time in the woods, far from the city, watching frogs and crayfish and other beings on the pond, making fires at night, making art by myself and with my five year old, reading and venturing out on a few different kinds of adventures, including for the first time, blueberry picking, which I found to be quite addictive. Once you start picking you can’t stop!
Anyway, last year, my post vacation post was about death and necklaces. This year I made sure to avoid books too close to my work, although I read most of a memoir on insomnia, called “Wide Awake” and another memoir in graphic novel form. I also read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” with my daughter which was great fun and quite inspirational.
This year I did not do much jewelry making although I brought my beads and bought a lot of new beads. I did use beads in my art though. Every year we make expeditions to Joanne’s Fabric, a great craft supply store that I only go to online when at home, so it is lots of fun to explore what they have in the store. Also there is an amazing Dollar Tree Store next to JoAnnes that has pretty cool art supplies for a dollar. It really is a dollar store and everything is a dollar! This year’s discovery was fine glitter. I never even knew “fine” glitter existed. At the dollar store it comes in little bags; for a dollar you get several colors in tiny bags. We also got regular glitter in all colors there and some other fun cheap art supplies, and splurged at JoAnnes on the more than one dollar things there. JoAnnes is one of the few stores that has really great glitter paper which I discovered last year and got more of, but fine glitter is a level of fun I was very excited to discover with my daughter. It comes out like sugar out of a packet.
The other surprising material was mud! It rained off and on while we were there, more than usual, but not that much that it ruined our vacation. Some enjoyable summer storms and showers in between sunny days. The ground around the cabin was super muddy at all times as it did not dry much between rains. At some point over half way through the vacation after a short walk up the hill to look at strange new mushrooms and collect rocks, I realized I could take mud and smear it on canvases and then add glue and gravel, pebbles, and twigs. Then to top it off, I poured glitter, small beads on the muddy canvas and also glued rhinestones and mosaic tiles to it. It was fun mixing natural materials with the opposite: glitter especially!
The other cool art project that was not my idea involved collecting “clay”, meaning digging a hole in the mud to get to the more clay like mud and then using it to make ceramic pieces to “fire” in the fire pit. What a crazy idea! But it worked. I made two pieces, a bowl and a sculpture, both with mosaic tile in them, fired them in the fire by placing them deep in the fire pit where they would get the most heat all night over night. Then next morning you get to search through the ash to find your “pot”!
Of course, I added glitter to my ceramic pieces. What a much less expensive and complicated process to fire real mud clay from the ground without a kiln!
Below are several images of the canvas pieces mixed media described above, the ceramic pieces, and a heart box made with my daughter on our last night there, painted and then drenched all over in all kinds of glitter!
Tonight I made something in my studio that was inspired by my vacation art. I will post it in another post… Enjoy!
In my last post I mentioned having an “Inspiration Wall” in my last studio and present one. It is common for artists to have an area where they pin up little images that they love or which inspire them… In discussing Pinterest and art therapy, I was reminded of my inspiration wall which I could actually “pin” to one of my Pinterest boards!
I have used two sides of a wall in one corner. Here are some photos if the images I used thus far. The Inspiration Wall can be changed and added to as you discover different images…
Do you have an inspiration wall? You don’t need to be an artist to make one…