Fundamentals, Day 4: Identify Your Audience

Since I started this Fundamentals class, I have noticed that when I see an assignment, my first thought is, “I’ve already done this. This probably won’t be helpful. I wonder what the next assignment is?” Part of that is my ADHD, which is after all a “learning disability”, so it’s kind of my approach to learning anything. Either or both of these all or nothing attitudes, “I can’t do this. I don’t know anything and I won’t be able to.” and “I know all this already. I don’t need to learn this.” This happened with the first assignment, and I was wrong, and in writing the post, I figured out a lot of new things that I want to do that I had no idea about when I started the assignment. With the assignment about the Title and Tag Line, I was even more surprised by the end of it. I had no intention of changing the title or tag line, nor did I have any clue that I would end up with the “Impossible Things Before Breakfast”.

By now, I am trusting that the whole reason to take “Fundamentals” and start from square 1, or, as the Tarot card says, Ground Zero – the Fool Card, which is number 0 – is that whole thing in Zen philosophy about Beginners. It’s the idea of starting at the beginning again and kind of making not a circle but a spiral. So today’s assignment is about my audience. I thought I already knew everything about it, so I will answer the questions with an open mind, assuming I don’t know what I think I know and do know that there is a lot I don’t know!

  1. First, brainstorm the kind of person you hope will read your blog. What do you want to say to them?

This is challenging, as I know some of the people who read this blog, but I haven’t looked at who is following it in a long time, so I actually don’t know for sure. OK. Looking at site statistics is too confusing for me, but I looked at who has been following me lately, and it seems like a bunch of other bloggers who are following me are involved in film, including the LGBT Film Festival in Toronto. Then writers and blogs about writers, art therapy and healer blogs and comic strip/animation people. What surpises me are the film blogs. If I were to brainstorm who would look at my blog, film makers wouldn’t not have come to mind. Maybe it’s that I love writing about films? It’s also very weird for me, as I was interested in film making when I started college and wanted to study it.

So I guess the kind of people I want to see and read my blog already are doing it. Maybe some visual artists as well as film makers, writers, art therapists and other healers would be great. Some people who are very obsessed with the nature of drawing more than any other medium in visual art. Other comic strip people too. And then of course people with ADHD and other mental challenges. What do I want to say to these people. I guess, Thank you for finding me, and thank you for following my blog. I’m honored and I will go on the page of followers and make sure to follow you back. Thank you to people who don’t blog themselves and are reading this! I also want you in my audience.

One thing I could improve a lot is to be more attentive to who is looking at this blog and notice when there are new followers. That was the third assignment about the Reader and following blogs. I noticed that I follow over 500 blogs, and it seemed so overwhelming I wanted to find out how to erase the Reader contents and start over with following blogs but coulnd’t figure that out. Now I think the way to go is to look at my recent followers and older followers and look at their blogs and make sure I’m following blogs I’m into that follow me. It’s hard to use the Reader to keep up with blog posts, so I also should be more aware of subscribing to blogs where they will email me new posts, so I actually easily have the link to keep up with their blog.

So now that I’ve written about my audience, here is the rest of the assignment, which would involve a whole new post. The other thing I’m curious about is whether posting on my “new” blog much more often, especially during this class, will result in a lot more traffic to my blog, or whether other things are more effective. While looking at the stats, I saw that in March there was a big spike in views because I posted about the controversial Karen Pence Art Therapy issue and posted about it on some Facebook groups and on Facebook. It may be that when I either take on a big issue and advertise about it, or when I advertise in several places about a post, more people will check out the blog. It’s still a mystery as to who reads and checks out most of my posts regularly, although some of you I see in my emails have been regularly looking at my posts, and I thank you.

  1. Next, start your new post by clicking on the button below. Remember to include a media element (an image, a video embed, etc.) you haven’t experimented with yet.
  2. Finally, give your post a few tags, including bloggingfundamentals, and publish it.

Writing with a specific person in mind is a great way to focus your thoughts and goals. Exploring new media elements adds more tools to your storyteller’s toolbox and helps engage your readers.

I am not sure what kind of media element I have not yet experimented with, as I have already posted many of my drawings and also embeded videos, but I will try to come up with something new.

Another whole topic is Categories and Tags and the discipline it takes to always put in the Categories and Tags on every post. I once tried to go back and on every post that had “Uncategorized”, edit it and put in the categories and tags, but there were too many posts that I had been lazy on, so my other big thing with these new posts is making myself do the Categories and Tags right away!

Day Two: Take Control of Your Title and Tagline

Assignment 2: Write a post explaining the origin of your new title and tagline!

Right now the title of this blog is “Musings of a Creative Spirit” and the tagline is “Balancing the Artist and Art Therapist Self”.

I started the blog so long ago that I do not remember the initial title and tagline, which were not the above ones. I’m trying this basics blogging class to revisit my blog and give it a whole new look and maybe refocus it. “Musings” was a great word for the blog to give me license to think/write about all kinds of things and not have to have resolutions, to put forward questions, touch on topics, and go in all directions related to my tagline in any way and not always about the dual identities and balancing them.

Looking back at my last post, I see and am reminded that I want this blog to be an art protfolio, a place to work on my book, The Art Box, and my new drawings series and reflect on my creative process. Since the book is inspired by my work with clients, the blog will still be about my experiences as an art therapist. In addition, I want to keep up regular posts on topics that are important to me, especially gender identity, art therapy theory and practice and the art making process as well as culture.

So maybe the title, “Musings of a Creative Spirit” is now no longer serving me for this new identity of the blog. I’m thinking about words that might go with the new blog. Here are some ideas and phrases:

pictures and words,

process,

behind the art work,

balancing lines and images and words,

being an artist, art therapist, writer,

not balancing any more but commingling,

the idea that these identities are not totally separate, especially artist/writer.

That leads me to this possibility for title and tag line.

Pictures and Words: The Intersection of Artist and Writer

I then looked at some samples of great Titles and Tag lines, and they are all much more creative and humorous, playing with words, not directly telling you what the blog is, using metaphor, even quotes and weird words, so I really need to be more creative for a blog about creativity and showcasing my creativity. I think because my writings with the drawings are not humorous, I don’t go right away to funny and quirky. Here are some attempts:

Factory, Combine, Visual, Verbal

“Stop Making Sense”

Impossible Things, from Alice in the Looking Glass

Title: Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Drawritings

That last one feels better. Maybe I can include the Art Box somehow…

Impossible Things Before Breakfast: Drawritings in the Art Box

Look what I just found by looking up the word “Drawrite” that I just “invented”:

Je dessine mon écriture et j’écris mes dessins.

[I draw my writing and I write my drawings.]

Hugo Pratt. Quoted in Harry Morgan’s Principes des littératures dessinées (Edition de l’An 2, 2003).

Blogging 101 Day 1: Introduce Yourself/Your Blog

A few weeks ago, I considered closing this blog and starting a new one; however I did nothing, knowing to wait and see about big decisions such as that. I ended up coming to the conclusion that I can remake this blog and push the reset button. One thing I was planning was changing the look of the blog, for various reasons. So I thought I would start with the basics, using this great WordPress class about blogging for beginners, (Blogging 101: Blogging U , even though I am not a total beginner. The two week course is called “Learning the Fundamentals”.

Here are some good questions raised in Day 1’s Assignment.

The big question to start with:

Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?

To share my pictures and words with others and to be part of the blogging community.

  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?

I’ve covered a panoply of topics in the past since starting this blog. I can’t remember all of them, but I remember some. They included gender identity, mourning the dead from cultures arount the world, aspects of being an artist, aspects of being an art therapist. If you look at the bottom of the page on this post there will be a list of categories most used on all of my blog posts.

So what would be different now than before:

I have a new found awareness of setting intentions and goals that all are connected in terms of improving the blog and my organization skills.

I think I need to come up with a sort of schedule, like Tuesdays is about Art Therapy, Wedneday is another topic, and then even if I don’t post on those days, I can use them as starting points. So the goal would be to post more frequently and be more aware of what I am posting over time. In terms of topics and uses of the blog, see below.

The other main thing involves my newish art project, “Pictures and Words”, and the fact that I no longer have an artist website. I’ve thought of setting up one, but I decided I will first attempt to make the blog partly an artist portfolio website, where people could see work I’m making and buy work. I don’t know yet how to do that or if it’s possible but that is one of the bigger goals.

Writing for a more specific reason than before. This blog could be where I post drafts of chapters of my book, “The Art Box”.

  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

Other bloggers of all kinds, also artists, art therapists, people with brain health challenges and diagnoses and their families/friends, anybody interested in the brain health field, art lovers and many others I don’t know yet.

  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?
  • I would like to have an artists website as part of the blog if possible. I would like to have experienced more clarity on my “Pictures and Words” series as it intersects with The Art Box book.
  • I would like to have a clearer vision of the book in progress, The Art Box.
  • I would like the blog to look better and be more consistent and organized.

New Year, Yoga and Writing

This year I have avoided the usual obsession with new year’s resolutions versus intentions and turning over new leaves, etc. Usually I get excited to start new habits, make all kinds of exciting changes and feel like I’m going to accomplish all these goals, then, like most people, run out of steam and keep very little going or follow through.

A while ago, as a way to look at the new year differently, I started picking words for the year. Last year was “Abundance”. It really turned into a year of abundance, which required patience and trust because abundance doesn’t just pour into your life on day one or month one or two! This year the first word I came up with was “AWESOME”. Then I picked two other words, “Quiet” and “Concentration” as intentions/motivation to continue things I’m already doing, especially my yoga practice.

My yoga practice has been the one thing I’ve kept up regularly for the last 3 and a half years. I already wrote two very long disorganized posts about it and realized I do want to write about it, but I need it to be organized and as usual, much shorter.

So this year, to add to my 6-7 times weekly 25-40 minute home yoga practice, I decided to link yoga with writing, as my intuition was that the two will go together well.

So this post is just a short post about my new year’s intention to link my yoga with writing. Since the new year, I have read a bunch of blog posts about different aspects of yoga, found some books, and started writing about my yoga practice.

Yesterday I wrote a long draft for a post on this blog, journaled a bunch before doing yoga, and then attempted to write in my journal a little while doing yoga and filled a page after my daily yoga in the evening. I decided to try to write immediately after doing yoga at least 3 times a week.

It’s going to be an experiment to see what comes up that I feel like writing about and how I am thinking about my practice, or what comes up specifically in any sequences or poses or other things that come up that may have little to do with yoga or seem to have little to do with it.

The words “Quiet” and “Concentration” can be connected to my writing and yoga. Sometimes doing yoga on my own is for the goal of getting quiet and working on disciplining the mind and body and learning how to be able to really focus and concentrate, which is definitely challenging with an undisciplined disorganized and full ADHD mind. I also associate these concepts with a story that I read a few years ago with my daughter that we’ve read several times and is one of both her and my favorite stories,  “The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar”, by Roal Dahl. It’s written long ago but the basic concepts are very universal and the story is about the use and misuse of yoga/training the mind. It’s a great transformation story in the category of stories like A Christmas Carol and the movie Groundhog Day. A selfish self involved character full of flaws, who goes through a spiritual transformation and becomes an enlightened evolved person who gives of themselves to the world, very uplifting. Everyone loves a sinner to “saint” type of story!

Sometimes getting quiet while doing yoga involves just noticing how not quiet my mind is and how distracted I am or how I am focused on what the next yoga pose will be or getting over with each pose. The challenge of concentration involves a lot of mindfulness/DBT “Radical Acceptance”.

Other topics I’d like to write about that go with yoga/writing are:

-how I got going with my home practice after 7 year hiatus of not doing yoga

-what my home yoga practice actually involves and how I learned to sequence from an intuitive approach in the moment

-the role of my yoga “coach” and teacher Liza in helping me learn about the physical, mental, and spiritual practice and deepen my practice

-yoga in everyday life and ways to use yoga to live life from a more accepting and moment to moment awareness

-yoga and “failure”

-the yoga of speech

-my specific challenges with my writing process

-yoga and ADHD and other issues like anxiety

 

Writing 101, Day 3: One Word Inspiration: Chosen Word: UNCERTAINTY

Life on earth is mostly about uncertainty, so the word Equanimity expresses a way to be in and live in “uncertainty” and remain grounded and joyful, and equanimity as a principle is about being in the middle of things and able to look over what’s in the moment with no judgment.

Blogging 101: Kindness is Magic Movie Serum, Transformations, Transformers and Transformees

Blogging 101: Assignment 1, Stream of consciousness writing about anything for 20 minutes.

I did mine yesterday during a long car ride and timed it; it turned out I was writing for 51 minutes in my journal, so now I’m transcribing it to post it. Warning! It will be over twice as long… Some frustrations: not remembering character’s full names, so I will look them up before posting, and not being able to discuss a bunch of the movies I mentioned, especially: Tootsie, St. Vincent, Birdman, Barefoot, Bringing up Baby, Philadelphia Story Being John Malcovich, Stranger Than Fiction (2006), and going into detail about the transformations in them, but it would be a way too long post!

My topic: Kindness is Magic Movie Serum, Transformations, Transformers and Transformees:
Most movies that move people involve transformation of course. Even though that’s obvious, I’m very interested in the mechanics of it, as I’ve been watching a bunch of different kinds of movies, both in theaters and on DVD or Netflix or other at home movie venues.

Here’s a list not in any order of recent ones I’ve seen: Cinderella 2015 made with people not animated, Home 2015 animated 3D in theaters, then movies at home: Groundhog Day (3rd or 4th viewing), The Anderson Tapes (from the 70’s?), Gone Girl 2014, Birdman 2014, Tootsie (1982), St. Vincent 2014, Barefoot (2014).

In most of these movies, which are a mixture of genres: romance, children’s fairy tale romance, children’s adventure movie sci-fi save the world, crime thriller, romantic comedies and for Birdman – independent style not sure the genre- drama? But it’s a “second chance/mid-life rebirth” type movie or falls into the category of movies like one of my fave classics, All About Eve, actually very similar. Bette Davis is the Birdman character; she is not changing genres like he is from blockbuster superhero to serious stage actor as an “old” actor”, but competing with her so-called admirer crafty younger actor who resembles the Edward Norton guy – very similar issues involved actually. Then St. Vincent- not sure the genre, drama with bad to good style plot- the guy Vincent starts out “bad” and is revealed to have always had good qualities, but also transforms in the present into a “gooder” person, a bit like the guy Jay in Barefoot, who has just come out of jail and is viewed as a total mess up failure, especially by his family. In St. Vincent, the boy Oliver is the Transformer, and in Barefoot it’s the girl/woman Daisy whom he finds on the psych ward who is an “idiot savant” type. I love Bill Murray and I’ve seen him in a bunch of movies with this kind of transformation, you have Scrooged, Ground Hog Day and St. Vincent all similar transformations. He’s even in Tootsie but not playing the main person, Dustin Hoffman’s Guy/Woman, Michael/Dorothy Michaels.

So my intense interest in transformation in these movies is the way there is the main character, usually has to be “likeable” despite being self-centered, uncaring, an “asshole” etc. like Vincent, Phil in Groundhog, Michael in Tootsie, and just how the person gets transformed by another key character and/or device that transforms him/her, what I call the “Transformer”. The word “trans” means cross over so the whole word means to cross over from one form to another. Many of these movies play with physical transformation versus spiritual, or outside appearance versus what’s inside/soul. Tootsie and Cinderella are the most obvious ones. In Tootsie, what is so fascinating is that Michael invents Dorothy and then he himself as the better part of him, in the form of the invented woman actor Dorothy Michaels is the Transformer. Unusual where the Transformee is transformed by a Self inside him of his own making; in addition, as Dorothy he transforms many of the characters in the film…

Crossing over involves a kind of metaphorical bridge- the plot device that the character goes through. In many movies the Transformer character is usually “heroic” in some way and can stand for some idea, like Cinderella in this version stands for goodness and courage. She is transformed spiritually or “inside” at the beginning of the movie through loss- a common transforming device –death-, the loss of her mother. Her mother passes the transformation message to Cinderella: “Be kind and have courage.” The girl Ella loses her mom and eventually also her dad and is changed into Cinderella, given a new name by the evil stepsisters and turned into a maid/servant by the evil stepmother.

Whether in tattered clothes or magically fancy princess clothes on the outside which have an expiration time, midnight, – Cinderella remains the same on the inside. Ironically, in this version the fairy godmother turns from homeless old woman to fancy fairy lady and uses her magic to create the changed dress, coach and footmen horses, – lots of dazzling outer transformations which do nothing to the inside sweet courageousness of C. She meets the prince, who is the Tranformee in this film (it’s the opposite of the usual movie focused on the Transformee, here most focus and scenes involve C. the transformer and luckily, hardly any involve the prince.)

The meeting in the forest, their first meeting, is where C’s Transformer power passes the message to the prince, and when he receives it like a truth serum he becomes transformed, not from bad to good but from ordinary and oblivious/unaware, uninteresting to awakened and aware. C’s power on him is to get him to see the world around him completely differently and to become awakened, much the same as what the young woman Daisy in Barefoot does to Jay through the movie device of a mixed up “road trip” (many road trip movies use the idea of going on a long journey in the physical realm crossing into a journey in the metaphorical realm). The rest of the film involves the usual drama with the fairy godmother, The Fancy Big Ball, the glass shoe and magic stuff, but for me the moment of magic –prince out hunting encounters girl on horseback saving the deer and shooting her truth arrow into him such that he spares the deer’s life at her request and calls off the hunt. That was where the movie’s main interest sort of ended for me.

Often Transformer characters are very sensitive and have an awareness or even communion with animals that ordinary people do not. Cinderella reminds me of Derek in Ricky Gervais’ TV show Derek, as both pass the message of “kindness is magic” and both love animals and have a special relationship with them. So I confess I loved the moment C locks eyes with the handsome deer (more majestic and dazzling than the silly looking prince, maybe the big male deer symbolizes whom the prince turns into) as well as her relationship with the mice who are her only friends. While this movie didn’t thrill me, it made me think, and I liked the focus being mainly on C. portrayed as a real person, slightly elevated in kindness, also an outcast/outsider/loner, seen by her step family as stupid, foolish, unworthy and not even a girl, and less focus on the prince. The way C. gets transformed is that her faith in life/hope is challenged when she loses her father and gets kind of abducted controlled by the stepmother and sisters, and she has a moment of not believing and stopping hoping for anything to get better for her, then is restruck with faith- a common transformation of a transformer good person character.

Like in Groundhog Day the character Rita, she doesn’t change much as a person but even she has preconceptions that Phil is shallow, selfish and egocentric. Throughout the movie, she gets thrown from one side to the other, seeing him that way and being surprised by something unknown about him, and in “falling” for him she does transform her view of him, but she is mainly the Inspiration/Muse of his big transformation.

The device that transforms Phil is the Supernatural, the plot of the movie. Every day he wakes up is Feb. 2, Groundhog Day until he is fully transformed by the end of the movie into the man he could be and turns into it through living the same day over, maybe 100 times or more, so that by the end of the movie, his goodness and caring for other people which is caused by his “awakening” actually lead to his focus shifting from getting the muse- Rita, whom he is in love with, to falling for the town he is stuck in and all the people in it. It’s great that he keeps waking up but it takes a lot of literal wakings up to really “wake up”!!!

There is a lot of interesting metaphorical stuff in his repetition of the day, he is literally reborn as he dies many times and wakes up back in the inn at 6am Feb. 2. I’m areal sucker for this film, I rewatched it a few months ago after years, so that time I hardly remembered the details and that viewing of the movie did have a kind of magic transformation on me, the viewer. I really love these types of awakenings movies; even the C movie (I’m super sick of that fairly tale I am so annoyed by it,) but still, it cast a spell on me.

Groundhog Day, like Cinderella, actually gave me a dose of wakening/inspiration serum to become a better person. Yesterday I saw it a third time a few weeks after the other time. Again I had an “aha” moment where I made a conscious decision work on being present and mindful more in my life, to try to be the kind of person Phil has become at the end. After seeing Cinderella I felt the same, so the movie itself can be not so great/mediocre and still shoot the arrow of, wake up in your life, look around you and be aware and wake. Of course it’s better if the movie is really good. So now I’m testing out this recent viewing of Groundhog Day to see how long this “spell” may work on me. It’s on my list of favorite “romantic comedies”; up they’re with Happy Accidents – also involving supernatural, Bringing up Baby, and The Philadelphia story, Being John Malkovich and Stranger Than Fiction. Groundhog Day crosses from romantic comedy to supernatural comedy like Stranger than Fiction. There are more old movies that I love, but that’s what I remember without looking on the Internet while writing this.

Groundhog Day’s spell on me – its’ the next day of my life, but I’m still in a heightened sate of consciousness induced by it. I love the idea that lera to really be present and awake and mindful of the here and now, you really do repeat the same day over and over. The movie is saying that life itself is like that. Ordinary daily life can by transformed by one’s own consciousness. Every day we wake up with a new chance to live in that simple magic of the moment, and when that happens it sometimes does seem like animals can talk…

Grammy’s Tackle Serious Societal Issue! Domestic Violence

I did not watch the whole of the Grammy’s but I did see the speech that a survivor made and then the performance of Katy Perry directly after. She chose a song from her latest album that I already love, called “By the Grace of God”, which is about the subject of reaching a point of suffering where you don’t know if you want to go on any more, and the song is about the choice of deciding to “Stay”, and what that means. I confess to being a big Katy Perry fan. I like her sense of humor balanced with serious topics related to self worth. On another post, I quoted the words from her song “Wide Awake” another big “message” song. This performance was especially beautiful and minimal, just Katy in a long white dress singing with shadows in the background. A very good choice, as she can easily choose big showy stuff that is fun and crazy and what she is known for as well. This song needed no extra “dressing up”. I applaud her for writing many very therapeutic songs about self love and self respect.
Here is the link to the whole thing:

New Work: New Series: “Lines”

These are photos from my newest series I am currently working on. I started them back in mid December 2014. I can’t remember when I started doing these or how or why. Usually it comes from somewhere, sometimes doing stuff in my journal/sketchbook. I think I may have been making art in a session with a patient and that was somehow when I discovered this idea of long lines. I was showing a patient how to make long pieces by taking 6 x 18 inch paper and glueing it together to create a long 6 inch by about 54 inches either horizontal or vertical. I had done a lot of pieces this way, always long horizontal ones that reminded me of Egyptian scrolls. I was inspired to do this by seeing a show at the Folk Art Museum of Martin Ramirez’ work many years ago.

(http://folkartmuseum.org/exhibitions/martin-ramirez/)

Here’s part of the description of that show that was from January to May 2007:

“Martín Ramírez (1895–1963) created nearly 300 drawings of remarkable visual clarity and expressive power within the confines of DeWitt State Hospital in northern California, where he resided the last 15 years of his life. Ramírez has been codified primarily as a “schizophrenic artist”; this project goes beyond the boundaries of Ramirez’s diagnosis of mental illness and considers the artistic quality and merit of his artwork. In this way, Ramirez’s works are understood—and appreciated—for the complex, multilayered drawings that they are.”

When you look closely at his work, you can see that he used “butcher type brown paper” and “pieced” it together to create a bigger longer surface. I still remember seeing how he did this and looking at the line where you could see he had glued the two pieces of paper together. I was so excited by this that I immediately tried it next time I was in my studio.

Anyway, I’ve been using paper that way for years in different series, so in this new series I did it again on paper, but I am making long vertical pieces, which I did before in my Inner Landscape series, but not as long as I am doing now. This new series is mixed media on paper or canvas, and I am using all kinds of media, from ribbon, tape, paper and colored glue to buttons and other objects. I must have been sick of all the black and white line drawings I have been obsessively obsessed with for about a year, so I am suddenly using an explosion of color, as well as adding words to the pieces, which I was doing in my journal.

It is always fun and surprising to come up with a new “series”; the pattern for me is to find constraints and rules that I make up and then have to follow, like in this case, long pieces that are small in width and long in length, and then lines of some kind going only vertical from top to bottom, with different materials all making long lines, then interspersed with pieces of 3D small objects like buttons, coffee beans, etc. When it’s only black and white, it can be very constricting, so it’s fun to break out into the mixed media again while still exploring the concept of the line, in this case long vertical lines… As with most of my work, I don’t have any concept of it meaning anything as the impetus comes from the materials and what I am now doing I think is making the paper and the lines on the paper mirror each other by making one very long line with the paper and putting long lines on the paper. The next thing I may try is to be more calculated about color instead of using every color I can find and focusing on varying the texture… I’m assuming this could occupy me for a long time as with any of the “series” I get really deep into…

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The Birthday Self-Portrait: My Birthday Post, 2/1/2014

A long time ago, I was looking through a book of some artist’s work that I admired, it might have been Adolf Gottlieb, but I’m not sure, I’ve tried to figure out for sure which artist this was, but I never succeeded. Anyway, I read that he whoever he was, had an annual habit of making a birthday self-portrait every year for his birthday. I thought this was a really great and fun idea. I started doing it, but now I can’t remember how many years ago it was. I’m pretty sure I did a “Shoe Portrait” self-portrait the year I was making my series of Shoe Portraits. I can’t remember what shoes I picked to paint but I remember making a weird doll and sticking it in the painting. I think I cut the canvas and somehow put the doll in. Must have been about ten years ago in 2004 maybe. Anyway, every year after that I’ve done a birthday self-portrait, usually inspired by whatever kind of art I happened to be making at the time. I know last year I did a doll with a small tiny “clock” in her, from a watch ring I had. I made the doll from scratch. I will find a photo to post of it. The year before, 2012, I’m not sure what I did. I have two of them in my house from recent years, but I’m kind of annoyed at myself that I didn’t pay attention to what I did and document it better, since it was a fun kind of annual ritual and a fun creative gift for myself on my birthday. Usually I start them about a week before. This year for the first time, I made something I didn’t like and then changed the project completely. I started with a collage with a lot of cut out and ripped images, beads, an old drawing and other stuff and put it up on my studio wall. The next day or two after, I decided I didn’t want to finish it and that I didn’t think it was a real self-portrait, so I decided it would make sense to make an altered book, as I have been making them all year and very obsessed with them, as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows. I ended up cutting up that first collage and putting some of it in the book.

So I chose a book I had already worked on, a little children’s book with each page split in to two halves, originally the book was for matching the top image with the bottom, so it was fun to play with the format. I had already done a lot in the book and decided it had enough in it to build on and that it already had the feeling of a self-portrait, so I started altering it more, ripping out stuff and adding in stuff over the last week. I put s a few photos of myself in it and ended up using one on the cover as today I decided the cover didn’t seem right, so I ripped off an image of a person with a mask and put a photo of myself on it with the other images. I continued working on it today, which sometimes happens, that I end up finishing the self-portrait on my birthday, but I usually get it done by the day before. Of course as this is an altered book, I still don’t feel satisfied that it is finished, but it definitely feels right as my self-portrait for 2014 and reflects some of the past year’s experiences, both losses and rebirths.
I will post a few photos of the project…

As a blog post on my art therapy blog, this is a more personal post than usual, but I will end the verbal part by saying I recommend it as an art therapy project for doing with an adolescent or adult patient for their birthday. You can invite them to bring in a recent or old photo or several and then ask them what kind of medium they want to use. Anything can constitute a birthday self-portrait. A box with the photos incorporated into it, an altered book of course, a drawing or painting or collage on paper or canvas. Other interpretations of the self-portrait for those who only think of a painting of their own face and might feel discouraged and not interested in that, there are so many ways to make a self-portrait and it doesn’t have to have a picture or drawing of your face in it at all. Make a doll or a birthday pillow. A clay bowl to put flower petals in. A box that you can add small notes about what you want for yourself for the coming year into. Knit a birthday scarf. Buy a journal/sketchbook and decorate the cover and start your journal on your birthday. Have your patient make him or herself a birthday card. I have done this often and made a card for my patient while s/he made a card for him/herself. Making a card for yourself whether for your own birthday or for any other day is always a good art therapy activity. I usually give my patient a list of affirmations to choose to copy on the inside of the card or that could inspire you to make your own affirmations and write them inside your card to yourself. Collages with tiny mirrors are a fun twist on the self-portrait. I have one in my altered book. I encourage my patients to get themselves a special birthday present, whether an object or something like a massage, so doing a self-portrait can be an added way to feel special about marking for yourself your own arrival on this planet. It is helpful especially for depressed patients and people who claim to not like their birthday. I don’t always feel super excited for my birthday lately, so I understand when people want to forget about it or make it a day they don’t do anything special, but in art therapy this can be an opportunity to take better care of yourself and reclaim your birthday as a special day, which it is after all. Doing something special for yourself to mark the day you arrived here and that you are still here, no matter how you are feeling, can be very healing and self affirming. It’s kind of like the concept of “The Artist’s Date” from the book, “The Artist’s Way”. As a young 4 year old child once told me, “You have to love yourself of course.” and “You are your own best friend.”

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Photos: from top
First Photo: page from book showing the split page format
Second Photo: page from book top matching bottom
Third Photo:Inside front cover. QUote says: “How many are silenced because in order to get to their art they would have to scream.” -Ann Clarke
Fourth Photo: Current cover of book with photo and plastic doll in model magic
Fifth Photo: older version of front cover
Sixth Photo: Inside page of back cover
Seventh Photo: Image of doll, last year’s self-portrait