Monday, 16 August 2010

How art therapy brought me joy

I enjoyed art at school. The only problem was that once Grade Eight arrived, it clashed with French so I gave it up. For a very long time. Try 25 years! It's not that I wasn't interested in doing something creative, I just lost the confidence to express myself. Being a perfectionist didn't help either (more about that later). I felt I couldn't start again in case it wasn't 'good enough'. Just silly, really, but sometimes that little nagging voice inside my head speaks very convincingly. Late last year when Sam and I were staying in the Mother Baby Unit in Hobart (another tale for another day), I was encouraged to attend an Art Therapy class. I didn't know what that meant but I thought I'd give it a go. What followed was a revelation. I would even say it was life-transforming.

The lovely Suzanne greeted our little group and explained that it was all about expressing ourselves in whichever ways we wished. No one would be allowed to talk and we could ask her for help at any time. I then surveyed the room in some distress, aghast at the vast array of choices. How would I decide what to do? Suzanne gently suggested I load up a large flat brush with paint, close my eyes and just sweep the brush across the page. I did it. The relief was palpable! I felt free like I hadn't done since I was a child. It was magnificent! Inspired, I worked prodigiously, pumping out seven paintings. The satisfaction. The joy. I was hooked.

From that point on, Art Therapy was the highlight of my week. Once I left the MBU, I bought paint, brushes and paper. Artery became my favourite hangout. I bought watercolour paints and began experimenting. I craved Wednesdays when I only had Sam to look after so I could paint while he was asleep. Here is a mosaic of some of my paintings.

Here are some close-ups here.
And here.
I am so grateful to Suzanne. Now I can enjoy painting with the pixies and the sweet release it brings. I'd love to hear if you enjoy painting or have rediscovered it later in life like I have. Isn't it just the best feeling?


NB This post was rewound for Life in a Pink Fibro's Weekend Rewind on 11 December 2010.


  1. Wow what a great story to share, I love painting too and find it so theraputic. I love the blues and greens in the colours of your art. I haven't painted since Will's been born unfort. we just don't have room in our house to keep my easel up and not worry about my little pixie getting in and making a mess :)
    Thanks for sharing more about yourslef Jane, have a great day.

  2. Thanks, Janette. Yes, you've picked it - blue and green are my favourite colours. I really try to use other colours but I'm always drawn back to them as they're so calming. I haven't painted for a couple of months now as we have the same space issue. It takes a big effort now to set up the kitchen table with my paint and clean it all up before Sam wakes, especially now he is close to dropping his second sleep. Putting the paintings somewhere to dry is also tricky given his proclivity to reach up and pull everything down! I look forward to the day when I have my own room for painting and creating.

  3. Fantastic post. It's just about finding that place to be creative, isn't it? I'm not a visual arts girl - my painting is best described as execrable, but I SO wish I was. When I'm writing though, I'm in a zone all of my own and I love it there. Thanks for Rewinding at the Fibro this weekend.

  4. Amazing, Jane. I'm a big believer in Art Therapy - or really just in embracing our creativity to explore what we really feel about things.

    Great post to rewind! x

  5. This is a great post Jane! Your paintings are beautiful, are they all on canvases? I hope you have them hanging in your house!
    My Mum was an artist, and a social worker, and she ran a lot of art therapy groups through her work. It was always something I was so aware of that I think I DIDN'T paint because I didn't want Mum to see/analyse/interpret what I was doing!! Stupid really, because I am sure she wouldn't have ;) But now that my daughter is loving to paint, I do find it much more fun for us all if I paint with her, and I do really enjoy playing around with watercolours and just doodling with the paint. I hope to get back in to something more serious when I have time for myself. I think it's really important for kids to learn by your example and the best thing you can do is enjoy the whole process with them... Hmmm, think you have inspired another post in me! ;) x

  6. Why, thanks, ladies.

    You're very kind, Rhi. No, they're all acrylics on paper. One day I may get a few framed. They're quite important to me as a reminder of something beautiful I found in a dark time.

    I really relate to what you say about setting an example for your children. India is showing considerable artistic talent at an early age and she constantly implores me to do some 'crafting' with her. What type is irrelevant, as long as we're creating. After so many years of repressing (or ignoring) any creative urges, I find it *challenging* to follow through with her. But I know that it could be a beautiful, bonding thing to do with her. Giving your time to your children is quite priceless, don't you think? J x

  7. Great post Jane! I have a friend who's a psychiatrist and I once said to him about a painting 'oh I could do that' and he 'yes, but you don't, why not?' It really got me thinking about why so many of us stop expressing the creative side of our souls as we get older - which is one of the reasons why I try to make time for it every week - it makes me a whole person.
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful art with us!!

  8. I love the thought of painting but have never gotten around to learning how to. You have an obvious talent Jane :)

  9. Cate, thanks - that's very sweet of you! I was amazed at the wellspring of creativity which flowed from my brushes after supressing it for 25 years! I agree about it completing you. Fascinating, isn't it?

    Oh, Loz. Blush. Thanks. I find acrylics are easy to start with - you don't need the techniques required for oils and watercolours. Why don't you pop into Spotlight this week and buy some paper, brushes and paint (the little sqeezy bottles only cost about $4) and have a go? You might be pleasantly surprised! J x

  10. I don't paint. I dance. It also works as a form of therapy. Love your paintings.

  11. While looking through your archives I stumbled on this post and was instantly intrigued. I'm a strong, strong believer in art much that I almost went to grad school to study art therapy and child psych. Art therapy is rather new in terms of main stream medicine in the States but I think is could do wonders for all ages. It's nice knowing there is more thing we have in common, Jane. =)

  12. Hi Tat and Jennie

    I just found these comments! Thanks so much for your supportive words about my paintings. I completely agree with you, Jennie. On all counts!

    J x


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, you gorgeous soul. You've just made my day! J x

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