I am not an artist.
I have never been able to draw. I have taken one art class in my lifetime, one called “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” which helped me understand that, unlike an artist who draws what he or she sees, I tend to draw what I know.
For example, I know that a dining chair has four legs of equal length, so that’s what I draw—and it doesn’t look like a chair. One who sees like an artist, though, automatically draws the chair with perspective, drawing how the chair appears.
Other than my work with that one class, I have allowed my lack of basic talent keep me from my love of creating, of color and of design.
Then, as I wrote about in a past post, last fall I pulled out my art supplies and started coloring and drawing mandalas. I consider making them part of my therapy.
That making art, being creative, can be therapeutic is not a new idea. According to the International Art Therapy Organization website, art therapy is considered a mental health profession, though it is also used in non-clinical settings.
I have not participated in art therapy with an art therapist. I have simply found that making art, specifically mandalas, helps to calm my anxiety and feel the satisfaction of completing something.
In her blog “The Healing Arts,” Cathy Malchiodi wrote about art therapy using mandalas.
“According to [Carl Gustav] Jung, mandalas symbolize ‘a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness.’ They have the potential to call forth something universal within, perhaps even the proverbial archetypal Self. And at the same time, they give us an experience of wholeness amid the chaos of every day life, making the ‘sacred circle’ one of the very coolest art therapy interventions for both soothing the soul and meeting oneself.”
An idea for a mandala usually starts with an idea or experience that I want to express. I may not put pencil to paper for days, but I mull over how I want the design to look and what I want to include.
Sometimes a picture of a mandala is complete in my imagination before I draw it. Other times, I create as I draw.
In mandala #1 pictured with this post, I chose to express my priorities. At the center of the circle, the blue, smaller circle represents for me the center of all life. Around that I have the bond of the wedding rings to represent my marriage, and other symbols to denote my spiritual life, my cats and my writing and reading.
Around that are other symbols representing my love of animals, nature and music and my search for peace.
In mandala #2, I created a picture of chronic depression: the dips into the darkness of depression, the gray of the chronic disorder and the blues and greens of whole life available.
I enjoy creating such pictures to look at later and even meditate on.
The process of sitting and drawing and coloring is relaxing. I focus on the task at hand and practice mindfulness. And creating a mandala teaches me about myself.
I want to venture into other art forms and types. I just need to get over my fear of not being good enough and my notion that if I’m not good at something, I shouldn’t try.
What activities do you engage in to feel soothed, to feel like you’re getting in touch with your real self? Do you make art? If so, what kind? How does it make you feel?