Friday, July 13, 2012

Making art to ease the anxiety and depression

Mandala #1
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.

Mandala #2

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?



31 comments:

  1. I'm the most un-artistic person :) I try...but my crafts usually end up pretty bad. Thanks for sharing your artwork...I really like the mandala #1

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    1. Thank you, Truth. I'm not talented, but I just enjoy doing it!

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  2. Those are indeed nice mandala's Tina!
    I make cards: http://www.flickr.com/photos/37874183@N08/sets/72157617957335891/ and although they aren't delicate art pieces I enjoy doing them. It's a lovely feeling being able to create something, specially if it's to give to someone.

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    1. Klaaske, Your work is beautiful! I hope anyone else reading this will check out that link, too. Your needlework is exquisite--really fine work.

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  3. I'm definitely not talented, but I always took art as electives in high school and college (and even my masters) because I simply enjoy it. It is a good alternative way to use the mind.

    That post on PPD I've alluded to is up. I have not sent my readers over on my blog, because I'm too nervous about it. If you want to check it out, though, it's at http://www.thingsicantsay.com today.

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    1. I read your story Lisa and found it very touching.
      You must be a very strong woman!

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    2. Lisa, Thank you for sharing the link. The post is so heartfelt and raw--very beautiful. I know it will help many people.

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  4. Artwork is not something I'm very good at, but I enjoy scrapbooking on occasion. It has the ability to take me away from things for a bit and to become creative. Your mandalas up top are beautiful - you've clearly put so much into them.

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    1. Thank you, Amanda! I agree that creative projects do give us a break from the everyday, and that's a good thing sometimes!

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  5. Great post, Tina. I loved your mandalas (I didn't even know what they were until I looked them up). You've given me the kick in the pants I need to get back to painting ceramics again - I used to do this a lot before we moved, but I hadn't gotten back into it yet. I'm making a promise myself to start up again by October! I'm nothing special at it, but I think it would be good for me, and we need to help ourselves in whatever way we can. Artistic endeavors are some of many resources at our disposal.

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    1. Thank you, Jean. I've never done ceramics, but it's something I'd like to explore. I hope you can get back to it soon!

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  6. I had never heard of a mandala - I think you did beautiful work and expressed yourself in a wonderful way.
    My mother is a gifted artist, she was offered a full scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago has done the most beautiful paintings. She actually encouraged us to draw and paint when we were kids but it was not something I was crazy about, though I did like coloring.
    However, I do like creative endeavors and I find knitting and crocheting
    soothing - I am horrible at it but I like doing it. Recently I bought a sewing machine and my daughter taught me to sew and I started making tea towels and aprons. (I just bought a simple skirt pattern) I love browsing Fabric.com and coming up with creative ways to mix patterns. Oh, and the hum of the sewing machine is really soothing to me. I can really relax sewing.

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    1. Thank you, Krystal. I have a sewing machine, but it has been a while since I touched it. It is soothing work, though I'm not very good with it. I've only made some pillows with it, but I want to do more. I find crocheting soothing work, too.

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  7. I love your mandalas, Tina.

    Being creative is very healing for me.

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    1. Thank you, Elizabeth! You are very creative!

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  8. I can really relate to your mandalas #2. And, what wonderful priorities in #1. I'm not one to draw, but lately I have doodled here and there and as I do it is an expression of my life coping with depression, and of the strength that the Lord always keeps providing.
    Blessings to you, Tina!
    In Christ, Deanna
    PS- hope to have you visit sometime at my blog:)

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    1. Thank you, Deanna! I think creative expressions of the dark times can help us.

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  9. Actually, sometimes I just color, it is really relaxing.

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    1. Jodi, Sometimes I color manadalas I print out from the internet, and it's also relaxing.

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  10. Art, whether it is drawings, paintings, music, poetry, allows us to express ourselves without words. And I completely agree, it is a very soothing environment! Keep painting, keep drawing, as, anything that allows us to express our inner selves, is priceless!

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  11. Hmmm . . . sometimes I cross-stitch. I took a drawing class last fall. I was terrible at it but I enjoyed it! I do like taking pictures. Singing can be soothing. I need to do more soothing art I think!

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    1. Sunny, That's neat that you took the drawing class. If you enjoyed it, I hope you do more.

      Music and singing certainly can soothe me, also.

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  12. I've always been more crafty than artistic and I really like to make things. The things I focus on these days are more for the therapeutic value of being in the moment and "doing". I started an art journal-- so far filling it with interesting or funny or inspiring quotes and coloring around the letters. I also sometimes cut out the mandalas (mostly pre-printed ones) and glue them to the pages. I bought by children some pattern books to color and I've been using them. :)
    ~Ellie

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    1. Ellie, That's great that you're working in an art journal--I've seen those and thought about doing one. I like the idea of cutting out the mandalas and gluing them in the pages--a good way to keep them together and to look back over them.

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  13. Tina, I've got a website with my poems. Haven't really shared them with a lot of people, as they are pretty personal, but I feel they are quite safe with the people here. You all understand what it's like to battle with various things: http://creations.klaaskedesigns.nl/

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    1. Klaaske, Thank you so much for sharing your poetry. It's beautiful! I love your use of nature imagery and words. I've read some and will return to read more.

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  14. Thank you for the compliment Tina!

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  15. Tina, that's great you enjoyed your art class. I've never completed a course I went to, usually because I was obsessed with the subject at the time, lost the obsession and moved on to another one, so stopped attending the course. Add to that anxiety attacks from being in a social situation. At the moment I'm doing some artwork with a couple of friends. We meet at the cafe I go to about twice a week and draw or journal for a couple of hours. At times I enjoy it, others I don't. For a start, I can't draw. Never have been able to. Add to that having people tell me my whole life that my drawings were no good. I sketch trees, vines, astronomy themes, and anything else that my friends decide for me, because I can never think of anything to draw, my mind freezes. The drawing has to be perfect, and when I make a mistake, I freeze again. I guess I realize now that I can never complete a project I set out to do, and probably never will, I know that's depressing, but it's what I believe.

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  16. I love this post and your mandalas! :) I just recently decided to dig out my craft supplies. It's very therapeutic. I like making wreaths, but I've been on pinterest.com and have found lots of inspiration there. Just last night I made what they call a monotone canvas with wooden letters, paint and a blank canvas. I love arts and crafts! :)

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