Art as TherapyFeb 28, 2019
I am an art therapist. I have witnessed the power of art to help confused clients gain clarity, to contain emotional turmoil and to communicate what can’t be said with words. However, I’d like to write about the role of art in my family. My daughters have always been creative. From a young age, they doodled, drew, painted and sculpted with play-doh. I never minded the mess because clean up came after hours of focused attention and enjoyment. It was well worth it.
During the years that my eldest daughter was bullied, she wrote and drew about her experiences in a journal. It was really difficult to see what she was drawing because it was a story of intimidation and aggression. She wrote down the hurtful words and drew how small she felt in the face of so many girls mistreating her. Her teacher was not smiling, she was big and imposing, bearing down on my daughter. This made me sad and angry.
When she wasn’t processing painful experiences, her art was very detailed, beautiful and colourful. For years, my daughters sat at a tiny art table that my husband created for them in an empty nook by the front window. Every time I went out, I would return to see their heads bowed down, focusing on their drawing by the window. Any adults who visited our home would leave with a few drawings and a sprinkle of glitter under their shoes.
My daughters’ friends loved coming over and painting or using play-doh. I discovered parents did not want to take glittered art in the car. They would leave it at our house “to dry”. Our house was a safe place, a messy place, where kids could express themselves and experiment without fear of being reprimanded for making a mess. I loved that! For years, every birthday party or playdate involved art.
My daughters are 2.5 years apart. At times when their age could have pulled them apart–when my youngest still wanted to play dolls and my eldest wouldn’t be caught dead with a doll in her hands– they still had art. They outgrew their tiny art table so we put a drafting table in their bedroom and they still draw together.
My eldest daughter is shy. She tends to keep to herself around new people. Her art helps her reach out in her own way. She might draw someone or share a drawing and its significance. This way, she is able to connect with someone without the burden of small talk. She is quite talented and knows that, as soon as someone sees her art, they will be impressed and intrigued. My youngest is also talented. She was inspired by her big sister and loves art as much as she does.
Art has also been an excellent tool to make new friends. When my eldest wants to make friends, she brings her sketch book and pencil to the cafeteria. Her peers notice her talent and ask her to teach them how to draw like that. She is a natural teacher. I have watched her patiently instruct her peers and my youngest daughter’s friends over the years.
When my art studio was ready for business, both of my daughters loved going to my shop after school. They would light one of my chakra candles and get busy–creating, having a snack and telling me about their day. It became a ritual. They each have their own art interests. My eldest prefers drawing with pencil. She draws people with eyes that have so much soul in them. My youngest likes to experiment by combining art materials. She might paint rocks or glue gun string onto cardboard, she did a series of painted and glittery popsicle sticks. If I have leftover materials from a workshop, she will find a way to incorporate them in her work.
I can’t throw their art away so I have their art on my walls, in my drawers and there are Tupperware containers filled with art in the basement. Some day, I will sit with them and go over their art together. Luckily, for a while, they enjoyed producing stop motion videos using their Strawberry Shortcake dolls and houses. All of their projects are recorded onto a few memory cards (way easier to store). They would spend hours placing, moving and photographing dolls on exciting adventures. So cute! I loved those years. I also have ample footage of them creating video stories with their Disney princess dolls. We watch them together once in a while and laugh at their fake British accents or bloopers.
My daughters are now into drawing colourful animated characters. My eldest has a youtube channel where she shares her animations. She uses a free app named Flip A CLip. She is quite good and has made friends with other animators. She is gaining followers and, so far, online people have been very positive and supportive. I worry that people will post mean comments. For no, she is enjoying the creative process and connecting with interesting, like-minded individuals. Their common interest in Edd’s World and Memes keeps my daughters on the same page. They enjoy playing music while they draw, side by side at the art table.
I am so grateful for the role art has played in our lives. The image I chose from this post was created by my eldest a few years ago. It is one of many drawings of me. I cherish them all!