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Finding Freedom Through Art

“A simple line painted with the brush can lead to freedom and happiness.”

– Joan Miro

Art Offers Freedom

Feeling Confined and Constricted? Would you believe me if I said that art-making can offer you a sense of freedom? Well, I believe that it can, through the freedom found through the process of creative self-expression. There is a hushed voice inside all of us that longs to speak openly, but is often hidden beneath many invisible layers. These layers are guarded walls constructed over time in order to help us navigate the outer world; and they are formed to help us meet the expectations of all the parts we play in our world; and are a protection from the storms throughout our lives. Too many layers, though, can be stifling if there is not an outlet provided for the inner self to safely reveal itself. The creative process is an antidote to concealing this quiet inner voice.

This may sound too simple to be true, or too frightening to try. As an art therapist, I have seen the hesitation by many to even try to participate in a creative process – especially if an individual has been hurt by a critical comment from another person in authority, or when one has been taught to believe that art is only for talented professional artists. Resistance to create is an understandable resistance since creativity is a highly intimate endeavor, but the benefits are worth it. You are worth it! I believe most everyone can benefit from the creative process and I encourage you to try it out for yourself, if it sounds right to you.

First, there are many advantages to art-making that may help to encourage you to try it for yourself:

  1. Art expression touches our deep internal self that is often quiet or unheard, but needs to be invited to speak-out through ways that reach inward and invite the freedom of self-expression.
  2. Art-making is an ancient and lasting form of human endeavor, which shows the innate value of art-making for humanity.
  3. We know that art-making is connected to our growth and development since we see that all of us as children naturally engaged in drawing, and found great joy and abandon in the experience.
  4. Art-making engages multiple body systems all at once bringing harmony to the whole person i.e. art-making engages the thinking brain, with the emotional self, along with the physical act of motion.
  5. Making art engages multiple areas of the brain and accesses the imagination when words do not adequately express our inner world.
  6. Art-making makes visible parts of our invisible inner world and a page can safely hold all the intensities of our emotions.

What are next steps in getting started?

  1. Set up materials to have on hand such as blank paper, pencils, colored pencils, sharpener and eraser, markers, crayons, or any other preferred art material.
  2. Set a space designated for art-making. This can be a room, a table, or a transportable container that can be moved and that holds your art materials.
  3. Set the mood. Find a private or semi-private time to create art and set the environment to your liking e.g. favorite music or no music, light a candle, use a scent diffuser, choose your lighting, etc.
  4. Set an intention. Take a moment before you start to breathe, relax your mind and body, and consider setting an intention before you start. The intention can be general or more specific. For example: I am taking this time to create a visual piece of art without judgment. Or, a more specific example: I am creating art to release my current feelings of fill in the blank (anxiety, worry, joy, etc.).
  5. Set a time limit so you are not interrupted and that fits your schedule.

If you are still unsure and self-conscious about trying your hand at art-making, it may be helpful to offer yourself a moment of self-compassion by working on letting go of judgments and self-criticisms when it comes to creativity. Art for self-expression is not the same as making art for a class or a grade. There is no right or wrong outcome. And, you don’t have to keep the art once made; you may want to let it go or throw it away. It does not have to remain permanent and it is your choice. Only you can create what is meaningful to you; and only you know what feels best to do with your art. The goal is provide yourself the opportunity to express yourself; the value is in the act of making something. The focus for this type of art is not on the finished product, or if it looks nice. Hopefully, this outlook helps to remove any pressure or predetermined conclusions.

What are some ideas for making art to promote a sense of inner freedom and to connect with the internal voice?

  1. Free draw whatever develops after you set your intention. This can be abstract or a particular image.
  2. Choose one or two colors and cover the page with these colors only.
  3. Doodle your name.
  4. Write one word you identify with at that moment and add a doodle or drawing to accompany the word.
  5. Listen to music fitting your mood and draw to the music.

Hopefully, you are ready to grab some pen and paper and release your inner voice. If you feel limited by setting preparations before you start, an alternative option and an easy way to begin is with a blank visual art journal where you can write and draw whatever is on your mind or in your heart, and whenever you feel like it. Do this whenever you can, and your creativity will nurture itself and begin to grow. You already have the ability within you. There is nothing you need to learn in order to start. After all, this endeavor is exclusively for you and by you. Try it and be free!

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