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"Art making is seen as an opportunity to express oneself imaginatively, authentically, and spontaneously, an experience that, over time, can lead to personal fulfillment, emotional reparation, and transformation."
- Cathy Malchiodi, Art Therapist
"The primary benefit of practicing art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one's soul to grow."
- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
This week, The Weekly Beet reports on the magical, healing powers that painting can have on the mind, body, and spirit! Mary Kent plays Van Gogh, revealing why we could all stand to pick up a paint brush every once in a
Art. It's a form of healing, a gift of love, and the ultimate form of deep relaxation when given the chance to properly reveal itself. It is the expression of something untouchable, rather unspeakable, and so utterly mysterious that when we are in front of an awe-inspiring piece of art it can truly take our breath away. But, what's really incredible is that the simple act of creating art, whatever the medium is, has the power to seriously heal the mind, body, and spirit. Scientific studies have proven that creating art, along with prayer and music, taps into the part of the brain that induces feelings of relaxation, healing, peace, love, and happiness. Currently, art is being used in the mental health profession, in cancer treatment, and with pediatric care to help people cope with stress, increase cognitive abilities, enhance relationships, and get people in touch with a deeper aspect of themselves. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art used as therapy is based on the concept that the creative process involved in making art is not only healing, but can be completely life-enhancing. Daniel Monti, medical director of the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, conducted a study called Mindfulness-Based Art Therapy. The group, consisting of 111 women cancer patients, combined meditation training with different forms of art from sketching to sculpting with clay. The results of the study found that the women who delved into art experienced a decrease in stress levels, pain, better sleeping, and fewer general physical complaints. Now, that's what we call unBEETable! Click here to learn more about Art Therapy.
Art comes from a place deep within that we all have the ability to tap into, but the question is do we all have the ability to actually give it a try it? All it takes is a bit of faith, patience, and definitely some courage to sit and wait for an idea to come into your being. Inspired by Peg Averyt, owner of Finleaf Gallery, I had the idea that perhaps it was time for me to apply a bit of paint therapy to my own psyche and be brave enough to see what would brush itself on canvas. If anything, I was curious to see what would happen with me, a blank canvas, some paint, and a few paint brushes. So, I headed to a local art store, where I met the cutest artist who immediately came up to me and started with some artsy lingo. "How long have you been a painter?" he quizzed. Standing there with an expensive canvas and the ugliest color of purple paint in my hand, I giggled and said, "Since today." "Really?" was his response and then there was dead silence. This guy was obviously a serious painter and thought it interesting that I had randomly listened to a call to paint. "I can't wait to see what comes out of you." "Neither can I," I murmured under my breath. I was then directed to buy only the primary colors, which I would be mixing with white, and to get some cheap brushes. This was the cheap way to paint. I was even instructed to paint on plywood, cardboard, or anything else I could find in the street. But, I bought canvas instead. I wasn't messing around.
I returned home and sat silently surrounded with a few colors and just began mixing paint. I knew I wanted to paint with gold, so I started painting gold on the canvas with the most awesome paint brush that Peg had leant me, a Van Gogh Sable Haired brush, truly the Nimbus 2000 of the art world. As I continued to paint, I got super enmeshed in the experience and began to notice that the chatter in my mind wasn't really there. It was the coolest experience, as I started forgetting about everything that was going on in my tiny world. It was as if a meditative force from within had taken control and was dying to speak on my behalf, just in different colors and brush strokes.After I had painted a few paintings and was having the time of my life, I mustered up some humility and decided to show my work to Peg. We screamed with excitement and she immediately hung them in her gallery. To say the least, I was so speechless. I'm no artist by any means, but after I painted a few paintings and saw my own work hanging on the wall of a shop, I realized that there's no right or wrong way to be an artist. We're all artists at heart, painting a canvas of our lives in whatever way we choose. I think an artist is simply someone who is bold enough to allow a mysterious force to shine forth and take us some place else, a place I encourage everyone to visit. It's a seriously peaceful experience to express ourselves through something other than the norm of letters, numbers, and voices. I think that is the real language I was meant to be speaking all of these years, but never really knew how to go about learning. Mixing colors and creating them in weird brush strokes on a voiceless canvas speaks the perfect language of happiness, healing, smiles, and peace to me. So, I think I'll keep painting and perhaps voicing less. Who knows where it will lead? I certainly don't. But, that's just the kind of mystery I love!
I interviewed two very different artists from South Carolina, both extremely talented and both with wonderful voices to speak about art and the realm of healing. My first interview is with Heidi Darr-Hope, an incredibly gifted artist who holds classes and retreats incorporating art with dreams.
MK: What do you think the most healing
aspect of art is?
Heidi: Art is a visual, silent language that helps us understand what might not be "speech ready". Sometimes words are not enough to express what is in our soul or in our psyche. Art nudges us to dig deeper into understanding our lives and the world we live in.
MK: Totally! That's exactly how I felt when painting. It's like I needed to say something that words couldn't express. So, I decided to paint it out! What do you recommend for a first timer interested in getting involved in using art to heal and wishing to express themselves in a voiceless manner?
Heidi: Just begin messing around with painting, collage, blind contour drawing. Put on some great music and begin. Have no fear! There is no wrong or right way to create!
MK: Right! Be bold! What are the health benefits of art therapy?
Heidi: Making art is a form of meditation. It takes you into another realm, another time and place. Working in the studio is working in a space outside of ordinary time. Studies have proven stress reduction thus boosting the immune system.
MK: Yes! It feels so healthy to paint. My brain has become so clear from painting! How has art healed you?
Heidi: Art helps me understand my life and the world I live in.
MK: You conduct classes and lead retreats that incorporate art in conjunction to dreams. This is fascinating. Explain to us what you do with art and dreams.
Heidi: Nighttime dreams surface from a deep mysterious wellspring offering us wildly creative images. Dream images appear nightly
without effort. Our unconscious paints these bizarre, mystifying scenarios, using a visual, symbolic language. This is the creative language of the artist's palette and it resides within us all. It is the soul's forgotten language, the language of Divine Inspiration. We cannot forget our dreams. They come whether called or not, but our ability and confidence to consciously create art has been cut off from our realm of human experience. Our dreams come to offer us insight into our lives urging us to open more fully and deeply into our Self. The language of art offers the same rewards. They are joyous wonderful soul muses. My Art and Soul retreats and workshops, reintroduce you to these ancient muses. Guiding you back into the language of creativity, a language full of vibrant colors, rich textures, interesting shapes, profound images, thoughtful words, playful phrases, and insightful symbols. In my workshops and retreats, not only will you master techniques that will enable you to unearth the embedded symbols within the dream, but you will reconnect with the young visual artist within.
MK: Sign me up immediately - seriously! Thank you, Heidi! You are so inspiring!
My next interview was with Katie Long Stevenson, an extremely talented young artist living in Charleston. She shed a bit of wisdom in the art of painting professionally.
MK: How long have you been painting?
Katie: Really all my life, but professionally for about 6 years.
MK: When did you first learn that you wanted to be a painter?
Katie: I didn't truly think of it as a career until my senior year at Sewanee, when both my teachers and parents really encouraged me to pursue it. But it had always been a part of me and of my life. I participated in accelerated classes and programs in high school, but nearly dismissed art afterwards. An amazing professor led me back to it during my first semester in college.
MK: Do you find any healing/therapeutic effects from painting as a career?
Katie: Art for the sake of art is fabulously therapeutic--the creative process, color, listening to beautiful music etc. Some of my happiest moments have involved feeling completely wonderful about a painting. On the flip side, I can leave the studio with nothing finished because I am so frustrated with a piece that I cover it up! When a passion or a hobby becomes a profession, you do have to fight through your ruts and lack of inspiration. It can be tedious and similar to writer's block. But I suppose something is healing when you feel most like yourself after word. So, definitely and absolutely, painting is that for me.
MK: I can totally relate to the writer's block! Do you find yourself ever in 'the zone' while painting, meaning that your mind quiets and all is still within?
Katie: Yes and I wish it happened more often! Usually if I am working on a larger piece, and I have the colors I want to use in mind and some classical music blaring, I become extremely focused and centered and leave the studio feeling wonderful.
MK: How do you go about choosing colors for your work?
Katie: It's interesting because I always go back to the same shades of blue and pastels. Years ago my colors were very vibrant and crisp, with a lot of red. Now I usually start with a large quantity of a color I'm comfortable with-usually a shade of blue--and go from there. Willem de Kooning paintings inspire me greatly in this department. If I'm stumped, I look at his work and focus on only two or three colors. One of my figurative pieces, "Pastoral", is named after his painting which provided great color insight.
MK: I love Pastoral! But, one of my favorites
is Red Square. I love purple and red together. How do you decide what you are going to paint?
Katie: I used to paint anything, which made it difficult to find my style and be consistent. Now I focus mainly on figurative work - usually expressionist style nudes or large abstracts. Right now I have two commissions, which are both more traditional and are more like busy work, one figurative, and two large abstracts all going at once. So if I'm not in the mood to do the commission, I can crank up the music and paint abstractly.
MK: Your abstract work is awesome! Thank you, Katie. You're another inspiration to us all!
So, there you have it! Two professional painters and one who just wants to have fun! So, grab a brush, some paints, and go to town. Your creativity will love you, not just your empty wall!
It's time to paint! Perhaps there is a sleeping Picasso within all of us! Don't miss a Beet. Stay tuned for next week.
PS. Check out Paintings That Heal. These paintings really do heal!
PPS. Check out Art
Heals: Creativity Cures the Soul and The Artist's Way.
PPPS. Check out Jennifer Boulden and Heather
Stephenson, Co-founders of Ideal Bite on Ladies Who Launch.
PPPPS. Click here to check out the awesome healer, Greg Joseph! He rocks!