Sunday, February 13, 2011

Art as a form of therapy

It is another Sunday morning, and very early as I write this.  I have been painting for several hours and lost track of the time once again.  This happens every time I pick up a paint brush.  I might only think that I will paint for two hours, but when I look up at the clock, I find that the two hours has been expanded somewhat.  That is generally not a bad occurrence in my life.  My days are pretty flexible and as long as Molly is happily snoozing at my feet whilst I paint, everything seems to be well in our little world.

Art is a way of losing myself when I need to distract myself about something that has caused me some concern or worse.  When I paint, my mind is free of worries and sees only colours, textures, contrasts and the cup of tea just to the right of my water jars.  That can be dangerous and more than once I have found myself swishing a brush in my tea.  Luckily, I notice this and dispose of that cuppa and make another pot to keep my energy flowing.  I am fortunate in that I am able to dispense with the woes of everyday life and put them on hold during a tryst with my paints.  Admittedly, there are some days when I am not quite able to put all problems on hold and head straight for a canvas.  Those days come and have to be dealt with.  Generally, I like to mull over a situation before making a final decision.  Again some paint therapy comes to my aid.

There are times when I am painting that I am able to mull over a problem whilst painting.  I can debate different sides of the issue as well as deciding whether to use cobalt blue or a blue violet.  This is multi tasking at its finest.  The motion of moving the brush over the canvas is soothing to me.  This helps keep me calm whilst dealing with something that might have my emotions running overtime.  I take out my frustrations on the canvas, splashing colours without worrying about the end result.  I only wish that splashing my emotions in the same way would help solve whatever problem has put me in such a state of frenzy, but although painting does not solve the problem, it often leads me through the process of thinking it through from different points of view.  With this added perspective, I can often resolve the problem or come to a decision as how I should proceed, what steps to start off with and how to follow up depending on what scenario plays out.

I have read that some therapists use art therapy in their practice.  But they are looking at what their patient is actually putting down on the canvas or paper.  This may very well clue them in on what the underlying problem might be, but I would hope that they ask their patient what they were thinking as they were completing their piece of art.  Did the patient know ahead of time that their painting was going to be analysed?  If so, I wonder how many patients edited what they put down on the canvas rather than go about painting whatever came to their mind or actually depicting the scenario that troubles them.  It has to be difficult for the therapist to get a grip on wherein lies the problem from a canvas that is dripping vast quantities of lemon yellow, forest green and bleached titanium.  I know that I could not hazard a guess as to what the artist was concerned about by looking at these colours tossed about in an abstract fashion.  More importantly, I do not see how a therapist could make any conclusions on watching while the painting was being done or by looking at the colours chosen to make this abstract.  Only the artist/patient might have a clue what it all means or what it does not mean.  In this case was art therapy a valid form of treatment or was it a wasted session? 

For me, art is always a therapy, in a way, a form of meditation.  Nothing else exists outside the visual field of where I am working.  I always have the radio playing when painting, usually light classical and progressing to some middle of the road rock and then on to a few hours of jazz if I am painting during the evening.  I know when it gets to the point that the music is irritating me to the point of distraction that it is time to put the paints away and head off to bed.  Please do not worry!  Molly is not neglected and sitting forlornly watching me paint.  I do take breaks and play chase with her, encourage her to run after her stuffed toy or on  occasion whilst putting the garbage down the chute, I let the wee feline run freely up and down the corridor to stretch her legs and use up some of that energy.  Molly is the love of my life and I would never see her lack for attention or any of the necessities of life.  Our day ends in the same way every night.  We have our little routine of having a little treat, pulling down the covers on our bed and once I have crawled in and gotten myself comfortable, Molly joins me and curls up in my lap.  We fall asleep together and wake up in pretty much the same positions.  We are creatures of habit. 

Going back to my version of art therapy.  I have to tell you that it is as good as if not better than spilling my thoughts out to a doctor who really does not know how to respond to what I tell him.  Some weeks my life can play out like a soap opera with pipes bursting, rodents scampering and a Lebanese mama pounding on my door.  She could not understand why the laundry machine would not work.  The ones we use are a newer version and instead of taking coins to run them, you use a card very much like the gift cards you purchase.  Their is a certain amount of money on the card and the cost to run the washer or dryer is debited from the balance on your card when you insert it in the machine.  Mama does not understand English and I tried my best to pantomime what her problem was.  I am not sure that she understood me and I am pretty certain that she rang up her son to question him about the problem.  At any rate, it seems to be resolved for now. 

But, this is a new week and I am certain that with it will come some new problems, maybe a bit of good news here and there, but I can guarantee that it will include a lot of art.  It might not be the therapy type, but then again, all art is therapy for me.  It makes me feel good and I am always happy when I have a paint brush in my hand.  I have to wonder if everyone made time for a hobby of their choice, something that they have always wanted to make time for and work on, if we might have a happier society in general.  I will toss that thought out there and maybe we can get a discussion started on the merits of hobbies or crafts.  How do you feel when you work on your embroidery, stained glass pieces or sewing?  Does working on your favoured activity give you comfort?  Do you feel less stressed at the end of your session?  What is it about working on your hobby do you enjoy the most - is it the time to spend alone with your thoughts, is it the anticipation of the end result or do you get together with others with the same interest and make it into a social evening?  I would love to hear your thoughts on all this!

I am putting up four incomplete paintings that got started this week.  As you can see there are two sets being done.  One set is two paintings of orchids that will be potted up the next time you see them.  The other set will be more in the genre of folk art with lilies to the sides of the canvas and I have not quite committed myself as to what else is going to appear on the canvas.  Hopefully most of these will be done by Thursday!  I have a number of appointments this week that cannot be delayed, in fact, the more quickly I get to them, the sooner I will have some good news to share with you.  But all in good time.  For now, I am just happy that today is Sunday, there is nothing requiring my attention other than some dishes in the sink.  That means Molly and I can play some more little games to use up some energy and then, with a happily tired kitten at my feet, I can again pull out the paints and work away until I become aware of either a hungry tummy or some extremely tired eyes.  And so it goes, another typical day in my week.

I hope your week is full of all you are hoping for and that Cupid spreads a little love for everyone to indulge in and enjoy.  You never know, that artist buying some paint in the next aisle in your art shop just might be someone to chat with about the quality of one brand of paint over another.  I am just saying that while it is good to focus on the task at hand, do not be so intent on what you are doing that you miss out on an opportunity to make a new friend.  Maybe there will not be any romance, but what more could you ask for than another friend who shares your passion for art or whatever craft you practise.  I hear there is often some pretty neat people in the candle supply aisle.  Might be worth a jaunt over there whilst you are out and about.  ;)

Have a great week!  And, Happy Valentine's Day to all!

Sincerely,   Rutheemac

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