IntrepidWoman's Journey

The Art of Conversation . . .

Posted on: September 5, 2010

I have gone for therapy several times during my life, when I hit brick walls and could not get past something. Every time was fairly brief, a few visits and I was sorted out. My favorite or at least most memorable comes to mind this morning.

Many years ago I decided to go to Mental Health to discuss my emotional eating problem, which has plagued me all my adult life, and which doctors did not seem to understand. (There seems to be more info out there now and OA addresses the problem very well.)

It was very difficult to talk about at the time, but I explained to the counselor that my mind seems to go blank when I start to stuff my face and that I have no control over this. We talked about my life, what I did now and in the past, career-wise, raising a family, etc. and she sat back to proclaim, “Jan. Look at what you have accomplished! You have the tools. You just need to use them!” She was referring of course to me being most able to take control of my bingeing at night because I was able to take control of other things in my life. I looked at her, dumbfounded, and answered, “If I knew how to do this, I would not be here!”  I can honestly say, that was the only counseling that I bravely stepped into that did nothing for me.

She was determined though! She convinced me to come back. The next time, she had this wondrous idea (in her mind), that I should try ‘art therapy’. I found this intriguing because I am right-brained. So, the premise was that I should do one or more drawings each week in any media and on any subject that I wanted. I was not to plan them or ‘critique’ them for quality, or level of art, but was to draw/paint freely and go with the moment, especially in the evenings when I was wanting to eat.

Here is the good part. From my own reading about art therapy, I expected that we would talk about them, discussing why I chose this color or shape or theme or how it made me feel or asking me something about it! Instead, she would get me to set them out on the coffee table and she would say things like, “That’s nice.” “I like the blue sky in that one.” Then she would say to keep doing this for next week and we would talk about something else before my hour was up.

I did quit going to see her because I was starting to think I should be painting brick walls. She called me a few times, trying to get me to come back. Hmmmm. I found out later that she was a nurse who had taken some courses but was definitely not a trained counselor. I think she is still ‘helping’ people, but I sincerely hope not.

Thinking about those drawings and paintings that I did with abandon and reading about art journals lately has given me an idea though. Why not keep an art journal, drawing in it every day instead of searching for words every day?

If  “a picture is worth a thousand words” then a journal of daily drawings should be worth what, a set of encyclopedias?  I like this idea because I have a hard time creating art.  I was an art teacher for 20 plus years and I find myself criticizing my work too much, which gets in the way of my creativity; too much pressure from the teacher within.

If I draw/paint just to express my current emotions, the results will be honest and cannot be criticized because they are not based on art principles. Van Gogh painted that way. He thrust his emotions energetically onto his canvases, expressing his high and low feelings. Of course the public at the time was quick to criticize. Also, his personal life involving relationships was a bit of a disaster. Imagine cutting a piece of his ear off and sending it to someone to express his love. Ugh! He could have just painted her a picture and said, “There! That is how I feel about you!” Or he could have chosen to love women who were not already married.

The only way to do this art journal and be successful in full disclosure of feelings, is to never show it to anyone. I like this idea. Then when all these volumes and volumes of my journals are found upon my death, people will look through them and ask, “What WAS she thinking?” !

Ah, the art of conversation . .  .


2 Responses to "The Art of Conversation . . ."

That is such a good idea. I like the idea of sharing stuff too but that is a personal preference…
My landlady, who lives next to me, is a drawing instructor at the College of Art here in Calgary. I found it interesting that she has no art on her walls except for a sign stating “I traced out what I thought it should be then allowed it to become what it wanted to be…” Atleast I think that is how it went. I will let you know if my memory does not serve me correctly on this one. Anyhow I really liked the message.

I do too! All good art is made that way, in my humble opinion.

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