Creative Wellbeing Workshops

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I Made These!

Actor Seth Rogan and His Vases
Seth Rogan’s Ashtrays

Actor and comedian Seth Rogen, the voice of Pumbaa the silly warthog in the latest version of the Lion King, has just taken up ceramics. After enthusiastically posting on Twitter pictures of his charming vases and ashtrays, Rogen was criticized, sometimes rather cruelly, for his lack of talent. For example, one critic said that beyond being barely “adequate”, they were outright “tasteless”. Thankfully, Rogen has not been dissuaded, charmingly responding that “I’m doing my best.”

One reason that he has persisted is that he is enjoying himself. “There’s something that’s so therapeutic about it. It’s like yoga, if you got a thing [an object] at the end. If you were doing yoga and then some object was produced at the end of it.”

Sadly, so many of the people we encounter through our work–whether it’s patients, medical staff, teachers, active military, or everyday folks–have experienced what we call “art trauma”.  In other words, at some point in their lives they were shamed or ridiculed for their artistic efforts to the point that they decided they would never risk exposing themselves to that kind of embarrassment again.  Usually they will respectfully tip their hats to the work we do as art therapists but self-deprecatingly insist that they, themselves, would never benefit because they “don’t have an artistic bone” in their body.

On the surface, this seems reasonable. Who among us wants to risk being laughed at? And if we’re not artistically inclined, why bother doing art? Because, as Rogen said, it’s therapeutic! Once people get into the process, they find themselves absorbed, focused, relaxed, and present.  They get into flow.  It helps clear our thoughts and silence the mind’s idle chatter. Not only that, but like Rogen, it gives us a place to play and experiment. This may be why many people who have become famous for other reasons (Brad Pitt, Rosie O’Donnell, Billy Dee Williams, Lucy Liu, Val Kilmer, George Bush, etc.) have found that art is an important way for them to explore and express themselves.

Part of that comes from the very human need to find ways to productively channel our energy. Throwing clay on the wheel, forming coil pots, needle-point stitching, coloring, making collages, scrap-booking, knitting, doodling, painting, sketching, all of these activities give us healing ways to manage our stress. Although it is true, there is risk in making art-we might not like it and others might disparage it–the process of doing it is often so rewarding that it is worth challenging that inhibiting pressure to make something pretty that we or others will like.

If you are thinking you would like play more with art, we give you a link to our handout on “Demystifying Creativity“. We recommend that you pick up a pencil and start doodling, or grab a coloring book and start coloring. You could get some tempera paints and larger sheets of paper and pick up finger-painting again, or find a local craft store and browse through the aisles to see if any of their projects catch your eye. Play around with art supplies a few times and see if doing so doesn’t provide some relaxation and enjoyment.

Positively yours, Rebecca and Gioia

Art Directive
We always love the scribble technique as a way to get people into doing art. Make a random scribble on a piece of paper. Once you’ve got enough crossover of lines to make different shapes, hold the paper at different angles to see if there is an image that you see like a person, animal, object, or something you’d find in nature like a flower or tree. Use markers, crayons, paints, or pencils to color in that image. Try that out a couple of times and see what you discover. Show us your scribbles if you’d like on our FB page. We’d love to see them!