Creative Wellbeing Workshops

Call to schedule a free consultation 202.352.5225

Sometimes a Cigar Is Not a Cigar…


Sometimes a cigar is not a cigar.  Perception is a tricky little creature.  We know that what we “see”, what we think is “reality”, is susceptible to all sorts of biochemical mechanisms.  What seems clearly obvious to some may be completely invisible to others.  What we “see” may also change dramatically when something shifts our perception.

Rebecca’s husband, KC, is fond of saying “We perceive what we believe.”   We know this to be true-research shows that people will overlook things right before their eyes if it is outside of their expectations.

Art is such a fascinating way to reveal and help us shift our perceptions. Invariably, regardless of what the artist was trying to represent, interesting “accidents” happen in the imagery or there are visual effects of which he/she is not aware.

Although sometimes those effects might mean nothing-sometimes a cigar is just a cigar-we always ask “If it did have meaning, what might that be?”  What might it mean that you drew a tiger but it looks more like a kitten, that the sun was supposed to be yellow but it’s orange and red, that there were supposed to be five figures to represent your family but you have actually included six?  What if that cigar was not a cigar?

We see this with our clients all of the time but it even happens with us as trained artists and art therapists.  We think that we will not be surprised by our own art work–but we are more often than not just as unaware of the interesting “accidents” that happen in our imagery and what it unexpectedly reveals to us.

This happened recently in a workshop Rebecca was running at Miraval.  She made a small mandala of what she thought of as a hopeful sun at the end of a spiral path made of gold and blue for healing and prosperity.  Some of the guests commented that it looked like a fuse that culminated in an explosion.  

Rebecca had not in any way intended that–it had completely escaped her attention when she was looking at it.  However, after the guests made that observation, it became obvious and undeniable.  Seeing the image through their eyes changed Rebecca’s perception of it and she then saw it differently herself.  This is the interesting effect that art work can have on perception–it originates from what seems to be the conscious realm but then it takes on a life of its own.

It is also refreshing to be reminded so beautifully that our imagery can provide such fertile material for exploration.  You might guess that Rebecca had some interesting food for thought contemplating the fuse that was exploding in her drawing. 

Positively yours, Rebecca and Gioia

Art Directive
Draw a picture that represents how you are feeling now using color, line, shapes and symbols.   Write about your impressions of the image (the color, texture, markmaking, line quality, lightness/darkness, etc…).  Have a couple of people observe what they see visually in it and what impression it gives them.  See if their perceptions match yours and notice you perception of your art work changes after seeing it through their eyes