March of 2014, Creative Wellbeing Workshops is celebrating the completion of co-founder Gioia Chilton’s Ph.D. studies at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Gioia was the first student accepted into Drexel’s new doctoral program in Creative Arts Therapies and now becomes the first student to defend her dissertation. The program director, Dr. Nancy Gerber, wrote about Gioia, “Ms. Chilton has truly been and remains a courageous pioneer and innovator in both our program and in her field.” Congratulations, Gioia!
Gioia used arts-based research to explore how people express positive emotions through the creation of artwork. One of the consistent findings was how positive emotions often stand out in contrast to more difficult feelings–like pain or despair–and that it is equally important to express those unpleasant emotions. Gioia found that a focus on positive emotions provides a safe and enjoyable starting place from which to delve into the complexity of emotional experiences, that really can’t be divided into neat little categories such as “positive” or “negative.”
In other words, as we might intuitively know, the good comes with the bad and the bad with the good. This reminds us that we don’t want to eradicate negative emotions–they provide a contrast that helps highlight positive emotions.
One of the advantages of using art to explore and express feelings is that it beautifully illustrates the complexity and richness of our emotional experience. Visual elements–use of color, choice of media such as drawing, painting or sculpture, line quality, shapes and symbols, texture, covering the page completely or just using a small space–combine to tell a story that is filled with nuance and depth, just as we are. And through art, we get to see more of the whole story, not just the distressing or delightful bits.
Positively yours, Rebecca and Gioia
This is a simple art therapy technique to explore feelings–make a piece of artwork that expresses how you’re feeling at this time using shape, line, and color. There is no one right or wrong way to do this, and whatever artistic choices you make are just fine. After you’ve finished, take a moment to reflect on the imagery and ask yourself “what, if any, feelings are expressed in the artwork?” Notice how artistic elements might express different feelings for you–color, shape, line quality, use of the page, or the contrast of shapes and elements.
Feel free to show us your artwork on our Facebook Page. We’d love to see what you’ve made.