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Saturday, 30 April 2016

Art Therapy 3: Walking Away (An Art Journaling Project)

There comes a time in life where the circumstances we find ourselves in, or the people we have allowed into our lives, become poisonous to our well-being. It is very important to give yourself the permission and right to walk away in these times. Today's blog is a very short one, concentrating simply on giving yourself the right to make this resolve. It is done in the form of an art journaling page, so that you can add it to an ongoing journal of wellness.
This blog is co-authored by Marietjie Uys (artist) and Melette Els (therapist)

The idea behind an art journal, just like any other diary or journal, is to capture your thoughts, ideas impressions, inspirations, etc. This is also a way to externalize feelings, experiences, challenges, etc. This process assists in creating a new life story, or coming to terms with what is happening, that way forming an alternative, preferred outcome. In an art journal, the focus is less on words and more on pictures, although words certainly still feature strongly in the journaling process. In a wellness journal, the focus of the journal is on taking steps towards mental and physical wellness. It is an attempt to get concrete steps in place that will guide towards wellness. In the process, the journal becomes a reference and a record of the milestones covered, visited and revisited. The journal can take any shape or size. I did today's page on a 12" x 12" white paper, but feel free to adjust this to your own needs. Ask yourself what the colour, texture, and size of the paper symbolizes to you. If, however, your choices are simply dictated by what you practically have available, that is perfectly fine as well! I start with two tubes of poster paint in colours that I find soothing, namely Cerulean Blue and Violet. You can also use watercolours, gouache, or acrylic colours for todays's project. Basically, it simply needs to be a paint that can be diluted with water.

I was looking after my niece and she naturally wanted to paint with me, so you will see that I have allowed her to do some of the work in the photos. Here she is dripping some water onto the paint to dilute it. Sometimes people come into our lives to assist us with this process without even knowing that they are part of the process that we are dealing with. This help can sometimes be so pure and innocent, like a child's need to 'play' with you. Acknowledge these influences and assistance, and allow yourself to treasure it!

I then gave her a palette knife and allowed her to mix the colours and the water together.

She badly wanted to use the hake brush and we both used it to lay down a proper colour wash onto our backgrounds. First dip the brush in the water to prepare it to accept the paint.

Squeeze out most of the water and then dip the brush in the paint.

Now cover the whole page with this soothing colour. Like preparing the paper, one also needs to prepare oneself emotionally for making a big decision that has the potential to be painful. One can do that in choosing a time to implement this decision when your life is fairly stable, or collect a group of friends with whom you feel comfortable to share your feelings, when you make this decision.Or simply prepare yourself mentally by being peaceful, at ease and content. Leave the paint to dry somewhere. The edges of the page will curl up, but they will settle down again when you put them in a journal, with the weight of the journal pressing them down. This too, is wonderfully symbolic of life. Sometimes the decisions we take towards wellness, has an immediate negative effect. It may leave us slightly uncomfortable. However, in time, the weightier aspects of our lives will help to smooth the rough edges out again.

I found this cute picture, giving the thumbs up sign, in a magazine and cut it out. What symbol could you relate to that would speak of permission to you, telling you that it is okay? Select or search for such a symbol. Sometimes we find them in the most unlikely of places. If need be, draw the symbol yourself.

This was symbolic of the idea I wanted to capture with today's blog; that is okay to make decisions like these.

I used a die-cut of a boot and traced the outline onto the paper. You could also use a smaller shoe and trace its outline, or you could even trace the outline of a foot onto the paper. Basically, you are looking for any shape that could present the idea of walking away.

I shifted the boot a little and traced a second boot to appear to be half-hidden behind the first, just like you would find in a person who is taking a step forward. Resolving to take action towards the improvement of your own well-being, is always a step in the right direction. Bear in mind that the size of the step does not matter! Any step you take is assured of bringing about change!

This is what the boot outlines look like when I am done with them. They are still very feint and barely visible, not unlike a new thought or idea that is born in our minds, such as when you start to suspect that you may have to leave a situation or person.

I now used a Yellow Paint Marker to redraw the outline of the boot. I choose yellow for the contrast it has to the blue. These shoes represent a firm decision that I am making in my life and it should not fade into my comfort colour. Therapeutically, when one takes a firm decision like this, you are moving yourself into position to take action in a matter that has hereto been vague and undefined.
How do you feel about your decision?
To confirm the decision, ask yourself the following questions:
Why is it important to me to make this decision?
What will be different in my life when I implement this decision?
What will I gain by implementing the decision? These could include things like freedom, peace, happiness, myself, the trust of my family, etc.
What will no longer be a part of my life if I make this decision? These could include things like fear, judgement, uncertainty, insecurity, hurt, abuse, etc.

I use the same Paint Marker to colour the soles of the shoes. This vibrant colour that I add to the soles of the shoes reaffirms the resolve that I have over the decisions I took.
How does this make you feel? In control, stronger, as if you are regaining lost power, alone, scared?
If you experience negative feelings, it may be advisable to consult a professional therapist to help guide you through this process.

I now use a Pink Metallic Marker to draw designs onto the boots. This is my coming to terms with my decision. I see this as something that will make my life prettier/better.

I then decide that the pink is too feint a colour for the decorative elements on the boots and choose to colour them a bright red with another marker. This is once again similar to the process that takes place in our heads when we make decision and dare to dream of a different future. At first, the future may seem like a feint outline of an idea, but soon it will take proper shape as we fill in the gaps and colour it the way we like it.

You may have noticed that I used a paper that had a tear in it. This was purposefully chosen. You may want to make a small tear in your own paper as well. With my boots all dolled up, I now use a Brown Brush-tipped Pigma Pen to add my journaling to the page. This is what I write: "When things and people TEAR my heart apart, I reserve the right to WALK away a WINNER!" Of course, you need to write what applies to your life! How does it make you feel to write and read this? Is this feeling strong enough to support your decision? Is it sufficient, or do you take further steps towards achieving your desired outcome?

Once I have written these words down, I decide that I so firmly believe in what I wrote, that I want to add even more decorations to those soles that makes this possible. I put a couple of dots of Tombow glue onto the heels of the boots.

I drop a rhinestone onto each of these drops of glue. I have dug my heels in on this topic. I feel that I am worthy of making decisions that are in my own best interest, and that I deserve standing up for whatever is in my own best interests! And I am liking it!

I then glue some sequin butterflies to the soles of the shoes. These butterflies face backwards and represent the people and situations that I am releasing into my past. I also let go of the anger and hurt they have caused so that I am free not to have to drag it with me into the future. They are left to fly free, but they are no longer a part of my future. They are under my feet and I have conquered them, survived them and released them. How does this make you feel? What does this enable you to do now? Determine what it is that you have time, energy and space available for. How will this affect your mindset and/or day to day functioning?

This is when I glue my thumbs-up picture to the page. It may not be a pretty element, but sometimes we allow these elements onto a page simply because they are so affirming of what we are busy with. It may seem out of line with what HAS to be done, but that is the idea. You are not doing what is expected of you, but rather what is important to YOU and YOUR future.

It is now that I start looking at the background of my page again. I add some flowers to the space behind the boots, but looking back, I see that I have done the right thing and that it has left my past prettier than it would have been if I had stayed.

And then I add a couple of music notes to the vast space in front of the boots. The future is largely left open as it is filled with potential, but I add the notes to illustrate my resolve to make sure that it is a happy one. Search for a song that makes you feel happy and listen to it. Make a mental note of how this makes you feel. Whenever you listen to this song, remind yourself that you can make decisions in your own interest.

Melette Els (Clinical Social Work) can be contacted via the webpage, or by email at, or by phone at 082 776 1536.
Melette Els B.A. (SocSc) M. (Th) 
BHF Pr Nr.: 089 000 00 28754 SACSSP Reg.Nr.: 10-17310

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