When I tell people about art therapy and that I help people express themselves through art processes, some people shy away from it. They think they “can’t draw” or they don’t think they are “artistic.” They say “That’s great and it sounds interesting, but I can’t even draw a stick figure.” You don’t have to be a great artist or artistic to participate in art therapy.
In fact art therapy is all about finding your creativity and building skills. Many of us put down the crayons in grade school and haven’t touched one since. People think art therapy is mostly for kids. While it is great for kids, it can be just as effective with adults. So you haven’t made art since grade school and it feels a little childish. That’s perfectly okay, sometimes it’s good to visit your childhood every once in awhile you might find something that you missed.
Like any skill, unless you continue practicing it your abilities will stay where you left off. If the last time you drew was in 5th grade, then yes, your drawing abilities might be the same as a 5th grader. Once you start practicing you’ll quickly catch up. What holds people back is usually the fear of having something they made “look bad.” People can get caught up with trying to make it “look right.” When really there is no bad or good, right or wrong. With art there is a lot room for mistakes, you can start over, you can erase, you can cover it up, you can cut it out, but it’s usually the imperfections and the “happy accidents” that make the piece interesting. Nobody just sits down and draws something perfectly, even professional artists usually start with a sketch, where they make a line, and trace over it, add lines, erase lines, until it becomes a shape they like.
The other issue many people fear is figuring out what they want to draw and facing the “blank page.” Believe me, staring at a blank page can kill inspiration in a second. As an art therapist I always encourage people to start with a scribble. I say the word scribble and you wouldn’t believe the double takes I get. “Hold up, you want me to what? Scribble?” Yes, I know that’s child’s play, so it shouldn’t be so hard to do, right? You wouldn’t believe how many adults I’ve asked to scribble and they start drawing an object with sketchy, scribble-like lines. The concept is a bit abstract, which can be unnerving especially if you are like most of us who likes to be in control.
So once you get pass that, scribble like a 5 year old all over the page for 10 to 15 seconds.
Then look at your scribble. Turn the page in all different directions.
What’s it look like? Is there any part that looks a like an image, shape or form that’s familiar to you? Is there faces or animal shapes? Anywhere you could put dot and turn it into an eye?
Take your time, when you find the image outline it. You can use a different color or just a heavier line. I found a fish.
Now develop it into a complete picture. You can add lines, erase lines cover up lines, or just fill in the spaces with color. Create a background or environment around the image.
Once you have completed the drawing, title it.
Guess what, you’ve just completed a Projective Scribble, which art therapists use to as tool to tap into people’s creativity and subconscious internal state. So whatever you made shows your subconscious internal state…hmmm, looks like it’s time for lunch? Seriously, when I made this I hadn’t had lunch yet, but my drawing “Hungry” could be symbolic of many things. You just have to ask me what I’m hungry for! Hungry for life? For art? For love? For success? It’s interesting that something so simple as a scribble, can turn into something meaningful about yourself.
What did you come up with? Take a picture of yours and post to my Facebook page, Draw it Out
. We can talk about your subconscious internal state. It’s even a great game to play with friends, or your kids. Have everyone scribble and then switch papers to find images. See what comes out.
Cara Levitt, M.S. ATR-BC
Board Certified Art Therapist