Monday, September 18, 2017

#SOL17: Healing with Art

 Call and the Birds Will Come


A friend, Heidi, recently returned to school to study art therapy. I was delighted for her as this seems like a very good fit. I have no doubt she will be terrific. Thinking about art therapy led me to also think how for the last 19 months I painted most every day and in doing so I began to heal.

As some of you have remarked, the last few months black birds seem to have flown in and out of most of my paintings.  Another art friend, Jim, asked today why there were birds in so much of my work. I told him I was not completely sure why the birds are flying in and out, but I feel better knowing they are there. I also realized that the last section of the memoir I am writing has the subtitle, Wild Birds Rising. I suspect there is a connection. Perhaps the birds are spirits.


A few weeks ago, my friend Jane's sister, Susan, died. The birds showed up again in force right after her death.  I didn't realize until this evening that her death affected me.  For the last two weeks I have been feeling down, revisiting the sadness I felt months after Rob died. Susan was three months older than Rob. Both were far too young to die. Last year, I spent a week with Susan in North Carolina at the beach and the beginning of August I had the opportunity to visit with her while I was in North Carolina taking an art class. Some people I've know forever and others have come in and out of my life briefly and yet profoundly touched it.  That was the kind of person Susan was.  She profoundly touched lives by simply being herself.

Some days I think the birds are those spirits that carry away pain. Some days I think the birds are the departed who find ways to wing back to this world.


For me, painting reveals new ways of naming and feeling--ways I am often not aware of in a codified manner.

I sense knowing. '

Edward Hopper explained how the language of art opens us in ways that words simply do not.  He wrote, “If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.”

Here are a few of my new paintings.

How I See You (acrylic, collage, pencil, Tombow markers, gesso, digital remix)

Prayer  (acrylic, Tombow markers, pencil, digital remix)

Through a Window (acrylic, gesso, pencil, digital remix) 

Tangled (acrylic, ink, pencil, digital remix) 

Self Portrait  with Black Birds (Photograph, paint, transfer, acrylic)

A few art therapy links (Activities and books)

Here's a link to 100 Art Therapy exercises. Does anyone want to take some of these on? I am going to try to work my way through the list.

Here are 20 art therapy ideas that also looks good.

Art Heals: How Creativity Cures the Soul

Imagination in Action: Secrets for Unleashing Creative Expression


  1. You have your words and your images and it's been amazing to follow along with you. I'm wondering about the role of art considering I haven't even picked up a pen except to write checks.
    Bonnie K.

    1. Perhaps it is time to see what your hands and some paint might do? Given your musical talent, I imagine you might find painting or drawing interesting. Play.

  2. So touched, always, by your art and your words. I'm so sorry about Susan and the familiar feelings of sadness. Art therapy is fascinating to me.

    1. Her death brought up a lot of memory about Rob and all he will not experience. I suspect that grief reforms as time moves along. It's staggering the impact at times. Art therapy of recent fascinates me too. Thank you Kathleen:)

  3. Hello Mary Ann and thank you, once again, both for your use of words as well as other art media. I am particularly touched by the healing quality you mention. For me it is especially intriguing and comforting to hear you openly say "I'm not quite sure what that (birds) means. Could be this; could be that. Ah, to be open with life experiences, our purpose and meaning. Enriching way to be and to look at it all. Reminds me of the process being as important, if not even more important, than the product, end result. Death is the only ending...then again, is it?

  4. Mary Ann,

    Thank you for your kind words.You have been such an inspiration to me! I am enjoying each and every moment in my art therapy training. Each week , I look forward to learning more about it. It is truly fascinating!!

    Edward Hopper had it right when he said "If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint". Indeed, the language of art enables us to express and view things in a new way, but it is not only the finished product that is significant, but also the individual doing the creating and the process of creating itself. Often, the process it more important that the final product.

    Naumburg, (1987) writes that art therapy is a symbolic communication between the therapist and the client. You may have experienced something similar if you have ever been to Romano's Macaroni Grill. While not quite the same as clinical art therapy , the experience is similar. In this restaurant, the tables are covered with large white paper, and guests are given crayons to draw with ( even if no children are present) A few months ago, I had diner at Macaroni Grill with a friend. Upon seeing the crayons and paper, he remarked; I can''t draw, you do it you are the artist.

    I laughed and said , Let's just doodle. This shared activity of making simple doodles with crayons lead us to engage in a deeper conversation . Scribbles, symbols and creative expression ( even doodles in an Italian restaurant ) can help break down inhibitions and insecurities and lead to a greater understanding between client and counselor or between friends for their pasta to arrive.

    Although it has been only a few weeks in to my training as an art therapist, one thing remains most in my memory and that is : we have a visual memory before we have a verbal one. Perhaps , this is why it is easier to depict our unconscious feelings in images rather than words.

    Maybe there are things the mind knows before the voice can speak.

    Keep creating, the answers will come.


  5. Thank you for sharing your gift. I am at a stage of my life where I often notice the birds and want to know all of their names. I love the quote by Hopper. I'm going to put that in my journal.


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