The Power of Art as Therapy Part 2- Self-Exploration & Reflection Unequivocally Me 2.0

The Power of Art as Therapy Part 2- Self-Exploration & Reflection Unequivocally Me 2.0

A creative life is an interesting and challenging one. My mind has so many fleeting ideas. It takes practice to catch the right one and transform it into physical form.

Being creative has taught me that completing cycles carries over into life to help me finish things that I start. Not everything mind you, I am a work in progress!

The irony is, that once that thought is out there, if you don’t action it, someone else will. How many times have you heard someone say “I thought of that years ago. That was my idea.” Well technically it might have been, however, if you do nothing with the gift the universe gave to you don’t expect it to hang around! It wants to be birthed into the world.

The creative process made me question everything I ever thought myself capable of doing. For me that meant the four P’s. Patience, persistence, perseverance and practice.

Remember when I told my art mentor Lynn that I could not draw animals or people? Have you seen my art? I can most definitely draw those things, and so much more.

Let me take you back to Christmas 1978. There was a whole school competition to design a Christmas card and everyone had a chance to draw something. Granted, I had lost my Dad that year and the teachers probably all got together and thought it would be a nice gesture for me to be the winner. Of course I don’t know that as fact and I certainly wouldn’t have known that back then. So, when it was announced that my drawing had won the competition, I was so excited. My little stick drawing of Joseph and Mary kneeling down looking at the crib with baby Jesus. Designed by Michelle Potter written on the back. The very first time I ever saw my name published in ink.

My neighbour was someone I looked up to like a big sister. She was two years older than me and most days her, her sister and myself all walked to school together. After the winner had been announced she came up to me in the school corridor and told me that my drawing was really bad. That there were so many better drawings than mine. Then she blurted out ‘You just won because your Dad died’. My little heart was crushed. Looking back now I know she was probably jealous, because to her, I was getting an awful lot of attention, but to my seven-year-old self, it was like she had torn the sun out of the sky just because she could.

It planted a seed of doubt that me winning had nothing to do with my talent. I was now questioning, like most things that happened around my Father‘s death, that people wanted me to be happy and were doing nice things because they felt sorry for me, with of course the exception of my neighbour!

I believe this had a big impact on my art at a young age. It was the creation of a belief pattern that if I did something well, people I loved were going tear it down and often it was someone that I trusted. That being good at something brought out jealousy and nasty behaviour. From this moment I started to think it was much better to blend in and not stand out.

This pattern was repeated, confirmed and reinforced in different forms throughout my 13 years of classical ballet and schooling. I deliberately sabotaged myself and never excelled at anything because success meant I wouldn’t be liked. And I really needed to be liked.

Throughout all my childhood challenges I wish I’d had someone to encourage and nurture the creative side of myself. Someone to show me that I never really wanted to be like everybody else. I think the closest I ever got was my high school drama teacher Miss Collins. She was petite with short blonde spiky hair, wore baggy jeans and vests. (Very 80’s). She was a little bit out there and I loved her for it. I especially remember the day we all sang the Na na na nananana, nannana part of ‘Hey Jude’ so loud in a portable classroom, the teacher next door came in to see if our class had a teacher. I’ll never forget how red Miss Collins cheeks went with embarrassment.

A very important lesson for me is from the book ‘The Artist Way’. Julia Cameron uses the analogy of an elephant. That different people in your life will only see parts of you. Your work colleagues may only see the trunk, your family may see the side and your friends the tail. Very rarely will anyone see the entire elephant. Your entire self.

As an adult I now understand how important it is to surround yourself with the right people. To do what I love just for the joy of creating. It was never my intention to make a business out of it (if I can even call it that). It’s a platform to show off that baby Jesus Christmas card and If I make some money in the process then yay me.

The Power of Art as Therapy Part 1 – Transformation and Growth – Unequivocally Me 2.0

The Power of Art as Therapy Part 1 – Transformation and Growth – Unequivocally Me 2.0

I didn’t specifically mean to go down a pathway of art as therapy and a form of healing; rather, it found me.

It was 2012, and I was still in recovery from my stomach cancer. My life as I knew it had been turned on its head. In a parallel universe, I’m sure I was enjoying motherhood and socialising, and my hopes of finding myself again included rejoining the workforce. This timeline, however, looked very different.

I started back up again at a weekly women’s circle, and my circle mentor suggested that I try pastel drawing. Up until now, I had only ever played with abstract acrylic art, and I dabbled with some cartoons. My mum was the artist in the family, not me!

Side note: In truth, when I first started Circle in August 2009, my interests were mainly focused on developing my psychic abilities. As it turned out, this was not a class about chakras, crystals or the paranormal. Most weeks were spent peeling off layer after layer of belief and societal patterns, fears, religious dogma and lifetimes of karmic dross. I learned a lot about myself during these years, and it had its time and place in my life, but by August 2017, I was grateful when the spotlight didn’t fall on me on a Monday night. There was a moment when I knew in my heart that it was time to step out of Circle. It had been brewing for a while, and one thing I knew for sure was I shouldn’t feel worse when I left than when I entered. It had become a toxic environment for me. It is an interesting reflection knowing that Circle itself became something that I needed to let go of.

Lynn Whitty (Shiona as she is known in the Spirit Art World) became my art mentor for many years after 2012. I remember getting my first packet of mungyo soft pastels and driving myself to her then home in Springvale (southeast of Melbourne). She had the most amazing acrylic painting, which had been an Archibald entry, hung at her front door. I stood there in awe and thought to myself, ‘ One day, I want to be able to paint like that.’

Lyn is a bright and colourful character. Her modern hairstyle, funky glasses, and laugh make her stand out in any crowd. The room she taught from had a room full of easels. It was warm and cozy, with years of pastel dust staining the carpet. I felt instantly comfortable. As several other ladies came in, chatting, mingling and settling down with cups of tea, Lynn asked what I wanted to get out of class. I stated “I can’t draw animals and I can’t draw people.” Boy, was I wrong!

My first drawing was of a man in a green cape with a wolf. It was pretty two dimensional, and his eyes were a little close set, but considering I had never used soft pastels before, I was really proud of what I had achieved.

Something shifted in me during that first lesson. I realised I was capable of much more than I had imagined. Getting through stomach cancer and surgery had mostly been out of my control. I had to hand my life over to other people. I had to trust that the doctors, surgeons and specialists did what they were trained to do.

There were many lessons in there for me, including that of letting go and being more vulnerable than I had ever been in my life. This ‘creating space’, however, was a place that was just mine. A place where my inner child could learn and play.

My inner child! Of course, I had been neglecting her. I had all this grown-up, responsible stuff to do. From the age of 6, when I lost my father to bowel cancer, I became the responsible one. My childhood had been cruelly snatched out from under me, and now, with the help of my cancer, I had a chance to embrace her again.

This time, she could be encouraged, nurtured and supported, and I realised it was my job to give her the time and effort she needed to flourish. I was starting to really understand the meaning of gratitude and abundance. My vulnerability had opened up possibilities. It created a place for growth and transformation, so that is what I chose.

If I could get through stage 3 cancer, then my life, as I knew it, had already jumped tracks. What did I have to lose? The worst that could happen is that I could fail dismally. But how was I ever going to know unless I gave it a go?

My Wednesday mornings became my ritualistic art day. I set up a small easel at home in our family room and I worked at my craft every single day. This was the beginning of my art as therapy.