Saying It With Art – Art Therapy & Creative Expression

I’m fascinated by why people create the art they do and I love to inspire others to find their creative voice. I’m inspired by outsider art, artists who are considered provocative and raw, and people who do not follow social norms. I believe that to create one’s “masterpiece,” people must be authentic and draw from their own life experiences.

So, I was very intrigued when I read a National Geographic story called ‘The Invisible War On The Brain’, published in the February 2015 issue. You can read the online version by clicking here.
It was about how art therapist Mary Walker works with US combat personnel affected by blast force injury from IEDs(Improvised Explosive Devices) causing traumatic brain injury and psychological health concerns – including post traumatic stress disorder. Walker works with service members to create masks that illustrate hidden feelings.

‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. – Leo Tolstoy

I was so awe-struck to see the number of themes that occured repeatedly in their choice of images, among them death (often represented by skulls), inability to express themselves (mouths stitched, gagged or locked shut), physical pain(facial wounds), and patriotic feelings (American flags).

Ever since, I have learned so much about art therapy that I was already unknowingly using in my own art making process. While I tried to find places where I can learn more, I discovered that although this is an established discipline elsewhere in the world, India still has no accredited courses in Art Therapy.

Just when I thought I’d hit a dead end on finding any more info on art therapy in India, this happened.

On Jan 21st and 22nd 2017, I was part of ‘The First International Art Therapy Symposium In Bangalore’ and a one day workshop called ‘Creative Expressions – Say It With Art’.

Jennie Kristel, a seasoned art therapist from Vermont and Sangeeta Prasad, a published author, artist and art therapist from Washington DC facilitated the sessions on both days.

The workshop was designed for three reasons: to discuss the identity of an art therapist in India, to share individual art therapy case studies and to discuss the role art educators can play, in addition to using art as therapy, inspiring creativity; encouraging people to venture outside of their comfort zones; and to support other people in discovering what inspires them.

The facilitators also used a variety of art media and techniques to help the participants find an image that moves them and watch as it transforms into something they had no idea they were capable of creating.

Participants At The First International Art Therapy Symposium In Bangalore
Fellow Participants At The First International Art Therapy Symposium In Bangalore

It was two days well spent in the company of doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, artists, art educators and art therapists. I hope to use some of these tips and techniques when I work with children next.

P.S: I have to share this; this hidden gem – an organic food place called Green Path – which was the workshop venue, it is truly food for the soul! Must try!

I’m now a member of the Indian Art Therapy Discussion Forum (IATDF) – here is the event update.

With the other IATDF Members (Me – Top Row Extreme Left)