Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Healing Through Painting - to share, or not to share, THAT is the question.

Snippet from Little Girl, Earnest

I saw a course description the other day for a class at a local university called Writing Your Heart Out. The description of the course said: "Experience this unique two-day course in writing your loves, losses, and deepest longings."

It immediately brought to mind my unfinished book, (working title "Art Making That Heals - how I turned pain and rage into healing with paint, brush and canvas") which is part memoir,  part art book, and part instructional manual for expressing internal feelings of pain, anger and loss through art making.

And I ruminated, once again, about not publishing it after all. 
Throughout 2015 I created a series of paintings using a technique I created which I call "rage painting."  I called the series "Don't F@#k With Me."  It was born, not surprisingly, out of acute pain and rage that I needed to express creatively, lest it bring me to my knees, or worse.  After completing the paintings I had the idea to put them into a format that could help others, hence the book idea. 

Creating the paintings saved my sanity last year.  I worked through a lot of shit that was weighing me down, and every time I completed another canvas I felt the load lifting.  But here is the thing - while the process was incredibly therapeutic for me, it was also intensely personal.  I have shared photos of three of the paintings publicly, but have felt a huge resistance to sharing the entire series. 

I watched a video recently about artists and exposure.  The Long Game, Part 3 -"Painting In the Dark -  The Struggle for Art in a World Obsessed With Popularity" is the follow up video to the Long Game Parts 1 & 2.  The video addresses the downside of the popularity driven social media culture vis a vis creativity, and asks the question "If we create art and share it with no one, are we still artists?"  What about the intrinsic value of art making for the artist alone, regardless of everyone else's thoughts and opinions on either the process or the end result?

(Check out the series, it is terrific) -

I love to paint, and I love to share.  I am certainly "guilty" (if you want to attach a value judgement) of sharing on social media on a very regular basis - my thoughts and opinions on a wide variety of topics, including photos of my work and information about my art making process.   As an art facilitator, I often view my artistic breakthroughs or triumphs as great opportunities to help others.   But sometimes expressing ourselves through art making is a private and personal process, like journalling.  I do not post my private journal pages on social media - the idea horrifies me.  I use the process of journalling (and art journalling) to work through and resolve issues that crop up in my internal world. 

If in the back of our minds we are conscious that the end result of our creative process is to be shared with the world, how much of the process is altered?  For many of us, many moments of our day become "I should post this on facebook/instagram" opportunities.  Those thoughts take us out of the moment by projecting ourselves into the future, and if we are creating at the time that we have these thoughts, we cannot remain in the state of "flow" we may have reached while creating.  When we are working to share, we remove ourselves to some degree from the therapeutic benefit of losing ourselves in the state of flow. 

The process I went through with the Don't F@#k With Me series could be called paint journalling.  It was unbelievably therapeutic - liberating, satisfying, and intensely personal.  I believe it was life saving, and I highly recommend adding art making to work through pain and grief and loss to anyone, in addition to other therapies. 

I do love to share, but maybe not every painting I create. I do love to share, but maybe not every detail about my process, or the feelings that preceded it.  Perhaps, after all, both "Art Making That Heals" and the paintings in the "Don't F@#k With Me" series are simply private gifts to myself.