How art changed my life.
I know, I know, the title is a little bit click-baity, but hear me out! I am an art therapist, and my whole job is to initiate change, acceptance and deeper understanding through art.
Art has inevitably and irrevocably changed my life.
I witnessed art therapy for the first time while working at a Community Living recreation center. That changed my life, big time. I started pursuing the credits to apply for a graduate art therapy program that same year.
After fracturing my knee, I discovered embroidery, which offered me comfort and hope during a hard time.
Participating in art therapy groups like Mina Hibert and Amelia Hutchisons’ Oracle Lab and Holly Keen Goldes’ Self-Compassion series helped me gain a deeper understanding of myself.
I could name so many instances where art has spoken to me, shifting my perspective and ultimately changing my life in both big and small ways.
But the art that I want to tell you about is the art I made in last year’s Self-Love Club. This group was a catalyst for some of the biggest decisions I have had to make in my life. I hosted each group session and would enter into a deep focused flow state during the art-making process. My art was speaking to me, and I was offered the insights and space to move forward with these big changes.
Let me tell you about it.
We start the group with creating an image of a loving, caring and nurturing presence. This presence helps to guide the self-love journey and remind us of our commitment to acts of self-love.
The image that came to my mind was the gentleness of my aunt brushing my hair as a child. I teared up thinking about spending quiet, restful time with her. Considering her and my mother, I created an image embodying both of them. Gentle hands. Peonies like the ones my mom grew in her garden. A woman looking forward, towards a flying bird.
I thought of my aunt and my mom, both women with incredible businesses helping others. Always looking forward. I knew I wanted to be like that. To build a strong business without giving up warmth and gentleness and love.
The next week, we focused on creating a space for this representation of the inner loving presence. A place for them to live comfortably, welcoming their presence in our lives.
I thought again of my aunt. Her abundant garden, a bright blue pool glinting in the sun and sticky popsicle juice running down my arms. My mom and her sister are space-makers. They are generous, always welcoming others into their beautiful homes and gardens, sharing ripe tomatoes and sweet drinks.
I knew I wanted a space like this too.
In the final week of Self-Love Club, we explored advocating for ourselves and our needs. Living in fierce, empowered truth. Asking: How will you hold onto this experience of self-love outside of this group?
An image of a cheetah had been calling to me for the entire group session. This cheetah was quietly standing still, with a watchful gaze. I looked at this powerful animal, so revered for sprinting and I knew that it needed a place to rest. I surrounded it with nature, placed a floor, giving it a door and a window. Holding onto the experience of self-love meant creating more space for rest and stillness.
I cried when the group ended last year. I had a stack of images that I showed to my friends, my therapist, my supervisor. I wanted everyone to witness the journey. And I knew I needed to do something to hold onto the messages that my art was sending to me.
Self-Love Club ended on March 5.
I had an appointment to view a studio space on March 14.
On March 29, my application for the space was accepted.
I didn’t go into the group expecting to make so many big changes in my life over the course of a few weeks. But with the space and time to explore these themes through art, I uncovered a powerful truth. I was unhappy working in 3 places at once. I wanted to create a space that was just for me, for my clients and for art. I wanted a place that felt like a soft landing. A place full of love.
I don’t know if I would have still applied for my own studio space without this group experience.
I do know that I had been walking past the space for months already, wishing for it to be my reality.
I do know that I didn’t feel ready for this big change yet.
What my art offered me was an acknowledgement that I would burnout long before I was truly ready, considering the pace I was going to keep up with everything. I needed to prioritize gentleness, beauty and rest.
Here I am today, almost a year later. This year has not been without its challenges. Opening my own art therapy studio was hard and stressful. But the change that it created has rippled out to all aspects of my life, encouraging me to live in alignment with self-love.
When I say that this art therapy group is close to my heart, know that I mean every word. I try to offer these 6-weeks of self-love every few months, and each time I learn something new about myself. Being able to witness these incredible moments of understanding and insight is such an honour.
Thank you for being a witness to my journey.
If you want to join me for February’s session of Self-Love Club, you can read more about it here. Or send me an email with any questions or insights you may have.
Self-Love Club is on Tuesday evenings in Vancouver, starting February 14 or Saturday mornings online (10 am - 12 pm PST), starting February 18.