Burn away the pages
of my past
told by strangers to
Burn away the tainted
gripped with desperate
Awash my body
with the healing
my own spark.
Heed my call,
the scream from
Heed the fire
held in my heart.
- Peyton Cram
The process of unfolding and creating is gifted to us to gain a new perspective on our wholeness that already dwells within. Though the human mind, the human spirit may only feel this connection to completeness for a sparing blip at a time - let us have faith and find comfort in the ever underlying vibration that dwells in us all.
Let us thank the Universal Power for all creation around us: the sun, the moon, the stars. The trees. The grass. The people and smiling faces who surround us. Let us give thanks for our own god-given ability to harness a piece of this creation to birth mementos of Joy, release, validation, and collaboration into the world. And in so doing, may we remember that our own lives are a delicate brush stroke on the canvas of life.
Thank you Divine Source. Thank you for eternal, unconditional love. Thank you for harmony. Thank you for balance in the Universe. Thank you for all of your creations and blessings. Thank you for bringing us all together this weekend to share our uniquely divine gifts.
For years I was scared to buy paint. One of my college roommates was an art major, and it captivated me to watch her paint. She had the capacity to create such beautiful, museum-quality pieces with her amazing talent. I loved to watch her work her magic! To this day I am proud to have several of her pieces and prints in my home, as I’m reminded of those beautiful memories of watching her in-the-zone.
Like many people I’ve worked with through the years, my barrier to painting and to most visual art came from a sense of “I can’t do it,” or “I’m not good enough.” I never seemed to have this issue with music, dance, theater, or writing where there was at least some evidence of my competence, usually in the form of compliments or accolades received. I never had a problem calling myself a writer, for instance, winning many awards throughout middle school and high school. And then came the books…
But to call myself a visual artist? To call myself a painter? Hell no! After watching my roommate work, I still felt you had to have a special artist license to even buy paint…
There is one visual form I felt reasonably comfortably approaching: collage. Born out of my love for making travel scrapbooks, collaging spoke to me because there didn’t seem to be competence involved. And I very much enjoyed the process of taking scraps and allowing them to develop into something meaningful when put together. As I began working with my own expressive arts mentor Christine Valters Paintner, I began to get braver about working with visual arts. Sure, I’d long kept some basic drawing materials in the office for my clients and out at Dancing Mindfulness retreats. Yet when I began working with Christine and realizing just how much Dancing Mindfulness as a program connected with the all-of-the-above nature of the expressive arts, I got braver about exploring my edge as an expressive artist.
I continued with collage and ventured into working with pastels and markers. I quickly found that visual arts had even more to teach me because I didn’t approach them with any kind of expectation about the quality of the product. There’s something to be said about being the worst kid in art class who was never chosen for any shows. Because competence was never my focus in visual art, I was naturally more open to just enjoying it, to being in process, and learning from what making just for fun revealed.
I credit crossing the paint threshold to my ex-husband after he saw how much I liked coloring and pastels. When I was going through an especially rough patch in the Fall of 2016, he bought me a paint-by-numbers kit. Although initially skeptical, I soon found that I enjoyed it even more than coloring books. There was something soothing and containing about having lines in which to work, yet my hand responded to the sensation of moving paint along a canvas. I loved everything about it; the colors, the smells, and yes, even the feeling of accomplishment when I saw the final product. There was some leftover paint and while at my local craft store on a run for some other supplies, I bought a small canvas and decided to use the leftover pain to express something original. I painted a mandala and it spoke to me very much.
I continued with this process for the next few months—finishing paint-by-numbers kits and then using the leftover paint to create something original. After a couple rounds of this process, I got brave enough to order some of my own paint off of Amazon and continue with my explorations. I approached it as something fun to do, something that let me play with color and texture and sensation and not be bound by the shackles of outcome.
A few months into this journey is where the painting that graces the cover of my latest book Process Not Perfection: Expressive Arts Solutions for Trauma Recovery revealed itself to me. And in this revelation came what is perhaps the greatest lesson that I ever received about the power of process: be open to where the unexpected, even the failures, may guide you. A pleasant surprise may blossom when you shed these expectations.
I laid down a foundation in gauche, the first time I ever experimented with this unique form closely related to watercolor. I also played around with using some shimmery paints that you can apply with a spray bottle. I liked the mystical ocean of color that was coming into existence! Then the idea came to me—paint a Hand of Fatima! This blue magic would certainly be an ideal backdrop for this symbol I’d come to adore. I printed out a copy of the hand online to follow. This unique pattern, sometimes referred to as a Hand of Hamhsa, seemed relatively easy to copy or trace, even for someone as unskilled as I. When I looked at the lopsided result of my attempt to paint the hand in white acrylic with a fine brush, I was disheartened.
“See, I ruined my cool blue background,” I huffed in frustration.
In the spirit of process, I rolled with that frustration, angrily ripping away a paper towel and I just started rubbing. I hoped that enough of it would come off so that I might be able to salvage some of the base. What emerged was the cool, rather mystical white outline of a flower that you now see on the cover of the book.
“Wow, the hand now looks like a cloud, or a flower,” I said.
I noticed that my raging by paper towel maneuver also made some very interesting patterns on the canvas that I just began filling in with gold… and then with green. And then as I noticed the flower take shape, I finished off the core image with some of the pinkish-magenta that now composes the flower itself.
I stood back in amazement, declaring, “I did that! It’s beautiful!”
And it was totally an accident, the fruit of staying in process and not being fixated on outcome.
From the moment I began writing Process Not Perfection, I knew that this image would be my book’s cover. For being in the process that birthed this painting is when I truly fell in love with the magic of expressive arts. I adore how the practices of expressive arts therapy invite me into a focus on process rather than perfection, and I am so grateful to be surrounded by a community of other expressive artists who inspire me to carry this lesson into all areas of my life.
To the process, my friends! And to the inevitable magic that will unfold from living a life in process…
What began as a challenge for an Expressive Art project led to a fun family experience with my most difficult medium. After taking a class at our local library, I decided this was too fun to keep to myself. First, we prepared our surfaces and gathered the materials to experiment with some acrylic pour paintings.
Acrylic Pour Supplies:
Next, we covered the working surface with plastic or newspapers. To keep the canvas out of the run off we, placed push pins on the back (corners) of each canvas. To mix paints, each color is mixed in individual cups with a 3:1 ratio of paint to mixing medium and thinned with water as needed (should drip or flow from the stir stick). Cells are created by adding a few drops of silicone which is folded in a few times. The mixed paints are poured or layered into a primary cup and this is known as a “dirty pour”. Place the canvas on top of the cup in the center while flipping the cup and the canvas over. Allow the cup to sit a few minutes and gradually raise the cup. Tip the canvas from side to side and cover the entire surface. Use stir sticks to wipe dripping paint from the bottom of the canvas. If the sides are not completely covered, dip your finger into the runoff paint and tap until all white canvas corners and sides are covered.
From the first pour my daughter said, “I feel like I lost myself in this project. It was fun to focus on colors and what naturally happened. There was no need to try to control the design, but just let what happened-happen.”
“It was a relaxing experience and fun to watch what happens as the cells appear. I am looking forward to making the next one.” This from my husband who doesn’t consider himself artistic.
Second pour, my daughter said, “I really needed this!” This project was such a success with my family members who are excited about trying new methods and taking the time to relax, create and embrace art with each other.
Suggestions for bringing Acrylic Pour to the clinical setting:
The formulas are a mixture of acrylic paint with an extending medium. The following pictures were used with the “dirty pour method”. Paints were mixed using a 3:1 ratio of mixing medium (floetrol) to paint. Three to five colors were selected. I would recommend joining an online support group to determine which combination of mediums you prefer and introduction to new methods:
Beloved St. Hildegard, sacred doctor of spiritual knowing
A woman, a leader who spoke truth to corruption and power
Long before power was ready
A sage, a mystic, a healer who guided us towards
Nourishing the greening power in our lives
A creator, a vessel of the expressive and
Cultivator of the sacred, verdant fruits of
Watering our true natures with faith.
We find ourselves in a bit of a bind
Here in 2017, and we beg for your leadership as
Women are under attack in a new way
By the systems of power long seeking to silence us.
New leaders take the helm, put there by
Campaigns of fear and systems who feed from
The vulnerable and the weak
The green thread that binds humanity is severed.
We call upon you to teach us how to heal
The green thread.
Show us the way to water,
Help us to cultivate the soil.
Remind us how to nourish our lives with
The elements that service our souls and
The earth entire...
Grant us the patience as we realize that
Sometimes healing is slow---
Indeed, the richest healing usually is!
Help us to savor, to find the greening
Miracles in each day
To recognize that each morsel of healing
Will help us to repair, to replenish the earth.
Poem and painting by Jamie Marich
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity