I have always had a passion for the visual arts. This was evident in childhood, when I would spend hours drawing horses copied from photos in the books I owned. Drawing and painting was something I could get lost in. However, this innate desire to create visual art was to become tinged with frustration as I grew older and more perfectionistic. The objective became about producing something that was visually accurate, that other people would approve of. As such, the exercise of producing art ended up becoming a chore rather than the delight it had once been. Consequently, I did less and less of it, until it had all but disappeared from my life.

Thankfully, that is not the end of the story. It was around the time that I took a career change, and trained as a counsellor, that the urge to create art bubbled up within me once again. While I was still aware of the internal voice of perfectionism pressurising me to produce something that would meet some unachievably high standard, I was also noticing something else happening. Something fascinating. As I was engaged in the personal work on self which all counsellors must undergo, I was becoming more open, more free and less judgemental of myself. This in turn, led to an unlocking of my creativity. I felt a compulsion to paint and draw again, as well as a desire to experiment with new techniques. At about the same time, I started an urban sketching group in Stoke-On-Trent, where I live. This is all about capturing the world around us, one drawing at a time. It involves all the senses; a truly immersive experience! I noticed, over a couple of years, and with practice, that my art was becoming more free, more expressive, and more honest. It was still lovely to hear the response of others, but I was also more content with what I had produced, being aware that it had emerged from within myself.

The key to this new way of viewing art was a deep acceptance of what I had created. Yes, there are certain fundamentals an artist does well to acquire if serious about pursuing a career in art, but not everyone is destined to be a Michelangelo! However, I do believe that everyone has the ability to express themselves creatively (Of course, this may take any number of different expressions, yet visual art is my particular interest). Unfortunately though, our society seems to do everything in its power to squash this incredibly useful skill from an early age, as was evident by the low priority art was given in the school curriculum in my days as a primary school teacher. Seeing artistic expression as a type of non-verbal language, it is now my mission to enable people to re-learn this ‘mother-tongue’, and grow in confidence using it. There is a direct link here with my work as a counsellor. Firstly, I believe that creating a safe space for clients to express themselves through art, is another way that I can show non-judgmentalism and acceptance to all they might bring. Secondly, I feel that art, or how a client feels about the artistic process, can be reflective of what they have learnt growing up. For instance, if a client is afraid of putting pen to paper, what are they afraid of and what might be the reasons? This might spark some rich therapeutic work. Thirdly, the creative process itself can be hugely cathartic and liberating. Through creating art, a person is making a connection with their innermost feelings and engaging the imagination and senses in a powerful way.

As you can see, I am rather passionate about this cause! This has led me to incorporate art within my private counselling practice, as well as starting up monthly art for wellbeing workshops. These workshops are process- rather than outcome- focussed, and are aimed at helping people (experienced artists or complete beginners) get more in touch with their emotions, as well as using art as a form of self-care. They are proving popular; people have fed back that they’ve appreciated the opportunity to produce art without the pressure of an agenda or expectation. I aim to develop these workshops further, and am also enrolled on a training course to further equip me to use art in therapeutic ways.

I hope you have found this blog helpful. Please feel free to email me at creativesoulscounselling@gmail.com if you have any comments or queries on this topic.

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