Behind The Paint: My Experience with Art Therapy

I have always loved psychology. In college, I took numerous courses for science and elective credits – Psychology 101 and 102, youth psychology, growth and development, sociology, consumer behavior, etc, etc. I think it is fascinating to know about the mind, behavior and emotions and how they all interlink with each other in our lives.

I realized a few things about myself and others last Saturday when I went to a Painting with a Twist event. Yes, Painting with a Twist. I’ll explain.

For anyone who doesn’t know what Painting with a Twist is, you attend a venue and are taught how to paint a featured painting for a few hours. The “twist” is bringing your own beer/wine/liquor and drinking it while painting.

Even though I had a slightly difficult time arriving (finding a parking space that doesn’t cost a billion dollars on a Halloween Saturday night near South Street, for example), I had a good time once I settled in. The canvas, palette, brushes and apron anxiously awaited me to test them out. I hadn’t painted in a while so I was curious on how it would turn out and if I would follow directions closely in hopes of replicating the painting.
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The instructors, Hillary and Ann, were very helpful amongst a big crowd. At the start of the session, Hillary suggested that we “relax, have fun” and “use our imagination.” It was the usual cliche terms I expected to hear but little did I know that the more I painted, those words rang true in my subconscious mind.

Unfortunately, I began second-guessing myself when I compared my work to the featured one. At one point, I asked if my sunset was too dark. The instructors sincerely said “no, it’s fine. I actually really like it.” Wow, why did I need that reassurance as an artist?

Somehow that reassurance boosted my confidence and I began to be in my own creative world. No, the two-ounces of Merlot and the four-ounces of Verdi I partook did not give me any type of buzz. I was actually in my authentic creative zone where I felt free with every new color brushed on the canvas. I was like a big kid with a brand-spanking new coloring book awaiting for that colored wax to hit the pages!

There were some people who never really got into “the zone,” but rather compared themselves to others or gave up in frustration. 😦 Some others were extremely meticulous with their paintings, making sure things were absolutely perfect (or getting their money’s worth).

Here’s my result:

finalpainting
I really like my painting! The picture doesn’t do much justice, of course. Days later, while browsing the Web, I discovered the term “art therapy.” I read about it and boom – it hit me that the Painting with a Twist event was a form of art therapy! No wonder the concept became so popular!

What is Art Therapy?
According to The Art Therapy Blog:
arttherapyquote
Yes, I really do feel that everyone in the group learned something about themselves (good or bad) whether admitted or not. Here is what I learned about me:

* Perfectionism: I had a perfectionistic attitude in the beginning. I made sure I followed every step the instructor told us. I wanted it to be RIGHT. But then, I stumbled on one step of the session and became a bit flustered. After this, I realized this is my interpretation, not an exact replication and relaxed about the mistake.

* Fear of Failure: There was a permanence once the paint hit the canvas. It made me hesitant and a little afraid I was going to mess up. A hint of fear of failure came to play for a while. But once I became familiar with the patterns, colors and brush strokes, I became free with little thought to perfection.

* Confidence and Risk Taking: The slight bit of reassurance from the instructor somehow touched me and my confidence was boosted. In my creative zone, I felt confident enough to go a half-step further with my painting. The original painting had a man and girl looking at the sunset. For some reason, I had this need to be different and a little daring. That is why the sailboat and man is on the bottom left. 🙂

Other Things I’ve Learned
Art therapy is probably the reason why the adult coloring book made a big boom this year. If I wanted to color, I would not mind buying a Dollar Tree kids coloring book. But now there’s a “dignified” (for the lack of a better word) coloring book for adults with the same intention. Everyone is stressed about something, especially living in these crazy times. Going back to childhood temporarily with a coloring book gives us a slight escape to the days of no worries.

Bottom line life lessons: Be willing to be flexible. Let go and be free. Make mistakes. Perfectionism creates stress. Don’t compare someone else’s vision with yours – make your own.

Since this event (less than a week ago), I have been itching to paint some more! I have two blank canvasses and a paint set with brushes that has been sitting in a corner of a room for a while. I am raring to go, possibly painting a flower or autumn leaf. Whatever it is, it will be another freeing experience. 🙂

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