“I Don’t Know What I am Making, But I Like It!”

As an art therapist, I often hear people say “I am not creative” or “I am not good at art”. These statements are not surprising as art is often judged by the final product and many of us feel like we fall short when it comes to creating something that can be called art.  While product- focused art making can be valuable, the desire to create a “good” work of art can also get in the way of experiencing the creative process. Creativity can be stifled by focusing on what the artwork looks like rather than what it feels like to create.

One way to focus directly on the process of creating art is through the intuitive painting process, which was originally developed by Michele Cassou.  We incorporated this process into our summer workshops by inviting the kids to “just paint” until they felt the picture was complete. We worked in an outdoor space at the hospital, turning a brick wall and a picnic bench into our own artist’s studio. Paper was taped to the wall and cups were filled with colorful paints. When one painting was finished a new paper was offered. The kids ran back and forth from the table of paints to the paper with dripping brushes in hand. Some kids splatter painted, some created meditative circular forms, while others painted people and animals. There were even a few participants that got so much paint on themselves that they became the artwork! As the kids painted they laughed and asked questions. Many commented on their own process saying, “I don’t know what I am making, but I like it!”

Stepping into a process in which the focus was on how something was created rather than what was created allowed the kids to let go. They enjoyed the messiness of the paint, explored how colors dripped down the canvas and pondered the wonderful and unexpected images that emerged onto the paper.

Meet the Puppets

Making Masks

Children, teens and young adults in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at CNMC have made hundreds of masks over the course of this summer. Creating masks is an incredibly popular project for everyone who comes to the art therapy room – parents and staff included! The initially blank masks serve as an amazingly poignant starting point for our patients and their families to express and examine emotions and experiences throughout the course of diagnosis and treatment for cancer and blood disorders.

Patients receiving treatment for Sickle Cell Disease made masks for a hospital wide exhibit in recognition of World Sickle Cell Day – a day dedicated to promoting a better understanding of Sickle Cell Disease and how it can impact children, adults and families around the world.  Some of the masks created by our patients now displayed prominently at Children’sNationalMedicalCenter. Hundreds of people pass by the bright and colorful exhibit every single day. The young artists’ masks are not only an attractive addition to the hospital but also a wonderful way to bring more attention to the challenges faced by children with this diagnosis.