I Can’t Tell You But I’ll Show You….

Some children in treatment for cancer really struggle with the all the demands of  treatment, which include weekly finger pokes or a port access, shots and examinations by the doctor, and much more. Many of them cry and scream and let the treatment team know they are mad and don’t like what is happening.

Then there are kids who are incredibly compliant, say little about the treatment process and seem to make the best of a very difficult situation. These kids intrigue me. I always wonder about their experience and what they are not saying out loud. And then they begin to create and many of these quieter children and teens say a great deal about what they’re feeling through the imagery.

These two pictures are by a 9 year old boy who has said very little about his experience with cancer and the intensive treatment. His art work however, is very expressive and has become the vehicle through which he expresses many of the things that he doesn’t say out loud. It seems to be easier for him to express himself through the art; a seemingly natural way for him to convey his feelings about his experiences. When you look closely you begin to understand….

 

“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