Abstraction, by Kari Kant

Kari Kant front Kari Kant back

A local artist, Kari Kant, will be showing her new abstract paintings in the Rooftop Terrace of the Newseum Building on June 6. She chose Tracy’s Kids as a charitable partner–a portion of her sales will be donated to Tracy’s Kids!

One of Ms. Kant’s motifs is the American Flag, creatively abstracted, so each Tracy’s Kids location is hard at work creatting a group piece of art on the Flag theme to be included in the show. Patients, families and friends of Tracy’s Kids are welcome to attend the Thursday evening event, but please let us know if you plan to attend so we can put your name on the list.

Coloring Pages

One of the most fantastic things about being an art therapist for Tracy’s Kids is seeing the endless number of ways kids express themselves through art materials.  We are surprised on a daily basis – paper towel tubes become flamingos and model magic turn into a glittery galaxy.  With all of the wonderful and enticing art supplies we are so lucky to have, it is very easy to overlook an unsung hero in the art room – coloring pages!

There is so much to be said for a couple of coloring pages and a box of crayons.  Printing images of a new patient’s favorite superhero or animal offer us a great way to begin developing a therapeutic relationship.  Having ready a patient’s favorite pictures following a difficult blood draw can facilitate a transition from tears to coping through coloring.  We can quickly offer a child a comforting and familiar image to make the hospital less of a scary place.  

Being presented with an image can be a lot less intimidating than facing a blank piece of paper.  Coloring within lines (when developmentally appropriate) can be a calming and containing experience when coping with anxiety or pain.  Parents and family members of patients often request mandalas (circle drawings) as a therapeutic way to pass time and gain a sense of calm.  Even we (the art therapists and other staff members) sometimes find ourselves coloring as a great way to regroup after a very busy day.  We’ve found that you are never too old to enjoy coloring!

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Junior Monet

 We are working with a company called Junior Monet to make items with the Tracy’s Kids logo or works of art by our kids available for purchase from their website. They have zillions of products-magnets, buttons, key chains, water bottles, aprons, dry erase boards, laptop sleeves, messenger bags–even neckties!

Right now the only image in our Junior Monet gallery is the Tracy’s Kids logo, but we will be inviting kids to create artwork especially for the project, so check back in a week or two to see what is available. We think the kids will get a kick out of seeing their art made into functional objects, and families, staff and friends will enjoy collecting the kids’ art. Click on the Junior Monet logo above and it will take you to a preview page  so you can see  the different products.  And best of all, Tracy’s Kids will receive 30% of every purchase!

How to make a tutu

This past week has been Spirit Week for the nursing staff at Children’s National.  One of our nurses flagged me down in the hallway, excitedly shouting, “you have to come see what we’re doing!”  She then led me into a large conference room that was filled with nurses making tutus.  I’m a little ashamed to admit that in all of my time working as an art therapist at Children’s, I’ve never learned to make a tutu – until now! Making tutus was incredibly easy and I can’t wait to share my new skills with the children; I’m sure they’ll love dancing around clinic in sparkly tutus and the nurses have already promised us the leftover tulle.

 To make a tutu:

 Materials

Tulle

Ribbon

 Instructions

Start by measuring a piece of ribbon around your waist.  Be sure to leave enough space at the ends of the ribbon to be able to tie it comfortably.  Then, cut strips of tulle into rectangles about 3 inches wide and 16 inches long.  They don’t all have to be perfectly equal, a little size variation just makes the tutu poofy and fun.  Then, just start tying the tulle onto the ribbon using a simple knot like so:

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Continue all the way around ribbon and voila!

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Zentangle

I recently attended an art therapy workshop where I learned how to Zentangle!

What is Zentangle you ask? It is an easy- to- learn method of drawing beautiful patterns using a fine- tip pen. One of the reasons why Zentangle is so relaxing is that drawing repeating lines and shapes can help the artist enter into “flow”- a timeless, focused feeling of well-being.

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I have to admit, however, that at first glance Zentangles appear very complex as they are composed of hundreds of little lines and shapes.  The first time I saw a Zentange I thought, “I can’t make that!”. Many of the patients and their parents who we shared Zentangle with at Georgetown this week had a similar reaction to my own. Fortunately, we have a lot of brave artists who gave Zentangle a try and ended up really enjoying it!

In many ways, Zentangle is much like the obstacles in our lives that we think we can’t get through. For families coming to our clinic, cancer treatment may feel overwhelming and the long road ahead impossible to navigate. However, as with most of life’s challenges, if we break our challenges down into manageable steps we can get through them.

Focusing on getting through one doctor visit, one blood draw and one hospitalization at a time can be a less overwhelming way to approach a long- term medical treatment. Similarly, starting a Zentangle with one line, adding another, then another without thinking about how the entire picture is going to turn out allows for the creation of an intricate work of art.

A lotus inspired Zentagle

To learn more about Zentangle, visit www.zentangle.com

Words

Working with kids keeps me humble. The other day my friend Peter,  an adorable two-year old, was coloring at the art table. He dropped his crayon and it rolled on the floor. As he bent down to get it  he said, “Oh Lord, what is that child doing!”  and broke into peals of laughter.  I laughed too, because I realized he was repeating something I had said to him as we were playing with model magic a few days before. I was making little objects and he was destroying them as fast as I could make them–so I must have said  that line when feigning dismay in our little game. He has a great vocabulary and a wonderful sense of humor–and apparently he quotes me all the time!

It is so much fun to help kids grow up–to interact with them in a way that helps them feel confident and competent and ready to take on the world. It is also a big responsibility. I hope that  sense of fun and engagement will stay with all our kids as they grow and move beyond the medical hardships they face in their early years. My own early experiences with parents, grandparents, teachers  and others who were happy to let me play and explore and to listen to my observations about the world have made me a more confident and imaginative person, and a better art therapist.

Peter and Tracy

Peter and Tracy

  His parents were very happy for me to share his story, so here’s a picture of the two of us.

 

Me and my grandmother

Me and my grandmother

 

I have also included a photo of me a long time ago with one of my wonderful grandmothers.

My Life Has Changed Since You Were Diagnosed with Cancer.

Working with children and teens who have a family member with cancer is an important aspect of my work at Inova Life with Cancer. Through individual work and support groups, children in particular have an opportunity to address and better understand the changes they experience as their family member; (often a parent) undergoes a variety of treatments for cancer including chemotherapy, radiation and /or surgery. This can be a confusing, scary, isolating and maddening time. Through the support group children learn about the various treatments for cancer, the equipment used and the subsequent common side effects. They also learn about and explore the feelings they are having. Through creating art and discussion children share what they have experienced and also prepare for what may be coming as their family member’s treatment progresses. They often discuss the many ways life has changed and continues to change during this time frame.

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Children generally become more open as the group sessions progress often because they are meeting other children who have similar experiences and feelings. There tends to be some relief in learning that theirs is not the only family going through this. One exercise often incorporated into the group is a list of how their lives have changed since their family member’s diagnosis and treatment. The list incorporates home and family, school, friends and neighbors. The children may add to this list throughout the 6 weeks of group or complete it in 1 session. Either way, it reveals a great deal about their experience and provides a very rich opportunity for sharing, expressing and validation. Children see in a very concrete way how many of these experiences are shared by the other kids. It doesn’t change what is happening but hopefully they come away with a deeper understanding of what they are going through and their feelings and reactions. As they become more attuned to how they are feeling they also learn productive ways to cope. Ultimately they have an opportunity to see that they are not alone and support is there when they want it.

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Superheroes

going through cancer treatment is tough work.  There are lots of needles, shots, procedures, and medicines that make you feel awful. Sometimes only a superhero could make it through a tough day.  The other day we had two superheroes come in To our clinic. Batman and Superman had the chance to meet in the clinic for the first time, get their meds, and not eat the whole day.  Even superheroes need friends to support them.image

Time for Fiesta!

Here in San Antonio, there is a unique week-long celebration that only San Antonians REALLY understand.  It’s called Fiesta!  And the name is apt, because every day there are multiple, colorful parties all over the city.

At Methodist Children’s, we are celebrating in our own ways.  First, we decorated the clinic windows with colorful flowers to commemorate the Battle of Flowers parade, which began in the late 19th century with women pushing decorated baby buggies and throwing real colorful flowers at each other in front of the Alamo, and now boasts beautifully decorated floats and a huge crowd every year.   In fact, most school districts in the county take a holiday to commemorate this parade.

fiesta window

We also decorated confetti-filled eggs called cascarones.  The whole aim of making these eggs is to then crack them on the head of some unsuspecting victim.  Of course, our patients and their siblings LOVE to sneak up on their nurses, doctors, and even their art therapist and clobber them with confetti.  It’s a fun way for our kids to be kids and make a HUGE mess in the clinic.

cascarones

No Fiesta celebration would be complete without paper flowers, so many of the Tracy’s Kids participants made multi-hued blooms out of tissue paper.  These are so simple to make, but really brighten up the hospital rooms.

flowers

The families had a great time paying homage to this local holiday.  Many kids can’t participate in the festivities because they involve large crowds, so it was nice to bring a little bit of the party to them!

To learn more about Fiests, visit the official website:

http://www.fiesta-sa.org/

Reaffirming the Good

Continuing through May, there is a wonderful art show in the Lombardi Atrium. It is the work of artist Kristrinah Ayala. She is exhibiting eight wonderful, large watercolor portraits of doctors, nurses, and other people who play a part in her healing process.

Her story is amazing. She was sick as a child and spent a lot of time isolated in the hospital, using paint by numbers and the hidden pictures puzzles in Highlights magazine to keep herself busy. As an adult, she began painting and found that her way of composing paintings was like paint by numbers. Her work is fascinating–recognizable and beautiful and abstract all at once.

When she had to deal with a serious illness again as an adult, she turned to painting as a creative outlet and to express her appreciation to her caregivers. She writes: “My goal is that you, the viewer, see more than just a visual appearance. My hope is that you catch a glimpse of each person’s unique spirit.” Her website is www.kirstrinahayala.com.  Ms. Ayala will be on hand at Lombardi on May 18 from 2-4:00 p.m. to talk about her work.

Her show is part of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Arts and Humanities Program.