Occasionally when I tell people about art therapy I get a sceptical response, “You mean you paint your feelings?”.
The answer is, well, yes. After all, don’t we write about our feelings, talk about our feelings, even sing about our feelings (or at least listen to others who do).
Expressing our feelings through art may not be what you’re used to but it’s not a new technique. Before humans had words to express the complex emotions we experience, we had the tools of art to draw, move our bodies and sound out what we felt inside.
We express to understand ourselves, and share to understand each other.
I will be starting a 30 day art journal where I will paint my feelings and share it with you on instagram. You are welcome to join in and post your daily artworks #paintyourfeelings30.
I call this a challenge not because it’s hard in a technical sense. To pick up a paintbrush and swoosh the page with watercolours only requires I make the time for myself to do so. Showing up is most of the battle. In our busy routines, who has time for another ritual?
Who has time to feel?
The scary part of this activity is being alone and present to your feelings as they show up on the page. But this is also its value. Normally we do our best to push through despite our feelings, to numb them before they surface, this creates a safe space where they can breathe.
Emotions are just signals, messages telling us how we are experiencing life. We might not always enjoy what the feelings have to say, but by ignoring them we lose touch with ourselves, or risk them becoming louder and louder until they erupt inconveniently.
Taking the time to tune in to how we feel by doing a quick painting is care and maintenance for emotional awareness. Awareness of our own emotional state is the first step in developing emotional intelligence. By following the pictures over time we may find patterns and insights into how we are progressing. Sharing the pictures on social media is a way to connect with others by showing how you are feeling, without having to find the words or disclose sensitive details.
I have done many art journals before and while at the time not all of the pictures made sense, it was a good clearinghouse for the emotions of the day. I usually painted at night, reflecting on the day and clearing my mind before sleep, but whenever works for you is the best for you.
Again I welcome you to join in, whether you choose to share via social media or not. I’d like to hear about how you find the challenge.
Acknowledge and release feelings.
A plain notebook or sheets of paper that can be collected in order.
I like watercolours for expressing emotion because of their fluid nature, liquid watercolours are especially intense. You may prefer chalk or oil pastels, depending on what resonates with your feelings.
If possible, pick a regular time of day to make this activity a routine part of the next 30 days.
Take a moment to remove distractions and focus on how you have felt for the past day.
Create a picture that expresses those feelings. Use colours, lines and shapes that connect with your emotions. Abstract pictures are encouraged here, but if you want to include pictorial elements that is OK.
I am adding a creative constraint, first choosing only 3 colours to use and adding an optional fourth colour at the end.
Number and date your artwork. Title optional.
Post your daily pictures to instagram, sharing with the tag #paintyourfeelings30.
Notice who else on instagram is painting their emotions.
Check in during the challenge for more suggestions for reflection.