Mandy Nicholson is a Creative Coach, Artist & Author and qualified therapeutic artist. Here she describes how art has helped her personally heal, she also shares with us the benefits of an everyday art practice that could help you to make sense of your world…
“I’m passionate about art and I always have been, but for many years I locked myself into the 9-5 world, successfully but miserably climbing the corporate retail ladder. Call it what you will; call it upbringing, call it background, call it sensible planning, whatever you want to call it, I was herded into something I felt frustrated by, denying who I really was. That’s no way to live life and thankfully, it’s never too late to make a change. Last year I lost my husband, the man who inspired me to pick up a paint brush after many years of my talents lying dormant and I’m forever grateful to him. He was and still is my inspiration and I look forward to the moment I can open my art retreat and dedicate it to his memory. I’m delighted to put my innate gift and developed skills to good use these days; championing creatives to turn their passions into profit and using therapeutic art to heal trauma, and enjoy everyday living.
Therapeutic art isn’t elitist. In fact I’ve been teaching some very basic methods which everyone and anyone can engage with, even if they don’t see themselves as ‘artistic.’
Art really does have a place in the everyday world. It’s more than visiting a gallery, reciting the names of the great artists or having an opinion on the latest modern art.
Therapeutic art can play a role in making sense of your past, understanding your present and even preparing for the future.
I frequently use the Mandala, an image originating in Buddhism and used during the first Century BC. It’s basically a geometric pattern, using circles and other geometric shapes within it. It represents the Cosmos metaphysically and spiritually and it’s a way in which we can seek to explore emotion through colour. The end result; a piece which reflects back the beauty and contrast of your life.
Using colour in this way is truly grounding. It taps into your spirituality and art is a conduit for that.
By connecting colour with events and emotions you start to see and gain perspective on the reality of your life. You are completely in control of how you identify your emotions with colour. Red may be anger, blue may reflect peace, yellow may be joy, but it’s entirely up to you.
How did you feel when you got up this morning? Tired and groggy or alive and raring to go. How did you feel when you walked the dog, had coffee with that friend or endured a particularly stressful day at work?
A daily exercise like this is innately mindful and so therapeutic. The segments of your mandala represent the moments of your day. If your mandala is based on the past, these segments become larger proportions of time; weeks, months, years, even decades perhaps.
Once you have completed your mandala, you may decide to keep it as a reminder that in the great landscape of your experience, there are many, many times of happiness or peace or contentment. Or it might become an exercise in letting go; you put that piece of art away, or resign it to a safe place and in doing so, you find closure.
When you create art which represents your present, it keeps you grounded in the moment. In taking a moment to reflect on your present, memories are preserved and delighted in over and over again. You’re mindful of those moments, those people, those experiences which can be celebrated.
Exercises like this are so important in giving as an opportunity for reflection, especially if we’re contemplating a change, a move, a decision. So often we rush through life and then look back, wondering how we got to where we are. Being “present” in thoughtful or mindful art is incredibly valuable. Someone once said you can’t navigate unless you can locate first. This is the way I see the art we create which reflects on our present; we’re locating ourselves in the moment and enabling ourselves to take stock before we move on.
When you use these techniques to produce your future-based mandala, or any other kind of art and you’ve already developed a habit of reflecting on your day, and then your past and your present you are in a strong position to consider your future.
When it comes to making a decision about something, it can be helpful to see, using these techniques, how you’re really feeling about the consequences of something.
It can be difficult to articulate your feelings or thoughts about an event or a decision but working it out on paper, using colour to represent those emotions, can help you to see what you’re really thinking.
So much of art therapy is about perspective. Life gets messy, and these processes help restore the beauty, power and wonder of your everyday living. It gives you an overall picture of your day, or your past, present and future which helps you see, realise and live in the truth of your more grounded response.
Tips for therapeutic art:
● It doesn’t have to be complex – the Mandala is a great place to start
● It doesn’t have to be expensive – you can pick up some basic art supplies online or at your local art store
● It’s an honest exercise in which you take control of colour, mark and expression
● It’s not for public criticism – you have a right to feel totally ‘safe’ about the art you produce. Whether you show it to anyone else or not, is your choice
● There are no “rights and wrongs” Therapeutic art isn’t about being graded or assessed. You can feel totally at home, proud even, of the act of creating.
If you want to try some of these techniques at home Mandy taught a Facebook Live on the Mandala technique and you can find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=844855222824274&ref=watch_permalink