In my last post I discussed my “self-care” emergency kit. While I incorporate several modalities, my favorite is the “Daily Challenge.”
Every day, I challenge myself to learn or try something new. Sometimes it is as simple as looking up a word I don’t recognize. Other times it’s reading a new topic, or challenging myself to walk 15 more minutes. Some days, it’s trying something new with art.
I love coloring with my colored pencils. I’ve also experimented with some painting and mixed media. However, my absolute favorite art challenge came to me from my dear friend (and hair stylist), Jason.
To say Jason is talented is a complete understatement. He creates using mixed media – and leave it to him to be able to create using found items, such as lint (top photo). He uses water color, pencils, fabric, fiber, different backdrops – you name it. The only medium he hasn’t used is oil paints, finding them “expensive and toxic.”
Months ago, he started to display some of his sketches and paintings at his salon and on social media. I was really riveted by his talent, and his vulnerability. It takes a lot of courage to display art – not much different than when your pour your heart into a blog post and hit “publish.” You never know how people will react, and it really leaves you wide open – extremely vulnerable.
Jason is aware of the healing journey I’m on. He had suggested that I read, “The Artist’s Way,” weeks before I took a workshop – focusing on that same book – at my local library. This workshop was facilitated by another dear friend of mine – who is an artist and a writer.
After my granddaughter Sarah passed away, I was really restless one day, and decide to paint – something she loved to do. At first, I was really frustrated. It didn’t seem much like self-care. But once I took the “perfect” image of what I wanted to paint out of my head, and just enjoyed the moment, I relaxed and created two paintings in about four hours.
The first person to see them – outside of family – was Jason.
While we are all huddled in our homes during this pandemic, I asked Jason if I could interview him and learn about his take on art, especially creating art in times of stress. Jason agreed to discuss how he uses it, and to share some of his pieces as well as his inspiration. His vulnerability during our interview brought me to tears at times. I hope you enjoy his thoughts, and that you’ll take his challenge!
Jason became interested in art during first grade. Yet, fifteen years ago, he gave up on art.
“I thought being creative in my work as a hairdresser was enough. But I betrayed myself. It was my biggest betrayal of self. I thought that other artists wanted to be artists, and I was disrespecting them by doing my art. But, my creativity ended up coming up in weird ways.”
Looking at his art, one would never guess that 1) Jason isn’t a “professional” artist; and 2) Jason had no formal art training. His last art class was in his junior year of high school.
Jason views creating as more therapeutic and exploratory than entertainment.
“When I allow myself to explore creatively, I see there’s an ability everyone has access to. I gain and access unlimited amounts of creativity and of possibility.”
In August, Jason severely injured his right hand. Not only was he in excruciating physical pain, he started going down the rabbit hole of fear.
“I was terrified. I feared losing my job. I need my hands to work. I was in shock from the physical pain. I immediately started self-care – cleaning the wound, icing it, using homeopathic treatment to level off the panic – which was off the chart. I knew I needed oxytocin to counter the cortisol in my body.”
His plans to go to the gym, and then paint, were shot.
After he took the initial steps to care for his injury, he decided he had to do something to take his mind off the physical pain as well as the emotional pain he felt as he faced the potential disaster to his career.
So, he painted.
How, you ask, since he injured his right hand?
He painted using his left hand.
It took him about a half-an-hour to finish painting the image he had in his head.
“I didn’t think – I just did it.”
Jason’s painting, shown here, is the result of him being determined to use his creativity in a time of severe trauma and stress. He shared that by using his left hand allowed him to move faster and more freely.
“I know how to feel in the moment.”
That mere shift in thinking led him to start practicing the alphabet with his left hand. Which led him to my favorite challenge:
Close your eyes, and draw the image that comes to your mind’s eye without lifting your hand off the page.
Here are two of Jason’s images, which he describes as, “unnerving in a most wonderful way.”
On a particularly difficult day, I used the above challenge. Only I forgot to not lift my hand. And look – I pictured myself as a carefree little girl.
Thrilled with the results of this challenge, I have continued that practice. Not only is it good self-care – similar to working things out through journaling – but it is my reward at the end of the day. I also discovered that I prefer my left-handed sketches to my right-handed ones. Who knew?
While we were talking, I shared with Jason how much his challenge was helping me work through my grief. I told him that I actually enjoy using my left hand for my sketches, because I give myself permission to make a mistake when I use my left hand. I find myself more relaxed and open to what I can create. Which, in turn, leads me to give myself permission to make a mistake, or feel what I need to feel – and release the emotional pain. These are huge steps in using art as self-care for trauma recovery. Through creating, I’m learning to give myself compassion, grace and permission.These are huge steps in using art as self-care for trauma recovery. Through creating, I’m learning to give myself compassion, grace and permission. #selfcare #artchallenge #traumarecovery Click To Tweet
My thoughts were a great segue into asking Jason what he has learned about himself through art. I resonated with his vulnerability, and you may, too:
“I learned not to believe everything I think about myself. I’ve made art from a painful loss. Both took courage to be creative. Our personalities are constructed based on joys and pain.
“I wanted to examine my grief. It was hurting me. I felt I wasn’t an artist and didn’t have talent. That was a wrong construct. I challenged myself to make art – no matter what my brain said – and it brought healing.”
- If you are ready for the challenge, grab a pad of paper and a pencil, close your eyes, and draw the image that comes to mind, using your left hand (or, your right hand if you are left-handed). Let me know what you think in the comments below.
- In the next challenge, open your eyes and draw with your left hand. Do you like the it better? Was it more “freeing?”
For anyone who would like to share their sketches, please email a photo and I will post you art work in an upcoming blog.
I hope you enjoy this fun and thought-provoking challenge!! To quote Jason regarding the extra time we now have, “Use now, this opportunity, to grow. And, stay with it!”
© Lynne Cobb – 2020