Using Art to Reflect - Your invitation
Updated: Sep 6, 2021
There are many ways that using creative materials can be helpful and different motivations for being creative. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about how you can get creative to help reflecting on certain experiences, times or maybe circumstances. This could be something that you feel just needs more time spent sitting with it - or something where you are hoping to make some progress or decisions moving forward about how the future may look.
The emphasis here is on the process. We often get caught up in the products and outcomes of what we do, but often pay less attention to how we get there. What we are asking, is some time to think, express and create and then spend some time with the visual representation made of our experience. A creative an curious mind realises and grasp onto the value of the process of creating and reflecting. This can allow and assist in personal growth and learning by giving us a more authentic understanding of someone's (or your own) personal perspective.
Before we get started:
One of the most important things to remember is that we aren't relying on the final product being aesthetically pleasing or 'looking' a certain way The idea behind using creative materials to reflect on something is more about the processes behind what we are making aiding our thought process or bringing to light things that maybe we aren't very aware of.
It's important to remember that not everything works and that that is okay too. This may be a skill you wish to develop and work on over time. It can be useful to be able to drop into a reflective and non-judgemental space to help your thinking, but it can present challenges. Try and sit with this and be kind to yourself. If you find this difficult try and ask yourself why and what you could do to help to engage with the process for longer or in a deeper way.
Make sure you are comfortable and have some materials around you that you find appealing in arms reach. We are aiming for being able to work in a more fluid and spontaneous way if possible without stopping and starting. So if you find you want something e.g scissors, try not to break your flow and distract yourself with not having the right things - problem solve:- can it be torn, tied or folded instead?
There is no right and wrong answer to this exercise. Everyone's perspective understanding and experience will be different and that is ok.
This is NOT a test. Have some fun, experiment and enjoy yourself. Just see what comes out.
Art making - think about the thing you would like to reflect on. This could be anything and as broad or specific as you would like. You may want to start with where you have been, thinking about where you are now and where it is you want to go as a basic starting point.
Within the context of Therapy we may use this as a tool to reflect on things that are difficult to talk about or explain but this is not something that should be attempted on your own without professional and emotional support. In the context of work colleagues - you may be thinking of a recent change in delivery - you may wish to focus on how YOU were affected by this or how others you work with may have been affected as a larger group or team. Whatever it is try and hold this in mind whilst you are making. You may find your mind wanders but try and bring it back to the thing that you started with - and just make! Without too much judgement or control, being spontaneous and open to experiences and experimenting. Stay curious to where you are and how you feel. The optimal time is around 40 minutes to really be able to drop into a space where you can get into what you are making. If you feel you finish earlier or later than that that's ok. Try and stay with the task at hand and sit with your reflections just thinking and staying inward.
Reflections - After you are complete you can spend some time exploring what you have made. You can do this alone or in a group (maybe they have completed the same exercise and have the same goals in mind).
Some questions you may want to ask your self are:
How did that feel to make?
What were you drawn too in terms of colour and shape?
Were the shapes or lines jagged or smooth?
Was there any particular metaphors, stories or experiences that came to mind whilst making your image?
Was there anything unexpected? Any images, symbols or metaphors you recognise within the piece?
Does it emote any particular feelings for you either visually or whilst being made?
You can turn your image around and look at it from all angles, you can share it with others (if you wish to) you can reflect and take this with you and spend more time with it another day whatever you need to do with it, however you feel is right for you. An image may appear to others that you have not seen or purposefully drawn. This may or may not be significant. It is certainly not about analysing what you have made but as 'the artist' you are the creator and owner of the artwork and therefore representing an expert in your own experiences. By reflecting on and exploring this with others and staying curious and open you may find some things reflected back to you that may deepen your understanding of what has been made and the experience behind it.
Image below: Mixed media image made by Claire Hilton as a Art Psychotherapist facilitator for NHS Staff Wellbeing Sessions.
Thank you for sticking with it!
Hopefully if you've got to this point then you've had an reflective experience of making an image however you found that to be for you today. Some days even I find this easier than others and depending on your background and experience maybe you may find that a challenge. You may have also found it challenging to be able to get much back from you image or gain any understanding or insight - and that is OK too. You have processed your experiences just by participating and giving it a go. Sometimes the things we make are part of being able to process things and any significance can take some time to show itself. Or sometimes the significant part of the experience was the making and not the final product.
Here's an interesting article on how we can use famous works of art to reflect things back to us in a similar way https://innerspacetherapy.in/self-reflection-paintings/ essentially, how we see things and how they make us respond is different for everyone - but if we are able to pay some attention then there may be things that we can learn about ourselves along the way.
We hope you enjoyed this creative exercise, let us know how you got on on our socials @CreatingSpaceSessions on Facebook and Instagram if you feel comfortable to share it with us - we'd love to see them.