Some time ago a friend recommended that I seek out a book called "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. I found this book and I was glad I did. Julia Cameron wrote a series of books along the theme of self discovery by tapping into your creative side. She gives many exercises in her book to get you to think about things such as how you wish to grow as a person and overcome some of the obstacles which hinder your growth. The way that she does this is to encourage us to explore the many facets of creative expression.
I am a firm believer that we are all artists in one form or another. We don't need to be Picasso to pick up a paint brush nor a Hemingway to put words to paper. Art is not always about some finished product. It is also very much about the process. I also believe that creative expression whether it comes from dancing, writing poetry, singing, drawing, crafting, taking photographs or making movies can be so very healing.
Through the ages people have used the arts to express their feelings whether or not the emotions were exquisite joy or the deepest sorrow. Mental illness, including depression, has always been well represented in the arts. If you read Sylvia Plath's poems, gaze upon Van Gogh's Starry Night, or even hear a comedy routine, you will get a sense of both genius and the "madness" which inspires such efforts.
Personally I have found my refuge and healing through words. I have kept diaries since I was old enough to write. Getting my thoughts and feelings onto paper, preserved in the sprawling handwriting of one sometimes consumed with emotion, has helped me to survive. I strongly encourage each of you to find some form of artistic expression to release your desires, fears, rage, and sadness.
Although there are many creative exercises given in Julia Cameron's Artist's Way books there is one which stands out most in my memory. And this is an exercise which does not require any artistic talent whatsoever. She tells us to get a large piece of paper or poster board. Then you find your old stack of magazines. Go sit in a comfortable chair. Go through each magazine and choose images which call to you for whatever reason. Do not second guess yourself. If you like the image cut it out. Your attraction may be based upon the colors, the content of the image, or even the tone and mood radiating from the photo or drawing.
When you feel that you have a sufficient amount of images to place upon your poster board, begin to arrange them as you see fit. Glue them into place to create a collage.
And here is where the real self discovery comes. You begin to see patterns and themes emerge from your collage to tell you what you need most at this moment in your life.
When I created my collage I was feeling a lot of stress. Ordinarily my favorite color is red, vibrant, bold and full of energy. But red is not well represented in my collage. Tranquil blue is the predominant color. I was very attracted to water themes, light, and romantic peaceful images. I was surprised by my collage. If someone were to ask me what things I like I would recite a list without thinking. But this exercise pulled out a more authentic self and it showed me that I was in dire need of rest and relaxation. I was craving a sense of peacefulness and not more frantic energy.
Try this exercise and see what comes. This exercise is just the beginning towards using visuals to explore your hidden self.
Here are some other ideas I had based upon this theme:
- Use the theme of happiness more directly. Write the word "Happiness" in the middle of your poster board. Cut out photos and images which you feel represent happiness and create your collage. Are you surprised by the results?
- You can also do a picture board of dreams and goals. What do you want to do with your life? Find the images which illustrate your vision of your fondest aspirations. The collage can be created from both words which inspire as well as visuals. Look at your creation each day to gain inspiration to keep moving towards your goals.
- And what about all emotions which come with depression? Take photos or find images which depict all the aspects of your unique depression. What image best represents rage to you? What visual represents your sadness? Here is a chance to be quiet and show your emotions through images instead of words. The experience is very powerful.
I think that if you do any of these exercises you will undoubtedly be surprised by the results. Visuals are a powerful way to explore what is going on in your inner realm. Despite the fact that I am a writer who is in love with words, images can sometimes present a more instant and compelling representation of our mental state. When we see these images it is like a mirror. Sometimes we recognize what we see and sometimes we see the parts of ourselves which we thought we had hidden from view.
What do you need in your life right now? What makes you happy? What are your dreams? What does your depression look like? You can find out the true answers to these questions using visuals and images. If you do any of these creative exercises I do hope you share the experience with us. We would love to hear the results of your creative journey.
Published On: May 27, 2009