In this exercise though, no symbols are allowed. I lead everyone into feeling each emotion in their bodies. Not the story that caused the feeling, but the physical residue of it. I ask them to feel where it is inside them, and then to channel that into their hand and then their pencil. The marks that emerge instead of symbols are always interesting.
Although each set of marks feels very personal and raw, it is fascinating that when we compare them afterwards they are often very similar. For example, ‘calm’ marks are – not always but often – long and horizontal. No wonder we are so soothed by horizontal images of landscapes and seascapes. It seems to be an innate human mark, and we often ‘know’ this without realising it.
The series of marks in the exercise seem to tap into a very deep place within. Everyone’s will be a little different of course; we all have our own experiences and our own ways of dealing with and feeling specific emotions. ‘Fury’ is often dark, jagged and heavy. ‘Fear’ might be sinking, small and against one side or other of the page.
These marks can obviously be powerful and revealing, and of great interest to therapists. I am not a therapist, although I know that art and creativity are definitely therapeutic. I would not dream of ‘reading ‘ these marks; I believe it’s better for us to interpret them ourselves with a little guidance.
The point of doing this exercise with my students is twofold; realising that we naturally make common marks to represent our emotions can help us to read more into other artist’s work, especially abstracts.
Secondly, using this exercise to make marks when we are feeling a strong emotion can really help to shift it in our bodies. For example, if you are very nervous about something, making a page of nervous marks (remember, no symbols) can really help to move that ‘butterfly’ flutter in the stomach. Carrying these emotions in our bodies can be physically harmful if we do it habitually. In time they can turn into symptoms and even illnesses. Stress can underlie ulcers, for example. Literally drawing them out is certainly a harmless way of helping to release some of our pent up emotions in a creative and positive way.
The paintings I have included in this blog are all quite abstract..... if I were to ‘read’ them I would say that they all seem pretty fluid. Maybe my emotions are!
I love to paint - and draw - and help others to discover their creative side too.....
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