Art Therapy vs. The Expressive Arts

Some people are driven to make art. Their day is unfulfilled if they don’t make the time to sit down and do some art, whatever that may be. I am one of those people.

There are as many different ways to approach art as there are people on the planet. Everybody is unique in their expression, as it should be. I encourage every artist to find their own voice.

For some people, it is important to make art to be shared, seen, sold. And for others, it’s all about self expression. It’s about showing up and allowing what needs to be expressed to simply be expressed. I fall into that latter category.

At one time in my life I was a professional portrait artist. I made photo realistic portraits. I was self trained. And then one day, I just gave it up. Something completely different was happening in my sketchbooks and I decided to investigate what that was. I never turned back.

Now my work is very expressive. I make art for the joy of making of it. I just show up and see what needs to be expressed. When I don’t make art for days or weeks, I get very cranky. If I make art that is too directed, I get cranky. I seem to do best when I just show up and allow what needs to be said. For me it’s like entering a waking dream state.

I love this definition used in psychotherapy about the word therapy: . . . the psychotherapist knows that all actions in therapy are messages that need be decoded and understood regardless of the ‘language’ the patient uses. (From the Merriam Webster Dictionary) Art as distinguished as being therapeutic or expressive both have messages to be decoded regardless of the language used. Which brings up a good distinguishing point about the difference between Art Therapy and the Expressive Arts. Art Therapy focuses on decoding the messages. The Expressive Arts allows them to be expressed without needing to find a story.

Oftentimes, people who have seen my expressive work have suggested that I write the story behind it. My work does carry a story but I don’t seem to be interested in exploring that. I find satisfaction in simply doing the work. I marvel over what is expressed and am content to allow its meaning to rest in the Mystery. I know it carries a language that speak to deeper parts of my psyche and there is much satisfaction in that.

I firmly believe that everyone should sit down and do something creative with their hands. In my world view, the hands are vehicles for the feelings of the heart. To work with one’s hands is good for the mind, the heart and the Soul.

Make heART!

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