Written By: Revi Carmel, Paint for fun’s Director and Leading Artist.
Whenever I think “what do I want to be when I grow up?” (because until I die, I will always be growing up) There’s that thought of doing something to combine my love for art, teaching and helping others.
Art Therapy is the first thing that comes to mind.- Perfect, right? Treat people and help them through art, the ultimate combination.
You know that feeling after a few hours of creativity, when your whole being is there in front of you- so focused that there is no room for thoughts, worries or dilemmas? (beside what colour to choose). And when you are done, a feeling of realisation, simple joy, and one crystal clear thought- why am I not making art more often?
What if art IS the way to treat trauma, stress and mental wellbeing? Doesn’t sound so weird, does it?
Only one thing was unclear to me – Ok, so I had figured out what I want to do when I grow up but… what exactly is Art Therapy and how does it actually work?!
After some investigation and a shortlist of workshop options in Melbourne that claim to deal with Art Therapy, I found Karlie Gartner, a qualified Art Therapist, and founder of “Openarted”.
I met Karlie for a coffee (and another one, and another one – so much to talk about!) to learn a little more about my future occupation.
Ok, so I was shocked with the amount of study one needs to learn to become an Art Therapist! Karlie couldn’t decide what she wanted to study at University. Torn between Psychology and Visual Arts, the answer from her art teacher was clear- “do both!”.
Once finished at the age of 24, Karlie felt she lacked the life experience to practice as a therapist. So after travelling abroad to gain a better understanding of the world and it’s people, and also creating her own jewellery line, she founded “Openarted”.
Karlie operates her practice in South Melbourne and also runs workshops on Mindfulness and Resilience etc.
My partner and I went along to her “Creativity for Mindfulness” workshop one Saturday afternoon. In a pleasant room we each found a meditation chair. On the seat was resting oil pastels, coloured pencils, some papers and a pen.
“Yes!!!” I thought. “Oh no” said my “IT / Computer Science / Art is not my comfort zone” partner..
We started with an introduction of the 9 people in the room, no one is really an artist, but most are open minded, workshop lovers. I felt a bit anxious being part of the so-called creative industry – I need to do really good, right?! WRONG!
Soon I discovered that Art Therapy has little to do with the aesthetic and planned outcome; Instead it’s all
about tapping into your intuition and expressing yourself without words from the bottom of your sub conscious.
The first exercise was to close our eyes (WTF?!) and touch our face in various places, drawing with a pencil whatever comes up. That was confronting. Stop thinking about it and let our hands do the work. It was fun and very relaxing, and some got a bit emotional as well. When was the last time you touched yourself (Hey! Stop with the dirty thinking!) and thought deeply about how it makes you feel? What emotions come up? We were all very surprised with the results and the fact it actually turned out quite interesting. Abstract at it’s best 🙂
The second exercise was laying down on a huge sheet of paper while someone drew the outline of our body on the paper. We then sat on the paper for meditatation, concentrating on our body sensations, the flow, and our feelings. Once very relaxed and focused, it was time to put it all down on paper!
Every sensation, feeling and block goes onto the paper body. We added words that formed a statement, our sub-conscious message to us! I got to see my blockages and how they manifest in the physical form. I’m far from being “fixed” but one step closer, and felt that I can really connect to places inside of me that I can’t process through words.
We left with food for thought, drinking lovely tea, and appreciating the experience and the insights that others shared with us. Karlie was great, with clear instructions and a pleasant atmosphere. A Saturday afternoon well spent.
I will continue exploring Art Therapy, and how to heal through art and creativity. It most certainly is the first step in connecting to art from a different angle. I will keep you posted on my journey and will love, as always, your feedback and comments.