Art as Therapy Composite, 7 works, various sizes oil on birch and maple, 2010


A subtitle for this series is Everyday Feelings. When painting the individual works, reason, resolve, and relish became important personal themes. All seven images developed organically. Using wood as substrate, I let its grains influence line and direction, working “coloring book” style, initially. Later, I was ready to go with the flow, beyond what the grain suggested. Some colors were deliberate, others not. As each painting grew, messages came and changed. Eventually, meanings manifested, names and stories attached. The paintings are listed in the order in which they emerged:

Puddles - Muddles - Possibilities  (36 x 42)

• Traumas - Truths - Roots (48 x 42 in)

Basic Grief ( 30 x 30 in)

Blue Ice (24 x 48 in)

Attention to Detail (24 x 48 in)

Oases of the Mind (7 x 9.75 x 9.75 in)

Black and White—Not Quite (30 x 30 in)


Significant sections of each painting were created vertically. So, turning the final pieces in different directions can prove interesting. Some viewers may prefer alternative orientations—and come up with different names and meanings for the work.

Whether painting the known and identifiable or not, I am always open to seeing magic happen: being able to grow, show, help. What I feel inside may not be the same as that manifested outside. On canvas, my inner and outer self tussle. They blend and bend, many lessons to learn, courage to ignite. Uncertainty is bothersome. Discovering and realizing can give relief. For me, whether I intend it to be or not, making art is therapeutic. Any frustration that accompanies is usually technical.
The process of creating artwork, as well as viewing it, offers messages and meaning—new ways forward or better ways to move back. It’s for individuals, artist or viewer, to be ready to see.

During the summertime, I painted outside, so the first two works may have garden influences (and colors)... Work number seven is black. Winter had arrived!

Back Story

The art therapist in me ponders life and its forms and cycles: what can and can’t be controlled. How do we cope with ongoing uncertainty? Can we ever really prepare to manage surprise, pain, doubt? What about relief and support? Will it be there when needed? Images, impressions, and feelings that count for one may be of little consequence to another. In some situations, we are together—feel supported and can relate. In others, we are alone, very alone... What comforts and heals, sustains and reassures? How do we ready and steady ourselves for the inevitable?
The constant and the fleeting, the impressionable and forgettable, the noticeable and the imperceptible, all cause wonder.

Maybe my age and stage put me in reflective mode concerning the world in which we live and sights seen there. What’s next, personally and collectively? All depictions in this series have definite precedents and antecedents. They show a sifting and sorting: acknowledgement of how the too oft unspeakable can stare us in the face, even if we don’t wish for it to do so. Painting processes like this one help make the unconscious conscious—expose private concerns publicly.

Regardless of how hard hard we may try, certain details cannot be changed or overlooked. Despite personal twists and turns, we share a common humanity, one that holds abundant beauty as well as upset. Everyone sees and is influenced and effected differently, conduit, catalyst, conqueror, or conquered. Perseverance, sensitivity, mindfulness, and self-expression don’t guaranty ease. Also, routes from A - B aren’t always fair, kind, or honest. Even if life treats some more unfairly than others, we are all in this (whatever it is) together. Social conscience and being able to take responsibility matter. Try to understand circumstances, then proceed with caution and care.

Piece By Piece

Puddles - Muddles - Possibilities
(36 x 42 in, oil on birch)

In Puddles - Muddles - Possibilities, I’m playing with paint, no plan—just happy to be able to start a new series of work, after hiatus Seeing where the grains in the wood might take me an early initiative, then selecting colors to match mood and environment. A feel good effect, a feel good spirit. Nothing’s perfect. Pondering and painting freely. Eventually, patch by patch, there’s a sense of direction and message.  The words “Puddles, muddles, possibilities” present, repeat over and again in my head. Gotta think more about these. A good beginning for a new series, I hope. I stop painting while the going is good. Don’t want to overwork. The positive spirit in this piece has me wonder what will come next...

Trauma - Truth - Roots
(48 x 42 in, oil on birch)

Moving on from Puddles - Muddles - Possibilities, I am excited to welcome whatever will emerge next. Choosing a different color palette feels right. Also, moving the canvas around. Painting horizontally, but then flipping vertical. Right away, there’s a different feel and mood to what’s appearing: more serious and somber, I think. While Puddles - Muddles - Possibilities looks ahead, Trauma - Truth - Roots seems to look back. History is important. But, should we choose to dwell on it. What’s gone before may explain our behavior now. Some trauma doesn’t go away. Truth can hurt. Roots are deep, they may also be pulled. Lots to think about! And, for those who prefer not to think, there’s a “pretty picture” to enjoy...

Basic Grief

(24 x 24 in, oil on birch)

Basic Grief draws attention to uncomfortable states of mind—vulnerable and sensitive times that we all end up having. Even if we want to erase them, usually it’s not possible. Most of us have been there. Many of us anticipate with fear. Some will never let you know their pain. Others command a lot of attention. There’s the obvious and expected, and that which is not really known. Grief has many faces, but only some sufferers get attention and validation. Grief for what has been lost. Not for what has never been known. It’s okay to miss what was. Not okay to long for what might never be. Grief can come suddenly. Or, it might always be there. All pervading. Some talk about it constantly. Others never get in a word. Their ache is silent and all pervasive. If there was nothing there before, why the emptiness? Have to have experienced it to understand...

This image appeared by itself: took over the canvas when all else seemed to fail. At first, I painted between the wood grains, as for the other pieces in the collection. Nothing looked or felt right. That’s the beauty of having an art as therapy background—allowing for artistic process to take over rather than being product oriented. I gave myself permission to mush up already labored patches of imagery and go with whatever they might turn into next. Slowly, surely, delicately, a face started to emerge. I recognized her. She was painful to look at initially. Later, a feeling of peace and calm set in. Points had been made, messages given—reality addressed.

Blue Ice
(24 x 48 in, oil on birch)

For Blue Ice, I’m thinking of winter—painting in early fall.  Don’t want winter. Don’t like it. Trying to find beauty in winter. Skating on thin ice, blue ice (not black). Mood changes, feelings are clear and strong—wrong. The closing of a year. Heavy care. The on-going desire for something better. A new chapter. The one that transforms landscapes and climate. Seeking warmth, an environment for growth. Pink tinges: happy little buds of hope. The frozen North. How did I get here (to Canada)? Why did I stay? Winter! Little mystery ahead. A time when folk are all bundled up, pretending they think this season is fun. Putting on brave face. Pondering change of place. Thin ice = blue mood. Short days ahead. Long nights of black. Important not to slip and slide, see the magnificence of nature, not dwell on (wo)man-made obstacles and upsets.

Attention to Detail
(24 x 48 in, oil on birch)

Twists and turns, unknown lands.... In Attention to Detail, I was ready to start another new journey, hopefully to more positive places. Attention to detail, as is my tendency, slowed the process down. I also decided to work on a series of seven smaller canvases, simultaneously (Oases of the Mind). Going back and forth between this larger work and the smaller ones seemed to dilute my engagement with it. Between interruptions, I wasn’t chancing on deeper messages, just admiring color combinations. Nothing wrong with that, but I’d still like, when viewing the finished piece at a later date, to find something more to it. On completion, my main reflection was that life is complicated with many paths to take. Some lead us in circles, others up hills, yet others to rest spots. What looks pretty might not be. What’s pleasing to the eye can be comforting to the heart. We all need to find a place to stop. I am still searching for mine...

Oases of the Mind
(7 x 9.75 x 9.75 in, oil on maple)

The pieces that make up Oases of the Mind don’t have to match or fit together, and that’s fine. I’ve given myself permission here! Sometimes you have to. Sometimes it’s important to quieten the mind, switch off the engine, find a place of comfort, get some respite. No destination is guaranteed to be ideal and it takes some time to discover the ones that are. These seven separate canvases are best viewed all together. Each helps make up the whole picture, literally and metaphorically.

Black and White—Not Quite
(24 x 24 in, oil on birch)

Black and White—Not Quite shows how nothing is all black or white. Gray is nice, but not usually fun or exciting. Contrast enables specifics to stand out. A few hints of color go a long way. A sprinkling of blue, yellow, green, or pink, strategically placed or not, gives cause for conversation. Even if shapes and juxtapositions aren’t obvious, answers may be found—and to questions not asked. Is this the last in the series, or will there be more to come? This piece has left me thinking... Do I want and/or will I be able to commit to paint (and share) what unveils next?