Deciding to live again: Art and Self Connection

Art has been a touchstone for me throughout my life. However, when I’m busy, sad, overwhelmed or depressed, I often forget to do art.

When I’m depressed, it’s extremely important for me to remember to create something – it distracts me, it soothes me, it helps me express myself and work through things.

I did expressive arts therapy sessions for a year (2013-2014), and those sessions always felt like tasty treats where I had the freedom to move, play, and create.  Those sessions were a saving grace in the winter and spring of 2014 where I often felt like depression and despair were slowly suffocating me. Later, while in the hospital, most days included a session of art-making.  Sometimes there would be a theme but mostly we had the freedom use the plethora of materials in the classroom.  It felt so good to have the space to create art just for myself.
I made this in one of the art sessions while I was in the psychiatric hospital in Spring 2014.

I made this in one of the art sessions while I was in the psychiatric hospital in Spring 2014.

I had flurry of inspiration and creativity the week I visited my dad in mid-June, but when I returned to stay in late June, everything caught up with me:  sadness, exhaustion, the many hours I had spent trying to maintain energy I really didn’t have.   I didn’t start making things again until after I took a wire wrapping class in the fall.  At that point, I spent hours playing with and strengthening my fledgling wire wrapping abilities, which up to that point had been mostly intuitive.  I returned to painting in the late fall, and got interested in a type of printmaking – monoprinting  with a Gelli printing plate, which is similar to printing with a gelatin plate, only this plate is made to last.

“Starstruck” – a print I made using a Gelli Printing Plate.

I remember a day this past winter where I was anxious and spent the day making a chain out of wire, piece by piece.  The process soothed me.  I remember days where I would make prints for at least an hour, excited to see what each would become, and this lifted my spirits.  Making mixed media collages gave me purpose on days where I felt discouraged and lost.  Working with gemstones and creating meaningful jewelry added to my growing sense of hope.  I remembered how much joy art brought me as a child, and brought that energy and enthusiasm into my creative time.

A custom piece I made for a friend

A custom piece I made for a friend

I now have an Etsy shop and am building up my art business.  My financial rewards have been small so far.  At the end of the day, I know that no matter how much money I make or whatever else I do, I am an artist.  When I lose track of that, it’s easier to lose sight of myself and what I need. Doing art helps me bring myself back into focus.  In the past year, art has been an essential part of my healing, self-expression, and creating a life I want to live.  My emotional, mental, and spiritual rewards from my artistic practice have been well-worth the journey.

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