Wednesday Evening Open House for Individuals or Group Studio Visits


Support Activities Developed by:
Michael C. Irving, Ph.D., Sculptor/Coach and Counselor*


 Gather Common Art Materials
Focusing and Grounding
Just Let it Happen
Suspend Judgement
Respect the Emotions in the Art
Connecting with the Self
A Resource List for Art as Healing




Gather Common Art Materials

A wide variety of painting and drawing materials are available from paint to pastels, colored pencils, markers and crayons. Sculpting for healing can be explored with self-drying clays, plasticine or sculpting wax. Before beginning your healing art exercise, gather together all the art materials and supplies you will need. It is helpful to store your art materials in a few small containers that are easily accessible when emotional material surfaces.



Can I peel
away the pain
while working
on this piece?

And can I slice
through time like wax
and find a form
that echoes more
than ugliness?

Life could be sculpture...
we can re-invent our souls
our selves.







A child, full of pain and suffering
from crushing words and violent beatings
finds brief escape under a starlight sky.
For her, the night sky looks as though
God has asked everyone in heaven to
turn the lights on in their rooms
to let her know she is loved and not alone,
even though what happens to her at home
makes her feel very unloved and very alone.

Years later,
people and places have come into her life
bringing love and healing, just as the stars brought comfort
with the Love that had created both
the girl and the stars years ago.

To this day,
the night sky appears to her
like a giant blanket of stars placed over her
by the love of God.







I looked and looked and prayed to the Lord;
What I wanted was unreachable, all I needed was impossible.
Mother’s hands over my shoulders with blanket heavy of love, job, wisdom, that’s all I wanted.
When I looked up among thousands of sparkling stars, I saw one that gave me hope.
I looked and looked and prayed to the Lord, to give me what I wanted, all that I needed.
April 22, 1996 after many, many dark nights of prayer, I was lifted up;
I had mother’s hands over my shoulders, with a blanket heavy of love, care and wisdom.
I was flying among thousands of sparkling stars;
Tears and laughter were all my emotions;
Touching the stars were all my senses.
The Lord was no longer subdued,
His message was loud and clear.
I realized what I wanted was no longer unreachable,
All I needed was no longer impossible.
Among many, many stars, sitting on a magic horse and mother’s hands over my shoulders with a blanket full of love, care and wisdom was the Lord’s way of saying,









Opening the window
a weightlessness
over my child soul.

Shadows of burden
The wall has been broken.

I am a wild flower
in the rain.








My anger and tears
Part of my past
Getting on with life


Not in the past




Focusing and Grounding
An art as healing exercise starts by taking time to relax and ground. Being aware of your breath, feet on the floor and legs resting on the chair helps with becoming centred and connected with inner resources. If a person knows other relaxation, grounding or centering techniques, these are OK to use. While centering, the artist can be aware of body sensation and think about key messages that the body is using to help oneself or others to understand.

Much of the inspiration for healing art takes place when a person is responding to felt sensations, peripheral thoughts and intuition. The wisdom of the body can communicate in powerful felt expressions. The voice of the inner mind will show itself in symbols, impressions and urges.



Just Let it Happen
Art activities for healing should be spontaneous. You do not have to worry about the finished work. One survivor said, "You just draw ... and let it flow." There is no right or wrong way, everyone's healing art is individual. A sculpting workshop participant offered support to other survivors with, "You really do not need to be an artist to do it!

Let go of expectations of what will fill the space of a work of healing art. The survivor can begin the journey with a simple trust that what will need to be there will come out. Stephen wrote in his journal,

"My original idea has changed totally. My crumpled rose about to be reborn is no more. The broken heart represents the broken trust. The phoenix is my rebirth!"

Another survivor/artist assures,

"Don't worry about finding immediate meaning in the figures you choose. They will take on more meaning as you shape and change them."

Maria affirms,

"Just follow your instincts and insight and the art will unfold. It did for me. It is a rewarding experience."



Suspend Judgement
Art in progress, and in particular healing art, should not be judged. It is something that is fermenting and unfolding. The normal creative process is fraught with excitement and frustration, when one adds the issues of working with traumatic childhood material to the creative process, the sense of challenges can be even more dramatic.

The creative process is fluid and often takes on a life of its own. The artistic design may happen quickly or may take a long period of time. Either way is OK. Healing art, like therapy, seems to abruptly come together -- often just after a period that is "sheer chaos" and the survivor wonders if anything will ever happen. A quilt square sculptor shares lessons from her confrontation with the creative struggle,

"Although there may be times when you just want to quit -Don't! This experience will bring a lot of release and expression that you may not even be aware of. Don't fight it. Work with it! Let it flow."

Healing art is an organic process. An image may not be ready to generate felt sense responses until another form or colour is started. The artist keeps connected to the creative flow. The felt sense urge to create, pause, change impulses or return to earlier impulses needs to be followed. When impulses for new images, forms or colours are no longer occurring, the art work is done.



Respect the Emotions in the Art Process
Reflecting on her creative work one "Reaching Out" participant expressed,

"I experienced all the emotions as strongly as I did in therapy."

Sometimes people will cry in creating healing art. It is OK to cry and it is just as OK not to cry. If the survivor has dealt with concerns of abuse, emotions as a process in healing may be familiar and feel safe. It is always important to maintain a feeling of safety while expressing the release of painful feelings whether that is in therapy or while journal writing or making art. If the survivor has not explored abuse issues then they may want to become comfortable with emotions and processing trauma before delving into painful issues through artistic expression.

To manage the intensity that can occur while making art it can be valuable to look at what you have used in the past with strong feelings, such as: techniques for being in the present like looking around the room or reminding oneself of this moment's time, year and location. You might also use breathing and grounding, relaxation, visualization or supportive thoughts or messages to focus or reflect on, nurturing, self care or playful activities before or after the creative immersion.

Ashley said that after each Monument Project sculpting and writing workshop,

"I found that I was very quiet and withdrawn on the following day."

She suggests,

"Be cognizant of the feelings that could be aroused and how this will impact you on the next day or two and plan accordingly."

Emotional issues that come up in art making may be trying, but can also be rewarding. Sylvia found,

"Through creating my quilt square I gained a deeper understanding of myself and how my survivor experience affected me. I learned art is a deeply rewarding way for me to continue my journey."



Connecting with the Self
Many people find art returns one to the "self". One quilt square artist commented,

"In touching my own cast wax hand I felt empathy for my vulnerable self."

The sculpted hand assisted the survivor/artist in making a significant leap in self-compassion and understanding. She had responded to the original abuse with feelings of self blame and had never been able to sympathize with her adolescent-self as a victim. Another survivor/artist said,

"Seeing my wax hand made me feel more real, that I exist."

Leandra said of her quilt square,

"It felt supportive when I touched the art work. It was like a friend. I felt kind of alone when I was not touching it."

Having a similar experience another participant shared,

"When I finished it was hard to leave my square. It's become a part of me, of who I am. It's truly the tangible piece of a dream I had so long ago that I truly am beautiful and have much to offer no matter what my father said or did."

Any work of art can be an expression of the inner self and the soul,

"It was a great experience for me because it was "the icing on my cake. I took back my life with this final step that I was given. My handprint ­ all in one piece ­ shows that there is life after Horrific Abuse. I conquered!",

inevitably to create from the inner self is to conquer.

One "Reaching Out" participant stated

"Making our sculptures reaffirmed the power of every survivor in the forms of courage, creativity, compassion and friendship found in our quilt squares. It is a substance that the abuse did not quell."

Another survivor/artist stated,

"Making the art gave me a precious gift to cherish, it gave me... myself",

and for other survivors art making in its many forms offers a similar gift.

A Resource List for Art as Healing


"Follow Site Web Ring"

Artist's block!
Julie Atwood

























The hand of a child
who will not be abused.
We can have this
dream come true.









Child abuse affects
us all, if one hurts,
We all hurt.
Life together!!





There is no excuse
for child abuse!






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*All Rights Reserved
copyright (1991-2012)

*All Rights Reserved
copyright (1991-2012)