Monday, April 28, 2014

Inifinity in My Lap: Healing Art

So, I spent the greater part of Thursday in a relatively small room filled with big moments. I had more fun that day than I'd had in I don't know how long. As a child, like most children, I loved to draw, color, paint, cut, paste, whatever. But in high school, we had to choose between chorus and art classes, and I always sang. And visual art, beyond photography, just didn't have much of a chance in my schedule. Then in college, I took one drawing class and fell in love with "making art," as the artists say. (For some reason, I never heard that expression until the past few years, and it still sounds a little odd to me. I tend to think of "doing art," for whatever reason....and look what I just found, piqued by curiosity about that phrasing.)

Our teacher was amazing. She has a real gift for what she does and for teaching it to others. Her warm, compassionate enthusiasm was contagious.

Of course she was teaching/lecturing part of the time, but she also gave us projects to do. And it was so neat, how people got so engrossed in what we were doing. The room just felt different when everyone was focused on their own little creation, music was playing quietly, and no one was talking.

These oil pastels were our friends for the day. I felt like I was back in elementary school. I still remember how exciting it was the first time I had a box of 64 crayons!

We partnered with the person sitting next to us and played "scribble chase." One person leads with a scribble/doodle, and the other follows. A great ice breaker.

I led on this one. My only thought was to do more than go round and round, so I did some other things. It kind of wound up looking like a face, didn't it?

My partner, who became my friend in the course of the day, led on this one. It was more relaxing, just going round and round. And I like how our pinks look together.

The next thing we did was the "inside and outside the square" piece that I described in the previous post.

And for the next one we were instructed to just doodle until she said "stop." It wasn't very long at all. My original doodle was just the curve you see below that forms the main part of the bass clef sign.

Then we were to think of three things we could make from the doodle, and not begin doing anything with it until we had three ideas. (Generating ideas, envisioning possibilities....important stuff in therapy.....)

Once we had three ideas, we were to choose one of our ideas and continue making something from our doodle.

Well, I liked two of my ideas so much that I did both of them, and the next thing I knew, I had the beginning notes of the main theme of Beehoven's Ninth and an angel together on the page, with joy in various languages, and beams of light coming from the heart of the angelic figure.

At some point I thought how strange it was, with the things going on in my life lately, that I would be creating art so full of light and joy and music. Was I in denial? I wondered. But I just kept adding beams of light and then the bass clef-y doodles to frame the piece, and I knew I was not in denial. There are hard things going on, some very hard things, but the light and joy overcome the darkness.

So then I added the "o magnum mysterium" to the mix, because it is rather mysterious how light and dark, joy and sorrow, can be so mixed in one mind and heart. And because I know that for me it is the great mystery of the Incarnation, and all that follows from it, that makes it possible.

When Lisa came around to see what we were doing and talk briefly with us about our work, she asked me, "So how far do the rays of light extend beyond the page?" I looked up at her and after a moment's pause said, "Infinitely. Because even though it looks like an angel, this is the heart of God, and the light is infinite."

And that is why I want to do more art in my therapy. Because I didn't even have that in mind when I was drawing these images. Not consciously. I was just going with the doodle and seeing what I could do. I drew hearts because I am not good at drawing faces, and  it seemed like a good way to not have to draw a face but still represent an angelic figure.

But somehow, making things with our hands has a way of going deep into our minds and heart and pulling things out.

And sometimes when doing that, infinity kind of. . . drops into one's lap.


Tom said...

I must confess to being mesmerised and confused by all this, whilst at the same time being once-removed-weighed-down by an implied commitment to the activity you describe. The psychological implications could be interesting.

For a number of reasons, and not discounting the experience of WW2 in my childhood, such fun(?) was not part of my experience. A commitment to a particular course of study in my teen years - at the exclusion of other subjects - is certainly something I remember. Music (which entailed a great deal of singing) was a large part of that. I suppose it was then that the divine took on a new kind of immediacy. And music has always retained that ability to affect me.

Sheila said...

And my next post is planned to be on . . . music's ability to connect us with infinity. Thanks for providing the transition. :-)

As for the effects of war on childhood, I can certainly imagine how that might make a difference, and I realize that when I wrote what I wrote, without thinking about it, I was assuming a war-free childhood. I know that the three years I spend living through the Balkan war, and even the period years later when I dealt with PTSD from it, were not times of much creativity or freedom. Music, however, did have a role in getting me through those times....

Stephanie said...

I love this, Sheila. It spoke to my heart. I've had a longing lately to "make Art," as you called it, but don't really know where to start. I, too, remember the joy of colors, of cutting and pasting. But I have no formal training, or, to be honest, natural ability to draw or paint.

Sheila said...

Stephanie, are you familiar with Julia Cameron's work? Her book "The Artist's Way" is a great place to start if you yearn for art and feel you don't know where to begin.

Sheila said...

Ooh, I just noticed something was odd about the "music" I wrote. The realized it has no time signature. Kind of cool in a post on infinity.

Brenna said...

Beautiful post, Sheila. Thank you for sharing.

Sheila said...

Thanks, Brenna! Wish you could have been there with me.

lissla lissar said...

That was beautiful. Infinity does drop into one's lap.

I just saw your comment on my blog, and I wanted to say thank you, and that I've replied, and that I'll be praying for you.