Monday Morning Art Circle


In March I'll begin a new job at Wellness Within, an amazing organization that provides support to cancer patients, survivors, their families and caregivers, all at no cost. They offer programs in expressive arts,  yoga, meditation and mindfulness. I feel very lucky to be a part of the program.

As I worked on designing a class, I came up with the idea of an art circle. I think of it like a living mandala; a gathering of people exploring the healing powers of art making. Creating art in a community setting is a gentle way of bringing all of us, facilitator (me) and group members alike, back to our essential, inner selves.

We'll be using a variety of media; collage, visual journaling, creation of personal mandalas and a wonderful directive that was created by art therapist, Gretchen Miller; Creative Covenants. Don't let this list scare you though.You do NOT need any prior art experience. The only requirement for our time together is the ability to wield a glue stick and use a pair of scissors.

If any of you reading this knows anyone with a cancer diagnosis, cancer survivors or their families and caregivers in the Sacramento area, who might benefit from this group, please have them contact Wellness Within. If you’d like to learn more about this workshop, you can email me at I’d love to have you join us!

The Monday Morning Art Circle

Date/Time Date(s) - 03/07/2016 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

In Praise of Journaling

Monoprints based on recent journal ideas. Not long ago, I rediscovered my journal. I can't say that I ever really left it, but I was definitely peripatetic. What a great word! Peripatetic means traveling from place to place, especially working in various places for relatively short periods of time. Well, I travel all right, but for a number of years, my journal stayed home.

In a recent art class, the teacher emphasized the value of writing in order to process ideas about artwork. "I know, I know," I thought to myself. I say the same thing to the art therapy groups I facilitate; "journaling is an excellent way to process grief."

Upon hearing this truth again, I felt resistance. "I process what I'm working on in the studio as I walk back and forth along the corridors of the hospital. It's a great place to sort out ideas," I thought.

The thing is, whenever I feel resistance, I know there might be something good and juicy hiding behind my resistance.

I began journaling at age 16 in a poetry class, and I took to it as a tool of comfort during the storms of late adolescence--then the trials of graduate school--then the late nights of early motherhood. Later, as the kids got older, the kind of non-stop thinking it took to keep them on track and still do my artwork didn't leave a lot of time for writing.

Do you remember Dr Seuss' "Oh the Places You'll Go?" Here's my moleskine mini, ready for travel.

But the yearning to journal never left. I needed to find my way past, through, around my resistance. Recently, on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, I saw my opportunity.

In her excellent blog, Rabbi Yael Levi says of Shavuot: "The journey began with Passover and the acknowledgment of our narrow places—the habits of mind, body and spirit that kept us bound and unable to move forward into our lives.  Passover implored us to imagine a leap into the unknown, to find the willingness to leave behind what had enslaved us.

This journey continued into the Counting of the Omer. For 49 days we counted each day calling forth the healing and discovery that comes through awareness...How do we live from the experiences of this time?

As Shavuot ends... we are urged to take on practices that will keep the fire burning. So we listen and wonder: What is a commitment to practice I can make?"

Journal in situ

I leapt and decided to write in my journal each day. And I noticed when I did that, things began to fall into place in unexpected ways. For me, thinking by itself cannot produce the multiplicity of solutions needed when I try to solve a problem of imagination, creativity or technique. It is the physical act of writing that enables my brain to connect from one thought to another and from there, to a whole cluster of ideas.

I haven't kept my resolution perfectly--but I've kept it enough. Enough that I now recognize my worn black Moleskine as a friend and confidant. Enough that I now invite my worn, black Moleskine over a cup of tea and a talk.

Taking My Own Words to Heart

I grew up and found my purpose and it was to be a physician. My intent wasn't to save the world as much as to heal myself. Few doctors will admit this...but subconsciously, in entering the profession, we must believe that ministering others will heal our woundedness. And it can. But it can also deepen the wounds.

Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

There are times when life becomes a heavy load--patients, tasks, family issues.  I was trying to keep myself glued together as various parts threatened to swirl off, so many fall leaves sucked into the wind and I was stuck in the studio. Odd, because lately the studio was the only place where I wanted to be-- and suddenly, I wasn't comfortable there.

I was going through the motions of art making, pushing pieces of paper together for my collages, fitting them like so many pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, but where was my intention, the focus that brings everything together?

What to do?

How to open my heart? As I sat thinking, I remembered 6 Degrees of Creativity 2. Several people had written about major life transitions they were experiencing. They said that it was difficult to find time and energy to engage in the prompts I'd written for Creating a Mindful Studio Practice.

I urged them to take the prompts slowly; to divide one directive into smaller, more manageable steps. Their responses were heartwarming; I was honored that they were able to take something from what I'd written and apply it to their lives.

Once you’ve chosen a theme/object, write down everything that comes to mind about it, every perspective that you can come up with. DON’T EDIT--USE A STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS APPROACH.

Now, take the same object or theme do it again, only this time, write down only the things that interest you about this object.

Look carefully at the two lists and ask yourself what appeals to you about the second list. What you’re going to come up with is your artist thumbprint--your slant on the world. Be mindful AND RESPECTFUL of this-- it will stand you in good stead...

I took up my pen, groaning inwardly, "you mean I have to hand write this??" The odd thing was, as soon as I had my pen in hand and started to write, the grip on my heart began to ease. I took my subject: "Repair" and began to break it down.

By the time I had two lists in front of me, I was feeling whole again. It's funny. Many artists find that sketching their ideas allows them to create an outline, a plan, a clear intent. They create an approximation of what they want to do--paint  a landscape, a portrait, represent an abstract idea. I've always written mine.

Caught up in the difficulty of the cases I was working with at the hospital, I had forgotten how important this step was.

My journal waits for me now on the work table, right up front with the watercolors and I sense where these pieces on "repair" may take me- but more importantly, I've rediscovered the means of writing myself back together again...