Hello Expressive Arts Therapy Enthusiasts,
This year I was drawn to an artist who is teaching a form of art or she calls "Brave Intuitive Painting". Her name is Flora Bowley. I was drawn to this process at first because of the name, 'brave intuitive painting'. I know it takes a certain amount of bravery to approach a blank canvas, and to release your creative spirit. So, I wanted to see what this ‘brave intuitive painting’ was all about. So, I joined this online painting e-course by Flora Bowley. She calls her painting trainings Bloom True and affectionately calls her tribe of painters, “Bloomers”. So I bravely jumped in and became a Bloomer.
Expressive Arts Therapy, does not focus on the art PRODUCT (the visual quality of the painting, drawing or mask etc.), but rather focuses more on the healing PROCESS of the or art-making experience. In expressive arts we aim to use the art process to get to deeper internal experiences, feelings, memories which may be within our conscious awareness, or still lurking in the unconscious realms of our psyche. Also, in Expressive Arts we are not concerned with a ‘formula’ to making art. There IS NO FORMULA. You do not have to be an ‘ARTIST’ or trained in any method or technique of art making. What we want to do in Expressive Arts is to EXPRESS, to use the creative process to express our inner experience.
Another aspect of Expressive Arts Therapy is to open up to self -rust. This is a tricky thing in art. We are all guilty of self-criticism. We all have experienced that inner voice we call the INNER-CRITIC. That nagging voice in our head telling us that we are not artists, we are not creative, we can not paint, draw, dance, express. This is a crippling voice. But through the development of self-trust comes self-acceptance, and through self-acceptance we are freed. Our energy is free to flow with creative inspiration. With creative flow also comes a joy and passion for life. As we are immersed in the creative process, we allow that critical mind, that inner critic to relax allowing for solutions to problems and issues in our lives to come to the surface.
Open to the mystery. To be open up to the mystery also requires that we have self-trust. We must be open to allow whatever is within us to come up from the depth of our inner soul. This requires much bravery. When we attempt to freely express our internal experience through our art, through color, form and image. We strive to be surprised by the mystery of what is within us that yearns for expression and acknowledgement. Those internal expressions that wish to be heart and understood and supported. Most of my creative experiences are a discovery to me. I am constantly discovering myself through my art. This is what is means to be open to the mystery. We seem to develop an observing “I”. Our egos become the observer of this process that is being prompted by a much deeper and wiser part of our being. And when we come to completion of a creative endeavor, we are in awe of the messages that emerge from taking part in this process.
Developing a visual vocabularyis a new awareness for me. A visual vocabulary is a book of images that have meaning to you. Things you may see in your daily life that brings you joy, or expresses emotions, bring up reminders. For this you need an unlined art journal. You simply add simple drawings to this journal when inspired. This will give you a vocabulary when you are in the midst of a creative project. I love doing this. As children we speak in images before we can speak in words. Therefore many of our early experiences cannot be spoken in words and image is the only language we have for those experiences.
OH, did I mention movement? Well, in Expressive Arts Therapy, movement is also an important element. We move our bodies to move the energy. Our memories become trapped in our bodies and our bodies become the memory-bank for our emotions as well. When we move our bodies, we move the energy and the memories. We move those things that become trapped in our bodies so we do not have to deal with them. Through the act of moving or bodies, we move the blockages. We free up our body/mind and ultimately our spirit to be free and to experience more joy. In an expressive arts experience we will put on music and dance and move our bodies. We can move out fear, sadness, anger, paint and trauma and make room in our bodies for love, joy, and passion for life.
So, let me get back to my discoveries as a new ‘Bloomer’. I was pleasantly surprised as I embarked on this journey of brave intuitive painting that many of the concepts that Flora Bowley was using in her teaching technique were so in line with Expressive Arts Therapy. In her workshops she teaches about movement and music to increase the creative flow. Flora encourages her Bloomers to move to music, dance and do yoga. All this increases the life force energy that flows through us. Through the movement process we are better able to bravely and freely face the blank canvas or paper.
Another concept that Flora teaches is, “There is NO FORMULA”. No have-to’s to follow, no rules to paint by. You simply allow color to flow through you. This is brave indeed. Color flows intuitively from your pallet, through your arm, then your body onto the canvas. One layer of paint after another applied to a canvas. One mark after another is applies without any need to control the images or colors or shapes. This of course is a PROCESS. It is something you have to experience to really understand. As you intuitively layer colors and forms to your surface, you begin to have all these internal experiences arise. Yes, that inner critic appears, and yes your fears emerge, but your allow them to flow as well. The flow into your painting and become released through color, marks and splashes. Through this process, one develops a sense of freedom and self-trust. You begin to see your creativity starts to flow, your passion for life returns to you and you begin to envision new positive possibilities for your life.
As an Expressive Arts Therapist and a teacher I was very glad that I had discovered Flora Bowley’s Brave Intuitive Painting and that I became a Bloomer. I will incorporate this process in my own teachings of Expressive Arts Therapy because I believe that it is a process that encourages self-trust, self-acceptance and stepping out in a new bold way into your life experiences.
If you would like more information about this process, you can find Flora and her Bloom True Tribe at:
All Artwork by Yvette Lyons, Ph.D.