How to be solid and airy

at the same time.

It’s a good elemental combo, don’t you think? Groundedness and lightness; earth and sky?

earth angel watercolour art therapy

Grounded yet expansive
Sally Swain © art

Dramatherapist Joanna Jaaniste and art therapist Suzanne Perry offer an experiential presentation to our SaAT (Sydney area Arts Therapists) professional peer group.

Ooo – I do love a bit of experiential work and play. Getting wholistically involved in interactive, participatory learning really suits me. As opposed to say, having bucketloads of facts hurled at me while I sit stiffly, bottom-jammed and angular, attempting to ingest it all.

I prefer to be

a living part of the feedback loop,

with an opportunity

to breathe both in AND out.

I prefer to be actively making meaning;

not treated as a passive receptacle of knowledge.

Talking of learning styles and preferences, I’m aware that some art therapists are hesitant to step into body movement or anything resembling the D (drama) word; while some dramatherapists are scared of the A (art) word; busily believing they can’t draw. I get it.

If I were placed

on a volleyball or netball court and told to join in because it’s good for me, I’d cower in the corner, hoping for an Invisibility Cloak. Sports. Eek. Comfort zone? Non-existent.

Whereas, I have enough years of passion for Playback Theatre, Psychodrama and art-making behind me that I know I relish multiple modalities of creative expression facilitated by skillful therapists.

bird art Swain

A Random Sally Heartbird

Joanna and Suzanne invite us to adopt a body posture for our sense of Self-care. Our partner mirrors us in the pose. We might adjust their mirrored sculpture of us, then resume or tweak our own pose.

This simple, elegant process in itself is powerful.

I begin with a curved over, self-hugging shape, then realise it’s my preconceived idea of self-care.

In this moment, my bodily impulse is to spread my arms wide. I breathe expansively. It is the most breathing I’ve done for some time.

We then have the opportunity to make art in response to our experience.

I spontaneously incorporate my partner’s seated groundedness with my own arms-out breadth of being.

art therapy self-care

Groundedness + wings (initial version)

Someone feeds back that my little painting looks like an angel.

Ha! Here’s me, thinking I don’t believe in angels in all their fluffiness. Here’s me, frequently painting women with wings. Here’s me, the artist who so wants to distance herself from the fluffiness of angels, that I created a ‘This is Not an Angel’ series of birdwomen.

watercolour woman wings

Wing-ear woman
Sally Swain © original art
little watercolour painting from art journal, created while listening on the phone

Once again, continually and always,

I am amazed at what emerges from immersion in creative process.

It takes you places. It reveals. It surprises.

I realise that my art and notes from the earlier part of Suzanne and Joanna’s talking part of the presentation includes literal angel references. These must have unconsciously played into my full-bodied art.

Angels dare to fly
Sally Swain © art notes

I surrender. There’s some kind of angel thing going on in my subconscious. Whatever it is that has occurred, angels or not, I have enjoyed the evening. I feel freer, more all-of-a-piece.

I’ve gleaned

insight, positivity, hope and integration.

Three cheers for the joyful benefits of even a short, sweet, simple snippet of wisely guided creative expression within a safe, held therapeutic environment. 

earth angel watercolour art therapy

Groundedness + wings (completed later on)
Sally Swain © art

with love, art and soul 
from Sally


PS One more thing.

Just so as to not ruffle any other Not-Angel’s feathers, I declare that a SaAT meeting is not an art therapy session. It sure might be experienced as healing, but it does not set out with the Intentions, Goals, Attunement and Building of Therapeutic Alliance that a therapy session contains.

The focus is on professional learning, connection and support. 


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