How do you convert pain to gain?

How do you transform rottenness to hope?
Dispirited dillusionment to forward-looking possibility?

Why, through relational art-making.

Golden Fish Friends Find Healing and Repair
Sally Swain art

I admit. Relational art-making, or art-making all on your ownsome, is no panacea. It’s not for everyone, or for all the time. And it doesn’t always succeed in its mission of enhancing wellbeing.

But it’s a damn good tool and resource, literally at our fingertips,

that can help

with easing difficulty

and re-orienting us to a sense of OKness.

I get together with an art therapist friend/colleague to talk about possible collaborations.
But first, we need to debrief difficulties. We’ve both been in situations where we felt disrespected and we’ve both been ill as a result.

I tear up – no, not cry – though I’ve done my weepy share of that. I tear up pieces of paper. I rip a pre-painted greenish collage magazine page, a pinky-mauve sponged page and some vivid green tissue.

deliciously satisfying torn paper edges

I tear ’em up, slap ’em down. It’s a gentle kind of slap. I am aware of the torn, fragmented, broken edges butting up against each other.

Words that appear?

Upside down, ‘whole world of hand’…. Right way up…’made at your feet’.

A somewhat sad knitted teddy-bear type character peeps out of the picture.

somewhat sad teddy-bear-type character

Green. Yes I’d like green. I want to generate hope amidst the vulnerability.

My friend shares her home-made ultramarine pigment. I can’t resist. It’s gorgeous.

luscious home-made ultramarine paint

Our debrief blah blurt

about the hurt

gradually gives way to excitement about possible projects and forward directions.

My friend gives me

a gift of gold watercolour.

Gold watercolour! Who knew?

We talk of Kintsugi – the Japanese art of golden repair. Healing what’s broken in a way that draws attention to the scarring and wounding. It even honours and celebrates the scarring and wounding.

And thus, my picture acquires gold smears, tracery and lacery.

I pause. I see a fish. I draw forth the fish.

It’s kind of smiling.

the unexpected presence of fish
Sally Swain art-in-progress

More fish appear. Can you see seven? They swim in the same direction. The smallest fish leads. They have the ability, the potential, to change direction if they wish; to glide, slide, flicker, flit around and behind the rocks, coral and seaweed.

Each is unique, yet they are together.

They don’t have to do it all on their own.

Art, heart, healing.

And, I am curious, dear reader. Please let me know if you have even a random, silly thought about the text:

Upside down, ‘whole world of hand’…. Right way up…’made at your feet’.

I wonder what the hands and feet messages might mean now, given that the fish appear to have neither, yet are swimming happily enough. 

Thank you in advance for any ideas or responses.

Golden Fish Friends Find Healing and Repair
Sally Swain art

with love, art and soul
from Sally


7 thoughts on “How do you convert pain to gain?

  1. My thoughts; it’s a topsy turvy world and sometimes we are all at sea. But if we go with the flow we will end up where we are supposed to be. A support team also helps keep us from going under. How’s that? I love the gold watercolour.

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  2. My art image with a fish came from a healing journey lead by a shaman. In my journey I was floating above a cold mountain stream when a fish spoke to me out of the water. The fish said “You won’t find your answers on the surface. You have to go down deep below the water to know.” The collective unconscious is amazing. The knowledge we we seek right within us.

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