Not One Leaf is Perfect

Polka-dot gum leaves?

I’ve never before noticed them. I haven’t been paying attention. 

leaves photo dots

Perfect Imperfection 1

I walk up the hill to the enchanted forest on my friend’s property. The knotted rope of my bodymind begins to untangle after a hectic time.

leaf art breathing

Perfect Imperfection 2

A personalised mantra for the day emerges: My main job is to relax.

I am momentarily freed from responsibilities of elder-care, both in my personal world and in my art therapy professional world.

leaf nature's art

Perfect Imperfection 3

I relearn how to breathe.

That is, I remind myself, it is safe to slow down and sigh. The world will not collapse because I’ve given myself permission to fully inhale and exhale. Geez. I must have been stressed.

I walk up the hill. One bright yellow leaf stands out from the dark soil. It’s spotted. Kind of splotched, like a painting. Polka-dot gum leaves? I’ve never before noticed them. Could the dots be caused by disease? Are they a natural part of the ageing process? I am so ignorant about biology – about most ologies, really.

heart leaf art

Perfect Imperfection 4
this one is even heart-shaped. divine.

The spots are unevenly, imperfectly placed. I find this beautiful. Don’t wise people talk about the perfection of imperfection? Well, here it is.

More polka-dot leaves appear.

I gather them.

I have a creative impulse. I will arrange these leaves somehow. Squiggly patterned and bi-coloured leaves join the flock.

art leaf shape

Perfect Imperfection 5

Not one of the leaves is perfect.

They are scarred, torn, lop-sided. They are breaking down, beginning their ground-based decomposition after living the high life.

I place them. I experiment. Leaf by leaf, dot by dot, they come together in new formations.

art rock leaf pattern

Perfect Imperfection 6

I celebrate each leaf,

severally and collectively.

Even old leaves can form new patterns. Even dying leaves, separated from their prime source of vitality and community, can express life.

art leaf Swain photo

Perfect Imperfection 7

This is the nature of nature, of living-and-dying cycles, of art therapy in residential aged care.

leaf art rock nature Swain

Perfect Imperfection 8

Is it any wonder the book I am working on is called ‘Leaf by Leaf’?

Tell me your stories

about the perfection of imperfection.

with love, art and soul from Sally

A Trace

What is left behind?

flower paint aged care

A Trace
Red Flower of Life
Sally Swain’s Paper Towel Art

Hey folks, be warned:

This post has a high *NVUF rating.

I’ve invented something. It’s called the Art Therapy in Residential Aged Care Evaluation, or ATRACE. Pronounced ‘a trace’. I am doing the complex, detailed, organised, dynamic, reflective work of implementing this investigative tool.

I hope one day that other art therapists will be able to make use of it, in the service of ever strengthening the work we do.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, I play with painted traces in a small experiential way. I guess you could think of this process as art-based inquiry.

paint monoprint aged care

A Trace
a bit Rorschach
Sally Swain Paper Towel Art

You might have come across

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What keeps me awake

I promised the Big Art Heart Reveal last week.

I promised to explain the abundance of hearts leaping out of my paintbrush.

watercolour heart art

Unusually Zen Heart
watercolour
and white pen

My Dad taught me to always keep a promise, so here’s the story behind the hearts…

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Which Way Round?

Make art, even if it’s upside down

This way?

Which Way Round?
One

I am loving felt pens plus water. I’m not sure why it’s taken me fifty-something years to discover the joys of such simple ingredients, but it has.

Or this way?

art felt pen round

Which Way Round?
Two

Felt marker pens, particularly at school, were something you didn’t want to get water on. You drew or wrote with them because of their precision. You admired their clean lines. You were in control. You didn’t want to lose all that nice neatness to a soggy mush-ball.

Water brings with it an unknowing.

It brings an unpredictability and a, sometimes scary, lack of control. What joy!

This way?

Sally Swain art therapy aged

Which Way Round?
Three

Felt-pen-plus-water art-making is just the ticket for debriefing from an art therapy session in residential aged care. After

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For Humble Magic, Just Add Water

A tale of art therapy in residential aged care

Swain felt marker art

Just Add Water 1
A Humble Magic
felt marker on paper towel
Sally Swain © original art

I am delighted.

I’ve just run an art therapy group in a psychogeriatric unit.

I’ve had an unusual level of support, with two whole entire art therapist helpers.

It feels like a dance. We three weave in and out of being with different aged care residents at different times, each with our own energy, skill and strength. It is an elegant Jane Austen era dance; maybe a minuet or a quadrille.

One art therapist sits

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Where does a bunch of Art Therapists

working in aged care

go for a collective artist date?

Hidden exhibition

Hidden exhibition
Drops, (for Eva Hesse)
Rox de Luca

Why. To a cemetery, of course.

Hidden exhibition
The Storyteller (detail)
Teffany Thiedeman

Not just any cemetery.

Hidden Rookwood Cemetery Sculpture Walk

commemorates 150 years of ‘the Sleeping City’.

Hidden exhibition

Hidden exhibition
Mandir: Shrine
Lee FullARTon

‘HIDDEN is an outdoor sculpture exhibition that takes place amongst the gardens and graves in one of the oldest sections of the Cemetery. The exhibition invites artists to ponder the notion of history, culture, remembrance and love and allows audiences to witness creative expression hidden throughout Australia’s largest and most historic cemetery’,

Hidden art exhibition

Hidden exhibition
Meditation Forest
Peter Hardy

says the website.

Was it morbid? This art expedition to a place where members of my very own family are buried? Was it creepy? Melancholic? No. None of the above. It was actually lovely to go to Rookwood NOT for a funeral.

(The exhibition is viewable til 24th September.)

EAT.

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You do not have to be good

I’m not one for quoting poetry. I’d kind of like to be, but I’m not.

Using up the paint on the brush
Sally Swain play-in-progress

My Dad was, but I’m not.

Some people have a perfect, poignant poetic morsel for every occasion, but

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What bird are you?

We have reached

Solstice,

which leads directly to

Christmas and Chanukah,

which lead directly to

New Year.

What bird are you in this possibly frightening or despairing time in world politics?

What bird are you in this possibly delightful or joyful season of festivity?

Swain bird-woman art victim

I am not a victim
Sally Swain © original art
You saw it here first! I tucked the painting away out of view in case of appearing too grumpy. It’s time for this particular bird-woman to show herself.

I had the privilege of

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Flying by the Light of the Moon

Art Therapy and Attunement

The phrase ‘Fly by Night Work’ appeared to me in a dream.

It spoke of intuitive aspects of the art therapist’s journey with clients, in particular, clients living with deep dementia.

bird moon art Sally Swain

Night Flying Work
Sally Swain © original art
excerpt

The client might no longer be

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Lateral Grieving for

the Queen of Blobbage (pronounced in the French way).

Lateral Grieving.

lateral grieving watercolour art

Lateral Grieving
for the Queen of Blobbage
Sally Swain © original art

Who’s heard of it?

Not you. Not me before now, because

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