Imagine you are researching how the process of making art effects individuals in our society.
How do you do this?
You conduct a social experiment.
You set up an art table in a public space and invite everyone to sit down and make art for free.
After a while, you start noticing something.
While some folks sit down at the art table right away and begin eagerly creating, others struggle. Some sit down at the table, but can’t seem to pick up a paintbrush and begin. Some passersby turn their heads and hope you don’t engage with them and begin to take each step a bit faster than the other as they walk by the table. Some folks run away seemingly terrified at the site of the art supplies.
In your mind, art is this amazing tool for positive transformation, so why isn’t everyone diving right in? Well, imagine you have a superpower. That superpower allows you to reach into people’s minds and hear their thoughts and feelings while they encounter this free art making space. As you use this superpower you are surprised by the massive number of people experiencing psychological trauma in regards to their own creativity. They are carrying around art wounds.
What’s an art wound?
An art wound blocks you from creating freely and without judgment. It is locked in the chronic negative emotions of fear, self doubt, pain, and limitation.
Have you ever seen a group of toddlers making art? It’s amazing. It’s messy, unstructured, and playful. The toddler isn’t thinking, “I am not an artist” or “I am bad at art,” they are just creating. As some toddlers grow up this fancy free creativity stops as an art wound forms. Art wounds produce a lot of emotional pain. They can cripple creativity and sometimes even stop it.
How do art wounds form?
Here are just a few scenarios I have experienced or been told about:
- Your teacher ripping apart your artwork because it was “wrong.” This one happened to me, but it was a clay turtle.
- Being told in art class you cannot make art because you are bad at it. This one happened to one of my at-risk juvenile students.
- Your Mom or Dad barely glancing up when you proudly gift them a drawing of your family.
- Someone standing behind you correcting you as you make art.
- Your art professor telling you during a critique class that the eyes you drew look like roaches. This one also happened to me.
- Your friend laughing at the heart you drew, saying it looks like a butt. This one happened to a friend.
Research Professor and Author Brené Brown calls them creativity scars.
In her book, Daring Greatly, Brown writes
“One reason that I’m confident that shame exists in schools is simply because 85 percent of the men and women we interviewed for the shame research could recall a school incident from their childhood that was so shaming that it changed how they thought of themselves as learners. What makes this even more haunting is that approximately half of those recollections were what I refer to as creativity scars. The research participants could point to a specific incident where they were told or shown that they weren’t good writers, artists, musicians, dancers, or something creative.“
I have no doubt there are millions of art wound stories out there. You inner artist child hides behind your art wound screaming to be heard through the process of art making. At your inner child’s core it knows you are a creative genius. Everyone is!
How do you heal an art wound?
In order for our art wounds to be processed, transformed, and healed, we need to gently and carefully open up and share them with someone understanding and empathetic. We need to tell our art wound stories and then have the courage to take an art break without judgement.
5 Keys to Taking An Art Break To Heal Your Art Wound
I had an amazing experience at my Santa Monica, California Art Break Day Location this year witnessing a person healing their own art wound.
It was mid-day and my small table was having really deep conversations about life and art. An older couple walked into my Art Break Day space. They told us they were visiting from Pennsylvania. The woman looked really intrigued with what we were doing, but quickly said they were “just checking things out.”
The first step in healing an art wound is curiosity and courage.
I told them the history of Art Break Day and that at that moment several other sites were set up around the world. I exclaimed, “if you take an art break you will be making art with the world!” The woman was a bit hesitant, but still seemed interested.
The second step in healing an art wound is to Take an Art Break with a supportive group of people.
Everyone at the art table enthusiastically asked her to sit down and take an art break. She apprehensively joined the group and began to create. After a short time she said, “I have a story I’d like to share with you all.”
The third step to healing an art wound is to tell your art wound story.
While attending a Catholic middle school she excitedly signed up for an art class hoping she would learn how to draw. On the first day of class, the teacher asked everyone to draw a tree. She dove right in and drew with pure joy and enthusiasm. The next day her teacher said she could no longer be in art class because she could not draw. Her entire spirit was crushed. She decided to never create again. She carried this cruel and heartless experience as an art wound until that very day.
Art Break Day was the day she decided to pick up a paint brush and begin making art again. I can’t tell you how elated I am that I was able to witness this amazing woman start the steps towards healing her art wound. I’m so glad she decided to pick up that paintbrush.
The fourth step in healing an art wound is to ask others to share their art wound stories.
After this courageous woman shared her story others began to share theirs as well. We asked ourselves, “Why do some teachers destroy their student’s creative spark?”
The last step in healing an art wound is to let yourself feel what it feels like to shed your past trauma.
After about an hour, she got up and said thank you so much. She said,
“I feel that trauma from my past has been healed. I feel very emotional, but I feel very free. I think I am going to buy some art supplies and start creating at home.”
She was so thankful and ended up hugging everyone at the art table. That breakthrough experience was the highlight of my day.
I hope she did get those art supplies and make more art. And, perhaps she took the time to reflect and write about her breakthrough in a journal or tell her story to more people. I know that the more art you make the more your art wound will heal.
One art break won’t be enough.
Art wounds don’t heal quickly.
If you’re having a tough time with step one and can’t find that courage, I hear you! Sit on this lovely notion from Vincent Van Gogh,
“If you hear a voice within you saying, ‘You are not a painter,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
Whatever you do, don’t leave that art wound unhealed. It will just grow and get worse with time. Brené Brown touched on this notion during an interview on the Chase Jarvis LIVE Show (Podcast 92), saying
“There’s no such thing [as being uncreative] — there’s just people who use their creativity and people who don’t. And that doesn’t go without penalty — as it turns out, unused creativity is not benign, it’s dangerous. It metastasizes and turns into grief, judgement, rage — and poison.”
Where did your art wound start?
Has anything helped it heal?
Tell me your story.
Be Inspired Always,