On 01.02.02, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Too late for surgery, I had chemotherapy, which failed. In May the chemotherapy was changed and I was soon in remission which was celebrated and welcome and lasted nine years - until October 2011. There was progression in 2011 so more treatment was indicated and I am now back in partial remission. But I'm not only a cancer patient - I also enjoy my family, walk my dogs and am learning to draw and paint. Life is good!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Paint out sorrow

Whenever I learn a new method or technique I rush to adapt it for use in Juvenile Hall. I'm not a licensed art therapist but I do use a lot of art therapy in my work, especially in psychotherapy groups with kids and teens. The girls in Juvenile Hall are typically loaded with emotion that is poorly defined and inappropriately expressed. It seems as though every month at least one session is devoted to identifying feelings and learning how to talk about them.

Today we discussed emotions and the weather. Some people are profoundly affected by barometric changes. Rainy days calm me and I find the quiet thrumming of a steading downpour to be particularly comforting.

The task today was to paint a sky and combine it with words to depict an emotional state. I brought in one sample so they'd understand where we were going with this and then I did a little demonstration to show them how to get there. I showed them how to make a puddle of water and mix colors, how to make a simple wash, streaks of cirrus clouds (which don't show up well), use India ink pens for lettering, etc. Anyone who has seen the DVD, Beginning Watercolor Journaling that I keep mentioning, will recognize the influence.

The girls were deeply engrossed in their work. They added text and poetry (with profound expressions of despair) and were proud to add these little pages to their ongoing art journals. And they got a tiny introduction to watercolor in the process.

I hope they also got a sense that creativity can be an antidote to sadness, that showing feelings through art can be an alternative to acting out in inappropriate ways...... Well, we'll keep working on those concepts!


  1. I think this is brilliant, Barbara!

  2. Thank you, Betty. "Brilliant" might be a tad excessive, but I like it anyway!! - Barbara

  3. Anonymous11:38 PM

    Barbara, I am impressed how you make available your skills to others.

  4. I hope it works for them :) it certainly is inspired :)

  5. You never know just what will inspire someone to do the right thing when challenged so it's really good all the things you offer these kids. Truly, art helps to keep me going. I bet some of these girls didn't have much good art in their lives and the idea they can make some of their own is probably an eye opener for them.

    My daughter's family goes to a local sub shop every Saturday for lunch. My granddaughter once took a paper napkin and folded a peace crane which absolutely amazed one of the workers. She'd never seen origami! My daughter went home and bought her a book, gathered up some pretty paper and the next time they went this girl got an art lesson plus the supplies. She was thrilled saying she could share this with her little sisters at home. Art makes the world go round!

  6. What a wonderful entry, Barbara! You've touched lives and opened doors, I know...

  7. Thank you so much, all of you! The girls' group in Juvenile Hall is my favorite hour of the week, one I love to plan for. It's a toss-up what's useful -- the topic of discussion, the personal expression through art or the fact that someone comes in from the outside to spend time with them. When I get that sorted out I can put it in a bottle and sell my findings! - Barbara


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