Art Therapy: Connecting Art and Nature

Image of Raven Wilkins

Raven Wilkins, Guest Blogger

This blog is written by art therapist and guest blogger Raven Wilkins.

As a child, I never went anywhere without art supplies. I brought an art kit that contained markers, pencil crayons and watercolors around with me everywhere I went, spending hours using the materials I had with me to create drawings and paintings. I was an incredibly shy kid, except for when it came to showing off my creations. As quiet and introverted as I may have been, I was always confident in my artistic skills. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized the important role that art had played in my childhood and what it meant to me.

Image of Raven Wilkins Artwork

Raven Wilkins Artwork

At the age of 23 I returned to school and began my journey towards becoming an art therapist. It was here that I learned that for me, art during my childhood had been my version of a security blanket, it made me feel comfortable, safe and confident. It was my way of communicating with people; if I was too shy to start a conversation with someone I didn’t know very well, I would draw them a picture, or show them something I had created, letting the art speak for me where words could not. Some kids carried around teddy bears, I had my art supplies.

At the end of the program we were asked to photograph each piece of artwork, and create a presentation that discussed themes and symbols that were reoccurring in the art we had made over the course of sixteen months. Going through each piece I found that trees were a constant theme in my artwork. I used them to represent my family, painting a picture of a blue spruce tree that my grandfather had picked out and planted for me when I was born. A pencil drawing of a tree in the middle of a large field where I grew up, a tree I would sit under with my dog and work on drawing assignments for my high school art classes; to me this symbolized a safe space. The same tree was drawn a few more times, as well as the forest behind my house. These drawings of nature were meant to depict my happy place. All these years later trees became the symbol for comfort, safety and security, the same way that art once had.

Image of Raven Wilkins Artwork

Raven Wilkins Artwork

These days, I like to tell people that I work with that art therapy is not about creating “pretty artwork”, it’s about the process, the thoughts feelings and intentions that go into creating the artwork, but if you end up with something pretty that’s just an added-bonus! Art created during art therapy is personal; it can tell a story of the person who created it using symbols and pictures. Often-times where words fail, art speaks to us. Nature is often used as a metaphor to depict these symbols; a pathway to represent a journey, a stormy day to represent unpleasantness or trouble, a flower to represent growth, a butterfly to represent change. Like art, one’s experience of nature can be deeply personal, and is unique to that individual. We’re lucky to live in a place like Canada, someone once said to me, because “In a place as pretty as this, a person could never run out of pictures to paint.”

 

 

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