Isabel Kohuth, a BuildaBridge Restorative Teaching Artist and Temple University Art Therapy student, has been a teaching with BuildaBridge for nearly two years. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Isabel has been providing a deep, engaging and meaningful workshop in Art Journaling. This post is some of Isabel's observations from the August series of Art Journaling.
During the third set of four sessions of Art Journaling with Isabel, participants and I explored various visual art techniques paired with discovery of our emotions and thoughts during this time. These included blind drawing, affirmations, drawing from life, and working with balance in art. Each of these had an overarching theme of abstract versus realism in addition to color meanings/feelings, and exploration and expression of what’s happening in the world and society. Each participant always had the option to choose whether they would like to work realistically or abstractly to best illustrate their own thoughts and emotions surrounding the prompts and activities. They also always had a choice in colors, usually choosing colors that represented their thoughts, emotions, and/or headspace that day to complete the prompt.
For the third round of Art Journaling I wanted participants to learn to utilize art to build a stronger relationship with themselves in addition to the community around them. We focused more on journaling prompts that related less to overarching societal issues - but still could apply - and more to reflecting on ourselves and our own lives.
How is the world affecting us versus how are we affecting the world?
We began the sessions with questioning and exploring the definition of art journaling, what that means to us, what we would use to express our emotions and both the physical and mental space required to be creative. I decided to keep a set warm up for each of the sessions to keep a familiar grounding constant throughout the sessions. The first session began with becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable where we did an exercise of drawing without looking at our hands or paper. Often we like to be in control of the end product of our work and we feel that this is something that we need to see in order to control. Not having that visual and sense of control encourages us to feel uncomfortable and learn to adapt to manipulating the product in different ways. This relates to our own life - we often want control of our own futures (whether that is the end of the day, the next hour, or the next 30 years) however this is something we will never be able to physically see or predict.
How can we influence that future in a different way - without knowing what will happen?
A participant found doing this activity “unusually calming today” despite their usual stress with the unknown. They stated that it’s an “exercise in relinquishing control” and another participant mentioned that “it was therapeutic to let go of control and be okay with the unknown” reflecting on their art product that they had included a little bird at the end of the drawing - “even in the storm this little bird is flying” symbolizing their increased sense of hope.
I think that with the responses to the first two sessions of this series of Art Journaling there was a truly positive reaction to the activities that allowed participants to connect with themselves and also build these connections with the other participants. We often feel alone in what we may be going through and this allows them to see that they’re not alone in their emotions and experiences.
If you'd like to join Isabel for another Art Journaling program, please contact BuildaBridge here. Art Journaling is a multi-generational program that can be geared for specific ages and communities.