This blog is co-authored by Marietjie Uys (artist) and Melette Els (therapist).
In this session we will be dealing with those people or events that have left scars and wounds in our lives. I want you to take a pencil in hand. We do not use a pen, as these people are not our Siamese twins. They are not attached to us. Even though it may not feel that way now, we can separate ourselves from them and they only deserve a temporary mention in our lives. Sometimes we need to get specific. Jot down dates, places, circumstances, settings, or whatever you need to feel that the hurt is captured and represented. If you want to be able to refer back to this some day, you may also want to jot these down in a journal as a growth reference.. Be cryptic. Most of this conversation happens in your head and you need only a word or two to represent it on the bird. This is how it works in life as well. People may be familiar with those names, but they seldom know about those lengthy details we fill our heads with.
I now want you to think of a place where you have been happy. Find a craft paper that represents that place, for example blue to represent the sea, red for your gran's kitchen, a specific texture that reminds you of the the bush-veld, etc. Imagine you are in that place now. Feel the happy feeling! Allow yourself to spend a few moments there. How does this make you feel? Try to use three specific words to describe your feelings, e.g. content, peaceful, comfortable, loved, special, wanted, needed, accepted, cared for, proud, grateful, thankful, belonging, etc.
Turn the paper and the bird upside down and trace the outline of the bird. This is simply so that the pencil marks from the tracing will be hidden from view; a practical arrangement.
Now cut the traced shape out.
Find a matching piece of paper that represents the people that are most important to you. Again, choose according to colour, texture, etc.
Trace the head of the bird onto this newly selected paper.
Finish the head with free hand drawings, connecting the lines.
Now find matching paper to represent the things you love to do. Identify these things by writing them down in a notebook. Why do you like doing these things? How do you feel when doing these things? Use descriptive words that accurately depict your feelings, e.g free, excited, content, fulfilled, etc.
Trace the wings of the bird from this paper. The wings are like hands and are our action parts.
Again you get to connect the lines freehand.
Now find a piece of matching paper to represent yourself. It may be hardest of all to find a paper to represent YOU. Write down at least six attributes of yourself, of which four must be positive, before selecting this paper. If you find it hard to list six things about yourself, ask one of the trusted people, listed in the previous section, to assist you. How does it make you feel to write these things down on paper?
This is traced on the tail feathers of the bird, as this is what the bird balances with. This time I do not turn the paper or the bird upside down as I want a particular part of the design, namely a flower, to fit precisely on the tail.
Close the lines freehand.
The last element of my design I find on the same paper as the previous, but you may need to search for yet another paper design. This time I want it to represent a motto, a fundamental truth, or something you strive towards. Trace the stomach of the bird from this. As our bird does not have feet, this is what our bird rests on. When and where did you come across this truth, goal or motto? How has this assisted you in the past in dealing with life?
Add the parts together and make sure you like the layout. Swap out and change what you don't like.
I find peace at the sea and therefore my happy place is at the ocean. This is something I want to work into my life and I write it at the back of the paper that represents my happy place.
The thing I need to balance my weight on, is taking time out to enjoy life, i.e. to take time to 'smell the roses.' I tend to be a bit of a workaholic and need to strive towards this. This is written on the paper that goes on the stomach.
The head, representing the people I care about most, is reserved for my family. I write a reminder to make a point of telling them how much I love them.
My favorite activities include making pretty things. That is why this is what I write on the wings.
That balancing tail, representing me, gets the words "Remember that I am the main flower in my own garden." Tend to that flower.
I now use Dala Acrylic Gel Medium to decoupage the papers onto the bird. Cover the whole bird with this medium.
Put the first layer of paper on and apply another layer of Gel Medium.
Put the parts on, one at a time and each time cover the layer with the protective and adhesive Gel Medium. We stick down the stomach.
Then follows the head.
This is followed by the tail.
Lastly we add the wings. Now we leave the bird to dry. I want you to take note of something. Can you see that you have completely obliterated those painful reminders that were written on the bird? When we fill our lives with the things we love, we take our focus off the things that caused us so much pain and when we once again remember them, they are buried beneath so many good memories that they have almost faded from our existence. So, if you are hurting now, and it seems as if the hurt my overpower you, give time and good memories a chance to exact it's healing influence. Do not give up before the final pretty layer of your life has been pasted. If you wrote this painful list down in a journal, I want you to temporarily close that page with another paper. Write a date down on it when you will revisit the list, preferably not before at least six months have passed.
Once the Gel Medium has dried, I take a Golden Sharpie Marker and I add detail to the new life I have created on this blank canvas. Now I am not using a pencil any longer. These marks are welcome to stay.
I finish the bird by paying close attention to the detail in the eye which is done with a black and blue Sharpie marker. And then I add a white dot to the eye with my White Posca Marker. In art there is a rule that says the eye appears dead until you add that white reflection of light. The light reflects off the wetness in the eye, which is only present in eyes that are alive. That eye is a reflection of hope and the eye looks forward in hope, alive to new possibilities.
You have taken a canvas that had some hurtful things written on it and you have managed to turn it into something spectacular. If you can do it with a inflexible wooden bird, how much more with your own flexible self?
In the next session we explore the future we have in mind for ourselves through paint.
Melette Els (Clinical Social Work) can be contacted via the webpage www.m-e.co.za, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 082 776 1536.
Melette Els B.A. (SocSc) M. (Th)
BHF Pr Nr.: 089 000 00 28754 SACSSP Reg.Nr.: 10-17310
Remember to keep nurturing your TALENT for making PRETTY things.
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