Month: February 2012

Honoring a Leap Year

February 29th occurs only once every four years, 2012 being one of these years. To honor this anomaly in our Gregorian calendar, we will create an art project today pertaining to this day and our connection to time. Please find some paper and a pen. Imagine if you were given a bonus extra day in which you were not obligated to anything, what you would do with it? Please draw or write or even schedule how this day would be spent. Now circle the most appealing thing or things on your paper. Can you find an hour today..this extra day on the calendar to do it? What is your connection to time? Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you have to complete in the course of the day. Are you looking for things to do to fill up your time?

Yesterday’s Project: The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”  Sound familiar? Is there anything you can do to change your situation if this quote is a parallel to your situation? Can you do anything with the above project to honor yourself by doing something indulgent with some time?


Can You Indulge in a Sick Day?

Too busy for a sick day? This seems to be the growing trend in our world, and this form of thinking seems to have even infected elementary school aged kids. There is no longer time for a sick day, because the amount of work required to make up for the missed day can be more debilitating than the initial one needed. Today’s art project will explore this phenomenon and help discover your relationship to a good old-fashioned “sick day.” Please find some paper. Draw a line down the middle. On one side draw images or write a list of reasons to stay home if you are feeling sick. On the other side, write the reasons you feel pressured to not take a sick day, including the consequences by your employer/school etc. Most likely, your paper might parallel the lopsided view our society has on our physical health. Just because it is the new norm, it does not make it all right. We are often sent mixed message by employers to stay home if we are sick, but then are made to feel very bad if we choose this route of catering to own needs. Sound familiar?

Yesterday’s Project: Did you find any patterns in your two images? Do you tend to be a leader or a follower in your cohort? Are you happy with your social status? Are there things you would like to do to change your pattern or break out of old habits? An honest assessment of our past can be a great place to start to assess these patterns we often carry along and repeat in new relationships. Assertiveness is often the key element needed for change.

Social Status

In honor of President’s Day ( in the USA, which is the location of this blog) today we will explore our own leadership skills and where we fit in a social hierarchy. Please find two pieces of paper. On one, please draw a very simple family portrait (family of origin), maybe just using stick figures or a simple face to represent each person. Make sure to include yourself.  On the other page, please draw a portrait of people in your current environment (this might be your current family/relationship, a group of close friends, co workers, roommates etc). Now look at the two pictures together and look for patterns of where you fit in each group. Are you a leader in both? Are you a follower? There is no “right” place to be. This is an exercise in self exploration and learning about patterns in our lives.

Yesterday’s exercise: Do you suffer from technology overload? Are you nostalgic for a less “connected” stage of life when we relied more on real human interactions? Is there anything you can do to find a balance between the two worlds. Did you notice a connection in your timeline between improved technology and decreased human interactions?

Technology Overload

Do you feel like your life is being overrun by smartphones, email, social media sites, and computers ? This growing love affair with our machines is altering the way the interact with the world. The paradigm shift happened so quickly, it might be interesting to make a personal time line of our growing reliance on our devices.

Find some paper and a pen or pencil. This art exercise might take the form of a comic strip layout, or it might be  a long line at the bottom of the page. Think back to your first machine..maybe it was an Apple Macintosh if you are as old as me, maybe it was a cell phone or even a fax machine. Start there, add more of the machines you purchased as you travel along your time line. As you add each machine, think how this has improved your life, or made it more complicated. Most likely, this exercise will give you perspective on our current scenario.  Do you see a pattern of these machines improving or hindering your real human social interactions?

Yesterday’s project: Boundaries are a gigantic topic and our self-esteem is truly intertwined with how well we defend our boundaries. Although no one can define what an appropriate boundary is for you, when you cross the line you have set for yourself, the feeling is often one of shame and regret. This is true for physical, sexual, emotional and even verbal interactions. Occasionally if our boundaries are too high, we might be missing out on making authentic connections with people in our lives.  Were you able to recognize some areas of your life that need work on the topic of boundaries? Defending the boundary we set for ourselves always results in a feeling of pride and self-worth. We will revisit this topic again in this blog through other art directives.

Love and boundaries

Today we will be exploring the topic of boundaries which are essentially connected to love….a topic fitting for February 14th. Please find some paper and a pen or pencil. Draw an outline of a human form, amorphous and large enough to write in. Don’t worry about any details beyond limbs, a torso and head. Write some messages inside the body reflecting your current feelings connected to a relationship. On the outside of the body, write or draw words, messages, feelings, that a person or people on the outside world are expressing to you or about you.

The body outline serves as the boundary, and our experiment is to explore our physical, emotional, sexual, and/or verbal boundaries with the outside world. Try to pay attention to the feelings that come up as you focus on the interior and exterior of the body.  As you work, ask yourself some of these questions: Are you happy with your boundaries? Are they too high, not allowing others in? Are they too low, letting everyone in at the expense of harming yourself? What can you do to better defend your boundaries? Do you see a connection between your level of self-esteem and your level of personal boundaries? The topic of boundaries is a very large one which will be covered numerous times in this blog’s art exercises. Please check tomorrow’s blog for more questions to help you explore the artwork you created.

Yesterday’s blog: What does your tree look like? What season did you draw around this tree? Do you feel that your tree represents aspect of yourself?  Would you like to have deeper roots, or more extensive branches? Can you add anything to help this tree flourish in its current environment? Is your tree safe? Does your tree need other trees nearby?

A tree can be symbolic on many levels spanning cultures and much of human history as a motif used to represent people and societies. Drawing yourself as a tree can be a powerful exercise to describe personal things that are difficult to put into words. Putting this image away for a few days or weeks and then returning to it can often be insightful, as if reading a diary entry.

Drawing Yourself as a Tree

Today we will use the metaphor of a tree to learn more about ourselves. Please find some paper and drawing material. Think about your station in life and draw a tree which represents this. Think of the many different types of trees and the elements of a tree. You might want to consider a season, its root system, its foliage, its ability to bear fruit, its usefulness in the world. There is no right or wrong way to do this. A tree can serve as a powerful symbol to draw and can reflect many facets of many layers of life.

Yesterday’s exercise:  Were you able to take a risk and make a new social connection? How did it feel? Did creating the scenario and conversation on paper make it easier? Could you take more social risks this week to forge new bonds?

Social Risk Taking

It is very easy to get “stuck” in our daily routine. As we grow fond of social media sites as a form of socializing, social isolation is a growing trend. Today for an art exercise, we will explore this theme. Find a piece of paper, draw a grid with four to six boxes resembling a comic strip. Using stick figures if you are not feeling artistically ambitious, think of  a social interaction you would like to have but have, but haven’t mustered up the strength due to our reliance on what is comfortable. This might be simply saying hello to someone in a coffee shop, engaging in a conversation with a co-worker, sharing honest feelings with a loved one, etc. Draw how you would like the conversation to go using word balloons for your stick figures. Once drawn, can you take this risk in your day to make that social connection real? Good Luck!

Yesterday’s project: Were you able to think of someone to forgive? Often carrying anger around can be detrimental to our mental health and a huge waste of energy. Forgiving a person essentially releases us from their power or control they have over us. This simple act can be a huge challenge, but in the end quite liberating. By holding on to the anger and resentment, this person whom you are angry at has power over you. Most likely that connection to this person is painful and letting go of the feelings will allow you to grow and move on.