Most of us are trained from an early age to identify with recognizable symbols. It is the ones who can make a tree look like a tree that often get praise from their elementary art teacher. Those who choose to give trees hands or purple strings etc. are often told “that’s not how a tree looks”. It is easy then to see why so many people quit trying to create imagery at a young age, if what they make doesn’t conform to society’s expectations. However, later in life the educated art world cannot deny the power of color, line, shape and texture to communicate powerful emotions without any recognizable images or symbols what-so-ever. Artists like Pollack and Picasso became famous for their bold use of shape and the wild abandon of dribbles and splatters.
This too is an important message for all of us using creative expression for our own growth and healing. Many times I just get out my large pad of paper and start smearing and flinging paint without any idea or intention of subject matter. I just allow myself to revel in the very process itself. Often times my most powerful pieces start out this way. And though I do love the story that symbols evoke, I have learned that sometimes the power of the color and shape and line is enough all by itself.
Try what I call somatic painting and drawing. The goal is to actually feel the process itself in your body and notice how it evokes various emotions. Feel the pressure in your arm and hand and shoulder when you make bold lines across the paper. Let the paint squish between your fingers as you smear it across the page. Take note of how different the mark is when you do it with passion and abandon rather than controlled accuracy and how sumptuous the color can be when the only tool used to apply it is your hand. See what emotions arise as you sit with it and notice when the critic says “a 5 year old could have done that!”. Perhaps the passion of a child is exactly what is needed!