Hello Art Therapy!

For a long time now I have been going back and forth about the concept of Art Therapy. When I first came across this form of both mental and physical treatment I thought to myself, “Drawing, coloring, painting? Something that brings excitement to children can actually be a form of medical treatment? But how?” With a coffee in my right hand, I searched the web for hours trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together to find out how effective this treatment actually is.

As I hoped it would, it turned out that art therapy is not only one of the leading treatments for children facing a diverse range of challenges, but it also helps adults suffering from stress, depression and other problems. Since Mother’s Day was around the corner and my mother is by far the MOST difficult person to buy for, I didn’t hesitate when choosing an adult coloring book.

This was perfect because about two years ago my grandmother took a fall down an escalator, leading her to end up in a wheelchair. After the accident it turned out that she needed 24-hour care, which included somebody to bath her, make her meals and so on. For the last year, that person has been my mother.

With that said, a mountain of stress had been placed upon my mother’s shoulders that was growing with each day. So, my solution was to buy her a Mother’s Day gift that would allow her to de-stress, which ended up being this adult coloring book. (I provided the picture below of the one I bought with the colored pencils too).

With a stubborn grandmother and hot-headed mother spending countless hours together, you could bet that there needed to be something to calm the water. Nevertheless, I ended up buying another book for my grandmother and truthfully, it was the best 18 dollars I have ever spent. I am not going to lie, my mother’s first response was, “Adrianna, I don’t have time for this! I have to cook the pasta, the meatballs, clean the bathroom, the shower… blah blah blah” But after just a week with the coloring books, my mother said that she hadn’t felt so peaceful in a long time.

My point is that art therapy is unlike any other form of therapy or medication. It is pure. It is healthy. And ultimately, it has the power to help children (and adults) express things that they do not have the words alone to do.

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Hello Ranting!

I can promise a few things in this post: 1) this is completely a rant. 2) I don’t even know my stance on this topic at all. So I will most likely make no point whatsoever. And 3) I will absolutely contradict myself several times.

I was recently out with a group of creative people (both were moms, and one with a background in marketing), and we were discussing art, and how social media has taken away some of the power that artists have. We were chit chatting about the fact that artists go to school for their craft, and take ridiculously long studio classes, and spend hours after class in that studio refining their skills, while others who surf social media sites can do a DIY with no training whatsoever. So, I brought up the subject that I felt that the tutorials out there might make people less creative. To which one of the moms replied, “But maybe it makes them more creative.” I was fairly content with that argument. In that moment it seemed to make a lot of sense. “Hmmm. Maybe tutorials make kids and adults more creative because they can complete various projects in a short amount of time,” I thought to myself.

And then I merrily went off to work, not really bothering to think about this at all. And then a thought struck me. “But then if all they’re doing is following along, does that make them creative or just really good at listening to directions?” I feel like there is some detriment to only learning how to do things online or even a book. Before that, you learned from real interaction from a parent, or teacher, or experienced crafter, or whoever. Someone real and tangible with flesh and blood, and someone to whom you could ask your questions and get a reply. You could see the craft being made in all dimensions, not just one and only at that camera angle. Or you simply had to figure it out for yourself through trial and error.

That kind of interaction and experience makes for a more creative person in my mind. You know what doesn’t work. And you have the benefit of knowing why. So you can apply that knowledge to future projects. Just following some tutorial only gives you the knowledge of what does work. And then what happens when you need to apply that skill to another project or you need to deviate slightly. Would you know how to do that?

But then again, I sometimes go surfing the net because I lack inspiration, or I want to try something new, and then I’m totally guilty of following a tutorial! But does that make it okay because I’ve paid my dues painstakingly trying to figure out a craft for myself? But can I really give any less credit to the DIYer? Technically, if they’ve spent as many hours watching tutorials as I have going to school for art then aren’t they considered as experienced as I am?

I continued my day with thoughts reeling through my brain, not really coming up with any final answer at all. See? I promised my story had no point and several contradictions. I guess my main goal was to get you thinking, and see what you do indeed think. And I guess also, to maybe close the lid on the laptop the next time you try a craft, and see if you can figure it out first. It will surely give your mind and hands a workout, and you’ll feel such a sense of pride that not only did you succeed in making a cool craft, but at the fact that you figured out how to do it all by yourself.

Hello Artists Everywhere!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about careers in art, mainly because the curriculum of our AFI IV class centers around learning the practical applications of art. I hear a lot from people that their conception of art is more of the finer arts. When they think about it (imagine clouds of thought bubbles emerging from people’s faces please), they see galleries, museums, paintings, drawings, sculptures, and maybe even the stereotypical artist with the beret painting landscapes on the rue de la blah blah blah. Very few people truly see all the areas that art seeps into. Sometimes, I think those thoughts are imparted onto kids as well, and they don’t always see that the possibilities truly are endless. They have to learn to see non-traditional artists (chefs, plastic surgeons, architects, civil engineers, tattoo artists, interior designers, special effects artists, photographers, party planners, marketing consultants… dude, the list continues, and we’d all be reading for the next few years if I listed them all) as real artists too.

So far, my AFI kids have already delved into the world of architecture. They built these fabulous treehouse models based off of some sketches and floor plans. They even worked with special effects makeup for Halloween to apply realistic gashes and wounds (we already blogged about it and the creations came out amazing). One of our more recent projects is one in which the students were asked to create a logo for a fictitious business that they have, and then use the pen tool in adobe illustrator to draw their logos.

We’re about 4 classes into this project, maybe even more, because sometimes the days all swirl together, but they’ve already come out with some astounding material. I’m really impressed with all of their work, and even more taken aback by how quickly they grasped the concepts. I didn’t even know what illustrator was until I was maybe 21, and it took me a while to get a firm grasp on its functionality. The students are creating images, switching colors, making gradients, and moving anchor points with ease, and only after 4 (or so) classes! Seriously, WHAT?!

I’ve included some images below, and there will be some more to follow (some of the artwork is on my laptop at home), so you can all stand beside me and see for yourself. I hope you enjoy, and I encourage you all to think about the wealth of art that is around you every day. Mayhaps (thanks b for granting me permission to use this word) you’ll list some more types of artists below!

Hello Fruit Prints!

The thing I love about working at TMA is how amazing our projects are. We pride ourselves in the fact that all activities are open ended, and that everyone can scale the project up or down to their level and feel successful. Some of the projects are so stellar, that it makes me want to try them!  When all the artists here find ourselves wishing we could do the projects, we know TMA is doing something right.

One of my favorite projects here is the circle paintings we do with the Monet classes. Instead of being super traditional and painting with paintbrushes, we paint with fruit! Yea, you heard me. FRUIT! (Should I say that louder? And they’re clementines to be exact). I’ve been told that other schools do similar projects, and I experience this project every year, but I don’t care. It never gets old, and I’m constantly amazed. I always look at the finished projects like I’ve never seen it or heard about it before in my life. My already large eyes widen like I’m staring into the magical world of Narnia.

Like I said, the best part of the project is that anyone can do it, and it looks great. I watch the little munchkins do the projects and they feel so proud that they’re creating this mini masterpiece with something so unique and different. The project can even translate into our adult years, and we can indulge in the fun too! Whether you’re reading this to discover a fun project for your child, or you secretly really want to do this yourself, you’ll be happy to know this project is low maintenance. All you need is fruit (or veggies), a knife to slice and dice (for adult use only please!), paper, paint, and paper plates.

We spread thin layers of paint onto paper plates (the paper plate helps to absorb some moisture, and hey, you can throw it away, so get excited, less cleanup for you!), and dip the cut fruit (flat side down of course) into the paint. Then we press firmly onto a piece of paper, in a new place every time. It’s really that simple. Older children or even adults can kick it up a notch. Try super bright neon colors, or keep the palette neutral. Maybe try creating new shapes and patterns using the shape of the prints. Practice writing skills, cursive, and even other languages by labeling the fruit with a thin marker when it’s dry. You could even color in the white spaces around and/or inside the fruit with sharpies when dry (homemade coloring book anyone?) And of course, it’s okay to snack on the fruit while you print. Just avoid the painted fruit, it’s gross.

All of the prints, no matter the artist, would look clean and inviting in a white frame in your kitchen or other dining area. I don’t know about you, but after writing this, I’m super psyched to try this at home. And I’m also hungry. As always, don’t be shy to share thoughts and ideas with me!

images courtesy of TMA and the wonderful world of Google

Hello Inspiration!

Check this out. TMA is trying something a little new, a little raw, and a little more personal with the blog. From time to time, I’ll share my thoughts with you, dear reader. I call these overly verbose stretches of text MUSINGS. Muse along with me, won’t you? I hope you enjoy, but really, I hope you think it rocks!

My best ideas often come to me while I’m driving. The endless stretches of road out there before me sort of allow my mind to wander (of course I keep my eyes focused on the brake lights and incoming cars as I sing as loudly as humanly possible at my steering wheel). Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I get inspired to create. That thought led me to thinking about what inspires other people, and I began to wonder how others see things in the world.

We live in this world where technology has taken over our lives (Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE to text my friends, send them photos, and keep myself inserted into their daily lives. Sometimes the phone is definitely one with my hand). So, we’re often viewing the world through a tiny 4.5” screen. While I was out with some friends in NYC celebrating a birthday, I noticed this group of girls to my left. This enormous dessert came out to their table, complete with sparklers, sugary sprinkles, candy treats, and tasty sauces all carefully designed around ice cream. The dessert was a masterpiece, but every girl was staring at the treat through their iPhone. They took pictures galore, and I wondered if any of them looked up long enough to see the sparklers and the twinkling dance they were performing for them. That isn’t something you see with your camera. It’s something you see with your eyes (now if we’re really getting technical here, you see with your brain, not your eyes, but whatever. I digress…)

This world that is meant to be experienced in three dimensions is often flattened and dulled into two, just for the sake of a pretty picture. My hope is that everyone stops to appreciate the beautiful phenomenon that lies before them before they snap, snap, and snap away. I think there is an artist inside us all that relishes the subtleties and nuances in the everyday. I am reminded of this every day working with children. They can get excited over the smallest detail, and be inspired to create great things because of it.

My musing for the week ends with a suggestion. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to look at your surroundings. Maybe not just look, but actually see, and appreciate something completely random and ridiculous. Look at the way bubbles form on your bar of soap in the morning, or the way the milk turns your coffee marbleized the instant before you stir it. Look into someone’s eyes and notice how they reflect the entire room behind you. Admire the clouds as they travel in whispers across the moonlight. Be inspired by these everyday occurrences. Maybe it will inspire you to do something creative or encourage someone else to do something wonderful.

Here are some images I snapped with my iPhone. Yes, I stopped to look  before I took a lense to them. And yes, it’s okay. You can share your thoughts too. Talk to me. I promise I like to listen as much as I like to write.


photos courtesy of viviana