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Vail Daily column: The artistic process in everyday life

Nicholas J. Hoeger
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado

Artists have long known the benefits of incorporating the process of creating art into their daily lives and the sense of peace and accomplishment that comes out of it. However, for the rest of us in the world who don’t feel competent or comfortable in the artistic process (or even know what that entails), we may be missing out. The beauty of art lies not in the end product, but in the method, meaning, purpose and intent in creating the piece so that its creator may find balance.

There are those who are skeptical of the benefits that an artistic process may offer. However, when taking a historical look at the intent in creating a piece of art, we find that, often times, it was a form of communication. While this communication was (and still is) symbolic, it is through the use of symbols that incorporate not only a linear mode of thought, but also includes every aspect of the mind and soul, including thoughts, smells, emotions, textures, projections, regressions and the hypothetical.

Recently I was working with a client who, for the sake of our purposes here, we’ll call Bob. Bob came into my office due to overwhelming feelings of hurt and self-doubt. This was a far cry from the norm of this bright and talented man who now felt a lifelessness seeping into his daily routine. When discussing his past experiences, Bob reported having a boisterous and exuberant social life when growing up overseas. His life was filled with family and friends who loved and understood him completely. However, when he moved to the area a few years back, he found it difficult to assimilate into the life, language and culture of our small valley. Try as he might, maintaining positive affect and high self-esteem proved to be a herculean task through his strained and haphazard social interactions. Being unable to intimately relate to those around him, he developed self-deprecating thoughts, self-imposed isolation and, ultimately, suicidal ideation. It became apparent that what Bob lacked in his life was a sense of connection and understanding with those around him. Because he was not able to effectively communicate his thoughts and emotions with others, I had him use color and images to give himself a voice.



He performed a deep breathing/relaxation exercise then picked various colors that represented various emotions on a personal level. He then took a pencil in his non-dominant hand and, with his eyes closed, began to make a series of nonsensical scribbles for a few seconds. After he did so, he looked at the scribbles and began applying color, texture, shading and, best of all, emotion. He began making sense out of something nonsensical. He began communicating something that was previously incommunicable. Through his layering of color and use of texture he was now able to express his complex emotional story and tell how the different layers play upon and influence one another. It was through this process that he found catharsis. It was through this process that he found a deeper understanding of himself.

Looking at the artistic process involved in Bob’s piece, I found that it was the process itself that was a sort of condensed version of his life in the valley. It was his piece of art that became a symbol of his struggle and, ultimately, his future resolution to that struggle. The beauty of this process lies not in the medium in which this art was done; it lies in the creation of something through which we ascribe emotional content to a medium. In the case of Bob and his artwork, there was no meaning behind the pencil, paper or color until he gave it meaning.



I’ve worked with adolescents in a wilderness setting with nothing more than string and twigs and had similar results. There are those who unknowingly go through this same process when they journal or pray before their evening slumber. Incorporating the artistic process into our daily lives goes beyond the paintbrush and canvas. It’s about conveying meaning through an insignificant object or action and creating a story with that meaning behind it. A simple act of looking at the ground, folding our hands then closing our eyes is seemingly an inconsequential series of acts. However, a new meaning arises when it’s done with the intent of bowing our head in prayer. It is through the careful and intentional balance of meaning and creation that we add a layer to our life story that is rich with symbolism and meaning. Ultimately, it not only conveys meaning but also gives purpose to our lives.

Nicholas J. Hoeger, MAE, NCC, LPC, is a therapist at the Samaritan Counseling Center. He can be reached at 970-926-8558, ext. 105. For more information about the center, go to http://www.samaritan-vail.com


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