I recently participated with the South Texas Art Therapy Association in hosting an art-making booth at Maker Faire Austin for the second year. I had so much fun with the art activity that I wanted to share the idea! Some may find this activity helpful and engaging to try with clients in session, others may want to just try it at home as a fun way to jump start your creativity.
The art-making activity that we did this year was “Making Monsters and Creative Creatures.” Calendar pages with landscapes and other scenes were provided as the background for the art piece. Participants were invited to draw and color a monster on white paper, cut it out, then glue it into one of the calendar page scenes. Sometimes the monster was created first and we would then ask them to find the scene that showed “Where do you want your monster/creature to live?” Other times, it seemed that the scene would inspire an idea for the creature.
In doing some of these images myself, I found it to be a lot of fun. The directions for the activity seem to be a good balance of structure and creativity. It allowed me to just have fun creating and to try to do something different with my art-making – great things in self-care!
I think that one of the things that made it so successful as an activity at a community event was that it felt accessible to participants of any age – even young children can draw a creature or monster. Many of the people stopping by our booth to participate in the art were families, so it was fun to watch the parents and kids interacting together through the art process. In addition, having the calendar page background created an interesting visual effect and added some safety and structure for people who are less comfortable with art. Although art doesn’t always need to be “good,” I think this was the type of setting and activity in which participants really appreciated that they didn’t need a lot of artistic talent to create a neat looking work of art. This is also the type of activity that can be enjoyed just for fun without revealing overly personal meaning, but also utilizes a metaphor that can be given deeper meaning.
I haven’t used this activity yet with clients (although one of our therapists has used it in a school-based children’s group), so I have been thinking about some ways that it might be used therapeutically. One thought is that it may be helpful and fun with clients who are feeling stuck in their art-making, need some inspiration, or want to spark some creative thinking.
Another way to use this would be to pair it with the idea of externalizing problems as monsters or creatures. Clients can visualize a creature that represents the problem, then find a background to add it to.
It could also be a fun way to do some projective storytelling with art, especially for kids. After creating their creature or monster and placing it in a scene, have them tell or write a story about the picture.
This technique could also be a way to do another variation on “safe place” art. Have the client create an image of a self-symbol animal, then cut out that image and put it into a scene that represents a safe home for the animal.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you have another idea how you would use this activity therapeutically? And if you give it a try (either with client or for your own fun art-making), I’d love to hear how it goes.
Thanks to art therapist and STATA president Deann Acton for suggesting this activity.
Shout out to Austin Creative Reuse as our source for all of the calendars.
Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR-BC is an art therapist in Austin, Texas who works with children, teens, and families. For more information about individual therapy, child and teen counseling, family therapy, teen group therapy, and art therapy services, please visit: www.therapywithcarolyn.com.
This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental health conditions. All directives, interventions, and ideas should be used by qualified individuals within the appropriate bounds of their education, training, and scope of practice. Information presented in this blog does not replace professional training in child and family therapy, art therapy, or play therapy. Art therapy requires a trained art therapist.
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