Introduction And What To Look Forward To
I have been an art maker since a small child. My mother tells me that when I was little nothing could distract me once I began to create. Drawing in particular has stayed with me throughout my life. I lived in the imaginative world of creatures. I saw them everywhere and drew them constantly.
I remember the reasons I gave myself for moving away from my artistry. They were tied to teachers’ negative comments, fears of not being good enough, doubts of purpose, and comparisons with other artists. As an impressionable young adult, I thought that my kind of art would not be able to make it in the art world, let alone support me as a working artist. For me, art has always been a way of bringing humor amongst friends, releasing stress, processing my emotions, and giving life to my imagination. As soon as I began to analyze and question my creative ability and its place in my life and society, the download of creature imagery decreased and I moved away from making art.
In the beginning of her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert (2015) describes creativity as ‘the relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration’. She urges us to befriend fear and open up to creativity.
I was half way done with my undergraduate program when I read Big Magic. It encouraged me to revisit my young adult fears and insecurities and in turn completely changed my academic and career trajectory. Especially, defining what art is and who an artist is became crucial points of reflexion. I realized that I had a lot of harmful programming around the meaning of both and was used to replaying the same narrative of why I was not someone that could be part of the creative culture. As I explored my own creative journey I began to converse with visual art teachers and artist friends noticing, in both instances, a parallel between their experiences and mine.
Michael Samuels (1998) in the book, Creative Healing, argues that art education is well situated not only to enable the acquisition of technical skills, but even more so, to facilitate a safe environment to process emotions and life events. Indeed, both should inform each other as applicable to learners’ needs and creative processes.
In their book Creative and Mental Growth, Lowenfeld and Brittain (1982) observe that, “Often both teachers and adults may prevent budding artists from using art as a true means of self-expression by suggesting colours and forms, colour schemes, proportions, and manner of painting and imposing such stuff on the budding artist".
All of us know someone that, when asked to draw, boldly states that they cannot, and further elaborate that they are not an artist. Lowenfeld and Brittain share that, “Whenever we hear growing artists say ‘I can't draw’, we can be sure that some kind of interference has occurred in their lives. This loss of self-confidence in one's own means of expression may be an indication of a withdrawal into one's self” (Lowenfeld & Brittain 1982, p. 8). This area of artistic confidence is of particular interest to me, especially around the reasons that artists start or stop making art and are able to continue creating throughout their lives.
Florence Cane (1983) echoes and expands on Lowenfeld and Brittain’s words. She writes in her book, The Artist in Each of Us, that “Since every child is born with the power to create, that power should be released early and developed wisely. It may become the key to joy and wisdom and, possibly, to self-realization.” (Cane, 1983, p.33).
The problem remains that more often than not art education is separated from self-actualization, emotional health, mental health and well being. (Avalon, 2006). Fortunately, thanks to the rapidly advancing field of neuroscience, and the accumulation of new knowledge about the brain, mind and cognition, - more and more educators recognize the tremendous role of art in human development and well being. (Phillips, 2019)
The Unschooling the Artist Within Atelier was born out of my own creative experiences, conversations with art educators and visual artists as well as academic inquiries into art education for self-actualization (Maslow, 1962), andragogy (Knowles, 2015), unschooling (Holt, 2017), and process art (Cubley, 2020). This blog will explore strategies and tools to awaken your artistic expression, to trust your process, and build creative longevity. The goal is to encourage your basic impulse and innate ability to imagine, create, heal and self-actualize. I hope the activities and information in this blog series add to the pool of artistic perspectives and serve you the artist, and learner.
What to look forward to in this blog series
- weekly written and visual art prompts
- my weekly musings: these will include but will not be limited to highlighting books, artists, personal and professional development tools, and sharing my own artwork and process.
- monthly artist challenge
Avalon, A. (2006). Arts in new directions: The development and application of a construct that uses the arts to promote transformation and self-actualization in health care and education/therapy. Graduate Thesis and Dissertations. Retrieved from
Cane, F. (1983). The artist in each of us. Art Therapy Publications.
Cubley, S. (2020). Process art. Retrieved from https://www.processarts.com/what-is-process-painting/
Gilbert, E. (2015). Big magic: Creative living beyond fear. Penguin Publishing Group.
Holt, J. C. (1967). How children learn. Da Capo Press.
Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2015). The Adult Learner. The Definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. (8th ed.). Routlege.
Lowenfeld, V., Brittain, L. W.. (1982). Creative and mental growth. (7th ed). Macmillan.
Maslow, A. H. (1962). The creative attitude. Psychosynthesis Distribution.
Phillips, R. (2019, September). Art Enhances Brain Function and Well-Being. Healing power of art. Retrieved from https://www.healing-power-of-art.org/art-and-the-brain/
Samuels, M., Lane, M. R. (1998). Creative healing: How anyone can use art, writing, music, and dance to heal body and soul. John Wiley & Sons.