Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Making Art as Therapy

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

I'm not great at handling stress. My usual tactic is to wrap it tightly in a huge, hard knot, and drop it in the pit of my stomach. This is not a strategy that I recommend. Of course, I am also well practiced in the art of locking my shoulders somewhere up above my ears. There is another brilliant move, that I can't, in good conscience, advise for healthy living.

Because the stress level here rates pretty high on the Richter scale, I knew I had to find a way to divert some from the stomach area. Too late on the shoulder business. Originally, I had the bright idea that I would set aside all my creative work and all the crazy plans I normally have for yet another project and just deal with the business at hand. Well, that lasted about a day and a half. By then, I was exhausted from screaming silently and moping, had the shoulders locked, and was hard at work on the knot. I decided to reverse field.

Saturday, I dove into the files from that shoot last spring at my friend's horse farm.  For the moment, I have no perspective, but I think that I have found more images worth working on. These are the ones that either simply didn't register previously, or I had liked the potential but could not see a solution to the native problems at that time. After all, I had what seemed to be an embarrassment of riches after one quick pass. The client's package, all done up in a handsome archival box with acid free tissue, and tied with a beautiful wired ribbon, contained 47 prints. I didn't have to get past the first cut to please her.

Now, I am obsessed with possible overlooked "treasures", "could-bes" or "maybes" and free to spend all the time I need experimenting with heretofore unimagined solutions to nasty backgrounds. (Nasty backgrounds at SKF are part of the game. This is a functional farm, not a Kentucky show barn.) I cannot say that I worked in an organized and smart manner—this is therapy now. The final product isn't the focus. The doing is all that matters. While I am absorbed in an image it fills up the corners of my mind, crowding out everything else.

Throughout the day, I skipped wildly from one passion to the next with no order and no sense of a plan, but simply letting my heart take me from one impulse to the next. It was healthy and when (and if) I finish one of these pieces of therapy, I will share it here. Meanwhile, I felt like posting one of the pictures that had been ignored in the first cut. On that fine spring morning, this bay gelding called Louie, exulted in his power and the joy of freedom. It was a contagious celebration of life.


  1. This is really nice, Anita. if this didn't make the first cut, I'd like to see the rest.
    It sounds like you are getting a handle on the stress. There is no secret to reducing stress but we all have to find our personal ways of dealing with it. Work like this will be a big help.

  2. Ken - Thanks for the comment. I can't imagine getting through difficult times without some sort of creative distraction. When therapy is the focus, "making" is the key word, not "art". You are so right that it is a personal challenge to find a mechanism for coping. To further complicate matters, today's solution may not work tomorrow.

  3. I love this image with the horse standing proud!

  4. Steve - Thanks for the comment. This guy put on quite a show for me that day.

  5. Wow, I can certainly relate to this statement: "While I am absorbed in an image it fills up the corners of my mind, crowding out everything else." Therapy indeed!

  6. Mark - It is wonderful feeling isn't it? I can't imagine getting by without it.


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