The Expressive Arts Experience - Yvette Lyons, Ph.D., Expressive Arts Therapist

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The creative flow is always there and available to us.  It is the flow of the Universe.  It is the movement of the cosmos.  We are all channels of this creative energy flow that is ever moving and undulating.  This creative energy is around us and flows through us IF we allow it to.  So, what are the obstacles limit this energy to freely flow through:  reason, planning, critical thinking, lack of time, procrastination, stagnation, lack of self-trust, holding on, judgment and resistance to change.  Don’t get me wrong.  Some of these things are valuable and down right necessary when trying to maneuver our daily lives.  Then, what is the solution?  What can we do to open to the creative flow of energy and use it for healing, self-discovery, creating joy and that expansive awe experience?  Time, giving yourself the time and space to be creative; willingness to move, change and expand, this takes courage and bravery; Learning to trust, yourself and the process; Letting go of your habitual ideas and past experiences that limit you; Be willing to change and getting to know yourself deeply.  This is as difficult a task as you make it.  Recently, I have been spending a lot of my creative time painting.  Therefore, painting has become a metaphor for my life at this time.  Here are some things to consider when opening to your own creative energy flow.
1.    Put on some music.  First thing I like to do is put on the music.  OR you may choose to play some music.  Music effects our body/mind.  When we listen to music we like our brains produce dopamine, the ‘feel good’ neurochemical.  This will uplift your mood and begin the process of opening to the creative flow. It does no matter what type of music you play, as long as YOU LIKE IT!  And if you do, then your brain will produce dopamine and you will begin to feel good.  You may want to begin with a drum and find the beat of your own heart.  Music is a good way to begin the process of opening up.
2.    Show up ~ You have to begin, just start somewhere.  If you show up at the canvas and just begin making marks, eventually it will begin to look like something.  Showing up means to do just that ~~ show up in front of a canvas.  Don’t worry about having a plan, just begin to paint, and your will watch the intuitive process take over.  But it is your conscious choice to show up that begins it all.  Place out some paints.  Go with the paints that feel right to you in the moment.  Don’t worry about anything besides if it feels ‘right’ for you in that moment.  It will change moment-to-moment, day-to-day.  So whenever you decide to show up at the canvas, choose colors that feel right at that time.  Don’t limit yourself to brushes alone.  Use anything that you can find around your home or studio to make creative marks with.   For example, you may use plastic lids to bottles, plastic forks, corks from bottles, wooden BBQ skewers for etching and line making, sponges, the list is endless.  Get creative and adventurous and try new and different things that make interesting marks.  Let the colors speak the language of your soul and your feelings. Choose colors that you like or represent how you feel in that moment, it is as simple as that.  Opening to the creative flow does not mean we are going for making GREAT art.  It sometimes means that we are releasing old pain or emotions that need to be moved out of the way before we can fully open to the creative flow. So don’t be afraid of the process, embrace it.  Trust that your inner wisdom knows exactly what you need to grow in every moment.  You become the observer of your own process.  But first you have to SHOW UP!
3.    Move your body ~ When you move your body you release trapped energy that blocks your creativity. A moving body or a stiff body will make effect your painting.  Move your body, free your energy, free your creativity and mobilize your art.  It may be as simple as swinging your arms from side to side or walk around rhythmically to the music.  Just move in anyway that you feel comfortable because this will change and grow as you continue to practice doing it.  You can also place a blank canvas or paper on a hard surface in front of you. Put out some feel-good paint colors.  Put on your favorite music.  Then begin to move to the music, choose your tool or brush, choose your paint color and just begin to move the paint around on the canvas as you move your body to the music.  Don’t be afraid to use your fingers.  There are products out there that can protect your hands and make it easy to clean up afterward.  But at this moment, all you want to do is feel the music, feel the paint and go for the process.  Experiment with different music and see how the different music types changes your painting experience.  Some you will like more than others.  Find your own way.
4.    Trust your intuition ~ There is no plan. This process is for deep inner exploration so when you are painting, your focus should be on the PROCESS and not on the PRODUCT.   From a very young age, most of us are taught that you must have a plan when beginning a painting, you must have ‘talent’ and you must be concerned with all of these rules and techniques.  But with deep explorative painting, you are not concerned with any of that.  This process teaches you to go deep within and become aware of your own creative yearnings.  What FEELS RIGHT for you in the moment IS RIGHT.  What color does your creative spirit want to express?  What shape or image do you want to appear on your canvas ~ just go for it.  With this process you are learning to trust your own creative flow, and the desires of your soul. You are learning to trust yourself and your process.  
5.    Let Go!  This is a difficult one for many.  Letting go is a deep process that happens in layers.  It means releasing old views of yourself;  old projections put on you from others.  We have to learn to release our bodies our emotions and our limited thinking.  Letting go of old habitual statements, (i.e., I am not an artist, I am not creative…) This is the inner critic who dwells within the darkness of our subconscious mind.  We all have one and we need to reframe how we see ourselves.  Letting go also means suspending fear, and judgments.  Fears of the unknown, fear of doing it wrong, fear of being judged and self-judgments, fear of being exposed, this list can go on and on.  We have to release judgments of not knowing enough, (i.e., color theory, lights and darks, drawing techniques, and comparisons to other artists).  Letting go may also mean learning how to let go in your body.  Being able to move your body, take deep breaths, stretch, swinging your arms, walk around without shoes so you can feel the earth beneath you.  The more you experiment with letting go mentally and physically, the easier it gets.  Additionally, the more you free up your mental grips and your physical grips, the more you will free up your emotions and your creative energy flow. 
6.    Get Creative with your style ~ Get to know yourself and you will find your own style.  Pablo Picasso once said, “I do not seek, I find.”  Let the art help you find yourself.  Each of us has our own personal style.  Even if we borrow and imitate other art and art techniques at first.  But because this beautiful Universal energy flows through each of us in a one-of-a-kind way, we are all unique and different.  Therefore, this energy will flow through each of us completely differently when creating art.  So don’t worry about ‘FINDING YOUR OWN STYLE’.  You already have it, you simply have to uncover it through doing the work.  Each one of us is like a very unique recipe.  We have taken in all of the inferences of the world, our families, societies and cultures.  We are all here expressing ourselves in our own way.  Be willing to go through the awkward phases of the creative process to find yourself.  Our task is to identify our own uniqueness, and live it.   
7.    Tools ~ Just a note about tools.  The message here is BE CREATIVE ~ do not limit yourself.   Remember when I mentioned earlier to try different mark making tools?  Well, various tools make for a very interesting process.  It also removes the tension and fear of having to make a great painting.  Experiment with various tools.  Try different mark making tools ~ anything you can find around your world.   I love it when other’s come over to paint with me and bring their tools because it gets me out of my habitual use of my tools and opens my mind and vision to other possibilities.  One painting friend brought over a small piece of carpet and used the backside of it to create an interesting pattern.  Try stencils for a variety of new marks.  I happen to love stencils.  You may even want to experiment with making your own stencils and stamps. Stepping away from the conventional here will really help you move into a creative flow.  [Painting and mark-making tools for painting can be an entire blog, so I will write another blog about tools.  (Watch for this blog, put yourself on my mailing list by emailing me at, or you can "Like" my Facebook page to see more articles like this one. )]
8.    Change is part of the process ~ During this process of deep explorative painting, you will see that your painting will change and change many times.  That is because you are changing and creativity it is a fluid process.  As you change and your mood changes and your body changes, so will your painting process and your painting.  So, (as Flora Bowley always says),  don’t become to attached to anything along the way.  Sometimes I may show up and a painting may be going in a certain direction, and then suddenly, it will take a turn and completely change directions.  I just follow the flow.  Follow the internal promptings that lead you from one place to another.  Be the traveler and witness on the journey of your soul’s creative process.  Let the wisdom of the your creative flow and painting process teach you about you.
9.    The “Flow State” as Jason Silva calls it is a state where your executive planning and critical mind is suspended and you are open to the creative flow of the Universe.  You feel as if you are in a place of suspended timelessness.  In this moment, you are not thinking, or planning or analyzing, you are simply responding to the moment at hand.  You are in a state of allowing your creative responses to flow without censoring.  This can happen while painting, writing, singing, playing an musical instrument.  You are IN THE FLOW.   As he [Jason Silva] so eloquently states when an interviewer asked him, “What do you want people to know?” He responded with, “I'm interested in awe.  There was a study out of Stanford, on awe, where they described awe as such an experience of vastness, such an experience of vastness, like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, that you have to reset your mental configurations in order to assimilate the experience.  And it turns out that every time you have that awe experience you're left with individual well-being, altruism and compassion.  So, blowing your own mind with inspiration makes you a nicer person..." This means, to open to the creative flow state, you are creating a state of awe.
10. Enjoy ~ And, most of all ~ Enjoy the process!  Enjoy dancing, playing with color, and moving your body.  Enjoy the feelings of well-being that come along with the process of opening to the creative flow.
“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Pablo Picasso
Here are some reference books:
Brave Intuitive Painting-Let Go, Be Bold, Unfold!: Techniques for Uncovering Your Own Unique Painting Style Paperback use pre formatted date that complies with legal requirement from media matrix – May 1, 2012, by Flora S. Bowley (Author)
Paint Mojo - A Mixed-Media Workshop: Creative Layering Techniques for Personal Expression Spiral-bound use pre formatted date that complies with legal requirement from media matrix – July 18, 2014
by, Tracy Verdugo (Author)
The Complete Painting From the Source: Re-Enchantment of People and Planet Through Art Paperback use pre formatted date that complies with legal requirement from media matrix – July 14, 2012
by, Aviva Gold (Author)
Life, Paint and Passion Paperback use pre formatted date that complies with legal requirement from media matrix – January 3, 1996
By Michele Cassou (Author), Stewart Cubley (Author)
Printmaking Unleashed: More Than 50 Techniques for Expressive Mark Making Paperback use pre formatted date that complies with legal requirement from media matrix – July 9, 2014
by, Traci Bautista (Author)


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