Healing, “Personal Development” & Discovering More of Our Potential through ‘Creating a Mess’… How it Started
I initially started abstract art in a high school art semester which I thought was going to be beyond disappointing.
I had not enjoyed art “classes” since early elementary school where we were instructed to paint a hill… (although I didn’t recognize this feeling at the time, my outward discontentment was acknowledging that we aren’t all at the same place – interest, attention, skill level – at the same time)
Fast forward to high school, I tentatively enrolled in art class with a teacher that had great verbal reviews from older peers. To my inner, yet reserved, glee, I enjoyed the various assignments and ‘adventures’ of new styles, approaches and experiencing myself through these classes.
The next year, he retired.
… So now, where my inner child/heart – so long suppressed in the area of instructed arts & craft – was re-opening and expanding in enjoyment (and the feeling of safety in this “approved” environment), now had a jolting experience of ‘oh no, now what will happen?’ (does this trigger any similar childhood themes – sudden announcement of parents divorcing, financial ruin, a sibling moves away without warning)
Through the first many weeks, the new instructor and I would not become good friends, nor trusted confidants, in the slightest.
For several months, despite seeing her every second day, I don’t remember hearing my name addressed correctly once. Adriano is not as simple as “Sam” to get, perhaps, but here were some examples of what I’d hear upon the check-ins called:
– Alejandro (they’re getting good now, hey?)
… [skip forward 6 or 7 more]
Ready for the most memorable?
Yup. A word many people would need to look up to check its spelling, somehow that came to mind more readily than ‘Adriano’. After all, with my corrections (and other students’), Adriano should have been more practiced than Azerbaijan.
(As a side note for context, it was not a rift that she was – consciously – playing with me, as you could see her struggle and piece together anything with an “A”-starting and ending in “O” (or something Latin-sounding). Her cheeks would sometimes become flush red with embarrassment, etc… A note for the later context in this post.)
I detested the “new”, standardized approach of following her school-provided rubric to the word (literally reading it word-for-word), and – although I couldn’t feel, and therefore could not admit my [heartbreak? a sense of abandonment?] – I deeply missed the interactive, engaging approach of the previous instructor. They were both “older” (grey haired, ‘veterans’ of the arts), yet it seemed like where I had sunshine and a compassionate presence in my corner from the previous year, I now experienced a greyed-out, concrete scene that felt devoid of presence, let alone any presence that may allow me to continue ‘opening myself’.
We disagreed on the approach, which on a deeper level than I understood at the time we both agreed on (that the strict, emotionless structure of the class was limiting to the space of ‘art’ and creative potential).
But I didn’t recognize, or (more accurately) accept, her fears…
… fears of being new; being a new staff member in a place full of established staff; being a new ‘art teacher’, perhaps of which was one of the least stable of positions at the time, or in her experience; having (or anticipating) pressure from her boss(es) and how they will or might evaluate her first semester; etc.
Years later, I recognize that I could not understand these things about her initially because I did not have acceptance for them. I did not have acceptance for these fears in her because I didn’t have acceptance for fear in my own life.
And this is not talking about “allowing fear to control you”, or “don’t let fear in!” or other macho ideas. This is talking about recognizing my own fears that were already within me, that I wasn’t recognizing/aware of/accepting.
However, as most of us do in the ‘trial and error’ approach, it took many weeks of disconnect and discontentment in that class to reach each of our “breaking points”.
The instructor and I were both not enjoying this experience as much as we knew we could, and, amongst other things, we had had enough of not enjoying art class!
We had a talk. A good talk, a real talk; one where we could get deep down to the “bull-” that we felt and outside of the ‘presentation’/politeness expectations of the classroom. And in this way, we vented our frustrations and difficulties with our experiences…
Here is where we found common ground. We both were frustrated with pretty much the similar things – different pressures obviously (hers with her bosses/school expectations, mine with my own internal, unconscious state) – around how we weren’t “able” to enjoy what should be a very enjoyable experience of art class… you get to create!!
Once we vented and discussed this formless feud, we both found that our agreements on art, creative expression, love/enjoyment of life, etc. was actually very aligned.
And because I better understood our similarities, but also the problems/pressures she experienced, I was able to come up with ideas for solutions.
We found a middle ground; a loop-hole where the students who wanted to could continue the more ‘free-form’ approach from last year (previous instructor), and yet would still be able to make up the marking criteria for her syllabus’ required grading.
Like an sheet of clouds made from lead lifted off our classroom.
We all started to have more fun, more enjoyment, and a feeling of acceptance (safety, some trust, camaraderie) where we could ‘open’ again and express and experience ourselves through art.
Through our emerging friendship, I even obliged her invitations to submit artwork in art events (i.e. Every Victim Matters, Latitude Gallery 53 event, 2011).
It was shortly after this time, but due to the new ‘creative’ approach we had to fulfilling the assignments, where my instructor invited me to look into abstract art.
She had identified that through this approach I could accomplish some of the assignments that were coming up in future weeks, and may find a lot of enjoyment.
I went on to research Jackson Pollock, and a few others (although I spent most time into Pollock), trying to comprehend, and on some level feel, what was portrayed there.
I created a few pieces, which are titled the “Original Four” (in ADRIgallery Legacy collection).
It was here that I felt something more than I had before in any other assignments or art projects. I didn’t consciously comprehend much, given my overall mental-emotional-physical ‘state’ at the time, but I recognized something pivotal, profound & intriguing. Something that glimpsed at potential beyond what I understood possible… something that finally felt captivating.
Fast forward several years later…
I had recently quit my bachelor of Sciences program (despite having scholarships and acceptance into a small medical specialization camp created by the University of Alberta and Katz Group the summer before my first year of University).
In this time of loss (I had set on being a specialist doctor since grade 6), shock (I had followed an incredibly compelling feeling from within, yet little conscious reasoning to quit), social disconnect (sometimes people disengage from things/people they do not understand), etc.
Through rapid consumption of philosophy, spiritual beliefs from around the world, psychology and more, I searched for answers which didn’t seem to land anywhere other than heightening confusion and overwhelm of information.
It wasn’t until I started to work on ‘Empatico’, my first large-scale abstract creation (and first outside of high ‘classes’), where I felt ‘traction’ in resolving myself and my “blocks”.
It was a mammoth undertaking, stretching over a year and a half to complete.
I didn’t know what I was “doing”, or even really why. I was following an unconscious feeling that I should do this, but almost daily ran into very ‘real’ objections of the ridiculousness of it.
– This will require too much paint
– You’re wasting expensive paints with so many layers
– This is way too big of a piece
– What is the purpose of this?!
– Why did I start such a big undertaking?
What I realized later, which I describe now through my ‘Abstract Art Therapy resolution process’, was that I was working through myself and all my internal blocks (insecurities, denials, doubts, fears, judgments, conditioning, etc.).
As I would progress through my piece, I inevitably progressed a little more in my life (albeit, too subtly for me to notice at the time). This became most evident in hindsight when I was completing the piece: my outlook on life shifted, I had plans that seemed to deal with the void that was supposed to host my ‘doctor’ life, and I literally went back out into the world to engage in ‘entrepreneurship’. (I started to communicate and negotiate with real estate investors, banks and lenders, home owners, etc., learning laws and rules, etc., until I found some problems I felt I could provide solutions to. And I did.)
The main theme here aligns very well with part of a saying I have found in many ancient cultures and belief systems:
‘Know thyself. Love thyself.’
Seems simple. A part of the mind says “yeah, I know that already”. Make a t-shirt about it and call it a day.
But I write this, even for myself of tomorrow, to lovingly ask you:
“Isn’t there more to you than what you are aware of?”
Abstract Art Therapy has become a process that expanded upon as I learned more about psychology, human behavior patterns, performance ‘excellence’, neurolinguistics, and more.
I’ve continued to do this process for my own enjoyment, “therapy” (find and resolve my internal hidden blocks), and to add a richness to life that I have found it to be uniquely exceptional at doing.
I’ve since shared it with many, in various forms online, in person, one-on-one with seniors over 80 and kids under 10 years old “addicted” to gaming, and in retreat formats and have been amazed – often skeptically shocked – by what is possible within each being on Earth.
Ultimately, it shows me that what is within you and I is phenomenally more than we currently be-lieve.
If, and when, we become aware of and resolve our internal “blocks”, whatever they may be, we always get better results, enjoy life more, and enhance our loving impact to the rest of the world.
Great art teachers seem to always have something in common; that they are able to bring a level of safety or stimulate curiousity or compassion to a students heart, that they may – on their own timing, comfort level, and preference – open to discover not only more possibilities in life, but more importantly, more potential for themself.
Thank you to the art teachers who prioritize heart. As difficult as it is at times with opposing or strict pressures, it is an immeasurable investment into the “soul of the world”, the loving presence on Earth, and the ‘child’ within that gets to keep living on into the future.