Art Speak This Week: An Introduction

Welcome to a new weekly post on this blog: Art Speak This Week! This will (hopefully) be a weekly segment where I can share some of what I’ve been working on, as both a full-time art therapist and a visual artist.

If this if your first time here, let me introduce myself:

My name is Brianna, and I’m an artist and art therapist from Hamilton, Ontario. You can read a little bit more about me and my approach to art therapy on my About page, and you can find some of my artwork on my Etsy shop or Instagram. More on me: I have a black cat named Tabitha, and I love changing my hair colour, shopping at thrift stores and making art messes.

In my job as an art therapist, I work with a lot of different clients, doing both individual and group art therapy (if you’re not sure what art therapy is, you can read a bit more about it here). A lot of what I do involves planning and delivering art therapy programs for community-based organizations and private practice. A LOT of work goes into this, and over the past year or so, I’ve tried a ton of different art materials and directives, some with more success than others. The idea of Art Speak This Week is to give you a glimpse at what some of my art directives look like, what materials I’m into, and what I’m doing in my own studio. The posts will be divided into 3 sections:

  • Art Therapy
  • Art Studio
  • Media

Art Therapy will cover what I’m doing in my role as an art therapist – you’ll see lots of different art materials, some collaborative group projects and some information about the process of group therapy. Under Art Studio, I’ll talk about my own art process: what projects I’m working on, and my responses through artwork to the work I do with my clients. Media is going to be a fairly open-ended category, but I want some space in these posts to share my thoughts on how therapy and mental health issues are represented in the media, as well as podcasts and books that I’d recommend.

Art Therapy

I run an art therapy program called Creative Expressions at the Alzheimer Society of Hamilton and Halton. It’s a group for people living with dementia and their caregivers, where we come together each week and explore a different theme, and look at images from artists all over the world. We discuss the art, our responses to it, and connections it may evoke. Then we let the theme and images from the discussion inspire our own creativity through guided art making activities using a variety of art materials. This week, we looked at mosaics and tile work from all over the world to inspire the creation of fabric mosaics and unique ceramic tiles. We were really inspired by Park Güell in Barcelona, designed by Antonio Gaudi (image from here):

Park Güell was originally intended to be an artistically-minded luxury housing development, but only two houses were every built and no buyers stepped forward. Gaudi ended up living in one of the houses himself, and the park was later converted into a municipal garden. The amazing thing about the architecture is that there are no straight lines, resulting in a beautiful organic style that feels calm and peaceful.

In one group, we created fabric mosaics using pre-cut squares of fabric in different sizes (graciously donated to me by one of my volunteers, thank goodness) glued onto canvas board with mod podge. I think the use of fabric was a soothing sensory experience, and we were reminded of other things where fabric is the art medium, like flags and quilts. Here’s an example of what a fabric mosaic looks like (image from here):

In another group, we made our own ceramic tiles using Sharpie markers and 99% isopropyl alcohol (instructions can be found here). First, we coloured the ceramic tiles with marker, and then added drops of the alcohol with a medicine dropper. It was impossible to tell how the artwork would turn out, but the group found it so relaxing to watch the colours move and swirl together once we added the alcohol. I love art directives that have what I call the “surprise factor:” where the material dictates the outcome, and it’s difficult to predict how the final artwork will turn out. It’s like watching magic happen in front of your eyes! Here are some examples of the before and after stages of the tiles:





I also run a group for adults with developmental disabilities at a community centre in Burlington. This was the first week, and I used an idea that I got from Cassie Stephens’ blog – you can check her post out here, and seriously, you should check out her blog. She’s an art teacher with SO MANY creative ideas and she makes awesome video tutorials! So each person in the group created their own sketchbook cover by painting a manila folder with acrylic paint. I also had stencils so that group members could add their name and personalize their sketchbook cover. Before next week, I’ll be filling each folder with drawing paper and stapling them into a book that we can use for drawing throughout the 12 weeks of the group. I’m super excited to use these as part of the group – it will be an extra space for people to draw whatever they want, and a great thing to have for people who finish up early.

Art Studio

The biggest project in my art studio this week has been starting this weekly blog post! My best friend moved to a different city last year, and she and I have been slowly figuring out ways to share our creative lives with each other. We began our friendship when we met in the graduate program where we studied art therapy, and we INSTANTLY became friends. We’ve always shared our art projects and inspiration with each other, and we turned the living room of our shared apartment into an art studio. Now, we share photos of our artwork on Instagram, and we’ve begun mailing a collaborative art journal back and forth. She’s the one who suggested that I start using my blog to post a weekly update on all my art happenings. So here we are, and Rubi, this is dedicated to you!


So far, what I wanted to share in this category is a book I read recently called Head Full of Ghosts. It’s a fantastic read about a teenage girl whose family doesn’t know whether she’s suffering from mental illness or possession. I think this is such an interesting topic, and it left me considering the meaning of different types of treatment (whether it’s therapy, medication, alternative healing methods, or exorcism?!) for those involved. It also made me think about the HUGE impact of mental illness on families. I think I’m still processing some of the themes of this book, but it was super interesting and I’d definitely recommend it.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to leave a comment – I’d love to hear what arty things you’re up to!



  • Andrew August 18, 2017 8:43 pm

    Oh I’m going to check out the book. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Coreen Gilligan August 19, 2017 9:00 pm

    Awesome Brianna !! I’m so delighted and honoured to view your first “Art Speak This Week” Blog Post. It’s beautiful and brilliant – just so… like you. Looking forward to many more !!

    • Brianna Kestle August 20, 2017 9:47 pm

      Thank you, Coreen! 🙂

  • Sarah August 23, 2017 9:25 am

    BriAnna, I’m so inspired by your treasure hunt for beautiful and simple art techniques.

    • Brianna Kestle August 23, 2017 11:49 am

      What a lovely way to describe it, thank you!

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *