Weekly Collagerie: A New Title!

Happy weekend, everyone! I’ve been struggling with the title of this blog post over the past week, so I’ve decided to name it something that I feel is more accurate to the content of the posts: Weekly Collagerie. It’s a mashup of the words collage and menagerie, because I feel like this post is very much like a collage, with a varied mixture of elements: information about art therapy, art that I’m inspired by, and, as one of my wonderful colleagues put it, treasure hunting for beautiful and simple art techniques. Thanks so much to those who commented on the last post – I’m so grateful to have you guys reading.

Art Therapy

In my groups with the Alzheimer Society, we usually begin with an art discussion. While art education is not always a component of art therapy groups, I have found that with my older adult clients, beginning the group with an intellectual conversation about art prefaces the art-making as an adult, age-appropriate activity, taking it from the realm of “crafts” to “art.” I have also found that viewing artwork sparks so much discussion, whether it is reminiscing about a particular theme, seeing new images in abstract works, or making connections between artwork and personal life.

Here are a few more reasons why learning about art and artists can be helpful in art therapy (from Buchalter, 2011):

  • Increased knowledge enhances self-esteem and self-awareness.
  • Clients improve memory and thinking skills.
  • Art stimulates both sides of the brain.
  • Art stimulates perception.
  • Individuals learn to think abstractly and improve problem-solving skills.
  • Art nourishes the human soul.
  • Art bridges racial stereotypes, barriers and prejudices.
  • Art enhances creative thinking and open-mindedness.
  • Learning about artists encourages clients to develop their own unique artistic skills.

Source: Buchalter, S. I. (2011). Art Therapy and Creative Coping Techniques for Older Adults. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Vincent Van Gogh, Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers, 1888

We talked about how this painting show sunflowers in all stages of life, from full bloom to withering. We discussed his work through the lens of what we know about Van Gogh’s life. After the discussion, each group member created their own flower (of any kind), and we created a collaborative group piece by putting them all together in a vase on the wall. To give you an idea of what it looked like, here is the image I was originally inspired by (found here):

One other cool thing I tried with an art therapy group for adults with developmental disabilities was a really fun technique using oil pastels, baby oil, and watercolours (full instructions found here). The first step is to draw anything you want using oil pastels, using lots of colour, letting your lines and shapes overlap. My group really enjoyed making big, expressive marks with the oil pastels – they are so soft and satisfying to colour with. Then you take a Q-tip dipped in baby oil and add it on top of the oil pastel. It liquefies the pastel, making it feel like paint! Here is where you can explore blending colours and letting the waxy pigments flow into one another. Lastly, you can add a watercolour wash overtop; the waxy oil pastel will act as a resist and you can paint right overtop of everything, filling in the background with watercolour. Here’s my example:

Art Studio

This week was so full of group planning that there hasn’t been much happening in my own studio. So, I’ll share some artwork that has me really inspired: the art of Alma Woodsey Thomas.

Alma Woodsey Thomas, Wind Dancing with Spring Flowers, 1969

Alma Woodsey Thomas, White Daisies Rhapsody, 1973

Alma Woodsey Thomas, 1891-1978

I love her exuberant use of colour, and the abstract mosaic-style patterning she used in her paintings. She was an artist an art educator who quit teaching at the age of 70 to pursue her art more seriously. She was also the first African-American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1972!


This week I’ve been listening to this week is the NPR podcast Hidden Brain. I LOVE podcasts that talk about the unconscious forces that drive human behaviour (NPR’s Invisibilia is another favourite), and this podcast does exactly that. They are currently doing a 6 episode series called You 2.0, that talks about “how we can all make better decisions and cope with the messiness of daily life.” This is definitely one to check out!

For anyone who is interested in therapy, I’d like to recommend this thoughtful and well-written post by my colleague, art therapist Sarah Brodie of the Arterie. She talks about the breakthough hunting that we do as we seek to transform our mental health and journey toward self-acceptance, and summarizes some of the upcoming workshops that are going to be available at the Arterie this fall (including my workshop, Journal Your Art Out!).

Thanks for reading, and as always, please feel free to leave a comment and tell me what arty things you’ve been up to!


  • Rubi August 27, 2017 12:23 pm

    I love the new title! It’s perfect. And I’m so excited to try the oil pastel and baby oil technique! Thank you for constantly inspiring me to try new things and expand my creativity! ❤️

  • Andrew August 29, 2017 5:31 pm

    Whoa I’m gonna check out more of Woodsey Thomas’ work!

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