Releasing Emotions with Spontaneous Drawings
When I was working full-time as an art facilitator, immersed in the heavy politics of health care, I needed to find a way to release the stresses and injustices of the day.
I found that if I did not have an expressive outlet, my unprocessed emotions would gather speed and accumulate, and I would feel thick with emotional mire by Friday. My entire weekend would then be spent processing the unsettling emotions of the week.
Needing a daily outlet, I started a series of expressive pastel drawings as a way to release my emotions, and it took only 5–10 minutes a day. I created a simple abstract pastel drawing in bed each night before falling asleep with the intention of releasing my upsets from the day. In the morning I contemplated my drawing over tea before going to work.
If your life feels uncertain or tumultuous, I share my expressive pastel drawing process below as a possible emotional outlet for you:
I decided to express myself abstractly because, at the time, I was touching into unknown feelings inside that I did not know how to verbalize. Spontaneous pastels can be a meditative exploration of emotion through colour, line, shape, and gesture.
A good way to start a spontaneous pastel drawing is to feel into your body for any sense of unease and intuitively create a drawing that expresses your discomfort. If you cannot find any discomfort, tune into where your body is feeling well-being, and set an intention that you would like to express how you feel about your life right now.
It is helpful to set a specific intention before you draw by asking a question. You could ask before you draw, for example, "What is this heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach?" A good reference for this kind of expressive drawing is Barbara Ganim's book Visual Journaling.
Dialogue questions from the book "Visual Journaling" can profoundly increase your understanding of your drawings. After your drawing is finished, imagine your drawing is trying to communicate with you and ask the following questions:
Dialoguing With Your Drawing
1.) As you look at your drawing, how does it make you feel?
2.) How do the colours make you feel? For example, if the colours are dark, could you be feeling alone and isolated? If the drawing is playful and bright, is it telling you that you are feeling happy and full of fun?
3.) Is there anything in your drawing that disturbs you? If so what? Write a few sentences about why this part disturbs you.
4.) What do you like best about your drawing? Write a few sentences about why you like this aspect of your drawing.
5.) What have you learned from this drawing - about how you feel?
6.) Are these emotions related to a particular current issue or concern? If so, what is it?
7.) Does knowing what you feel about this issue or concern help you deal with it? If so, how?