So each Wednesday, I would arrive at Elizabeth's studio above a great shoe store in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego. My arrival was always early; yes, I was that excited! And occasionally, I will admit to lingering in the shoe store before class. Parking was never an issue. Supplies were not required. I had no clue what each Wednesday held in the way of instruction, or whether I would be the only student (you all know the answer to that). Elizabeth welcomed me with her great energy, and the studio space was clean, well lit and small and cozy enough not to get lost in thought or distraction. Sometimes we shared tea. The very first night I painted with acrylics on an enormous piece of butcher block paper taped up on the wall using whatever colors I fancied and whatever brushes called my name. Big, thick, long, narrow, sparse bristles, short hair. Enormous has now been defined as about 24"x36". I had no idea where to start on that bright white butcher block staring back at me from the wall (blank pages no longer intimidate me). Elizabeth gave me prompts to start me on my way and to keep me going if I got stuck. She would ask questions from what she saw that I had painted. Frankly, I had no clue what I was doing, and I really liked it that way. Sessions were liberating and non-judgmental. It was everything I needed, and with a gentle soul to guide me.
During our weekly sessions, we worked with acrylics, pastels, charcoal, colored pencils, collage, water colors, straws, and eventually we got to creating sand trays of my past, present and future. She asked me about drumming; I passed. Poetry; I passed. And then one night I picked up the flyer for the class that was hanging around in the studio (since the class was always on offer for anyone to join us). I noted that it was presented as more about expressive arts therapy than art techniques and media. Cue the light bulb! I had heard about art therapy mostly as it related to a way to help children express their feelings or traumas. Art therapy for adults? Well, I have never been one to avoid a bit of emotional digging, and I had been enjoying myself up to that point. What I was getting out of the classes was worth the investment, whatever they were called. Then it dawned on me. Every session we would clean up about 10 minutes before we were to be finished. At that point, Elizabeth would dig out paper and offer me any writing tool I wanted, and she would pose a question and ask me to respond. I enjoy writing so this was easy and a wonderful way to finish the class. *aha*
Over the course of our time together, and as I reflected on the material I generated in class, I realized that every writing exercise included the words "I had so much fun." Art had become fun for me. I had no expectation about it. I had no way to judge myself as the only student. I liked what I was doing. I forgot about work and the stress I had been carrying. The only problem that arose was when Elizabeth said, "I think I have taken you as far as I can."
To be continued...