New Internationalist

Colour Me Purple

Issue 144

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ART [image, unknown] Art therapy

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[image, unknown] Colour me purple
Pens and paper flood our everyday world. We write letters and scribble shopping lists. We even doodle. But stop! — those doodles might mean something. They might even be art. Art therapist Gabriela Muller guides us through the paintings of Femi Ajayl-Wood and two other volunteers. And then offers you the chance to explore yourself through your art.

Gabriella Muller is an art therapist associated with the Women’s Therapy Centre in London.

[image, unknown] MIKE

Mike panicked when he was confronted by the white sheet of paper. After this initial frustration he began to draw an image. He realised that by trying to cover virtually every trace of white space he was trying to cloak his insecurity and disliked this. He related his choice of blue* to his present obsession with the sea. He then chose yellow for sun, hope and ‘for a picture that I was growing to hate and I wanted to like’. When he looked at the finished work he realised how difficult it was for him to ‘let go’.


FEMI

Femi felt a little uncertain about how to fill the paper. For her the colour of black was a foundation, safe and secure. She remembered growing up in Africa and her mother checking the security of the house with the lights switched off. She associated black with darkness in the natural environment Once she’d started she felt ‘a sense of release, calmness and fun’like she wanted to stay day exploring colours. To Femi much that happened in the process of painting reflected her way of being-’ her need’ feel grounded before she feels free to take risks. She felt her picture showed that fundamentally she liked herself and enjoyed controntations.

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[image, unknown] SIMONA

At first Simona found it difficult to let go. She chose a combination of colours to start with: grey, pink and yellow to express her ambivalent feelings. It looked very soft and gentle but she thought ‘this is not me’ because she was feeling angry and sad. She remembered an incident on the street that day when an old man had pushed her roughly. She expressed her anger by putting dark blue heavy strokes over the softer, more vulnerable pattern. In the end she was annoyed that she had left no white spaceshe thought this reflected the way she shuts off her emotions when she feels threatened.


AND NOW ITS YOUR TURN

And now it’s your turn… Either draw in this space or take a clean sheet of paper. Gather together as many pictures and drawing materials as possible – pencils, pens, crayons, felt-tips, watercolours; the more the better. Sit down in a quiet room, close your eyes and paint. Be aware of the thoughts and feeling that go through your mind. When you feel ready, open your eyes and choose the colour that you feel most strongly about and start making some marks. Paint whatever comes into your mind. Don’t try to imitate art products or photographic realism. Just draw for yourself!

When you feel you have come to an end, sit down and look at your work. What does it make you feel? Does it remind you of anything in your past or present? What made you choose your first colour?

Painting can be a very powerful experience, a way of getting in touch with yourself. You might have felt a sense of release when you realised that you could put something on paper, or a sense of achievement to be able to control yourself in this way. You might have experiences a childlike sense of joy, but you might also have worries that this was childish.

The choices you have made in term of colour, shapes and form express your imagination. There is no right or wrong about his. What you see in a colour or shape depends on your personal association; the same colour could be seen as frightening by one person and reassuring by another. But dark blue is commonly associated with repression of sexuality, black with fear and oppression, and red with fire (though this can be a comforting warmth or painful burning).

Like playing, painting can be a way of resolving your contradictory feelings. By creating something new you can also change your perception of yourself. There may be stages in this process where you feel blocked. This does not mean you are not creative but that you have contacted something difficult in yourself that deserves to be explored further. And you can continue the exploration by continuing to paint.


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