Category Archives: art


Finished a book for a friend’s birthday. Fabric over cardboard, Coptic bound with white waxed linen cord.





Leave a comment

Filed under art

Mandala Series, Part 2

Life, maybe? Hope? I was trying to feel hope. The outside–dark, dead, flat–was how I felt. I wanted to believe in the green, the life at the center.

Whirlpool. Depression, hopelessness, sucking me into the black hole in the center. Other people said they liked it, liked the sense of motion. I felt misunderstood: drowning isn’t beautiful.

Black hole. I came straight from individual therapy to art therapy the day I made this. I couldn’t stop crying. Usually I worked on large paper, up to 12″ x 24″. I couldn’t start–the blank paper and my life were both too overwhelming. The art therapist cut me a small piece of paper, 6″ x 6″ with a small circle. But instead of a circle, all I could see was a whole.

Unfinished. Again, trying to convince myself of hope radiating out. It did make me feel a little better.

Depression. But still trying to believe in the possibility of hope: white at the center. Again I used the oil pastel “crumbs” intentionally. I also added gray chalk pastel outside the circle at the last moment, on a whim, because it felt right.

The art therapist pointed to the circle and the flames. “Self and others?”

“Self and other self.” I was dealing with intense attacks from introject parts and trying to protect myself and other parts from them. I’m the outer colors–burned, dark, but inside it fades to blue and white, like a sky full of air to breathe.


Both of these were done with parts, as sort of a nonverbal communication. I’m not sure what they mean.

A symbolic representation of my system. In the back, behind a wall, a tangle of indistinct parts I barely know. In front, bigger than the rest, two introject parts, representation of my parents. My father burning from the outside in; my mother burning from the inside out. I can’t get past them to the others or I’ll be burned up into nothing.

Another representation of hope, or at least the wish for it. The circle–the self–split in two and buried…but then it can grow. Oil and chalk pastels.

Hopelessness. The self darkening, sinking, disappearing into darkness. Oil and chalk pastels.

Shielded. Anxiety about going home–meteors hurtling toward me. But they grey-white shield protects the green life deeper down. I did most of the mandala on white paper to get true colors, cut it out, glued it to black paper, and added the shield and the meteors.

This was about leaving and the work I did while I was there, but I’m not sure how. I worked a lot on the blending, particularly the slow fading from intensity to lightness.


Filed under art, psych

Mandala Series, Part 1

At the trauma unit, we had art therapy twice a week. I got major performance anxiety, froze up, and had no idea how to start. The art therapist traced a circle on a sheet of paper and put that and a box of oil pastels in front of me.

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked. I was terrified of doing it wrong, whatever that meant.

“Just play with it,” she told me. “It doesn’t have to mean anything.”

That’s what I did. I discovered I like oil pastels. They’re thick and definite, but you can also get in there and move and blend them with your fingers. Messy, which feels honest to me

This was my second piece. I didn’t feel blended–I felt sharply divided, but all in dull, dead colors.

This started out as a full piece about anger, anxiety, and tension. Then there was a bad night where somebody in my system shredded half of it.

I had trouble getting containment (one of the skills they teach you, to put troubling things away to deal with later) because their techniques were all imagery-based, and I suck at imagery. My therapist asked me to create a containment image in art therapy, so that’s where this came from. The white at the center is the space for containing. The yellowy-green is an anxious color for me, but as it shifts to the blues and purples, it starts to feel calmer.

Anger. And radiating from the center of the self, darkness that gets wider and wider.

Comfort. I made this for a particular part who likes purple.

Denial. This one came out of a very intense period of denial, so bad that I truly couldn’t tell if I was making it all up and couldn’t trust my memories, my feelings, or anyone around me. Moving from black to grey to white to grey to black, seemingly unendingly.

With oil pastels, you often get little “crumbs” from the crayons. Usually they annoy me and I try to keep them from marking up the empty space outside the circle, but this time the smears felt right, and I added more on purpose. The art therapist said that in mandala work, the circle often represents the self and the outer space represents external factors.


Filed under art, psych