Creative playfulness in therapeutic arts
Through my work with clients I had been listening to stories of lost, abandoned playfulness. Playfulness has been pushed to bottom of the list of life priorities, forgotten, called “foolishness” and left with no attention. I am sure play therapists would have so much to say about the importance of play, how we can access so much more inner material through it and how natural this way of communication is to us. With adults and art, playfulness becomes a very tricky subject- why would you mess with art materials, make mess -they ask. Here I am offering you just a short introduction on to how to introduce a playful approach to creativity and art through the use of materials as well as some approaches taking us back to being children again.
Childhood art materials connection
Working with adults who denied themselves playfulness for a long time can be challenging at first. The best way to start awaking the need for play is by sensory and cognitive mix- introduce art materials familiar to clients from childhood, Crayons, finger paints, kids paints, coloured paper- all can evoke the connection of being a child again and the ability to play. Lay them on the floor – allow for free body movement and invite the client to explore. This is just about experimenting. How many marks can crayons create, how about overlapping lines with different colours, making crazy and dynamic lines. How about breaking crayons and using them on side as well.
Working with paint also provides a playfulness invitation. Use bold colours from kids paint range (Wilkinson has bottles for £1 each of great neo colours of pinks, yellows and blues) and first invite the client to paint the way they want- nothing particular just paint application. Also use the floor space and plenty of big sizes paper. After a while introduce finger painting and splashing paint. Make sure the floor is covered and there is no fear of “making a mess”.
Sensory aspect- encourage mindful art material work by paying attention to smell and touch of crayons and pens. Sometimes this is a powerful tool of activating long forgotten joy of being creative with play and experimentation.
Having ability to cut images and combine them in unexpected ways is a great way to ignite the playful side too. You may start with showing some famous examples of playful collages like Monty Python collages. After a while offer creating a playful collage with images that simply create new, lighter meaning. You can also introduce the simple activity with a black marker first: use one single magazine and a black marker to add “silly” drawings to images inside like moustaches, hats, glasses etc.
Colour has an impact on how we feel the image and communicate mood. It can also open doors to exploration of how playful, change of colour can be. Activity “Recolour the world” allows to break the limits of what the expected, and “proper” colour should be. Depending on client’s preferences you can work with original client’s drawing or use ready images from magazines. The main aim is to recolour image to colours that are completely “out of the box” for the image. You can use markers and sharpies on top of ready images or coloured pencils for client’s original drawings. Few examples: blue sunflowers, green sky, pink water, yellow grass.
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