Seeing things

July 7, 2014 in art therapy, creative tools, creativity, inspiration, Nature



Have you ever stared up at the clouds in he sky and found intriguing images?  Or perhaps before waking up with eyes closed an array of images float by your mind’s eye.  That is the gift of your imagination.  When we see things in other things that aren’t there essentially, our imagination is playing with us.  It is a wonderful reminder that we are forever imaginative and creative beings.

I often go for nature walks and alow my eyes to wonder to see what can be seen, beyond what is considered to be there.  Patterns in leaves, intricate weaving of spider webs, the way water creates designs in the sand as it washes over it.


Yesterday on the beach my son brought me a special rock which he said looked like a donut.  Indeed it had a bellybutton like indent from a fossil and was round like a donut.  I of course saw a rock with a belly button, a symbol of chi energy perhaps (I had just been to acupuncture the day before where needles were stuck into my belly to make my overall energy flow better).    The point is we see what we need to see (my son had just enjoyed a vegan donut for the first time and I guess that was still on his mind).

Just as we were about to leave the beach I noticed in front of my sandy lazy legs a rock that stood out.

godessappears rock


I picked it up and lo and behold I saw the shape of a goddess on one side.  When I flipped it over I saw another image, a face I think.



But when I arrived home with it and looked at it again I saw another goddess instead and could not see the second image that I originally saw.  So goddess it is.  I took out my pens to draw her out more.








Creative process is there for us to access whenever we are ready.  All we have to do is allow ourselves to recognize it when it presents itself  to us in subtle ways.


If you need some support getting your creative practice going, join me online or in person for Art Journaling or Intuitive Painting.  Click below to find out more!

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Creative Self-Care

June 29, 2014 in art therapy, creative tools, inner wisdom, inspiration, self-care



Has fortune dealt you some bad cards? Then let wisdom make you a good gamester.

Francis Quarles

Recently at my work, a group of us came together to make coping cards. It was an exercise in exploring imagery that supports healthy ways of coping which my art therapy student, Tiffany Merrit had shared with our team. We have monthly clinical sharing meetings and my colleagues thought this would be a good activity to do together to become familiar with it to use with clients as well to support our own self-care given the  often very emotional work we do.  

coping card Me

The idea behind coping cards is to create reminders of things that help you through difficult days or situations using images and words that help you tap into that inner strength.  You may choose to use quotes that inspire, against a background of a calming image, or words or images that gently nudge you to remember  that you can make it through.  

Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.

Jawaharlal Nehru

Imagery can be purposely chosen by seeking out imagery of things that help you cope when times are tough (things that have helped in the past).  Or you may want to focus on the intention of coping and your inner strength then flip through magazines or online imagery which you can print up.  Choose what jumps out at you with a big “Yes!”  You can also draw these images your self as symbols, or pick from your own photographs.  With digital imagery you could make collages of the imagery that compliments each other representing a particularly helpful way of coping and  print them up in the card size you are using.


The idea is that it is a fit for you, not what you think you should choose but what feels like it will inspire you to approach a situation differently with confidence.  

Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.

Josh Billings

You can make these cards using old playing cards, pick up a deck of cards from the dollar store, or as in my case I chose some old Tarot cards (which I never learned to use) and found these to be a good size.  Simply glue your images on one or both sides and add words (optional) cut out of magazines, hand printed or typed and printed up from your computer.

To me the key part is the imagery, because it usually has so many different and rich layers of inspiration and meaning.  There is no one right way to do this however, trust your intuition and place the imagery in ways that feel right for you.  It does not have to be complicated, it could simply be one image or a combination of two or more that go together for the same coping reminder.

Once you are done creating your coping cards you can punch a hole in the top corner of each and clip them together with a metal ring.  Remember, life is not about not  the cards that you are dealt, its’ how you play your hand!  You can also use this quote or any similar one shared here to put on  the back of each card if you like. Have fun!



Life’s too short not to laugh about yourself and the cards you’re dealt.

Mark Zupan



Create like a child

June 22, 2014 in creativity, inner artist, inner child, inner critic, intuitive painting



Petrea Hansen-Adamidis kids art

The other week the children’s mental health agency I work at had its annual Family Fair where families from the community were invited to our centre for activities and fun with their children. I was helping out at the community mural which we do every year and once again was privy to the wide range of approaches children have to their art. For this project children were given mini canvases with penciled in rainbows and invited to paint them to be later attached to the larger mural.

Many of the children were preschoolers who just delighted in the opportunity to try something new. There were no perceived mistakes only wonderment at what they were creating before them. Most of the preschoolers painted outside the lines and with untraditional colours for a rainbow. Heck I don’t even think they were concerned about trying to make a rainbow but rather just followed their wish to paint and the sheer pleasure of this expression.

Petrea Hansen-Adamidis paint freedom

The older the child the less this was so. I watched as some of the children looking at what others were doing and seemingly comparing themselves. Or they were careful to stay in the lines complying to the boundaries of the line, the concept. Still they persevered and painted offering their finished painting to the mural after. Some wanting to take theirs home, pleased with themselves and their painting.

What is it that gets in the way of our self-expression? Even at an early age you can see the desire of children to comply and please others. The habit of comparing and the self-consciousness when creating is apparent soon after kindergarten for some. Some would say we are socialized this way, to please others. Or perhaps it is at the point where we are just more conscious of the others around us. Why this translates into stifling our creative expression is a mystery.

But it’s not always this way. There is a point in our lives where we are connected to our creativity without censoring it. It’s those early years until we become self-conscious. And for some, when encouraged to be our own person we are able to find that creative and free spark within again.

I often have to remind myself to create in this way. No longer does it come naturally but rather now that I am grownup I have work at just allowing myself to play. But the more I do it the easier it gets. This is how having a creative practice can help. The more we create the easier it gets to let go of preconceived notions and expectations and create more with the freedom of a young child.

Intuitive painting allows me to find that freedom of expression that was so prevalent as a child.  Rather than basing my painting on an outer experiences and expectation it draws from an inner feeling and space as I experience the painting in the here and now and what response feels right to follow in the painting.  It’s hard to describe, but once you are in that flow you know.


If you need some support getting your creative practice going, join me online or in person for Art Journaling or Intuitive Painting.  Click below to find out more!

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Ways to Get your Creative on Outdoors

June 8, 2014 in art therapy, creative tools, creativity, inspiration, Nature

I have been enjoying the great outdoors a lot lately with the warmer weather here in Toronto.  More outside time means less in doors time doing “indoor” art.  Of course I could hull out my materials for painting and paint outside, or even grab a sketch book and pencil and sit outside and be inspired, but I’m sure these are ideas you have already had or perhaps tried.  Besides it feels like a lot of work to bring my materials outside (and I can always open the balcony door which is right beside my painting area and enjoy both worlds anyway).


Today I thought I would share some ways that you can connect with your creativity when you are out and about outside, that does not take a lot of planning and lugging of supplies.  These can be done in your back yard, at a local park, at the beach, on a forest or savanna hike, whatever works for you.  The key is accessibility: making art out in nature with ease and last-minute inspiration.

Here are some of my ideas.

Make a rock sculpture at the beach,


or on a mountain top.

Make a sand sculpture.

Make a drawing in the sand, soil, or snow!
Leave behind nature art Andy Goldsworthy style:

Make a mandala or picture using rock/seed/leaf/ . . . .




Make a stick sculpture or structure.


Draw or paint on smooth rocks and leave them for others to discover.

Make leaf people or a straw/grass doll.

Make water drawings on the sidewalk or fence with a spray bottle or hose and watch them disappear.
Bring your camera outside and take  pictures of nature’s beauty and wonder.



Explore macro nature photography.



Plant flowers or herbs in a design,  use perennials and watch them come back each year!

Use twigs or dried vines in a shape to have vining plants grow around

Get out the sidewalk chalk and have some fun!


Make a mosaic using colourful stones or broken pots.

Take a creative selfie!



I would love to hear your ideas or things you’ve tried that worked for you! Get outside and be inspired!



If you need some support getting your creative practice going, join me online or in person for Art Journaling or Intuitive Painting.  Click below to find out more!

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Affirmations for Self

June 2, 2014 in art therapy, creative tools, inner critic, inner wisdom, inspiration, self-care, Self-Love





The other day I was talking with a social worker friend and colleague about affirmations and how useful they can be. It may sound kind of hokey or cliche but they actually can work. It’s not just about focusing on the positive but rather it’s about replacing scripts that don’t serve you. When you hear that inner critic berate you for a mistake or question a decision or judge an interaction negatively, affirmations can help you focus on the messages you need to hear to move forward and offer your best to the world.

One of the things that affirmations do well is bring out your best. They do this by counteracting messages that hold you back with messages that encourage you to believe in yourself. Make no mistake, affirmations can be very powerful when used correctly.

How to use affirmations that make a difference:

First and foremost make your own! Affirmations really work best when they are written specifically for you in response to common discouraging messages or scripts you may tell yourself.

They need to speak to you. While standard affirmations that you may find may help, they need to be ones that resonate with you. If you are not writing your own, or simply find one that you like, make sure it is one that really feels good not just “looks” good.

Add a visual element to really personalize them (says the art therapist). Symbols can be powerful reminders that cue us to the feeling we wish to have and thought we want to focus on. By taking your affirmation and adding a visual symbol or even just a design around the word or words, it will register in your brain quicker give many of us are strong visual learners.


Self Affirmation Project:


  • Write down some of the messages or scripts which you’d like to get rid of.


  • Write a counter message using positive language (not using “nots”, writing what your strengths are not what they are not). For example if your inner critic says “You’re a looser!” rather than write “I am not a looser” you might write “I am perfect in my imperfections” or “I am worthy”.


  • Copy this onto one side of a cue card, use gesso on a playing card or old business card.


  • Sit with this affirmation, closing your eyes and repeating it, allowing whatever affirming visuals come to mind, whether its is colours, shapes or symbols.


  • Draw or paint your symbol or colour that matches your affirmation on the other side.


  • Do one for each negative/inner critic script which you would like to replace.


  • Carry this with you wherever you go so that you can access these messages when you need to. Business card size fits perfectly in your wallet.


  • Make some extras and spread them around your house, hiding them in boxes or drawers or openly on mirrors that you frequent so that you have daily reminders to focus on your strengths and worthiness!


If you need some support getting your creative practice going, join me online or in person for Art Journaling or Intuitive Painting.  Click below to find out more!

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Opening to Possibilities

May 26, 2014 in art journaling, inner artist, inner wisdom, inspiration, intuitive painting




Now that you have given yourself permission to take some art time for yourself, you’ve scheduled it in and have made space for your creativity to thrive by  organizing your physical space and clearing out your mental space, quieting or at least turning down the volume of those inner critics. You are all set for sustaining  a creative practice right?


In theory yes, however things are never as simple as they seem on paper.    Life can get busy. Other obstructions to your creativity are bound to surface. The key is deciding when they need to be attended to because they are really a priority and when they are just excuses disguised as “more important things”  


One way to tell is by tuning in to how you are feeling. If any of the feelings that are coming up coincide with your original excuses for not doing art or arise out of self-critical thinking, then in all likelihood whatever it is that is trying to jump ahead of queue (and delaying your art time) may just be an excuse.


If you think of your art time as sacred “me time”. This is a time that is for you to unwind, release stress or express for your own peace of mind.  Over time you’ll begin to see it as a necessary part of your daily or weekly routine which is essential for other areas of your life to run smoothly.  Because “all work and no play” just doesn’t cut it!  Also, it may help if you think of this art time as an appointment with your Self or inner Muse which thrives on consistency. In that sense, it’s vital that you maintain these appointments much like you may keep a doctor’s appointment.


If you cancel a doctor’s appointment do you skip it altogether or reschedule it?  So if something comes up where you have to delay your art time, it’s important to continue to respect your time by rescheduling in time for that day or week if possible. Be honest with yourself.


Time often is an excuse to avoid, and may be a sign of fear of change.  “I don’t have time to make art” often stems from discomfort with change in a routine. Effort is involved after all. But in order for shifts to occur for the better in your life and to move beyond your comfort zone, there needs to be some embracing of change. When we open ourselves up this way we are in fact opening our lives to new possibilities. 


When I found myself falling back on the “there is no time” excuse, I looked for ways to make the space. I predicted when it would be an issue and prepared some quick ways which I could access my art making thus giving myself the space while conserving time.  Art journaling is one of the ways I did this.  I also would work on my intuitive paintings in blocks of time rather than trying to get it all done in one day b(though a workshop helps with this).  Leaving my art out to remind and inspire me also helps me grab some time for this precious practice  whenever I have a little bit of down time.


There are always ways around the excuses. It may just take some effort at first to get past them. But then you’re worth it right ?



If you need some support getting your creative practice going, join me online or in person for Art Journaling or Intuitive Painting.  Click below to find out more!

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Holding Space

May 18, 2014 in art therapy, creativity, inner critic, inner wisdom, Self-Love

DSC_0138 - Version 3

Last week we talked about the importance of permission for beginning the creative process.  We may want to have a regular creative practice, however, waiting for everything to be perfect and “aligned” is not realistic.  Let’s face it there will always be room for excuses not to start as long as we do not give ourselves fully the permission we need to begin.  But what happens after we begin and resistance shows up via those judgemental inner critic voices that tell us we are not worthy enough to be expressing ourselves through the arts?  Can we sustain a creative practice if those inner critics keep piping up?


My answer, YES! Inner critics can guide us and alert us to what needs tending to.  They remind us when we need nurturing by their over zealous critiquing.  It’s unrealistic to expect not to have any inner critic voices, but unnecessary to listen to their bantering.  One way to turn the volume down on those judgemental messages we sometimes tell ourselves such as  “You can’t paint! . . . You’re wasting your time! . . . . You’re not creative!” is to tune into what these messages are really telling you.   These messages point to fears, fears based on shadows from the past, critical voices and non-supportive experiences that may be haunting us.


Once we can identify the messages and decipher their true meaning and origin we can begin to move past the restrictions of these messages and feel safe to explore our creativity more freely.  In therapy we sometimes refer to it as holding space, making the space safe enough for clients to feel that they can express themselves freely without the repercussions of judgement.  In my workshops I guide participants to follow this same stance, one of acceptance of self through self-compassion and empathy.  We do this by creating new scripts to counter and often replace the scripts that no longer serve our creative practice.




Like anything in life we can’t try something new until we try something new.  Often to try something new we need to take a new perspective.  It is when we begin to see things through these new lenses that we open ourselves up to new possibilities.  But it takes effort.  Like nurturing a plant; watering it consistently, protecting it from pests, and providing an environment where it can grow, we need to take a similar line of consistent nurturing of our creativity.  Permission is not a one time thing, it is constant.  We need to keep working at our creative practice, hence why it is called a “practice”.


In any case it means finding what works for you.  It may take some digging to find out what it is that you need most to support your creative practice.  But most certainly it means being willing to explore paths and identify obstructions.  Then you can move forward and start to create that holding space that will support your creative expression.  Sometimes we don’t get it right, right away.  Most times it’s a matter of trail and error.  Just know that this is all part of the process, and in exploring these areas we deepen our connection to self and our creative practice.



If you need some support getting your creative practice going, join me online or in person for Art Journaling or Intuitive Painting.  Click below to find out more!

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Permission to Create

May 12, 2014 in art journaling, art therapy, creativity, expressive arts, inner muse, intuitive painting, Painting with Your Muse, self-care




Nurturing creativity is something we can all use a little (or a lot) of once in a while.  We live in a culture that see’s art making as frivolous unless it is done in the context of making a living from it.  Something reserved for professionals or the play of young children.


This past Saturday I led a workshop of Muses through an intuitive painting process.  Each participant was challenged to work on the same painting throughout the day.  At the end of the day when asked how they would continue to nurture their inner Muse there was a sense of uncertainty.  Though they had given themselves permission to create for the day, they were not clear how to continue this at home.  Time was definitely an issue as well as having the space to create.  When we look at these elements more closely it becomes clearer that permission is key to nurturing one’s creativity.


Make space for your creativity!


Time is there, it always is, it’s just how we choose to organize and prioritize our activities for the day or week.  Schedule in some time for yourself starting small and increasing as your comfort with doing so allows.


Tell others you are going to take this time for your self.  Sometimes it is about accountability, and sometimes its just about creating the head space around allowing your self the time.  Saying it out loud in front of others often helps strengthen the commitment.


Gather materials that you need to express with, pencil or crayons and paper to start with will do just fine! Whatever is available.  Sure maybe you’d like to use other materials and want to make a trip to the art store, next weekend or some day soon, but I say start with what you have! The longer you delay, well, the longer your creativity is delayed.

Figure out where your art space will be.  Will it be in a corner in your home, perhaps at a desk or at a wall? Will it be at the kitchen table when not in use, pulling your art supplies out of a handy dandy box just for the occasion?  Will it be in an art journal, with a baggie of art supplies that you carry with you on the go?  Or how about a corner of the garage or basement for your little personal art studio?


Give yourself permission not to share your art if you don’t want to.  Explain to others that it is personal self-expression, not meant to be shared- much like a diary.  In my recent Visual Journal Journey workshop, participants struggled with whether to share their journal with friends or family because they began to realize how personal the content was.  Only after they identified that it was more like a visual diary did they give themselves permission to not share or to share with only those who they felt they could trust and would honor the sacredness of their entries.



We live in a society that praises results, outcomes, and production.  Showing your art to others may elicit compliments or criticisms.  Either way these comments can stifle our creativity when we feel we have done something “wrong” in our art expression as deemed by someone else or even when others compliment our work we may feel the need to continue to “produce” similar art works, thus constricting our expression.


Join me next week when I share more ways to nurture your creativity.  But for now, what are you waiting for, start making art!



If you need some support getting your creative practice going, join me online or in person for Art Journaling or Intuitive Painting.  Click below to find out more!

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Creative Potential

April 27, 2014 in creativity, inner critic, inner wisdom, inspiration, Nature


I have been doing a lot of gardening lately. Indoors I have been planting seeds excitedly waiting for them to germinate, sprout and grow.  Outdoors I have been preparing the soil: getting rid of weeds,  supplementing the soil, preparing the bed.  I check on what I’ve planted daily; pots of soil, with seeds yet to germinate and sprout as well as tiny sprouts and little seedlings.

Disappointment sometimes visits my little nursery: some seeds are slower to germinate, some never germinate at all, and some sprout, wilt and die before I can do anything.  I have learned over years of doing this not to become discouraged, but rather to focus my efforts on those seeds that do take.

If you know anything about planting from seeds, you know that on the seed pack it tells you when to plant indoors for the season  the seed pack also tells you the rate of germination not just how long it will take to germinate but also the percentage of seeds you can expect to germinate. Not all seeds germinate you see, no matter how much you nurture it and provide it with the right environment. Some seeds just don’t take.

What does this have to do with creativity?


Well, we are all creative you see, but we have different seeds of creativity within ourselves.  Some will germinate and grow given the right environment, and some will be slower to grow.  Each seed contains within it the potential to grow into a strong entity, but it cannot do this without being nurtured and cared for.  With my garden, a certain amount of consistency is needed: if I forget to water it regularly it can weaken the plants if not destroy them.  If I don’t provide the right amount of sunshine and the right nutrients in the soil they will not be as healthy and will be susceptible to pests.

Our creativity also needs to be nurtured and given the time to blossom.  We need to put regular time aside to create, and provide it with the tools it needs to express, in a safe environment of acceptance, protected from the pests otherwise know as of inner-critics.

There have been some creative endeavours which I have tried and seemed to fail miserably, however, looking back I see that those seeds never germinated for a reason; either the environment was not right at the time or this just was not for me, and was never meant to germinate.

It has taken me years to learn the intricacies of growing a strong garden of vegetables.  And I am still learning.  But it is my persistence and passion about this process which is pays off.  Our creativity needs the same kind of  loving commitment: we need to believe it is worth it or we will not bother to give it what it needs, we need to be consistent or it won’t have the strength to grow and we need to give it the right space it needs to grow or it won’t even germinate to begin with.  It takes patience. If you rush the process or expect too much all at once, discouragement will set in and you will forget to continue to nurture your creativity and allow the pests of self-doubt to take over.

Let me repeat: the seeds need to be nurtured and given the right conditions in order to germinate and eventually grow. The seeds are not the planted by others, we already have them within us, our job is to provide the right setting to allow creative potential to grow. Not all seeds will grow. Each seed does better under certain conditions.  If I plant beans out now they would not survive the cold but peas in the other hand thrive in cold weather. There is still no guarantee that each pea will sprout. I can only provide the right conditions for it to reach its potential.  So how does one provide the right environment for creativity to flourish?   Join me next week as I share some ways to nurture and support one’s creativity.

Looking for some ways to nurture and support your creativity? Join me online or in person for Art Journaling.  Click below to find out more!

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Whatever comes to mind

April 21, 2014 in art journaling, art therapy, creative tools, inner wisdom, inspiration, intuitive painting


To direct or be spontaneous that is the question . . .

Detail of Crone in an intuitive painting.

Detail of Crone in an intuitive painting.

When I was training  to be an art therapist some 20 years ago I was taught to use a spontaneous approach. Simply put, it means encouraging clients to draw what ever comes to mind. It’s meant to get at what is currently needing to be addressed.  The assumption is that ones’ inner wisdom will show the way via the art.

My own approach to my art has been similar: I paint or draw whatever wants to come out in the moment. I don’t actually think about it in the whatever comes to mind sense, but rather I allow what ever movement my hand wants to make and choose whatever colors I am attracted to in that moment. – a very intuitive and mindful approach I think.

Give me a directive on the other hand and I over think it. I have to take the suggestion in and let it seep in, then I just begin and see what happens.  It can be a bit nerve-wracking at first, especially if you are one to focus a lot on outcome.  Of course the process is just as much a part of the “outcome”  but that is the subject of another post.

Some people struggle with a spontaneous approach, uncertain of the “Unknown” their imagination will possibly expose.  Or perhaps anxious  to get to the heart of the matter.  Using a directive (“draw or make a . . . .”) in this sense can help lower anxiety for clients in art therapy  when they are uncertain as to where to begin. But the directive needs to be tailored by the art therapist to the needs of the client.

With the art therapists in training I teach it tends to be a mixed bag: some shrinking away from a spontaneous approach, finding it a little too anxiety provoking, even overwhelming at times.  While others welcome a spontaneous approach as a refreshing change from their art school days when constantly being told what to make.

So what is the advantage of a directive other than to lower anxiety for some? It’s a place to start. You dont’ have to over think what is being asked but rather think of it as planting a seed.  The directive is spoken, there may be a brief moment of panic (“how am I going to express that? What if it doesn’t turn out? What if it reveals too much?”) but then you can “forget” it, as it has been has taken it in on some level by your unconscious.  Then you can let it go and see what surfaces.

"Savage Mirror" lesson 21 SECRETS  (Work in progress)

“Savage Mirror” lesson 21 SECRETS (Work in progress)

When you are doing directives on your own, not in the context of therapy, it can feel less intimidating to have a starting place for your art.  And if you do still find it difficult to follow someone elses’ prompt, just acknowledge the  intention and begin, your inner wisdom will lead you where you need to go.

It really comes down to a matter of preference.  I know for me I have learned to embrace directives a little more enthusiastically, particularly through art journaling.  They can help me focus and get down to the task at hand of expressing myself and challenge my vulnerabilities to just the right degree.  When I am working on larger art, outside of the art journaling I like to take a more intuitive and spontaneous approach.  But that is just me.  Everyone needs to find their comfort zone and step outside of it just a little bit to see what works for them.

If you would like to have a lot of starting places for your art journal you may want to check out 21 SECRETS Spring 2014 for some really awesome guides on art journaling.  If on the other hand you would like to explore or strengthen your intuitive side, you may want to get on the Painting With Your Muse e-course waitlist or if you are in the Toronto area, join me for a live one day workshop.

Need some guidance on how to get started with Art Journaling? Join me online or in person for Art Journaling.  Click below to find out more!

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