Art in all its forms, both ancient and modern, is an expression of not only what artists want to say, but also how they feel about it. We also respond to art that we encounter in an emotional way.
Creating art is a very physical process and this physicality is one of the ways personal expression is conveyed. When clients create their images their emotions are expressed through the levels of energy conveyed, the colours chosen, the types of marks made and so on. This physicality is one of the reasons why coaching with art works at such a deeply emotional level. For example, when watching clients create pieces of work they may stand or sit on the floor and use their whole bodies, not just their hands. When using the materials, you can see their wrists, arms, shoulders all moving; they may change the way they stand and sometimes the whole body moves in the direction of the marks they make.
As James said in one of his sessions ‘…I selected watercolour sticks and started by making a spirally flower design from the centre of the page, noticing as I did so how one draws with one’s whole body’. James later reflected, ‘Art is physical and I have been aware of how my body has been engaged in the exercises, and this has spoken to me’.
Coachees can find working with emotions quite hard, often finding it difficult to identify and describe them. Emotions can often be complex and coachees may be wary of exploring emotions as they may feel exposed and vulnerable. There may also be societal or cultural aspects at play. As a result, clients can gloss over or explain away their emotions. Coaching with art allows our clients to externalise and hold their emotional complexity in the safe space of the visual image they have created. It then allows the client, and coach, to hold those emotions and just be with them, taking time to explore them using the language of the image created.
By giving the right hemisphere its voice through art we can provide a richer and deeper conversation about the emotional truth of things, which in turn enables the client to have a greater understanding of their values, belief systems, motivators and drivers as well as their personal narratives.
As Sam said at the end of her first session with me ‘I still find it completely fascinating that these truths have emerged so quickly and profoundly, enabling me to articulate what have until now been nothing more than gut feelings’.