Art Therapy

Although I blog on behalf of Art History, it is only my minor. My major is actually Art Therapy. I decided on Art Therapy during my junior year of high school. Sometimes I feel like my whole life led up to that point. There were countless reasons why this was the perfect career for me, and saying the words out loud to my mom felt like the greatest relief and the greatest joy combined together.

As soon as this current semester started my Applications in Art Therapy professor informed the class on our first project, which would be intended for exhibit. The assignment was to create art with a stranger/acquaintance, someone you did not know well at all, and reflect on the experience in your own piece of art. We were not supposed to use therapeutic techniques in this session at all. Rather than asking them emotional questions and such, we were just supposed to see where the art-making took us.

I provided a canvas, paint, and watercolor in miniature ink jars. I told the girl I worked with that she could make whatever she wanted. She told me earlier that she loved painting and was very excited to be helping me with this project. She began to paint the canvas with blues, purples, and a metallic green. As we began talking simply about her day she told me she’d just gotten into a huge fight with the man working at a gas station. She’d met up with me directly after. Once she got to talking about this stressful situation, I noticed she’d picked up the black ink and started releasing it with a dropper all over the canvas. The colors had all disappeared.

She took a minute to breathe, noticing how dark her painting now was. She then picked up white and the metallic green paints and added small specks here and there. When she blended them in, the harsh background softened up a bit.

“It looks like the night sky,” she said. “I want to paint a constellation.”

As I said, there was no directive as to what they were supposed to or weren’t supposed to paint. The blues and purples made their way back into the sky. Once dry, she used yellow acrylic to paint her favorite constellation, which represented a queen. We mindlessly began talking about the stars, constellations, and our zodiac signs. I was immediately struck with inspiration for what I wanted my exhibit piece to be.

I am a Pisces. Pisces are known to be very compassionate and therefore very intuitive towards the feelings of other people. They dread criticism and can be harsh on themselves. They are said to be nonjudgmental and the most tolerant of all zodiac signs.  Pisces are most commonly known to be very creative and artistic.

In the center of my canvas I sketched two fish, swirling together as they do in the Pisces symbol. I chose koi fish because they are known as a symbol of perseverance – they swim up stream.

I painted my canvas black, but added lighter and lighter shades of blue towards the middle. I wanted the black to fade to light, in a way that made the fish look as if they were glowing.


Once I felt as though I achieved this effect, many hours later, I began to paint the koi.

For my piece I wanted to reflect on my partner’s journey of finding something beautiful through darkness. She turned something that seemed negative at first into something positive and glowing. I wanted to do the same, and in a bigger sense, use this painting as a reminder of what it stands for in my personal life whenever I feel down. The Pisces are glowing amidst the darkness, symbolizing qualities I would be blessed to have.

In my future, if I am ever doubtful of myself as an art therapist, I can reflect on this piece as a reminder to have faith in myself, my art, and my practice. The fish represent the faith in my choice to become an art therapist, and the koi symbolize how I will persevere, even when times get tough.


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