Art Therapy – A Journey

Before starting to draw…
Maria grew up in a family where she was considered the black sheep, treated with contempt and patronized. While the relationship between her mother and her siblings could be considered ordinary, a very different attitude was reserved to her, causing profound wounds and uncontrollable emotions of jealousy and despair.

What teared her down the most were the never-ending judgments of her mother, and by imitation, also of the other siblings.

By sharing her issues, Maria had started to become aware of her deep traumas, but this didn’t help her to change her emotional reactions. It was enough to touch on any episode of her past with the family, to make her burst into tears.

We draw together

After six months of sharing and discussing her problems, we were still not able to make any progress to help her out of the darkness which trapped her. The idea of ​​drawing together came by chance and almost out of desperation.

The beginning was spontaneous and without a precise plan. The idea came by seeing her first drawing, which was a surprise for me. I had the clear feeling that by drawing she may find a complementary key to words, which so far did not bring much progress. The effectiveness will reveal itself only in retrospect, far beyond my most optimistic expectations.

The first drawing

The very first drawing was born almost for fun from a little challenge. I was struck, not so much by the subject or for being more or less faithful, rather by the type of energy that emanated from the strokes and the varied shades of the pencil’s pressure, revealing a deep sensitivity and rich interiority.

This is how we begin a journey of exercises aimed at exploring, blind in direction and deaf to words, a new path.

Of the fifty drawings made by Maria over two months, I illustrate here only a few examples, representative of some fundamental stages.

For each drawing, I challenge Maria to answer with another drawing.


Drawing exercise: the painful beginning

Challenge: Focus on your breath and emotions, copy the drawing and… don’t stop

The first exercise, apparently harmless, turns out to be for Maria a birth-giving pain. As she draws, unexpected emotions emerge, she has to stop several times because of the tears that run down her cheeks. But being a challenge, she endures to the end.

Without willing, the act of drawing has touched inner strings unspoken so far, and too painful to raise to her consciousness.

Elaborating and understanding together what happened, she gains the courage to keep drawing, with the good will to open the Pandora’s box hidden inside her.


Drawing exercise: First steps

Challenge: Look for beautiful memories inside and… draw them

First drawing: Looking for some happy memories, Maria goes back to her childhood, when still a child she and her friends went catching fish and toads in the river with bare hands.

Second drawing: The style shows that it is a memory of the adulthood. Even if the subject is a heart, it is surrounded by lumps of energy, perceived as painful and blocking. Maria feels she has a heart, but it hurts.


Drawing exercise: The world of Maria

Challenge: Think about yourself and… dare

In this series of drawings over the course of a week, as Maria draws herself, negative emotions begin to externalize, the tangles to melt and the energies conveyed in the strokes to flow more fluidly.

I don’t know what is happening, but I realize that I am facing the beginning of an unexpected transformation.


Drawing exercise: Couple

This exercise is meaningful as it shows how Maria represents herself within the couple.

First drawing: the man is drawn with bold lines, the features are traced as if to reaffirm his positive strength. At the same time the lines approach the male almost with reverence.
The woman instead, is drawn with elusive and hesitant traits, her body fleeing to the left, the head tilted almost to hide an alleged deformity, and the whole figure fades as it moves away from the focal point of the man on the right.

Challenge: You are not worse than him… redo the drawing

Second drawing: there are no major differences regarding the male, but this time the woman is drawn with more decisive strokes and is balanced compared to the man. The head loses the initial asymmetry to horizontally meet the man’s gaze: Maria has understood.


Drawing exercise: Mermaid

In the portrait of a mermaid Maria reveals the way she perceives her femininity.

First drawing: The attempt to hover her female energy is nipped in the bud. The traumatic blocks reveal themselves in the deformed and restrained lines. It should be noted that the deformity has not to be interpreted literally in the warped body, rather in the emotionality of the traits which highlight the distorted lens through which Maria perceives herself. At the same time the secret yearning of her seductive power unconsciously leaks out.

After a month during which Maria experiences a human relationship free of judgment…

Challenge: Free your hand, draw like waves and… let yourself go

Second drawing: What is striking in the second mermaid is for the first time the spontaneous use of colors. The sense of freedom that begins to flow becomes in the drawing the intimate dimension where Maria finds the courage to express her sensuality.


The beginning and the end

After two months of exercise, I decide to take a break and stop to let the inspiration guide us in a different direction. By looking back at her first drawings and comparing them to where she is now, I feel it’s time to open a new chapter:

The hand which draws is the same, but the woman who leads the hand has transformed.

Written by

Francesco Castronovo

It's nice to meet you, and welcome to my world.
I have 3 passions in life: Art, Psychology and Spirituality. I find deep meaning in my life by helping others with my life experiences, and leave them something to remember. Learn more »

Leave a Comment

Training Sessions

Art Therapy & Personal Counseling

First Session is Free