The work on this page was inspired by the project “Collaborative scribble drawing” in the Expressive Arts Activity Book that I use a lot for study and inspiration (Darley and Heath 60).
Scribble art is a great icebreaker. No artistic talent or skill is needed so it’s easy to get started. If done as art therapy it can also create a rapport between the facilitator and the client by making it into a collaborative activity (Darley and Heath 60). For example, in a two person exercise each person can make a scribble on a blank piece of paper, then the participants trade papers and finish off each others drawings. The initial scribble can even be made with eyes closed to take all the pressure off of having to show artistic skill. Abstract results can also be a way to encourage conversation about something the scribble might remind the participants about (Darley and Heath 60). Following are several examples of scribble art that I made with my husband Tom and my Dad Don.
If you want to try something like these samples, here is a list for tools and materials.
Tools and Materials
Bristol board or drawing paper
Black markers in various widths
Found papers for collage – I used the insides of business envelopes
Tom and I each made a scribble with our eyes closed with black marker on Bristol board. Next we traded papers and used commercial stencils by The Crafter’s Workshop to further develop the designs. Then we finished off our designs by coloring in parts of the image with colored pencils and markers.
Tom’s scribble was a challenge to work with because it was very dense. It did remind me of something – I turned it into moths trapped and tangled to represent trying to overcome some kind of frustration or challenge. This kind of work is not only good for the brain but just from a visual point of view it’s a good way to discover effects you might want to use in other art later on.
These examples were made by my Dad. First I gave him an introduction to Zentangle and doodle art which I wrote about in a previous blog post. He practiced making some repeating textures. Then we each made scribbles on two sheets of drawing paper. We kept our favorite of the two sheets then traded the other. Then we filled the sheets in with textures from our samplers. For extra fun we glued cutouts from the insides of business envelopes into some of the areas in the scribbles. I thought they looked cool with the hand-drawn textures. The tape and tracing paper from the materials list were used along with the pencil to get my collaged paper pieces to fit in their spots on the scribble drawing.
I’m grateful to Dad and and Tom for doing art with me from time to time. I sure do feel a lot less lonely when I get to do a project with somebody. It helps us all with our general well-being and is also a great way to spend time together. When you’re working on art that is mostly mindless, once you get started, it’s easy to talk about various things. It’s also a good activity to do alone when you’re stressed and need to get in a better state of mind. The finished product really isn’t the point if you’re doing it for therapeutic reasons, but I also get skills and inspiration for future art work while I practice.
Works Cited andRecommended Reading
Darley, Suzanne and Wende Heath. “The Expressive Arts Activity Book: A Resource for Professionals”. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2008.
Coloring Idea #2: Rainbow Effect With Gel Pens and Colored Pencils
Sometimes when I do “adult coloring” I have a specific idea that I am trying to explore. At other times, I just want to color without thinking too much – it’s so soothing. Rainbow color gradations are a sure fire way to lift my mood. Here is how to get a fun effect with stencils, gel pens, and colored pencils.
Step 1: Tape a stencil over the design area and outline with a thin, sharp pencil. For this kind of utilitarian marking I really like a mechanical pencil. It’s easy to erase and I don’t have to keep stopping to sharpen it.
Step 2: With the pencil and ruler, draw parallel lines at intervals across the page.
Step 3: Note how the pencil lines you drew divide the design into striped areas. Outline your pencil lines in one gel pen color per stripe in rainbow order. For example, I outlined the first in blue, then blue green, then green, then yellow, continuing through to pink.
Step 4: To make sure the gel pen is dry, lay a clean sheet of scrap paper over your design then burnish with a squeegee or bone folder. Lift the paper and check to see if any of the ink is coming off onto the scrap paper. Repeat if necessary until no ink is transferring.
Step 5: Erase your pencil lines. You probably won’t be able to get all the pencil lines out from under the gel pen ink lines, but the rainbow effect will still come through well enough. If the pencil lines bother you, you could go back in and touch up your work later with opaque gel pen colors, paint markers, permanent markers or the like.
Step 6: Color in gradations in pencil between and around your gel pen lines, maintaining the overall color progression in hues. There is a lot of room for creativity in how to color in this step. I choose to make the pencil colored in areas lighter tints of the hues in the gel pens and keep analagous colors roughly together. Keep experimenting and coloring until you are satisfied with the effect.
The example at the above right is not finished yet. Here are a couple more examples I’m working on of the same idea so you can see the work a little closer.
This is a time-consuming way to color, but sometimes that is just what I want. It requires just enough concentration to distract me from problems I want to forget for awhile, but it’s not so hard to do that I need a lot of energy. Sometimes when you’re in a crisis great ambition isn’t really there. I may or may not leave some of the background white. We’ll see!
Bringing the coloring to Dad in the hospital
I worked on the samples you see in this article and for PART 1 both on the go and at home in order to have samples to show to my Dad. Dad likes to do the #12daysoftomsbeard project and he requested that I bring him some shapes for it to color on at the hospital. I wanted to give him a choice of coloring techniques, so I had samples of each technique ready. I had supplies on hand to cover either choice, but to streamline my supplies I only brought colored pencils as both techniques can be done with colored pencils even though I used colored markers for the first one. Dad chose the stained glass effect from PART 1 – stenciling over patches of background color.
When I brought this project to Dad, he was only a few days past some serious seizures that affected both halves of his body, but especially the left. Dad is left-handed and I was very worried because Dad’s left hand had been in a claw-like position for about a week or more. After the seizures his hand relaxed. I wasn’t sure how much function Dad would have in the hand yet, so I prepared a couple of sheets of shapes in advance for us to color, one for me to demonstrate on and one for him. I taped the shapes to scrap chipboard pieces so they wouldn’t slide around while being colored. I also brought some shapes that still needed to be cut out so that Dad could cut some if he was able.
I showed Dad an overview of what we were going to do, then I offered him a chance to try cutting some shapes. He did a great job on them – with a right-handed scissors no less! I was overjoyed and a bit teary-eyed to see him doing so well. I told him this is what I want for Christmas – to see you able to do this! It seemed like a miracle compared to how he was just a few days before. For awhile I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to ever talk with him again, much less do art together!
I suggested some color schemes for Dad – primary colors, secondary colors, and analagous colors. It wasn’t critical that the pieces be of any particular color scheme, but when I teach a project, if I can I like to include some useful art information. I’m not a trained art therapist but I am a trained artist so I can legitimately call these activities “educational” even if I can’t officially call them “art therapy” (Darley and Heath).
I got some colored pencils out for him to cover each scheme, and let him pick from among them. Instead of covering the whole background like I did on mine, he mostly drew small shapes all over the background without covering it all the way. And instead of coloring in the negative spaces between stencil markings, he put numbers on his tags, numbers 1-11 to go along with the #12daysoftomsbeard. He was short one tag, so I’ll make a #12 later when we get to that.
In this kind of project, expressive arts for therapeutic purposes, the process is far more important than the finished results (Darley and Heath). There is no reason to try to change what Dad wanted to do if it varied from my samples. Dad has always been creative – I was so glad to see that ability is still there!
Here I am drawing stencil lines over the colored in shapes before filling in the negative spaces with black permanent marker. The main difference between coloring over marker vs. colored pencil is that the colored pencil creates a slightly waxy surface which might resist the marker at first. To help with this, I outlined the black areas in gel pen before filling in with a black Sharpie marker. The gel pen sticks better to the colored pencil and once the outlining is done then it’s not hard to fill in with the Sharpie.
I have started embellishing some of the pieces that we colored with punched paper pieces, glued-on sequins and little dots of squeeze paint to go along with the stenciling.
When #12daysoftomsbeard starts on December 25, we’ll have a good selection of items to display on the beard. Hopefully people will send us more parts as a challenge to incorporate each day. The first year we did this activity, in 2019, I started out by clipping little pieces of paper to Tom’s beard with tiny clothespins. To keep things interesting, we’ve been gradually elaborating by making little garlands, involving Tom’s glasses, adding found objects and props, incorporating parts of the background, using far-out creative filters and more.
What will happen?
Above is a commemorative artistamp sheet I made to show off some of my favorite beard pictures from the first three years we did this project.
Works Cited andRecommended Reading
Darley, Suzanne and Wende Heath. “The Expressive Arts Activity Book: A Resource for Professionals”. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2008.
The 2022-23 Holiday season for many people is probably going to be the closest they’ve had for awhile to normal patterns of celebrating. My Dad and I have made some attempts to join in this year, but to be realistic most of our energy has been absorbed by the effort to get and stay healthy. My Dad has been having some medical issues since mid-October and I’ve been staying with him frequently at his house and visiting him him a lot in the hospital. Except for the past week – I just took a week off because I seem to have been hit by a flu-like illness (not COVID, I took the test!). I’m on the mend now. Dad has been taken care of during this time at a rehab hospital and will be coming home later this week if all goes as planned.
When he’s discharged, I’ll be providing some care he’ll need for about three weeks. I’m not sure how much either of us is going to be able to attend holiday activities in person. We will probably have to sit a lot of it out. But we will try to keep in touch online!
The annual project #12daysoftomsbeard is one that my husband Tom and I have been doing every year at Christmas time. It’s a way of combining crafts, installation art, photography, mail art, digital art and conceptual art into a holiday celebration for us and our friends and family and anyone else who wants to join in. From December 25 through January 6th he poses for me with different items in his beard and I apply wacky filter effects then upload the results to Instagram. We invite people to send in pieces to use in the beard. My Dad in particular really enjoys this activity and he wanted to work on some beard parts while he was in the hospital. I’ll show you how we combined stenciling and coloring to make a bunch of pieces to use in Tom’s beard during the 2022-23 Christmas season. I’m going to try to make an extra big deal out of it this year for my Dad and myself because we are going to miss out on most other holiday activities this year.
If you want more background information on #12daysoftomsbeard before reading on, here are a couple of my earlier blog articles about it.
Tools and Supplies Beard printouts – scroll to bottom of the page for links to 6 graphic files to download and print Cardstock and chipboard Pencil and eraser Ruler Black permanent markers Black gel pens Colored pencils Colored markers Painter’s tape Stencils and/or cookie cutters Scissors Hole punch Scrap paper for covering work surface Glue stick Squeegee tool or bone folder
Optional for Embellishments Sequins Glue Squeeze paint
Coloring Idea #1 – Stenciling Over Colored Markers
Scribbling some colored backgrounds is an easy way to make vibrant backgrounds for stencil art. By filling in the negative spaces with black marker, you can create an attractive faux stained glass effect.
Step 1 – Color in the background with markers in random patches to make something similar to camouflage patterns
Step 2 – Tape a stencil over part of the work area and outline in black gel pen, black fine tip marker or black fine tip pen.
Step 3 – Repeat with different stencils until the whole design area is filled with outlines.
Step 4 – Color the negative spaces in with black marker.
Step 5 – With a glue stick, paste paper pieces to chipboard or cardstock and cut out.
Step 6 – If needed, touch up the edges with black marker to make a neat edge.
Stay tuned for PART 2: Rainbow Effect With Gel Pens and Colored Pencils.
I fell down the stairs and bent my foot the wrong way. I might have two broken toes, I realize it could have been a lot worse. The pain is way down today so my head is more clear and I can actually write something! I don’t have to spend 100% of my time off of my foot until I have a follow up appointment with an orthopedic doctor, but I will have to spend the majority of my time with it elevated, at least for awhile. Not sure for how long, but in the meantime I’m taking the opportunity to study my art therapy book and my horticultural therapy books to see if there is anything I can do to cope better with the fear and frustration of being temporarily unable to move around much. I’d also like to help my stressed out family cope with helping me with my injury while dealing with other severe recent losses. What can I learn while I study and try things out?
Having Some Fun With Negative Space
I started out by working on some collages I began during #virtualartparty number 4, an online session my husband and I hosted to help our friends and family do a little art and hopefully feel less lonely during the pandemic. I’ll write more about the collages later, but for now I want to write about the leftover cut away paper pieces I was dropping in the waste basket to be composted. The shapes were interesting, and reminded me of something. What was it? Why were these scraps interesting? Then I remembered this really cool architecture photo I had put on an Architecture Pinterest board. And some sketches I’d done for a ceramics class in the spring of 1990. Good memories of one of those times when I couldn’t stop the ideas from coming, and a pretty good percentage of them still seem exciting to me.
What I was noticing was the shapes made by the negative space – the parts I cut away – and how they reminded me of positive and negative shapes that I responded strongly to. I took the most interesting white paper scraps back out of the waste basket and glued them down on black paper. I scanned them into the computer to make these positive and negative images to see if they inspired me to make something with them.
Using Photoshop, I made selection outlines out of the white shapes, stroked them in black, and printed out the results as coloring pages so I can try to encourage myself and other people to enjoy the benefits of coloring and art making. There is enough going on to get people started – sometimes a blank page is intimidating if people don’t know what to draw or color – that’s a tip I learned long ago in Drawing 1. There is still room for individual creativity in these and other coloring pages I’ve made available for free download.
The shapes that resulted from the paper cutting do somewhat resemble natural forms, but the overall design so far is abstract. Is abstract art good for therapeutic purposes?
I often encourage people to try making some abstract art in a project that is relatively low stakes such as an art journal page, because my reasoning has been that many untrained artists are afraid that they can’t draw and therefore are discouraged from making art that attempts to be representational. If I can show them how to make art from found papers and found objects, maybe that will help them become less inhibited and just have fun.
My favorite kind of art is abstract and if need be I can keep myself entertained with shapes, colors, textures and lines for hours if not days on end. Even if I think it’s fascinating and fun, abstract art is likely going to be a hard sell for most people. Those who appreciate abstract art the most are often art and design professionals or people very knowledgeable about art, such as patrons or collectors. The general population is mostly not that big of a fan and prefers recognizable nature-based images (Marcus and Sachs 15). We know from reactions to modern art and modern public sculpture how wide the gulf can be between the tastes of art and design professionals and the general public. If this sounds elitist, it’s not meant to be, it’s just a fact pointed out in a therapy book to help practitioners offer projects that are most helpful to the patient (Marcus and Sachs 15).
Abstract art isn’t necessarily therapeutic to people with certain conditions or states of mind. Experiments on physically or emotionally stressed patients revealed not only an affinity toward nature imagery but hostility to abstract art – even to the point of attacking the abstract pieces in some cases. The same artwork often prompted positive reactions from the staff, showing how the varying states of mind of individuals influenced how the artwork was perceived (Marcus and Sachs 30-31).
Practitioners intending to use art to facilitate health should keep the client’s needs in mind above their own personal tastes (Marcus and Sachs 15). Stress is detrimental to healing, both mentally and physically (Marcus and Sachs 25), so the last thing I would want to do is add to someone’s stress if I was trying to help them.
What could I add to my abstract background to make a project that is more soothing to the general public? My project is aimed at people who want to color but don’t necessarily want to draw. I have several stencils in my collection with botanical imagery that will appeal to the universal human need for nature-based imagery. I can use colors that are soothing and also found in nature. I chose blues and greens for this demo because hot colors might aggravate certain conditions and interfere with wellness (Winterbottom and Wagenfeld 182).
Art Journal Page
Here is an art journal page I made with one of my abstract printouts and a botanical themed stencil.
Marcus, Clare Cooper and Naomi A. Sachs. Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces. Wiley, 2014.
Winterbottom, Daniel and Amy Wagenfeld. Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces. Timber Press, 2015.