During the moment of creation a professional artist needs to be focused, with a clear intent and purpose. There is a large degree of intellectual processing involved in the artist's decision-making of what to show and how to show it. In contrast to non-professional artists, we often hear them state that they are not making art for therapeutic benefit and that they have complete control of the process and end result, with little room for subconscious significance. An artist recently told me the art she makes when feeling very "emotional" is not the kind of art that best represents her professional goals. Others report not wanting to read very much into why they do what they do because it takes the fun away from the process.
However, very often there is something interesting that happens over time. Artists who develop distance from their work, often look back and identify a solid relationship between the artistic choices they made and their psychological state at the time of creation. Choice of medium, colors, easily recognizable versus ambiguous symbols and subject matter, all may have helpful implications about the artist's emotional state, conflicts, sources of inspirations, and way of perceiving the world. It is these kinds of manifestations of the subconscious which, discovered over time, may be of use in a session.
The role of the counselor working with an artist who seeks psychotherapy might include:
- exploring patterns and symbolisms
- putting the artists' works in context of their past/current life's circumstances
- helping artists articulate what the images reflect
- revealing beliefs and attitudes, more easily accessible to the artist through art
- exploring the artist's willingness to even talk about the emotional significance of the work
If you are a visual or a professional artist, feel free to comment below on whether art involves symbol-making with implications about your inner world. If so, let us know if you have ever explored these implications in order to understand -and consequently improve- psychological functioning.
If you wish to read more about psychological analyses of artists and their work visit this link to read more about the book "Psychological Studies of Art and Artists".