Rule #1- Find a place you trust…

A wonderful professor in college gave us a handout at the beginning of the term that I still, and probably always will keep close- it is a copy of the list of “rules” by John Cage. I believed she wished us to hold these in our minds as we created our art?

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher — pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined — this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything — it might come in handy later.

Each and every one is an invaluable piece of advice, but I am starting with rule one as I start out on my own life as an “adult”

I am posting this here because I think I owe to the few, but quite loyal, followers of this blog an explanation of my personal love of, relationship with, and need for sketchbooks and journals.

They are the place I have found to trust. There are always things I want to say, but rarely are they “safe” or “appropriate” or “won’t ruin my reputation.” In fact, I probably say too much out loud as it is, yet I still need that safe place. To me, the place that I trust is often not a specific location, but a book that I can keep hidden from the world- at least until I am ready to share that trust.

So I try to trust this place as often as possible. I scream what I can’t scream in the real world, I cry about pain when I don’t want the anyone to know about the tears, I write about the rare and valuable cheesy happiness-es when I feel no one would take me seriously- or even care.

I write when I know I DO have something to say, something that is, in fact, quite important and valuable, and yet remains something I cannot force my own mouth to voice. 

Sometimes I cannot get things into words, even in a journal. So I draw- usually to music, my own overwhelming emotions, and in spite of my fears. Scribbles, angry sketches, random blocks of happy, beautiful colors. Often the doodles lead to more doodles and sometimes to more writing.

So I suppose I do have a more personal tie to this than I had originally admitted to myself previously. It has occurred to me that without these countless sketchbooks and journals I may very well have lost my mind- and, equally important, I may have forgotten all of the thoughts that become more and more important to remember as we age.

Just because you cannot share your thoughts with the world now does not make them useless or unimportant. Rather, these thoughts may be the most valuable to the world for longer than you can imagine. I don’t think Anne Frank truly understood the long reaches her honest words would have over the world. Picasso created great art- but he also changed the way we define art itself. Don’t ever think it’s not worth it, it’s not good enough, or it doesn’t matter.* If it’s in you, get it out.

*Please refer to Rule Number 6.

That is all for tonight.

Best wishes,


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More Research! So many studies…

OK. I think I’m in neck deep with medical based studies investigating the efficacy of art therapy.

If you just want a list of TONS of examples (from ADD to grief to traumatic brain injuries)- here is a good PDF list from the American Art Therapy Association. For each study listed there is a section summarizing findings, and additional information on the validity of the study (and the limitations of that study, in some cases). Basically: an overwhelming amount of support for the role art therapy can have in health care.

One thought before I move on and forget it: I found one study particularly interesting in its investigation into the methods used. (#14, summary on page 34). The study is limited, and focuses on young sexual abuse victims specifically and does not address the healthcare community in a greater sense, but the findings could be potentially useful in how the sketchbooks/kits are put together.

“It was found that children produced more formed expressions and creative/design elements and less chaotic discharge and stereotypic art through the art project that involved few instructions and few materials… versus involved, ‘multiple instructions and materials'”

This is something I hadn’t thought about from the standpoint of providing a creative outlet. I assumed that the main need for access to art supplies was driven partly by lack of money and partly by lack of artistic exposure. Basically, according to this preliminary study, less is more. I had originally planned only to provide basic materials anyway- as organizing instruction on such a wide scale is probably much too much of a task for me- but did not realize that this could actually be more beneficial to the receivers. A less structured environment has always helped foster my creativity, and the less instruction I received, the more creative I was (and almost had to be). It does make sense that minimal to no instruction would leave the possibilities as endless as the creator’s imagination.

Then too is the inevitable discussion of costs and donations. Though not necessarily monetary donations, at some point some sort of drawing/writing supplies will be needed to go along with the sketchbooks themselves. This begs the following inevitable questions of “How much can be given?” and “How much is needed?

According to this study, perhaps only the basics. A pencil, a pen, and something with some color (pencils, crayons, or markers). In terms of what you need to express emotions, a writing utensil and access to colors (emotions and colors are strongly tied- just ask anyone who designs ads…) are really all you need. Whether the person receiving the supplies writes, draws, sketches, scribbles, whether what they create is deep and meaningful or simply an exploration of aesthetics, whether the end product is useful or useless- it doesn’t matter. Each person will need something different from their sketchbook.  Just as no two illnesses are identical, and no two sets of treatments are prescribed in the same manner, no two people will use a sketchbook in the same way.

So here’s my question for you- the part where the reader has the chance to help ME out a little ;-D

What would YOU do with a sketchbook, a pencil, a pen, and some crayons? How would you fill the book? 

(In case you haven’t caught the hint yet- I am asking for some comments!!!! THIS IS NOT A RHETORICAL QUESTION PEOPLE!)

Supporting Research?

It has come to my attention that, though I have an intuitive sense of the importance of art in the healing process, maybe some more solid research would flesh out my ideas a bit.

So here’s my findings from today (I will keep posting as often as I find good sources and I have the time)

(Click on the title to see the original source)

From: The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature

-“Engagement with creative activities has the potential to contribute toward reducing stress and depression and can serve as a vehicle for alleviating the burden of chronic disease.”

This comes from a brief paragraph that points out that two of the leading chronic conditions in the US, heart disease and diabetes, are associated with “psychosocial stress.” This is kind of key- I think that many of us, myself included, tend to think only of the direct psychological benefits of creativity, not of the indirect physical benefits that are probably greater than we have yet discovered. A person with diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), but not with any obvious psychological disorders, would still benefit greatly from a reduction in stress. I began thinking about the demographic of people for Sketch4Health in a more limited sense- those with conditions that created great stress, rather than those with conditions worsened or partially caused by stress.

I will be honest: this article examines a few different types of arts used for theraputic purposes, but I mainly focused on the “Visual Arts” section- since that is what I am trying to help with.

“Art helps people express experiences that
are too difficult to put into words, such as
a diagnosis of cancer”

Under the visual arts heading is a chart summarizing the findings of several studies on the effects of creating art. ALL of the studies found positive results. Benefits included distraction, increased positive emotions and reduced depression, and increased focus on self-worth and social identity.


If you haven’t already, check out the video I came across the other day, it is very inspiring! Comment below!!! And follow the board on Pinterest if you want to help gather visual ideas!

About Art Therapy

Please watch the video if you have the time. My favorite quote: “make a scream… Nobody knows what a scream looks like…”

You can’t express everything to a doctor, at least not right away. It talks about the science behind art as therapy a bit, too, if that helps you get the picture of what I am getting at.

“getting something in you out”