My Art Therapy Exercise

I’ve been scrounging around for some months for a small exercise I could use for art therapy. Much of the information online is for trained art therapists or people who have the money and opportunity to go to an actual art therapist. That lets me out.

Many of the exercises involve making big things or journalling. I already journal and do things in that way but I don’t express or examine emotions in my regular artwork. I have trouble with my hands so can’t do big pieces and knowing I had a large project would feel overwhelming. One site suggested using one word and drawing things related to that, whatever you could think up in 100 ways. So I thought about something I am interested in and I like ceramics and vases specifically, but I let the idea go.

However, I got up this morning in such despair about my health that I could hardly move, and the world seemed totally hopeless. So I thought about vases again and went to my huge clip art collection and found some vector art of vases. I wanted to make small templates about three inches square to transfer the basic outline of a vase to my sketchbook. Some were silhouettes and others were coloured, but to use the coloured ones I filled them with black and then modified the selection by 3 pixels and deleted the rest so I had an outline to print. I did several different shapes, and will glue them to Bristol board and cut them out. A few of them need to have the shape simplified but I’ll do it with a pencil before I cut them out.


And that is my particular art therapy idea: word vases. I can use words about feelings either on the vase or coming out of the vase and I have nine different templates for shapes and can pick and choose as I like, and use whatever colours and designs or flowers I want. I can make one every morning in my sketchbook and see if it helps me work through emotions, good or bad.

This being a private exercise I will not be showing the results, but I thought someone else might find this idea useful for a long-term art therapy exercise. Depending on your interests, you could use another shape entirely. I often use templates for doodling and I find that having a basic shape to go to makes starting to draw much easier.

You don’t have to worry about realism or high art and getting your shadows right! Get the emotion out, get the words out, and find a way through to a better feeling.

And here they are later in the day, all glued and cut out, ready to go.


My first one (I have removed the words and writing for privacy.) As you can see it’s a simple exercise, not meant to take oodles of time but meant to get to the emotion so I can reflect on it.


I truly believe art can help everybody in life.



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4 Comments on “My Art Therapy Exercise”

  1. Roseanne Dix Says:

    Oh my goodness Judith what a truly wonderful and inspiring blog. It takes me back to years ago. I really look forward to see what comes of this. It is great to adapt lessons to our needs and you are brilliant at doing this. I went to an exhibition of JUGS – the most amazing and interesting drawings and articles. Cant wait for the next episode.

    • JJ ColourArt Says:

      Oh wow, jugs! You get the best art exhibits there.

      I did a word vase this morning but I don’t feel comfortable sharing in public. I will send you a few examples privately eventually.

      The exercise was good – suits me. Not too fussy or long but I get the idea down and out.

  2. ironwing Says:

    The silhouette at lower right on your finished picture is similar to the ancient Hohokam clay water ollas that were used here in the desert. Shards of them, sometimes painted with red ochre spirals, are still common on gravel bars in the dry desert rivers.

    I did a similar exercise about a year ago with strawberry pots (I’ve always had a thing for them). I ended up with a page of outline drawings in various shapes, then put it aside. Maybe I should re-do it in color this time.

    • JJ ColourArt Says:

      I had to look ollas up–yes they are very similar. I have never heard of the Hohokam either–also interesting. The clip art I used for the shapes were southwest pots (probably Pueblo) that I filled with black, so not far off. I love that kind of pottery.

      Strawberry pots would be great for that. Think of the words and plants you could invent to come out of the little pockets.

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