Art By Shalley

Using Art to Heal

About the Artist

    I am a clinical social worker practicing in Indianapolis. I create paintings recalled from dreams or meditations. This process provides insight for personal growth as well as artistic expression.
    I began painting in 2002 in response to a dream in which I see myself at a dinner where the host offered canvas, paints, and brushes for creating a painting. It was like the painting process in the dream was instructing me on how I was to paint. Adhering to the dream's suggestion, I regularly begin my process by painting several colors into a background until I see an image emerging. I then develop whatever it is that I see...a part of an animal, a bird's beak, a person's nose, etc. I develop that image and let the painting emerge.
    At first I brought little detail to the images. As my skills developed, I paint a lot more detail, defining the images more clearly. I also implement some of the rules and techniques of painting which have resulted in painting portraits, for example, where techniques of coloring of skin tones, rules for painting eyes, teeth, etc. are used.
    I credit artist, the late Rae Witvoet, who saw my initial work and encouraged me to "just paint" and "not to worry about what is looked like." She emphasized painting as self-expression. Rae's advice set me free to paint and to trust myself to paint whatever images I saw or whatever images wanted to appear.

    Linked to my career as a clinical social worker I call my paintings "healing art." I work to accomplish a healing space for the two painting styles I use. I paint as a personal process to bring into consciousness what is unconscious in me. I also do commissioned paintings, where someone gives me a theme or a color scheme and asks me to create a painting for them. In both cases my goal is to create a painting that has a healing effect.
    I consider my paintings a projective experience, much like clinical psychology's Rorscharch test. I paint a background of undefined content, an ambiguous scene. I then paint the images emerging from this undefined space. In painting them, amplifying them, their personal and archetypal meanings reveal unconscious forces at work in my mind. So my paintings are a kind of witness that speak to my life's condition. It does seem at times that at some point in the painting experience, something takes over, a kind of altered or meditative state, and I paint beyond my abilities and experience.
    To read a detailed acount of this process using the painting to the left as an example, click on Example. 

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