The inspiration for this art-based study came organically. As a middle-aged woman and artist, I have always used creativity as a means to self-understanding. I comprehend how creativity can empower and enlighten one’s life. I have instinctually turned to contemplative art making to self-soothe and express what felt too painful to talk about. Since I began the graduate program for art therapy and counseling, I have had limited time to focus on personal art making. I am convinced that the added stress and anxiety I felt while enrolled in the graduate program was the result of this lack of genuine art-making time.
This art-based study employed an open and integrated research design that attempted to enhance the validity of therapeutic art process. It contains some phenomenological elements that looked at the art process through the artworks and personal narratives of a small and specific mental health population. This population experienced art process in a one-day focus group. Each participant volunteered to participate for a variety of reasons. Some reported they wanted to reduce stress and burnout through art making, some intended to better understand art process therapeutically, and some to just enjoy creating in a relaxing atmosphere. All of the participants were unclear about the power of the artistic process. As an artist and novice researcher, I entered this art-based experience with intent to veer away from my own biased artistic perspective. I remained instead open to the idea that art process may be experienced differently by those who do not primarily self-identify as artists.