Collaging as the jumping-off point for a difficult conversation.
In 1942, British artist and army veteran Adrian Hill discovered the therapeutic benefits of drawing while recovering from tuberculosis in a sanatorium. As he later recalled in his book Art Versus Illness, the pencil drawings he made became “a form of escape which would combine the virtues of a creative and curative value.” Art therapy, the phrase Hill coined, would go on to become a popular branch of mental health care. Today, therapists use clients’ art as a projective technique—a way of getting them to express emotions that might otherwise go unspoken.
As creative arts therapist Melissa Walker explained in a TED Talk on the subject: “There is an actual shutdown in the Broca’s—or the speech-language area of the brain—after an individual experiences trauma.” Drawing is a way to circumvent that blockage.
But Hill, like most art therapists who followed him, had the advantage of being naturally good at art. How can the technique benefit people for whom the prospect of drawing stick figures and wonky sunsets feels insurmountably awkward? One alternative is collage therapy: pictures are assembled using pre-existing images, which become the jumping-off point for conversation. Even outside of a therapeutic setting, collage-making can relieve stress and encourage creative thinking. All you need is scissors, glue and a few magazines; you could start with this one.
Words:Harriet Fitch Little
Artwork:Form, B.D. Graft, 2015