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Art Therapy

Anyone with a streak of creativity will vouch for the immensely engrossing nature and healing effects of painting, drawing, sculpting and other forms of artistic expression. Art therapy is utilized by trained professionals using ancient forms of self-expression as psychological tools to treat the troubled mind.

Art therapy is now a recognized form of psychiatric treatment used to resolve a range of psychological ailments and improve mental health. It is a relatively new approach to mental disorders, beginning in the 20th century. In the UK, the term was first coined by Adrian Hill, an artist who stumbled upon the therapeutic effect of art while he was recovering from tuberculosis.

The therapy is founded on the principle that helping a person express his innermost feelings through art leads to healing various disorders and promotes well-being. Expressing oneself through art allows a person to resolve emotional conflicts, lessen stress levels, heightens self-esteem, changes behaviour and increases self-awareness.

Art therapy finds application in a vast range of mental problems. Among children, it is used to treat those with learning disabilities or behavioural and social problems. Children who have undergone a traumatic experience often benefit by 'letting go' of their fear, pain and anguish through art.

Among adults, chronic stress is a common reason for seeking art therapy. Patients recovering from brain injuries and individuals suffering from depression, physical abuse and anxiety, whose verbal expression is hence impaired, are also ideal candidates for art therapy.

An art based therapy session can entail using diverse media from sketching, painting and collage-making to sculpture and pottery, coupled with counselling sessions and conventional psychotherapy.

A typical session differs from a regular art class as the attempt here is to give expression to images that occur within a person, rather than what he/she sees externally. Sometimes, art therapy sessions include learning artistic skills.

There are several 'tools' that art therapists use to evaluate a patient's emotional state and cognitive abilities. House-Tree-Person (HTP) is one such assessment where a patient draws images of a house, tree and person using only a lead pencil. Various questions are then put to him/her about the images: "What is the person in the picture doing?", "What is the weather like?" "Tell me about this tree." In the HTP assessment, the three images represent varied aspects of the patient and how she feels about herself. By looking at the drawing and answering such questions, the patient, along with the therapist is able to explore her inner thoughts and feelings objectively.

From helping cancer patients to cope with their disease to soothing stressed out executives, art therapy unlocks shutters in the mind and helps people heal themselves.


Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853 to a pastor in Groot-Zundert, Holland. Growing up in an atmosphere marked by religion and culture, van Gogh was a sensitive, diffident youth. After trying out varied jobs as a bookstore clerk, art salesman and preacher, Vincent finally found his calling as an artist.

During the late eighties, he joined his younger brother Théo, an art gallery manager in Paris. The emotional, edgy painter was a difficult person. His obsessive habit of painting all day followed by late night discussions on art with other painters soon affected his health.

Letters to Théo

Much of what we know about van Gogh comes from the artist's prolific letters to Théo in the years he spent away from Paris. Vincent was a lucid, expressive writer. His letters, carefully preserved by Théo were later compiled by the latter's wife Johanna van-Gogh Bonger and published as a book in 1914.


In Paris, Vincent met with Impressionist masters like Monet and Pisarro whose work dramatically impacted his style. It was Paul Gauguin who arguably influenced his work the most.

With ill-health dogging him in the late 1880s, van Gogh decided to move to Arles in southern France, hoping to establish a school of art with his friends. Gauguin accompanied him, but their friendship was doomed. One day, the temperamental Vincent chased Gauguin with a razor. Gauguin stopped him, but the scuffle ended with Vincent cutting off part of his own ear lobe.

Van Gogh's Death

It was the beginning of the end. Vincent swung between fits of depression and hallucinations followed by periods of intense lucidity during which he would throw himself into painting. He was admitted to an asylum for treatment. In May 1890, he seemed to recover and stayed with Dr. Gachet in Auvers-sur-Oise. But in July that year, he shot himself in the chest and died.

Best Known Works

Today, the world pays homage to this tormented artist.

Thousands of his works sell as prints and reproduced art. Starry Night tops the list, an instantly recognisable image endlessly replicated on prints and varied merchandise and celebrated in song, too, Vincent, by Don McLean. Two related works, Starry Night over the Rhone and Café Terrace at Night continue to astound art lovers worldwide.

Van Gogh painted several series of works based on a single theme, Cypresses, Flowering Orchards, Flowers and Wheat Fields. He also created 37 self-portraits, among which Self-Portrait without Beard is one of the world's most expensive paintings.

The tremendous appreciation that van Gogh's works evoke in modern times makes it hard to believe that the artist sold just one painting during his life time!


How to Display Art Using Your Home Architecture

Every home has architectural features that can be enhanced or diminished by artwork. Knowing how to make the most of your home's architecture will help you create a stunning art display that brings out the best in your artwork and your room.

Staircase Art Display

The walls around a staircase are perfect for hanging long vertical groupings of picture frames. The eye will flow with the artwork from one floor to the next whether it is a wide stairway or a narrow circular stairway. Consider a grouping of six framed floral photographs hung vertically in pairs. Another idea would be three elongated simple black picture frames hung staggered on the wall following the rise or fall of the staircase.

Elegant Art Display

For a dramatic and elegant effect, frame six pieces or artwork in matching frames to display. Elegant artwork does not need to be expensive. The drama and elegance comes from the choice of picture frame. Pressed flowers or dried leaves make a wonderful display when framed in matching wood picture frames. Depending upon your wall space you can hang a grouping of six picture frames horizontally in two rows of three pictures or vertically in three rows of two pictures.

Consider Shapes and Sizes

If you have large or odd shaped walls, you can create a very unique art display. You may not have a long vertical piece of art for that narrow angled wall, but if you have three horizontal pieces of art that are the same size, you can hang them in a vertical line about three inches between each picture frame. A grouping of picture frames will be more cohesive and have more eye appeal if the picture frames have a similar finish that ties them together.

Consider Windows and Doors

Windows are considered by designers to be "living art." French doors or a wall of windows could be the focal point of a room. This is why it is important to take windows and doors into consideration when you display your art. If there are a lot of windows or doorways in your room, hang only one large picture frame or a grouping of picture frames on one wall and leave the rest free of artwork. This will eliminate a cluttered look and be more restful to the eye.

The beauty of a stained glass window stands on its own and should not have other artwork hung nearby. Artwork hung on the wall should not compete with the windows and doors of a room.

Importance of Balance

Balance between artwork and furniture is important when decorating a room. If you have a table, desk or dresser sitting next to a large piece of furniture like an armoire, balance the smaller piece of furniture by hanging a large piece of artwork or mirror over it. The artwork will add height so the smaller piece of furniture isn't dwarfed by the large piece of furniture.

Let the architecture of your home be your guide when creating art displays, and remember these pointers for using that architecture effectively. You can complement the personality of your home with your choice of artwork and how it is displayed. A room balanced with artwork and furniture makes for a comfortable, inviting room.


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