Painting Is My Therapy
Painting is my Therapy
This is a story that I am compelled to tell. It is my family’s journey… it is many families’ journey.
My son has Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Knowing that your child is not, and never will be, what is considered ‘normal’ is very confronting and frightening.
Painting has become my therapy, my vessel through which to feel what he feels, to attempt to understand his world in the hope that answers will present themselves. Using a highly stylised version of myself, the artworks unfold through my eyes and tell his stories. I employ an arsenal of materials and techniques in the creation of these large-scale artworks. The textured surfaces fuse materials such as bitumen, shellac, gyprock plaster, wood panelling, paper doilies, gap filler, lemon juice, wood tints, builder’s tape and text. They are used along side traditional mediums of inks and acrylic paints.
Each artwork tackles a base emotion that we all experience at some time, the difference being that ASD sufferers experience these strong emotions all the time. I have chosen to share these emotions in the hope of inspiring understanding, compassion and acceptance for those who struggle to communicate these emotions themselves.
Believed to exist in a ‘robotic’ world void of emotion, people with ASD actually feel EVERYTHING. The misunderstanding exists because people with ASD have difficulty processing these feelings in a way that we can understand. They access a completely different part of their brains than we do, therefore think in a completely different manner than we do. The misunderstanding is that these people lack intelligence because of this. I am sure that my boy already knows more than I do – truly. His intelligence is breathtaking.
Living in chaos, as well as with a little girl who struggles to understand her brother, sometimes the weight bears down heavily. Unnervingly this journey, coupled with the breakdown of my 11 year marriage, left me able to relate to my child’s often extreme emotions more than I am often comfortable to admit. But after an impressive personal downward spiral, and excessive amounts of self sabotage, somehow I managed to stumbled upon a path that feels right. These artworks have proved an invaluable tool for my children and I to communicate and connect. And outward, beyond my little family, I have been overwhelmed by the effect they have had on others.
To act as an advocate for other families in this situation, and for these beautiful, unique children, is a source of great pride for me, and one that I do not take lightly. It has been an honour to work with Professor Tony Attwood, a world renowned Clinical Psychologist. He has shown great generosity with his time and expertise by endorsing each artwork and the accompanying written word, as correctly representative of Aspergers Syndrome.
The story is far from “gloom and doom”. It is primarily a celebration of the struggles and triumphs of these unique, beautiful children who have this condition. Children who grow to shape this world, to challenge our way of thinking, to show us what it is to have integrity, honesty, purity of thought, astounding intelligence, freedom from prejudice, and total devotion. They are truly inspirational. To see more of Melanie works go to www.melaniejai.com
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This post originally appeared on our July/August 2011 Magazine