We all handle grief in different ways. Most of us get to the point, after wading through our shock, anger, disbelief, sadness, where we feel the need to DO something to put away our feelings. They never really go away, but we end up doing something that has meaning to us to help us kind of wrap the experience up and put it on a shelf so we can stand to live with it. Some people plant a tree or maybe go on a trip, listen to a special song, make a photo album, write. I've found that art has been an effective healing tool for me and others. 

The art we make as we work through feelings about hard things that happen doesn't have to be a masterpiece. In fact, it's okay if no one ever sees it. It seems to be the act of creating the thing that is the most important step. I'd encourage anyone who is having a hard time working through something to dabble in some home art therapy. A cheap notebook, some magazines, markers, scissors and glue are all you need to start an art journal where you can scrapbook your feelings.

As a figurative/portrait artist, of course, that's the type of work I lean towards making when I'm needing to work through something. Much of my work is autobiographical in some way. I always say that painting is cheaper than therapy. Some of the work I do when working through something ends up interesting enough that I share it with others, but I have a whole closet full of stuff that will never see the light of day again, and probably needs to be burned. I'm okay with that. I've noticed that if I share work of this kind with others, they respond to it, not necessarily because of any technical prowess or talent I possess, but because it speaks to some experience in the viewers life and resonates with them. I try to tell the truth about my feelings in my art work, and I guess that's the best I hope to do as a person - tell the truth and hope that someone else will benefit from it in some way. Here's a piece I did when I found out I had Keratoconus and I was freaking out. 

I was honored to be included in the recent issue of the Exponent II, an LDS woman magazine, in which Mormon women shared their stories. This art work and the story behind it was included on page 23.

Last year when we found out my father-in-law was dying, I was blessed to have time to do a portrait of him before he passed. It gave me something to do during a horrible time, something to control when there was nothing that could be controlled, something beautiful that would last and bring us comfort after he passed.

Sometimes I have people come to me who want to use art to heal but their ideas outstrip their ability, or they have a photograph that's not quite right, so they hire me to do a painting for them. I always welcome this kind of work with humility and trepidation. I pray a lot when I'm doing this kind of work. Usually I find that I receive a little extra help from above in getting the painting right. Right means I'm happy with it as a piece of my work and the client is happy with it as an expression of their feelings about the subject. When all these things come together, the resulting art work can be a very healing experience for the client. Here are two paintings done for friends, the first of a baby of dear friend who was stillborn, the second for the daughter of a friend who's son had passed after struggling bravely for months in the NICU. Both of these paintings have been able to help bring healing and I am so grateful that I could be a facilitator for that. I give the credit to God. 

I believe that God has given us talents and put beautiful things on the earth so we can find solace in hard times. And there will be hard times, no matter who you are. I encourage everyone to find the thing that can help them through their hard times and if you're struggling with something, why not give art a try?