If you have to go to the Hospital, bring your sketchbook!

Even though I thought I might only be at the hospital for a short stay, I brought my sketchbook. It is one of the best things I did for myself, especially when my stay was extended. The sketchbook kept my mind on something positive in the midst of incredible monotony. Besides lip gloss, Purell wipes, tissues, and cold water, it was a real life saver.

Sharing art with my caregivers helped me focus on being more than my body’s abilities or lack thereof. It gave me something to focus on other than pain. Nurses, doctors, technicians, and cleaning staff all showed genuine interest and a kind of spiritual relief to engage with me about my artworks since they themselves have to deal with so much suffering.

Being a certified Artist in Health Care Settings with Temple University, I knew art to be an important tool for me to share with others. Still, healing is often about figuring out ways to take care of and honor oneself. My sketchbook was my proof to myself of my serious commitment to heal my left arm (I am an ambidextrous artist) and to get the optimal care and support for my passion to continue making art.

What I didn’t know was how deeply the creative activity of drawing while being in my darkest hours helped connect me with the universal symbols of opportunities for healing and being alive.

Only after explaining my drawing to a passing nurse did it occur to me that the symbol of the acorn in my Homeless Veterans Mural designs and Waterfall Mural designs for Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Public Pool had a universal meaning that all viewers could relate to as a part of recovery.

As pointed out by the nurse, these primal symbols of seeds and water have been used in various other cultures for centuries and were as meaningful to me while being in the hospital as to the nurse as symbols of hope.

What are your symbols for healing or hope?

When has a sketchbook ever come in handy in your life and made the waiting more bearable or meaningful?

“I see healing and art as one. They are two sides of the split between the rational and the intuitive…I see healing and art as an expanding sphere…for both the healer and the artist, art heals in the same way. Images held in the brain stimulate the hypothalamus and the autonomic nervous system and change the autonomic parasympathetic nervous system, our brain waves, our immune state, and the neurotransmitters.

Dr. Michael Samuels, “Art as a Healing Force “Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 1Read more on The Arts in Healthcare in the U.S. at https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/NEA_SAHConceptPaper.pdf

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