Layered Reflection of Courage

Guided art reflections are excellent for helping to process one's life experiences. As I work with women who have little to no experience in mixed media art/reflection (not a "normal thing" to have experience with!!), it has been challenging to break the process into small "layering" steps. It is very counter-intuitive to "cover up" an art something (or even a written word) that is on a lower/first layer. It is only when I break the steps down, ideally with pictures, that it becomes more manageable and understandable.
The example here shows multiple layers of art which began with a written first layer reflecting how the immigrant seeking asylum in the US had embodied courage during her pre/journey. You can see a little bit of the words still visible in the upper left corner in the pink area. As she gradually built the layers with symbols of hope for her future, the story of her past becomes absorbed through art into the hope she is expressing for her new future. She gave her piece a title for the "top layer" of Dios es Amor (God is Love) and also wrote her hopes and prayer for the future on the bottom left.
The art reflection was inspired by the Biblical text, Isaiah 43:1-5 which talks about God calling people from the north and south and east and west and gathering them together to worship God who is the creator of all people. This text then is included in the art piece (I provided the printed words on the peach paper which are evident here on the top left of the art). First-timers at layered art always find it strange to "cover up" the words they have just written with a big piece of anything, such as this scripture. However, as they move to the second and third and even fourth layer during the art process they begin to experience the value of the guided art reflection. Novices always seen quite surprised at how much they like their completed piece!

Courage: Past, Present, and Future

How have you had to be courageous in your life? Courage was the theme for the recent guided art meditation for women inside an immigrant family detention center. I asked the women to rapidly write when/how they had been courageous before they made the decision to leave their home country, during the process of leaving, and while on the journey to the USA. The written portion closed with a prayer for courage in the journey ahead.
Some of the women write much detail, spending 30 minutes or more writing their experiences and thoughts. Others write only a few sentences. It seems counter-intuitive to the women, but immediately following the written portion they begin adding layers of art. Quite often, the words are entirely covered and it is difficult to impossible to read any portion of what they had written. The idea with the written portion is to "dump" their feelings and experiences, to name their joys and struggles and then to move into the art portion with the vision toward God's presence in their lives (past, present, and future).
      During the art process, I talk with the women about the importance of symbols. There are a myriad of stencils and stamps available, they choose symbols and shapes which hold meaning for their lives and/or which bring them hope.
Flowers symbolize growth and new life.
The butterfly (mariposa) is one of the most-selected symbols by the women.

Reflections on Courage

Mixed media art reflection based upon Isaiah 43: 5-7.
First: Write your story of courage. Think back to when you first began to think about making the journey to the USA. Make a list of your acts of courage before you left, as you began the trip, and during the journey. Next, write a prayer for today, tomorrow and the coming weeks, months, and years.

Second: Go to the art supply table and choose a favorite color of acrylic paint and a stencil shape. Put a little bit of acrylic paint on one edge of your paper. Take a stencil and return to your table. Use a small piece of cardboard and scrape the paint across the page. Quickly place the stencil on top of the scraped paint and rub off the paint through the stencil using a baby wipe. Repeat with a second color and a different stencil.  Clean the stencils with a baby wipe.  Glue the Bible verse into your art.

Third: Use a crayon or oil pastel and draw a large, simple shape over the background (tree, flower, stem with leaves, butterfly, cross). Paint inside the shapes. Add cut shapes and/or stamped images of symbols that help you to have courage. Outline the shape with puffy paint. Use a crayon or dark colored pen to write words of hope and courage for yourself and for your children. How is God present? How does God give you hope? How does God give you courage during your journey? Write your name and today’s date.

Crowns of Joy!

I've used this simple art project is every possible context: when I'm working with children and I have the opportunity to do it...I do it! Here I tied in the theme of King (Baby) Jesus and a "Christmas VBS" for immigrant mothers and children. I had volunteers prep cutting out the crowns from sheets of white poster board so they were cut and ready for the 300+ participants. It saves time and paper to cut "two for one" by centering the crown to trace in the middle of a 7-8" wide strip of poster board. If you make one continuous cut down the length of the board as you cut out the crown, then each side of the cut can be used to make crown, one side is the "shadow" shape of the original, but it works just as well as the original shape. (And yes, the crown is from Burger King!)

It is an easy project to do without a lot of production (or than having the crowns pre-cut), and the work can be done at a table or on the floor. The materials list is simple: crayons, watercolors, brushes. We used every possible table and then the overflow sat on the floor or on the bleachers. I only regret that I cannot show you any pictures of their sweet faces. They truly loved wearing their completed creations!

Home Sweet Home Popsicle Sticks Puzzle

A teenager copied the sample photos exactly!
Home Sweet Home Popsicle Sticks Puzzle was a fun project during "Christmas break" for mothers and children inside an immigrant family detention center. I am grateful to my artist friend, Lynn, for sharing this project which had done with elementary school children as part of an after-school program. I consolidated her instructions (and made them bilingual) for use inside the detention center. It was sweet to see the mothers helping the smaller children and equally sweet to see the teenagers really getting into the project and adding much detail.

1.           Write your names on the back.
2.           Draw your “house” picture step by step, ONE step at a time.
3.           OUTLINE each step and color it in. Outlining is part of this process.
4.           Outline the house, door, windows and roof/chimney.
5.  Color in the forms made. Use colors that stand out next to each other
so you can “see” the outline –use a dark outline with light interior or vice versa.
6.  Outline the smoke and color it in.
7.  Draw a yard horizon line
8.  Draw the tree, foliage and branches Outline first then color in
9.  The flowers are next. Outline and color in with chosen colors.
10.        Draw the front “lawn” and color in or put flowers/rocks/pathways in. Color and outline
11.        Draw any people, outline and color in.
12.        Outline mountains, or any background. DO NOT color in yet.
13.        Draw a sun next, outline and color in.
14.        Outline clouds and color in. Put mountains in, outline and then color the
 background after all images are outlined first. Add birds (“V” birds!)
15.       Add any details.
16.       Pull tape off and reassemble puzzles. Trade and do each other’s puzzles!