Monday, March 2, 2015

Art Journaling: The Journey in Words and Images

Seeing people at the park writing in their journal or painting on their canvases usually left me with a sense of envy. What I envy most was watching how they block out everyone around them as they get into their creative zone and staying in the present with nature.

I started my own journaling, but felt it was lacking so I drew in it. [see image below

Then in 2014, I discovered what they call “Art Journaling”.  It looked like so much fun with bright colors, tons of layering, very complex work. I watched videos of how-to’s on Youtube and still did not feel confident it in. However, I was told by many people who have done Art Journaling how rewarding and therapeutic it is for them.
For most of my life, I realize that I am a visual person –I have to watch how things are done. Once I think I understand, I then believe I can do it even if I have never done it before. Well…. until the time comes when I have to do it and teach others how to do it; then fear of being called-out sinks in.

As I volunteer with Cancer Survivors by teaching them art. I found that I wanted to teach Art Journaling, because I believe there is joy in writing your thoughts down and there is strength in art-making.  As a facilitator, you have your insecurities of doing something wrong, but I remind myself that I am an artist, and each artist has her own way of creating art -there are many paths that lead to the same destination. How I instruct may be different from how another person instruct, but the end result is the same – to help the participants find inspiration, relaxation and meaning in their work. To help give extra guidance, I give prompts, such as their favorite song/poem, their secret wish, their favorite symbol, their inner goddess, etc.  What is most rewarding for all of us is that once we try our first Art Journaling page, we realize the artist in us.

Basic Art Journaling Supplies

·         A journal (I use Dylusions Large Creative Journal by Ranger)
·         Watercolor/Color ink spray
·         Crayons/oil pastels
·         Scissors (or ruler)
·         Glue
·         White Gesso
·         Markers/gel pens
·         Pencils (colored and regular)
·        Old magazines for collage or photo copies of your favorite images
·         Stencils/stamps
·         Ink Stamps
·         Hair Dryer to dry your paint faster
·         Wax paper

Here is an example of how I create one of my pages. This was a 25 minute clip and I had to learn iMovie to cut it down to less than 10 minutes and then I had to learn how to upload it into YouTube. Forgive me for the amature quality.

Here is the final result along with other samples I've done.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Creative Process Wk 7 - Let's Tangle!

Today, I wasn’t sure what other creative practice I could do. Book Art is what I like. There wasn’t anything else I was interested in so I thought I’d doodle to open my mind. People who doodle have told me that it relaxes them and they would “space-out” for a bit. Then they are able to come up with a solution to their problem.

Well, that’s what did it for me. I did a search to see what kind of healing arts that has to do with doodling. I found Sacred Doodling with Carol Edmonston on Web Talk Radio. Edmonston is a breast cancer survivor who found healing through doodling. “Edmonston began doodling by chance while anxiously sitting in a medical waiting room shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Since then doodling has become a creative and meditative practice and the spring board for a new beginning for her life.”

You can learn more at and

Another site is

Zentangle is about making deliberate patterns, deliberate focus, rather than random scribbling. At the end, it looks like art you want to keep and displayed. “It increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well-being. You discover that not only can you create beautiful art; you also can increase your focus and create a different mood and state of mind. As you make a deliberate pen stroke on your Zentangle tile without concerning yourself of what it will look like when you are done, that very act of putting your pen to paper focuses your attention in a special way. As your eye follows your pen strokes your attention shifts to a state that allows fresh thoughts, new perspectives, and creative insights to flow unhindered by anxiety or effort.” (Zentangle)

This seems like the perfect art form for a patient with high anxiety. Using a black paper and a violet gel pen. I created my own Zentangle following some of the examples at  Their tag line is “Anything is Possible One Stroke at a Time”. And it is true. I highly recommend it to anyone. Here is my piece. I do not like it, because I’ve seen samples of amazing Zentangle drawings and mine looks amateurish, but I still like it. It helped me to feel accomplished and focused enough to start my mini needs assessment project.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Creative Practice Wk 5 - Carving out time to say 'Thank You'.

This week, we focused on cultural competency and what it means. In a hospital, there is a diverse group of culture and we need to be sensitive and respectful of people’s individual culture. Sheha Kilay gave us 4 tips on cultural competency with different cultural background.  1) Observe first and mirror the body language, 2) Appreciate the differences, 3) Don’t stereotype, 4) Be patient. These tips are great, but I was wondering what would be a universal in all culture.  Saying ‘thank you’ is a universal way of showing appreciation and respect.

Most patients feel grateful and want to give back to doctors, nurses, staff members, family and/or friends.  Some hospitals have a ‘conflict of interest’ clause by preventing staff from receiving monetary gifts from patients. One way for patients to show their gratitude is by making cards. Card making can brighten the day of someone else. Making a ‘Thank You’ can be therapeutic and fun. The therapeutic aspect of card making comes from relaxing, being productive, and keeping busy while spreading good cheers to others. It provides an outlet for creative expression which release important feelings or thoughts, allowing patients a voice to move forward. Making and giving cards is a great art form for connecting with people in the patients’ lives.

Instead of using store bought stamps and using stickers, I thought that patients would like to make their own stamps. Stamp making is easy and doesn't require toxic supplies. Here are the supplies needed: 1) A slab of SpeedyBall speedy carve, 2) SpeedyBall lino-cutters, 3) A pencil and a drawing to transfer onto the Speedy carve, 4) Ink to stamp the final product.

It is fun carving chunks out of linoleum because it takes you into a zone and makes you forget your worries. To start, you want to keep in mind that your stamp will print in reverse. Transfer your drawing onto the speedy carve and start carving off the areas you don’t want. I made a quick video for an example. Remember that anything raised will stamp so do a sample stamp on an old paper.  I made a card that states ‘you still give me butterflies’. 



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Creative Practice Fall B Wk 3 - Rhythmic Movement

With the concept of being productive while confined in a room or while waiting for news from doctors, I recently started a knitting program at my hospital to provide an alternative to waiting, loneliness and/or boredom. This program is an opportunity for patients to take back control by choosing how complex or simple the project should be with varieties of patterns, colors, combinations and textures.
I have been told by many people that they find knitting fun and that they enjoy making wash clothes as Christmas gifts. I have been told that knitting is a therapeutic art that uses the rhythmic movement of the knitting needles to bring relaxations to the mind and body. I have been told that it helps relieve stress while being productive. I have been told that the repetition contributes to a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension.
This week, I sat with the knitting facilitator to learn how to knit. At first, I was very excited. I was told to start creating a wash cloth, but I didn’t want to waste time making a wash cloth. I wanted to learn how to make knee cuffs to go under my boots. Little did I know how hard it would be!  It was really hard for me. First, the facilitator is left-handed so she taught me backwards, then she tried to show me the opposite way so I can knit right-handed. That just got me really confused. She started me off by casting the first row for me. Then I had to work on the second row on my own, because there were others waiting to learn. As I tried knitting on my own, somehow, I turned into a Tourette patient. My mouth was spewing out the ‘F’ word left and right. The last time I used the ‘F’ word was at least 9 years ago. I noticed my shoulders tightening up, my fingers choking the knitting needles and me holding my breath. It was stressful because I wanted to know how to knit instantly. I have been told that it’s relaxing! It wasn’t! It was stressful.
Two days later, after watching a YouTube Video, I had to learn how to cast my first line on my own, because I kept frogging it (ripping it out) and starting over. This photo is of my 7th attempt. I still feel like I am doing it wrong, but I have noticed that I am more relaxed and my fingers are starting to knit by itself. Maybe when I am not such a perfectionist, I might truly be able to enjoy knitting. In the meantime, I will just take patients’ words as to how therapeutic it is for them.

Here is the YouTube video I watched:
After 7 Attempts

My Aspiring Final Product

Friday, October 24, 2014

Creative Practice Fall B Wk 1 - Button Book

This week, we are learning about well-designed care environment.  After observing a friend’s studio and her creative practice, I fell in love with Book Art.  This last week was the Annual Book Art Jam were over 50 artists display their work.  The location was at a historic community center made of red brick and a beautiful landscape of trees, flowers, wooden benches.  I believe it was a well-designed building to offer care and support to the community. The event was buzzing with treasure hunters and bargain seekers. Books of all sizes were sold –some as small as a button, but most were the size of your mini iPad. Some books were going for $5 to $500.  Fascinated by a button book, and affected by the visual beauty of the environment, I purchased the button book in order to replicate it at my studio.

The artist, Ginger Burrell ( used decorative card stocks and a deep-orange color ribbon to connect the circles together. She also wrote a quote on the circles, “Butterfly, not quite bird and not quite flower.” The colors used are chocolate brown and deep-orange.  

To start off, I wondered if the ribbon was one long strip or many tiny strips, since I couldn’t feel the ribbon in the center of the circle, I decided to use on long strip because it would be easier. The next was to figure out what I wanted to create that was visually appealing. I ended up with a Zentangle pattern (, because I was not able to create my button book at my art studio. Lack of transportation, I had to work on it from my sister’s home. The environment was chaotic. Her children’s clothes and toys were everywhere; the television on full blast and the husband is playing video games on the flat screen with the Bose speakers on loud. If I had my chose, this was not my ideal location for creative practice.  I was frustrated, but had no right to ask everyone to be quite, because I didn’t have transportation at the time. Instead, I used my brother-in-law’s computer room which was a little less noisy.

Once I decided to at least start on the project, it seemed that the noise and chaos fell away – as if the lights went out of the whole house and everyone decided to take a nap.  By using one of my niece’s block toys, I used as a template for my circle. Then, I wondered how Ginger was able to get the circles cute so perfectly. Well, it turns out that she used a circle die cutter, which I do not have. Out of frustration, I use a pair of scissors to cut the circles and glued the pieces together to form the button book. It did not look professional and I was not happy with it, but I was happy for the initial attempt.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Creative Practice Week 7- Star Book

I have wanted to learn how to create a star book for the last year, but never had the mental energy to do it. With the freedom to create what I want his week, I took the opportunity to make a star book. It took me three days in preparation. My mind was playing a tug of war between the Star Book and the Caterpillar book. After reviewing many websites and YouTube video, I decided on the Star Book. It seems hard enough and more effort for me. I sat in my studio thinking about what I should to do – my incubation stage. Then I thought, I always love fairies and unicorns. I’ll create a book with a faire theme – my illumination stage. I discussed with my colleague as to what I wanted to create and she thought it was a cool idea. When I was done, she verified that it was a good start.

Creating this book was a little frustrating at first. My mind couldn’t really concentrate because I felt overwhelmed after watching so many videos trying to figure out how I want to create it. At first, I was going to use thick white watercolor paper and paint it, but then worried it will make it hard for the glue to stick. (See Figure 1) 
Figure 1
I walked away from the table for 30 minutes and thought about what to do and decided on using construction paper in my favorite colors, yellow, black and blue. (Figure 2) 
Figure 2
In the tutorial videos, they tell you to glue the three papers together, but I thought that was boring so I cut a window in the yellow and blue paper, looking back, I should have cut a smaller window for the blue. (Figure 3)
Figure 3
I glued all the sides together and added the covers.  (Figure 4)
Figure 4
At first, I was stressed because I’ve never made a star book before and worried it’ll turn out bad. Once I committed into starting, the whole process helped me to feel better and when I looked up, I have been working for two hours. This was a fair quickly process, but I learned what to do and what not to do to make my next book better. (Figure 5-7)
Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 7

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Health Issue Week 7 - Chronic Pain

Some years ago, I had a patient call me, wanting to share the experience she received just by looking at a photography displayed in the corridor at the hospital I work for. The picture is of an analemma by Masayuki Shiraishi.   By superimposing all the photographs taken of the sun at the same time each day – subtracting an hour as needed for Daylight Saving Time – the resulting figure-8 or the shape of infinity also known as an analemma.   See Figure 1, a sample photograph of Arizona desert by Frank Zullo 

Figure 1 - Photographer: Frank Zullo
 The patient crying with joy and hope in her voice told me that she has had chronic pain for the last 4 years. She had tried everything and is now at the last straw where she had to seek help through Stanford Hospital. As she was leaving the hospital, she saw this photograph of an infinity shape. That photograph gave her hope because she “knew there must be a God if the sun rotated in the shape of infinity. There is no way we are on this earth by chance.”  She continued to share that she was ready to end her life that day until she saw this photo, and had to thank the people involved in curating this art piece for the hospital.  I still remember this phone call every time I think of patients with Chronic Pain.

After some preparation and incubation of creating a new arts program for patients with Chronic Pain, I finally came to the illumination stage. Recently, knitting has become extremely popular in the Silicon Valley. Groups of ladies with their knitting needles and yarns are popping up everywhere –in the coffee shops, libraries, parks, community centers, and churches.  After approaching donors about the idea of starting a knitting program for Chronic Paint Patients, I received my validation two weeks ago. We now have funding that could keep the knitting program running for the next 10 years. I am proud to say that we are launching the knitting program on October 21, 2014. 

Benefits of Knitting:

In Betson Corkill’s presentation, she gave a list of psychological benefits to knitting. “Distraction, provides purposeful occupation and structure, enables contribution, calming, motivating, relaxing, raises mood, facilitates visualization, increases personal space, gives a sense of belonging, mastery of a skill, raises self esteem, gives feeling of control, breaks into negative thought patterns, reduces feelings of bitterness, encourages looking forward, fun, play and laughter.” What I found most value for the Chronic Pain patients is that knitting can “control the anticipation of pain.” Why knitting? Betson argues that “the hand movements are important. They are bilateral, rhythmic, and automatic. It [knitting] enables us to develop creative thought within a safe framework. Its portability can be used any time; anywhere to manage panic, anxiety attacks.” (Corkill)

“Carrie Barron, a psychiatrist with the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and a knitter, lauds handiwork as a tool for alleviating anxiety and depression. Her husband, Alton Barron, orthopedic surgeon and president of the New York Society for Surgery of the Hand, says knitting can prevent arthritis and tendinitis.” (Daily)

(2014) Pain Community Centre. Retrieved from:
Betsan Corkill was a physiotherapist, who now runs Stitchlinks, a support network for those who enjoy the therapeutic benefits of crafts particularly knitting (a bilateral rhythmic psychosocial intervention).

(2014) The Daily Gazette: Knitting making a comeback, seen as relaxing, therapeutic Retrieved from:

Additional Resource:

Riley, J, Corkhill B, Morris, C. (2013). ‘The benefits of knitting for personal and social wellbeing in adulthood: findings from an international survey’, The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 76:2, 50-57(8)