Art and Creativity

Art is important for children especially during their early development. Research shows that art activities develop brain capacity in early childhood; in other words, art is good brain food! Art engages children’s senses in open-ended play and develops cognitive, social-emotional and multi-sensory skills. As children progress into elementary school and beyond, art continues to provide opportunities for brain development, mastery, self esteem and creativity.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Source of My Strength

The following is adapted from a workshop that I did for Discount School Supply customer, A Window Between Worlds (AWBW). AWBW is a training & resource agency for battered women's shelters. AWBW serves women and children at shelters and this workshop helped their training for Program Coordinators from shelters throughout Southern California. For more information about AWBW and using art as a tool for heailng, check out

Objective: This month's workshop is designed to engage teens in a creative exercise to identify the things about them that are strong. They will create symbols that help represent the source of their own personal strength, so that they will be able to more quickly and readily understand their strengths and access them when needed.


Colorations® Smooth & Silky Art Sticks
BioColor Paint (4 colors plus silver and gold = 6 total colors)
Nancy Paint Bottles Twist Tops (optional)
Balloons - one per person
Small paper plates - one per person
White Cardboard Pencil Box - one per person
White heavy weight construction paper (for warm-up and handmade stencils)
Paper towels for cleanup
Colorations® Glitter Paint (optional)
Paint Brushes – one small & one large
Colorations® Glue
Cups with water

Prep: Pre-fill Nancy Bottles with BioColor, filling 4 bottles with standard BioColor and one each of gold and silver, for a total of 6 Nancy Bottles full of BioColor per small group of participants. Fill one Nancy Bottle with paint for every 4 people. Try out each warm-up application before the workshop. Make yourself a sample of the Source of Our Strength Box to familiarize yourself with each stage, and so you will be confident leading the session. Create your sample box from your own voice as a healer, someone who provides healing, compassion and positive solutions for children.


1.) In the middle of the table place 4 standard and 2 metallic BioColors in Nancy Bottles, 1 Nancy Bottle of glitter paint, 1 set of Silky Sticks. Place an extra small stack of white construction paper for warm ups.
2.) In front of each seat, place 2 sheets construction paper, 1 balloon and one paper plate.


Note: During the demo/warm-up, it is useful to first do a demonstration of each step and then give participants a turn.

Art Material Demo and Warm-up #1: Balloon Printing with BioColor

Step 1: Using 4 standard colors of BioColor, plus silver and gold, place quarter-sized dots of paint in center of plate.

Step 2: Blow up balloons, not too big, so they fit into your fist or grasp (2"- 3").

Step 3: Firmly press balloon straight down into paint palette, then "print" paint onto paper. Bounce/print balloon all over.

Step 4: Create stencil patterns. Using thick, white construction paper, tear stencils by folding the paper in half and tear out images as if you were making a snowflake. Position stencil and balloon print on top. Remove stencil to see pattern surface. Repeat. Overlap stencils and repeat with a variety of colors to create a pleasing design.

Art Material Warm Up #2: Intro to Silky Sticks

Step 1: Dry Application: Take a few different Silky Stick colors and make a simple doodle
to experience the materials, pressing hard to lay down bright pigments. Don't think about it too much, take this time to "loosen up" and leave your critical voice behind.

Step 2: Wet Application: Dip Silky Sticks into water before making another doodle. Experience the difference in wet and dry applications.

Step 3: Wet Application with Paintbrushes: Take your larger paintbrush and dip it into water. Apply your wet brush to your original dry doodle, creating a "flow-release" effect as it releases the colored pigment into a dilution of color, like a watercolor. Next take your smaller "detail" brush and dip it into water, making more detailed flow effects. You can also use your wet brush, or finger, directly on your Silky Stick as if it were a dry watercolor cake, and use your finger or brush directly onto your paper. Set aside all the warm up creations to make room for the activity.

Introduction & Relaxation:

Ask the participants to try to relax, put down their art materials, and if they wish, close their eyes for a few minutes while you guide them through a brief period of self-reflection.

Continue with this dialogue (or change the concept to your own voice):

Today's workshop is meant to to focus on our strengths, so that we can increase our sense of safety and well-being. We will remind ourselves today that we are each strong enough not only to survive, but to overcome and rise above what has happened to us in the past. Today is about living in the present moment of strength, community, healing and support. Our artwork will help us focus on what it is that makes us strong and keeps us strong. With that in mind, try to relax and reflect upon where it is that you find your own personal strength. In times of need, do you call upon your faith to give you strength? Or do you think of your mother, your brothers or sisters, your friends, or something else to makes you feel strong? When you ask for help, who listens? What is the source of your strength? (Give people a short quiet time to reflect on this question). Now, open your eyes and take your Silky Sticks and a fresh piece of paper, and DRAW A SYMBOL that represents the SOURCE OF MY STRENGTH. Your symbol can be made up of one image, or a combination of images. Just do what comes naturally. There is no right or wrong way to create a visual symbol. The easiest way is to simply get started and see what happens!


Part 1: Inside of Box

Take your SOURCE OF MY STRENGTH drawing and re-create it on the inside of your pencil box, using the Silky Sticks. Consider your original warm-up sketch as a starting point, and re-create the image in a more finished form on the inside of your box, adding details and embellishing it however feels right. Don't over think it, just let it flow without being critical of how it looks or what it means. As you create your visual symbol of strength on the inside of your box, imagine you are creating this image from your source. Whatever comes of this experience will be the "right" image of strength for you today.
Part 2: Outside of Box

Now comes the time to decorate the outside of your box more playfully, by balloon printing the outside with BioColor and your own handmade paper stencils. Add glitter paint if you want to add sparkle. Create a design of your choice, so that when you place it on a shelf or dresser table where you live, you will be reminded of a pleasant time spent with creativity and community. No one but you will know that inside this box lay very important symbols, symbols that represent the source of your strength and the inner resources you call upon.

Have participants share their boxes with a partner, or with the group. If they share with a partner reinforce the importance of being a good listener (i.e. paying attention and not interrupting). Encourage the participants to look inside their "Strong Box" whenever they need to be reminded of their personal strength.


When selecting boxes to decorate, be sure to purchase ones that have an unfinished surface, like the ones from Discount School Supply. A slick, or glossy surface will not allow the paint to stick.

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At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Artist said...

This is a great idea. Growing awareness about ourselves and the world can enhance life and well being. Art is such a great motivator
I am painting through synesthesia which makes me see colors when I hear names and numbers.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Anna Reyner said...

Thanks so much for your comment. I hope you've had the time to try BioColor®. The colors in that paint are incredible and you won't be disappointed. BioColor® gold is my favorite!

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