Art Instruction and Art Therapy- Not Good Bedfellows

I recently found myself in a therapeutic setting, and part of our treatment was an art therapy class. Typically I find this to be an enjoyable and indeed relaxing enterprise whether just for breaking up the day, or expressing things in pictures that one might have trouble (or might be hesitant or unable) to express verbally. The issue, in this case was a well-meaning, though critical art therapist– when I say this, I mean that she criticized the art itself — coloring, shading, et cetera. The problem with this is that those present were not there for an art lesson, but rather for the aforementioned treatment benefits.

None of us were artists, nor (at least in a group therapy setting) were too keen on learning the creative process at that particular moment.

So, naturally, being a cheeky bastard and wanting to bring a smile to those around me, I always submitted for sharing something appropriate for group, meeting the therapeutic goal for the day while being a bit “unorthodox”.

First, we were asked to “Draw a Journey”. This while potentially helpful, was ruefully lacking in any further instruction– and given that a “Journey” is a rather broad concept, we were left to our own devices as to what Journey we would draw. I drew the following:


For those of you who don’t know, it’s a snippet from one of my favorite David Bowie songs, Space Oddity. It also technically met the requirements of a “Journey”. Major Thom, really did make the grade, “Aim for the moon and you’ll land amongst the stars” (and other such aphorisms), and of course it took the good Major quite a bit of courage to not only be propelled into the empty darkness of space, but emerge from his one lifeline to explore the unknown– all fitting aspects for recovery: Courage, embracing the unknown which can be frightening, and I chose the most positive of Ground Control’s messages to inspire optimism in not only myself, but those around me.

Naturally, the group leader was not impressed.

She did save her criticism of my picture itself (of which there could have been plenty I’m not an artist), favoring a sort of blunt rejection of the idea as a whole.

The other experience worth mentioning, which was my one and only display of civil disobedience in all the group therapies I attended was when I was asked to construct a Vision Board.

Personally, Vision Boards are not my thing- they are anathema to me. If they work for you, great– I am not saying they are useless, as everybody is different and what helps them, provided is a healthy outlet for recovery of any type, is a good thing.

So, instead of the Vision Board, and needing to brighten my mood, I instead drew a picture of Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski, played by John Goodman. I apologize to readers for misspelling the character’s name as Sobcheck– keep in mind I was In a place without internet and unable to spell-check the character’s name. In any event, I produced the following:


I took care to edit out the more colorful language, to include likely on of the most absurd censorship attempts in history. The classic line, which truly highlights Walter’s threadbare sanity after confronting Donny Sellars, whose homework was found in The Dude’s Stolen car,

“This is what happens Donny when you fuck a stranger in the Ass!

Became to cable audiences as the enigmatic and baffling:

“This is what happens Donny when you meet a stranger in the alps!” 

Again the teacher was unimpressed, but you know what? I enjoyed it. I hung it by my bed and I get a smile every time I see it. And if that doesn’t aid in recovery, I don’t know what will.

Your Sundered Knight,

Tommy R. Atkins

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