Portable studios

A sanctuary for artistic creativity can consist of simple items that we take with us, wherever we go, as a kind of portable studio. Cathy Malchiodi, my favourite arts therapy author, shares her story with us:

“When I was going through a medical crisis, I spent a good deal of time each week in a doctor’s waiting room. I sat in close quarters with ten or fifteen other people in an atmosphere of anxiousness with colourless walls and nondescript furniture. To make the wait more bearable I brought a small sketchbook and coloured pens that fit nicely into a zip-lock plastic bag in my handbag. Even in the chaos and unappealing surroundings of that waiting room, A4 sized territory was a portable studio capable of shutting out everything else. The receptionist had to call me more than once to get my attention when the doctor was ready for me."

"When you attend to your imagination and creative source, you create a special place inside yourself for images, and words, to blossom. The small sketchbook sustained me on most days; at other times when I felt extremely debilitated, my studio was all in my head. I would close my eyes and watch my imagination at work and allow mental images to come forth spontaneously for my entertainment."

Children make natural studios wherever they are. You may have seen a child using a stick to draw in the sand or sinking deep into thought and colouring a picture while sitting with a parent. Children have taught me a lot about how any space can become a studio, no matter how small or inaesthetic.

So my friends, to create a portable studio with a sketchbook and coloured pens for a visual journal, be inspired and follow these 10 steps:

1. Choose Your Tools:

Select a compact sketchbook and a set of colored pens or markers. Ensure they fit comfortably in your bag.

2. Select a Portable Container and book:

Use a pencil case, small pouch, or a designated container to keep your sketchbook and colored pens organized and protected in your bag. Opt for a sketchbook with a sturdy cover and good-quality paper that can withstand travel.

3. Diverse Color Palette:

Include a variety of colored pens to give your visual journal diversity. Choose colours that resonate with you and evoke different moods.

4. Start Simple:

Begin with simple sketches and doodles. Patterns or shapes. Don't worry about creating elaborate artworks, just focus on your doodle, scribble or pattern. Simple circles works wonders in the mind. There is a reason why circles are ancient artistic experessions. Doodle away!

5. Capture Moments:

Use your portable studio to capture moments from your day, feelings, or scenes around you. It could be a quick sketch or a few words during a coffee break or a simple depiction of your surroundings. This will keep you focussed and therefore mindful.

6. Experiment with Styles:

Try different drawing styles and techniques. Let your portable studio be a space for experimentation and creativity. Pinterest is great for this!

7. Make It a Habit:

Form a habit of carrying your portable studio with you. Incorporate visual journaling into your routine, whether it's during commuting, lunch breaks, or outdoor activities. You can also use words.

8. Reflect and Expand:

Reflect on your visual entries. Consider how your drawings capture your experiences and emotions. What stories can they tell you? Can you recognise pleasing patterns that you can repeat, perhaps in different colours? Write the little stories your drawings tell down next to our images.

9. Personalise Your Kit:

Add personal touches to your portable studio, such as stickers, quotes, or small mementos. Make it a space that reflects your personality.

Remember, the key is to make your portable studio a convenient and accessible tool for self-expression and mindfulness. It's about enjoying the process of creating and capturing moments, no matter where you are, no matter how simple your drawings or doodles are. It is a habit you can teach yourself. After a while, it can become your best friend.

I recommend all Cathy Malchiodi’s books – they are simple, yet complex, easy to read and offer a wealth of information and inspiration on how to incorporate therapeutic art-making into your life.


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