Art Therapy Abstracts: The Depths

My paintings are a result of releasing and expressing deep emotions and most are the products of flow experiences. I’m in art therapy painting abstracts with others who also suffer from PTSD.  I’m analyzing what was going on within and around me when the traumatic events happened, and what the memories evoke for me in the here and now. I’m  learning art therapy can be a powerful means of for releasing pain that can lead to emotional healing  and experiencing  personal growth.

“Abstract painting might look easy, and it might look as if the artist did not know what they were painting. It might look like it; however, this is far from the truth. Abstract can be more difficult than landscape or scenery, because there is nothing to copy from, and nothing like it has been painted prior to the moment that the artist picked up the brush or palette knife.” —  How to Create an Abstract Painting

I love the sea, streams, waterfalls and ponds and have early memories centered around them, like the one I referred to in an earlier post. As a child I almost drowned when people I trusted playfully dunked my head under water so many times I was unable to get my breath, my lungs filled with water, and I nearly drowned.   Luckily I was revived but the memory and the feelings I experienced, as I chose to surrender to the depths rather than fighting for my life has remained with me.

Understanding Abstract Art
“When you look at a representational painting, you get an immediate feeling as to whether or not you like the painting. Abstract paintings are different. They have designs, shapes or colors that do not look like specific physical objects. As such, abstract paintings are a lot harder to understand than representational paintings. Indeed, when you look at an abstract painting, you often have no idea what it is you are actually seeing.”  — Understanding Abstract Art

* The National Gallery of Art’s Brushter was what I used to create these paintings. It has 40 brushes, a full palette of colors,  and special effects.

Digital painting is pain free
Painting manually gives rise to pain in my hand (arthritis) and wrist (carpal tunnel) but digital paintingting is pain free painting! I am finding my interest in mastering the use of the Brushster tools  is beginning to exceed my interest in painting on art papers or canvasses. I have never given abstract painting much attention as my preference has been for representation art but digital  painting is leading me to view abstract art through new eyes.

Emotional healing
I have unleashed my creativity. I have no preconceived idea of what I’ll be painting but instead I allow the energy that flows through me to direct my brush. Someimes my painting reflect past  events and sometimes they don’t.  Once I have created what I call a “PTSD painting” and anlayzed the event that gave rise to it, the expressed memory no longer carries the emotional charge it had when it lay unexpressed in the depths within me. Through art therpay I am letting go of the painful past;  I am healing.


  1. Some fabulous paintings you have created! I know the transforming power of engaging with art and expressing many levels of creativity for healing PTSD. It’s the course I charted for myself more than 30 years ago when the PTSD waters were uncharted for anyone other than the military. When we decide to engage, flow and trust the creative process – with no restraints of judgment – we reconnect with the Divine within ourselves. Staying connected to the Divine is what first heals, simultaneously strengthening us, building layers and layers of strength. And yes, the pain does diminish and eventually evaporate. Removing the emotional charge from the traumatic event/s through the practice of creativity – and making the decision to forgive the unforgivable – is how we heal, thrive and succeed in winning back the totality of our lives as if we never experienced a trauma at all. It’s an amazing and fun process once you get past the first few hard memory flashbacks that can get overwhelming at first until you realize you are in the present time – not “back then.” Keep going forward. You have a lot of great beauty inside you and a world ready to receive you!

  2. Another thing in common: art therapy and PTSD. There’s a particular type, I have to find the name, that combines music, dance, art (specific to a person’s problems ina group setting) talking about it, and deep relaxation with guided imagery. I’ve done art therapy alone, and I just ADORE it.

  3. How beautiful, Timethief! good from evil… both the art and the healing from such a frightening experience. I’ve never been drawn to painting/drawing etc, I’ve always expressed myself through needlearts – but I like this concept of playing with abstraction to express emotion, and am mentally wondering how I could do this with patchwork, applique, embroidery… Funny too, to find this when the past few days I’ve been thinking about “junk” from my past which has been eating my energy recently, and wondering how to get it out of my system. This is something to explore. Thank you for the post. Take care.

    • There are many, perhaps even infinite creative ways we can use to heal ourselves like abstract art and quilting and needlework and … :) Sadly, there’s been too much going on in my personal life since I posted these to make the time to paint or even to blog here. SIGH Thanks so much for commenting.
      Love and peace

  4. While this might seem a little ‘backward thinking’, may I suggest that if you’re going to get Photoshop Elements, to try and get an earlier version (but check first that it’ll work with your operating system). The reason being that the newer ones seem to have a lot of extraneous stuff added on that is mostly not needed. I still work with Elements version 4 and they’re now up to version 8 or 9, I believe. I shall have to upgrade soon, but I’m not attracted at all to the newest ones. Also the earlier versions have a grey background to work against and the newer ones are black or dark grey. I don’t know about you but my eyesight is horrible!

  5. Once again, these are beautiful. I love that look like ferns and fronds in blue and green. It was always an old adage, blue and green should never be seen ~ what a load of rubbish, for me combined they are such a serene combination ~ Chrissy

    • Hi Chrissy,
      I’m so glad you liked these. Viewing underwater plants in blues and greens at the bottom of the pond through goggles is like looking into a fern garden of sorts. I’m tripping out on color these days. The blues and greens are serene. I think I may do what Val refers to above. I may be trying a color a week project. Thanks for commenting. :)

    • Lana,
      It was deeply disturning experience. What we all fear is abandonment and death. There was a lot of emotional charge in the situation because I was deliberately dunked under water repeatedly. Fortunately that has not affected my deep affection for wetlands, bogs, streams, creekes, rivers, lakes, the ocen, etc. I’m going to do abstracts on all those. This Brushster painting machine is cool.

      P.S. Thanks for the hug.

  6. Your art is so beautiful. I looked at them in amazement, wondering at your talent, and then looked again with new wonder, as I realized all this was digitally created.

    I have just gone to the National Gallery of Art Brushter site and tried my hand (cursor) at a painting. It looked like child’s art compared to yours. But I am fascinated by the possibilities and want to share this outlet of creativity with others.

    Art is very healing, and I’m glad you have found this useful tool to create beauty and health.


    • @Kathleen
      I’m so glad you went to the site to try it out. Painting online is pain free! I’m loving it and now I want to try Photoshop Elements as Val suggested above. I may never write aging … just kidding. :)

  7. These are lovely, TT! I love the subtle use of color, and the sinewy shapes. Apart from the first one, they all do seem to be depicting underwater scenes. The first one looks like a wild golden storm, about to break over a huge body of water.

    • Hello there,
      You’re right. I’m looking out at stormy landscape in the first one. The others are underwater scenes. I didn’t plan them. They just happened – so to speak.

      Thanks so much for the kind words about my abstracts. There will be more. :)

  8. It’s astonishing to me that that your awful memory of nearly being drowned hasn’t prevented you from enjoying the element of water. I’ve found over the years that a lot of things that were connected with a trauma (of which I’ve experienced several) have put me off them.

    I love your abstracts above. You did these after art therapy? Were you thinking specifically about the trauma or are these expressions of the release that followed the therapy? (If you’d rather not answer, that’s okay. No need.)

    I’ve been having a lot of early memories come back to me recently – positive ones – from dwelling on specific colours, in fact I want (though don’t know when) to a post in my blog about colour associations. Yesterday, for instance, I was staring at a certain blue on the cover of the Laurel Burch diary I write in and remembered a blue satin dress and coat suit my mother wore to my sister’s wedding in the 1960s. I could remember the colour and the feel of it. (I love fabrics!) From that I began remembering a dress I had made for me in a lovely shade of soft lilac, and how between the initial fitting and the wearing, it didn’t fit anymore because I’d put on weight!

    Abstract art is, to my mind, a bit less complicated than in most explanations of them, it’s just a matter of letting go of preconceptions and then one will enjoy or not enjoy it. In my own paintings, I concentrate more on colour and texture than on trying to represent an idea or anything; ideas usually happen afterwards or while I’m painting.

    As you know, most of my work is done digitally (using the ‘cut down’ version of Adobe Photoshop, called Photoshop Elements. It’s inexpensive, compared to the full program – which I can’t afford), and I find it much more satisfying now than using ‘real’ media. Though I do still draw, doodle and sketch.

    Thanks TT. (And don’t worry about responding to this comment quickly as I know you’re bogged down with computer and health woes.)

    Hugs, in case they’re needed.

    • Hi Val,
      Yes, I did these after art therapy. No, I was not thinking specifically about the trauma. Yes, these are expressions of the release. I was a little kid then. Now I comprehend the chain of events in a different way than I did before. The emotional charge is gone — I’m healing.

      I conquered my abject terror of being in water years after the trauma by taking swimming lessons. However, I still possess a panicky feeling deep inside if anyone I don’t know is close to me in pools or in the ocean.

      I know exactly what you mean by color and texture association chains. I love the artwork you create. When I can I will check out the Photoshop Elements as I think I may really enjoy it.

      It’s always great to hear from you. :)

  9. I think it’s striking. I’ve seen a lot of art, including abstracts, even taught it. One thing I learned is that we all see something different in abstract. I do see the water and I get it. There are times when I don’t get abstract, but yours I do.

    I think they are beautiful.

    • Hi Shirley,
      Thanks so much for your feedback on my water memories paintings. Who knows what theme next week may bring? I don’t. I start and the brush starts moving … lol :)

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