ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the January 2016 [community profile] crowdfunding Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dreamwriters, [personal profile] shiori_makiba, [personal profile] beasts_of_homeworld, and [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "confused" square in my 11-3-16 card for the Disaster Bingo fest, and the "relax" square in my 8-1-15 card for the As You Like It fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] beasts_of_homeworld. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series. It comes after the story "Drawing It Out" by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer.

WARNING: This poem contains some intense topics. It's also got a common trigger that can be serious, but people rarely think of this one in the context of trigger warnings: past reference to bad teachers. If that's an issue for you, definitely highlight the spoilery warnings. The inside of Shiv's head is a mess, and this poem lays out more reasons why. He had some truly terrible art teachers, and other people who mistreated him for trying to express his emotions. Yes, what he feels is often scary, but that's typical of abused children, and punishing them for showing their damage just makes it massively worse. The poem also includes references to past child abuse, extremely negative self-talk and self-recrimination, fear of punishment, resignation, One True Wayism, bad tape, discussion about the meaning and purposes of art, hesitation, intense art therapy, intrusive thoughts and horrible emotions, minor mistakes, panic attacks, prolonged duress stress disorder, talking about feelings, educational suppression, past bullying, insecurity, past bad therapy, and other challenges. Current environment is supportive. Please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Drawing Out the Feelings"


When Dr. G came to collect Shiv,
for therapy, he was carrying not only
the familiar silver briefcase but also
a larger carrying case of some kind.

"We'll be working in the craft room today,"
Dr. G said cheerfully, "so I brought
some extra supplies to explore."

What supplies? Shiv wondered
as they walked, but said nothing aloud.

Mr. Vanburen unlocked the craft room
and waved them both inside. "Go ahead."
Then he closed the door, leaving them alone,
and Dr. G turned on the privacy field.

"We're not doing metal?" Shiv asked,
feeling a bit disappointed. He liked metal.

"No, I'll leave that to Tolliver, who
knows what he's doing with it," said Dr. G.
"I understand that you're a visual thinker,
so I packed some art cards and prompts.
You also have a strong tactile focus.
I didn't think that you would like
the textured finger paints --"

"That's for babies!" Shiv protested.

"-- and apparently I was right about that,
so I figured we could try creme pastels
instead," Dr. G finished smoothly as
he opened the large carrying case.

Shiv quickly realized it was that size
because it held big pieces of paper,
along with some kind of cards and
many colorful sticks and pencils.

He reached for one, hesitated,
then looked at Dr. G.

"We'll get to the pastels in a minute,"
the shrink said. "Let's start with
the art cards." He took them out.

They were big, thick cards
with all different images on them.
Some showed pictures of things
or people, while others were
just random blobs of color.

One was part blue and part orange;
another had shapes of all colors.

There were two blue birds and a sun,
a cowering black-and-brown girl, and then
some bugs crawling on a person's mouth.

Shiv really didn't want to touch that one.

Last thing I need is a reminder
of dead bodies,
he thought.

Two in particular caught his attention:
a snazzy red-and-yellow graffiti mural
and a sneering black-and-white cat.

"Earlier we talked about emotions
and art therapy," said Dr. G, "but
I didn't have much to offer you, and
you were already wound up. Today
we can take time to set the stage.
Pick an image that you like."

Shiv wavered between his favorites,
then settled on the cat. "I like him.
He's got that look on his face that cats
get when they don't like the food you put out,
or they sneer at you because they think
they're better than you -- ha ha,
I'm a cat and you're not."

Dr. G smiled. "Those are
very good observations," he said.
"What else can you tell me
about this picture?'

Shiv shrugged. "It's a black cat
on a red background. He's not
really doing anything, just there."

I never get this stuff right, he thought,
shrinking into himself a little more.

Dr. G flipped over the picture,
showing words on the back.

"People have a lot of the same ideas
about colors and images," he said.
"So we can use those to draw things
that don't actually have shapes.
It's called symbolism -- a way
of turning the abstract concrete."

"Like how you talked about
a concrete block as something
to touch, and then you told me
to try drawing boredom," Shiv said.
He could imagine touching concrete,
but his mind kind of went blank when
he thought about boredom.

"Exactly," said Dr. G. "Now look at
the text on the back of this art card."
He pointed to a few words. "Contempt
is when you think you're better than
someone else. Here's dislike, you
mentioned that, along with red and
black. You did a good job."

Shiv wasn't used to hearing that
from an art teacher. Usually people
didn't like what he drew, or what he said
about someone else's picture. So he'd
learned to keep it to himself.

"My turn to pick one," said Dr. G,
nudging the blue-and-orange card
toward Shiv. "What do you think of this?"

"That's not fair," Shiv protested.
"It's just colors. It's not a picture
of anything. There's nothing to say."

"This one is abstract," said Dr. G.
"How does it make you feel, or
what do the shapes remind you of?"

"I dunno," Shiv said. "It's gloomy.
It looks like the blue is pressing down
on the orange, but the orange is
fighting back and won't go away."

Go orange, he thought to himself.
Kick that blue cloud where it lives.

"See, you know exactly what
you're doing with this," said Dr. G.
"This card is for sorrow." He flipped it.
"You said 'press' and look, here it is
in 'depressed' and 'oppression.' You
also got the part about fighting back,
and named the blue and the orange.
Did you have another favorite?"

"Yeah, but it's not really a picture,"
Shiv said as he grabbed the graffiti card.
"It's writing, just dressed up a lot. I like
how the letters are hard and sharp.
It looks like they're angry."

"We call that word art," said Dr. G.
"The letters make a kind of picture.
What about this bit up here?"

"That's the artist's tag, his signature,"
Shiv said. "It looks almost like a dragon,
flying over a big black mountain, or maybe
it's meant to be a city. The red and yellow
could be a forest fire. I don't know about
the green and blue. They don't go."

Dr. G reversed the card. "This is
for anger, just like you said. You got
almost all the associations this time!
Plus you talked about the lines themselves.
Thick lines like this are bold and stubborn.
Diagonal ones are tense and restless.
Jagged shapes give a warning."

"I like graffiti, but it's just one more thing
that gets me in trouble," Shiv said.

"There's nothing wrong with this style of art,"
Graham said. "It just bothers people when you
tag their territory without asking them first --
you should understand that as a challenge,
you wouldn't like it if someone came along
and sprayed the side of your lair."

Shiv snickered, covering his mouth.
"My boss would go apeshit."

"Anyway, there are festivals for street art
where landlords can volunteer buildings to get
painted, or sometimes people use slabs of drywall
instead," said Dr. G. "This style is pretty popular.
The division between word art and visual art is
not nearly as clear as many people believe."

Graffiti can be art, Shiv mused.
I didn't see that one coming.

Dr. G stirred the rest of the cards.
"Play around with the others now,
and see how you do with them."

So Shiv looked at the cards and
turned them over, one at a time.
He was surprised to find that usually
some of the things he thought of
were printed right on the back.

He still didn't touch the bug card, though.

"It's okay, almost nobody likes this one,"
Dr. G said, and turned it himself.
"This card is for disgust."

"It says pink is weak and needy,"
Shiv said. "I didn't know that pink
had bad things for it. Everyone
always acts like it's a happy color,
and girls really seem to love it."

"All colors have a combination of
positive and negative meanings,"
said Dr. G. "Look at the other cards
and compare them. The interpretations
aren't identical on all of them, even
when they use the same colors."

Shiv looked. Dr. G was right.
"But then how do you know
which is the real meaning?"

"The real meaning of art isn't carved
in stone," said Dr. G. "It's about how
a picture makes you feel. So it can mean
different things to different people,
and that's perfectly okay."

"Huh," Shiv said, sitting back.
Maybe those art teachers
really were idiots.


"These cards aren't about telling you
what to feel or how to paint an emotion
or what the colors have to mean," said Dr. G.
"They're just to give you ideas about
some different ways that people
have drawn feelings before."

The pictures and the colors
and the words on the backs
were running together inside
Shiv's head, but this time it
wasn't so confusing. It was
like watching oil rainbows in
a puddle behind the garage.

"They're pretty," Shiv said.
"Well, some of them are."

"Art can be pretty, or ugly, and both
of those are important," said Dr. G.

"Why?" said Shiv. "I mean ...
they're only pictures, aren't they?
Some of these are just scribbles."

"Previously you told me that it didn't
feel like we were 'really' doing anything
when we were drawing," said Dr. G.
"So let me point out that art can be for
all kinds of reasons. It can help you
to relax and have fun. It can provide
a way to express things you feel,
but don't have the words for."

"It doesn't have be ..."
Shiv's voice trailed off,
remembering all the times
an art teacher or camp counselor
had ragged on him about what
he drew or how he didn't
follow instructions well.
"... anything just so?"

"Art doesn't have to be anything
but itself, and the same is true of
art therapy," said Dr. G. "You can
just draw, and if it helps you feel calm
or work through things in your head, that's
useful. If you're drawing out the feelings,
then at least they're not just sitting there
inside making you uncomfortable."

"But what if I don't know how
to do it right?" Shiv asked.
What he really meant was,
You have to be an artist for
this stuff, and I'm not an artist.


"That's okay," said Dr. G.
"There is no right or wrong way
to do art therapy, just some things
that work more often than others do.
If you get stuck, you can ask me and
I'll help you figure out what to try next
or what your picture might mean."

Shiv's fingers were itching for those pastels.
He knew it would just get him in trouble,
because he always wound up in trouble,
but that never stopped him.

"So can I ... maybe try the colors?"
he said softly, looking down at his hands.

"I was hoping you'd say that,"
Dr. G replied with a big grin. Then he
brought out two pieces of paper, each one
with a few circles and ovals already printed on it.
"Art prompts make it easier to get started."

When Dr. G pushed the pastels toward him,
Shiv didn't hesitate to grab one of the sticks,
but then the texture made him pause.

What is this? he wondered.

It was thick, creamy, almost silky
to the touch. It wasn't greasy, though.
The color flowed over his fingertips and,
when he wiped them on the paper,
it left brilliant smudges of blue,
like a glacier he'd seen on TV.

Meanwhile Dr. G had grabbed
a schoolbus-yellow stick to fill in
some of the circles on his page.

Shiv didn't really know what to do,
he wasn't an artist, but he didn't care.
Nobody was bugging him to draw this
or do that. He just reveled in the feel
of the creme pastels against his skin
and smearing over the paper.

He filled in most of the page
with loops of blue and green,
but then found himself thinking
of those awful art classes again.

It hurt somewhere that he couldn't find,
like a splinter that wouldn't work its way out.

He dropped the purple he was holding
and grabbed the red, filling one corner
with angry curls of color, like fire,
jabbing into the cool calm blue.

I can get calm, but I can't stay calm,
he thought. Something always
pokes itself into my head.


Then Shiv got mad at himself for
following the lines, because he hated
obeying rules and people were always
nagging him to be good (he wasn't) and
to color inside the lines (he couldn't)
and it just made him want to spit.

"That's very expressive," said Dr. G
as he made some wavy green stripes.
"I'm glad you're getting into this."

That little bit of encouragement
just made Shiv's temper burn hotter.

He swept his hand across the page,
blurring the lines into broad smears,
and oh, it felt so good to do that --

until he realized that his eager swipes had
smeared color off the paper onto the table.

Suddenly he couldn't breathe.

Now he was gonna get it for sure,
because he always got in trouble for
making a mess and ruining things.

They'd probably never let him
come back to the craft room, and
dammit, he was just starting to like it.

This is why we can't have nice things,
said the acid voice in the back of his mind.

Shiv swallowed hard
around the lump in his throat

Then secretly, slowly, he moved
his arm toward the smear.
Maybe it would wipe off
well enough that nobody
would notice what he did.

"Ah ah ah, not with your sleeve,"
Dr. G said, as he caught Shiv
quite gently around the wrist.

Shiv pulled away and hunched into himself.

"Didn't mean it," he muttered,
as if that ever helped.

"Well, it's my fault that we
went off the edges," said Dr. G.
"I thought these pages would be
big enough, but they're obviously not."

Startled, Shiv glanced over at Dr. G's picture.
It was a riot of bright colors in long, looping arcs
and one upthrust line of blue and green
that reminded him of a tree.

The lines went off the paper
onto the table in several places.

Great, now we're BOTH in trouble.

"It's a good thing that I brought
cloths and the cleaner," said Dr. G.
He brought out a fresh rag and a pot
of some white gunk, then used those
to scrub the colors off the table.

The mess cleaned right up.

"Wow, that's good stuff," Shiv said.

I wonder if it would work on oil,
or blood,
he thought to himself.

"It's designed to release the binder in
the creme pastels," said Dr. G. "Nontoxic,
so we can use it on our hands too, but sadly
it's not much use for getting stains out of fabric.
We should probably wash our hands and roll up
our sleeves before we go back to work."

Then he handed Shiv the pot.

Shiv went to the sink and
washed his hands, amazed
at how the colors ran off and
left his skin perfectly clean.
Then he dried off and
rolled up his sleeves.

Meanwhile Dr. G had gone to
the door and asked Mr. Vanburen
about other art supplies.

The guard stepped into the craft room
and showed Dr. G where to find
the big rolls of butcher paper
and the masking tape.

Dr. G covered the table with paper
and then taped fresh blank pages
on top of it. "I really should have
thought of this before, too," he said.

"Thought of what?" Shiv asked.

"Protecting the table," said Dr. G.
"Technically speaking, I am not
an art therapist, I just know a few
of the tools and techniques. I bet
their training covers things like
how not to make a total mess
of yourself and your space."

Shiv snickered. "Yeah," he said.
It's always funny whenever
the shrink fucks up.


"Of course, art is inherently messy,
and messy play is important too.
Nobody can stay tidy all the time,"
Dr. G went on. "So maybe it's
more about setting reasonable
limits on the mess you make."

Shiv had never really thought
of that before. "Maybe," he said.

He was still trying to wrap his mind
around the fact that Dr. G wasn't
yelling at him for scribbling on the table,
and Mr. Vanburen wasn't mad
at both of them for it.

Are they really going to let me
just get away with that?
Shiv wondered.

"So, are you ready to try again?"
Dr. G asked, waving at the pastels.

"I guess," Shiv said.

He started with the yellow this time,
and the paper was blank so it didn't
give him any ideas. Remembering
the circles, he started doodling
one in the corner of his page.

He picked up the red, looping it
around the yellow to make orange.

The red reminded Shiv of blood,
which made him think of Ragno and
the chayne, which were never
far from his mind anymore.

His fingers found the black and
started to draw a person, but he
always got in trouble for making
pictures like this, so he stretched
the figure out into long swoops
and curls instead, obscuring it.

He was painting from life,
bright colors and knife edges,
falling into the things he had seen
and the place where secrets were kept.

Shiv remembered the feel
of the machete in his hand
and the metal that went into it,
how everything seemed to move
and flow under the touch of his talent.

Pastels danced across the page
in lengthy spirals of blue and yellow,
almost like the way that kids
drew the wind in the sky.

That's something else you can draw
but can't see or touch,
Shiv thought.

He used the side of his fist
to smudge the colors the way
he wanted, and sometimes
even part of his forearm.

It wasn't wind he was drawing,
though, but the spin and twist
of metal in his mental grip as he
bent it into something else.

I wonder if this is what gold
feels like,
Shiv mused as he
rolled the edge of a yellow pastel
over the paper in lazy curves.

He hadn't seen much gold, and
it was too soft for making blades,
so he'd never thought of just
playing with the stuff before.

He could daydream about it forever,
the way things felt to his superpower,
all sharp edges and points, or things
that could become sharp if he
touched them just so.

Daydreaming made Shiv think
of clouds, fluffy white ones high up
in a not-raining sky, so he filled in
the blank spaces with clouds.

They were mostly white paper, but
he used the pastels left on his hands
to add smudges of purple and pink and blue.

It was pretty, but you couldn't hide
ugly behind pretty for long.

Out came the black again,
spilling into the narrow gaps left
between the clouds and the curlicues.

When Shiv finally sat back,
he was startled to discover that
his back hurt, he'd been sitting
so long in one position and
leaning over his paper.

Dr. G stretched too,
his back popping as he did.

"Old man," Shiv said, laughing.

"Well, I'd like to think I have
a few years left," said Dr. G.
"How do you think we did?"

"Yours is all soft and shiny,"
Shiv said, looking at Dr. G's picture.

His life must be really nice
to make pretty pictures like that,

Shiv thought. Mine is just a mess.

"I was thinking about people," said Dr. G.
"We're all balls of energy at heart, wrapped
in skin. When we touch, sometimes
our energy merges, but other times
the skin gets in the way."

"Huh," Shiv said, staring hard at
the swirls and blobs of buttery yellow
surrounded by bands of blue and purple.

"Yours looks very powerful," said Dr. G.
"Would you like to talk about it,
or keep it to yourself?"

Shiv actually had to stop and think about that.

Normally he hated talking about himself, but
right now he felt so empty inside, there was
nothing for it to rub against and bother him.

It was as if he had somehow poured out
his thoughts and feelings onto the paper,
and now they weren't inside him anymore.

"I was just thinking," he said slowly,
one finger tracing the wavy lines,
"about some stuff that happened."

"You used plenty of black, but also
a lot of bright colors," said Dr. G.
"Maybe you were recalling a mix
of good and bad memories?"

"I was daydreaming for a while,
and it ... went south on me," Shiv said.

Everything does, sooner or later,
he thought, but that awareness held
less sting than it usually did.

"Art is the sharing of dreams, and
the telling of nightmares,"
Dr. G said solemnly.

"Yeah," Shiv said, following
the blue and yellow ribbons.
"I like the way the metal feels
when I call it -- like it could be
anything, only it turns sharp
because that's what I need."

"Oh!" said Dr. G, leaning forward.
"Is that how your superpower feels,
these long spiral lines? How remarkable!"

"Me and the metal, together," said Shiv.
"Or glass, or whatever. Well no, glass
doesn't flow like metal does. It's more like --"
He pressed the edge of a pastel stick against
the background paper, making marks like
scales. "It wants to flake, instead."

"You chose mostly bright colors
for that part," said Dr. G. "So maybe
you like the way it feels to you?"

"Yeah," Shiv said softly.
He rubbed his fingers together,
enjoying the feel of the creme
left behind on his fingers.

"In some places, the purple and blue
fade into the black," Dr. G observed.
"Then everything runs together in
the corner. That's interesting."

"I was thinking about ... the cafeteria,"
Shiv hedged, not really wanting
to talk about the chayne.

I wish it would just go away
and leave me alone,
he thought.

But the elephant had definitely not left the room.

"That's a big thing to think about," said Dr. G.
"How do you feel now, compared to
when you started drawing?"

"Like when you get done with
the dishes and dump the bucket,"
Shiv said, nodding in satisfaction.

Yeah, that's how I feel.
It helped to have a comparison.

"Bucket?" echoed Dr. G,
his eyebrows going up in confusion.

"You know, when the drain doesn't work
so you have to bail the dishwater into a bucket
and dump it down the toilet?" Shiv explained.

"Ah, now I understand," said Dr. G.
"Empty, and maybe cleaner?"

"Yeah," Shiv said. "I didn't know
that just scribbling could do that.
I thought it was only something for
bored kids to do, or a way to keep
the art teacher off my back."

"It's one of the main things that
people like about art therapy,"
said Dr. G. "You squeeze out
your feelings onto paper so that
you don't have to carry them
around inside all the time."

"Wow," Shiv said. "That's amazing."

"It's not a magic fix," Dr. G warned him.
"You'll find that the feelings come back
eventually -- but the more you work
with them, the longer it will take, until
they mostly stop bothering you."

Nothing's ever easy, Shiv mused.
I wish I'd known about this sooner, and
that it didn't freak people out so much.
Maybe then ... some things would've
turned out different than they did.


"So now what?" he asked aloud.

"Well, our time is almost up for today,"
said Dr. G. "First we need to clean up
the space for other people to use."
He started peeling up the tape.

Shiv helped collect the creme pastels
and put them back in their boxes.
They made a flat little rainbow.

"I kinda liked these," he said.

"The creme pastels are part of
my art therapy supplies, so they're
not for you to keep, but I can bring them
another time if you wish," said Dr. G.
"I don't do a lot of art therapy but
it's a good method to keep handy.
I should probably watch for a class
and upgrade my skill set in this."

"But ... you're a grownup,"
said Shiv. "Classes are for kids."

Dr. G scowled, fiercely enough
to make Shiv lean away.

Shit, don't hit me, I'm sorry
I ever brought it up!


"No," said Dr. G, "continuing education
is for everyone. Sometimes grownups
need to learn new skills, or people
just want to learn things for fun."

"Okay," Shiv said, patting the air.

"Now, what would you like to do
with your pictures?" Dr. G asked.

"What do you mean?" Shiv said.
He hadn't thought that far ahead.

"Some people burn them to banish
the bad thoughts, which isn't an option for
us today, but shredding works too," said Dr. G.
Other people prefer to keep theirs."

Shiv curled his arm protectively around
his picture, remembering all the times
that bigger kids had taken his
and torn them up for fun.

"I have a folio here," said Dr. G.
"I know there's a limit to how much stuff
you can keep in your cell, so I'd be happy
to hang onto your artwork for you, if that's okay."

He reached into the big case for something
that looked kind of like a giant envelope
but had strings on it. He slid the pictures
inside it and wrapped the strings around.

Then he brought out another one of
the ladybug-looking-things like what had
fastened the strings on the backpack before.

"This is a miniature biometric lock," said Dr. G.
"Do you want to lock it, or shall I do it?"

"You do it," said Shiv. He wasn't sure
he trusted someone else's gizmo
enough to put his fingers on it.

No telling what can go wrong with
those things,
he thought to himself.
He'd seen some gizmotronic accidents,
and never wanted to see another one up close.
It's better to stick with knives.

Dr. G pressed the little device between
his fingers, the 'wings' flicked closed, and then he
demonstrated the lock by tugging the strings.
"Safe and sound," he declared.

"You really don't mind that --
that I made mistakes and drew on
the table and my pictures were all
messy and weird?" Shiv said slowly.

"I really don't mind," Dr. G said.
"Remember, I went off the paper too,
and the whole point of this exercise was
to help you feel better. That worked."

"Yeah," Shiv said. "It's just ...
people usually get mad
about the mistakes."

"There's a saying," Dr. G replied.
"Creativity is allowing yourself
to make mistakes. Art is
knowing which ones to keep."

The idea of mistakes as not only okay
but maybe important somehow was
so unfamiliar, it rattled around in
Shiv's mind like when he dropped
a spoon in the dump bucket.

Dr. G gathered all of his supplies
and put the boxes and envelopes into
the pockets of his big carrying case.
"Do you remember where the tape
and the butcher paper go?"

"Yeah, I got it," said Shiv,
and put those away.

"Last wash and we're done,"
Dr. G said, herding Shiv
toward the sink.

The cleaner was still amazing,
and Shiv enjoyed watching
the colors swirl away.

"I think this was a productive session,"
Dr. G said as they walked toward the door.
"What do you think, Shiv?"

"It was good," he said quietly.

That was a surprise. He'd never
gotten much out of therapy before
he met Rosie and Dr. G, other than
the occasional headache. Usually
it was just a big waste of time.

They hadn't actually talked much,
aside from discussing the art cards
at the beginning and then a little
about the pictures they'd made.

Dr. G had only made a few comments
about Shiv's picture, instead of poking
and prying deeper to make him discuss
the incident itself. That was great.

"We could ... maybe do this
again some time?" Shiv said.

"We certainly can," Dr. G agreed.

Even after Mr. Vanburen walked Shiv
back to his cell, and Shiv lay on his bed
thinking about the meeting, he still
felt empty and quiet inside.

Oh yeah, Shiv thought. That
wasn't a waste of time after all.


* * *
Notes:

Graham's art carrier has a large central section for paper or pictures, with several side pockets for supplies.

The prison craft room has several long tables for working on projects, plus shelves and cabinets for materials.

Art cards come in many styles. Masterpiece cards show famous paintings and their interpretations. In Terramagne-America, museums often have cards that show paintings and ask questions to encourage visitor interaction. Art therapy cards invite people to draw their feelings.  This is the set I made for Shiv.

Symbolism is useful in artwork and in art therapy. It can help people think about abstract vs. concrete ideas, and has developed into a whole movement. A slide show about symbolism gives examples, like this one of "Mysteriosa." Colors can be symbolic too.

Bad art teachers leave parents and students upset for various reasons. Many of them envy, resent, and/or dislike creative students. What teachers say can venture into emotional abuse, and that institutionalized child abuse does permanent damage not only in its immediate impact but by impairing the child's ability to relate to other authority figures later. Shit like this is why Shiv hates rules, institutions, and most people who have any power over him. Art teachers should avoid mistakes that can humiliate students or kill creativity.

Adults often overreact when children draw disturbing pictures, even though art is a safe and appropriate way of coping with intense emotions. This stifles creativity and self-expression, making children afraid of their feelings. Fight back against intolerance policies in schools.

Graffiti comes in different styles, and its alphabets are so ornate that most people can't read them. It raises many questions about street art vs. crime. It can be seen as vandalism and intimidation, or as expression and protest. Although graffiti is widely disrespected, it is real art and in fact vital as a way for the dispossessed to claim space in which to exist. Where else are they going to do art? The people in power own everything. On a more positive note, permission walls and graffiti festivals offer constructive opportunities for this form of expression. There are tips on graffiti art and ornate letters.

Art therapy helps people express things they can't put into words. Although the requirements for becoming an art therapist are high, any counselor can add art therapy techniques to their practice -- which is an excellent idea, because many clients get stuck trying to describe things for which there are no words. Many people use art as self-help activities too. Interpretation aids in understanding emotions, and just doing art improves calm and expression. Here are some art therapy techniques you can try.

Art prompts come in text, visual, and other forms. Random lines make great prompts, so you can also ask people to draw some for you. Learn how to create an abstract drawing. This therapy prompt sheet invites the client to color in today's relevant topics.

Local-America has chalk pastels and oil pastels. T-American creme pastels are retro-engineered tech. They have intense colors with a silky, creamy texture that blends very easily across all the formats. The sticks come in soft or hard, for drawing in broad stokes. The pencils also come in soft or hard, for finer details. The paste is held in small jars, meant to be applied with sponges. Some artists like to use their hands or other tools for working with creme pastels. There are various techniques for using pastels, including portraiture. You can even make your own soft pastels.

It's often easier to start with a basic set of art supplies to learn how they work, so that's what Graham carries. In creme pastels, these are hard pastels and hard pencils, for fine details. They blend well, but usually require a blending stick or kneaded eraser to do it. Terramagne has excellent art supplies for representing a wide range of ethnic features, such as this set of hard creme pastels for portraits. In creme pastels, these are soft pastels for making large swipes of color. They are the easiest to blend, especially with fingers. Shiv and Graham are using mostly the soft ones today, because Shiv adores the silky texture.

Graham's prompted picture includes ovals and swirls, with minimal blending.

Shiv's prompted picture features an angular intrusion and heavy blending.

Self-recrimination has negative effects. Learn how to overcome it.

Harsh punishment doesn't work and can even be dangerous. Fear of punishment can lead to anxiety, catostrophizing, and panic attacks.

Self-talk is internal dialogue. Survivors of child abuse tend to have very caustic self-talk. Overcoming self-criticism is an important part of trauma recovery. If you look closely, you can see Shiv starting to challenge some of the bad tape he's repeating.

Everyone makes mistakes. That's why it's important to let young people make mistakes, and observe that adults make mistakes too. This way you can learn from them.

Art is messy, and that matters. Messy play and sensory play have many benefits. Children often hesitate before they dive into these activities. This process encourages active learning. Shiv's behavior in this regard is about as close to normal as he gets.

Graham's freestyle picture is thoroughly blended this time, and has a luminous impression. His remarks touch on the idea of souls having a human experience and the rules for being human.

Shiv's freestyle picture combines abstract and stylized elements, some blended and others not. Pastels can also be pressed against the page to make dots or crescents.

Some people like talking about themselves, while others hate it; Shiv usually hates it. There are suggested topics and techniques for talking about yourself in therapy.

Strong feelings can cause emotional overwhelm. Understand how to identify and deal with them. Art is one of many effective coping skills for this.

Continuous learning makes for a healthy, happy life. Regrettably minority, poor, and other disadvantaged students are often discouraged from pursuing further education. Shiv knows about college and community classes in theory; he just doesn't relate them to himself, because he's been put down so often, and that means he rarely thinks about those things in relation to other people either. Here are some ways to keep learning.

String portfolios offer a good way to bundle artwork inside a large carrier.

It can be challenging to tell if therapy is working for you. Here are some signs of effective therapy and tips for making therapy sessions more productive. This is all new to Shiv, whose previous experiences with therapy have largely sucked.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-22 04:50 pm (UTC)
thnidu: warm red heart on orange streaked background (heart)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
This, seeing Shiv beginning to relax, accepting something new to him, accepting himself and letting it out on paper and it's gone — this is good.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-22 05:58 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Art is interactive by nature -- what a person gets out of a piece of art is heavily dependent on what they bring to it. A piece of artwork is like a mirror; the art stays the same, but everyone who looks at it sees something different.

"It looks almost like a dragon,
flying over a big black mountain, or maybe
it's meant to be a city. The red and yellow
could be a forest fire. I don't know about
the green and blue. They don't go."


Well, I certainly know where my brain went -- straight to Smaug attacking Laketown! But if T-Earth doesn't have that story, or Shiv hasn't heard about it, he wouldn't recognize that.

This is why we can't have nice things,
said the acid voice in the back of his mind.


Oh FFS. Those teachers weren't artists, and didn't hang out with artists. There might be such a thing as an artist with a tidy studio, but I have yet to encounter one! Oh sure, you have to pick up and sort out occasionally just so that stuff doesn't either get lost or pile up in your work area until you don't have space to work, but it always just gets messy again.

And yes, when you're doing artwork of any sort, protecting the workspace from overflow mess is a good idea. But you won't figure that out until the first time you forget. :-)

"You know, when the drain doesn't work
so you have to bail the dishwater into a bucket
and dump it down the toilet?" Shiv explained.


Important background information! Shiv has lived in at least one home where there was no money for household maintenance, and so when the sink clogged up it stayed that way for a long time. Also, Graham has obviously never had that experience or known anyone who did (or who talked about it, at least), so he failed to recognize what Shiv was saying.

Shit, don't hit me, I'm sorry
I ever brought it up!


Yep, that's the abused-child reflex, all right. But also, the idea that "classes are for kids" and that becoming a grownup means you never have to sit in a classroom again is fairly common across all social strata.

"There's a saying," Dr. G replied.
"Creativity is allowing yourself
to make mistakes. Art is
knowing which ones to keep."


Yes. See also, "Engineering is a collection of successful recipes. Science is a bunch of kids playing in the kitchen and making a mess." - Dr. Jordin Kare

"We could ... maybe do this
again some time?" Shiv said.


Breakthrough!

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2016-01-23 10:11 am (UTC)
sweet_sparrow: Ariel (The Little Mermaid) facepalming. (E: facepalm)
From: [personal profile] sweet_sparrow
people constantly told him that he was stupid and doing it wrong and never going to amount to anything

BAD PEOPLE. BAD. They get no cookies. They're so clearly wrong about him.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-22 07:49 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Shiv being so relaxed after this somehow gave me, I dunno, sympathetic relaxation? My background is nowhere near as chaotic and basically awful as his, but a lot of his mental associations are spot on, so this is kinda therapy-by-proxy.

OH! Happy! And I want to cuddle them BOTH!

Date: 2016-01-22 09:12 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
First, the whole piece struck just the right balance between exposition, emotional support, and Shiv's bleeding-ulcer reality tunnel. That's impressive.

>>>He was painting from life,
bright colors and knife edges,
falling into the things he had seen
and the place where secrets were kept. <<<

THIS. So very much THIS is why I think Shiv is a >malleable character. He can be something other than a MINDLESS thug. I try to achieve a similar tone when I write him, but I think your bluntness works better.

Re: OH! Happy! And I want to cuddle them BOTH!

Date: 2016-01-23 08:11 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
As long as we keep within the audience's tolerance levels for "shifting moods," I think we're good. I do love that Shiv is so labile overall!

Re: OH! Happy! And I want to cuddle them BOTH!

Date: 2016-01-23 11:25 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I'll take the discussion of labile mood-- and I think I'll show how serious the conversations are by having Graham show up for the regular session, deal with the meltdown, leave Shiv with Travis and Ambrose, specifically, to arrange a hotel room, and then have several more sessions in the next two days.

Anything you want to fit into a three- day span which is impromptu, and thus, easier to get past Warden Uptight would work!

More notes via PM to avoid spoiling the readers!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-24 12:03 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: A pale-skinned woman in fancy clothing, with her nose stuck in a book. (!Reading)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
I am fascinated by how intense people like the action, as long as there are buffers for it.

Have you seen the discussion we've been having on <user name=haikujaguar site="livejournal.com>'s journal on emotional intimacy in fiction <a href='http://haikujaguar.livejournal.com/1527600.html#comments'>here</a>? It reminds me a fair bit of your work as well, so if you find people's reactions interesting the discussion might also interest you. ^_^

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-22 11:18 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (happydance)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Breakthrough! <3

Yes...

Date: 2016-01-23 07:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Very important ones. \o/

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-22 11:28 am (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile] siliconshaman.livejournal.com
Hmm.. crème pastels sound like something that should be possible to make.

That, and I had a mental flash-forward of mid-twenties Shiv, with his first show in a gallery, with free-standing sculptures and paintings on the wall.

Still nervous as a long-tailed cat in rocking chair factory, but doing it anyway.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-01-22 12:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rix-scaedu.livejournal.com
Actually, they sound like they might have a consistency a bit like lipstick.

Yes...

Date: 2016-01-23 06:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Similar to a very high-quality lipstick, yes. Some of the semiliquid ones in pots feel a lot like slip clay.

Thoughts

Date: 2016-01-23 06:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Hmm.. crème pastels sound like something that should be possible to make. <<

Likely so.

They use a synthetic base instead of wax/resin like chalk pastels or oil like oil pastels. So their texture and performance are superior. They come in multiple formats and densities, blend well in use, and dry slowly. You can get special paper with a fixative in the sizing that assists the drying process to make the pictures fully stable, but it's not cheap, so not everyone uses it.

>> That, and I had a mental flash-forward of mid-twenties Shiv, with his first show in a gallery, with free-standing sculptures and paintings on the wall. <<

Aww! All things are possible. I suspect that Graham is already hankering to take Shiv to a graffiti festival, since Westbord has plenty of those.

>> Still nervous as a long-tailed cat in rocking chair factory, but doing it anyway. <<

:D

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-01-23 08:27 pm (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile] siliconshaman.livejournal.com
You know what the crème pastels does remind me of, lipstick. [as was noted before] ... you could probably borrow the tech from that industry, and add a slow curing resin so that they 'set' over time making them permanent. [one that could be depolyermised using the right agent, so they could be removed. even if they've set... which would make clean up a darn sight easier.]

Although you'd have to expand the pigment range a bit. There's colours I haven't seen as lipsticks.

Hmm... don't they do day releases for prisoners? I suspect Shiv might benefit from actually seeing what can be done and talking to some of the people.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-01-23 08:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> You know what the crème pastels does remind me of, lipstick. [as was noted before] ... <<

Yes ...

>> you could probably borrow the tech from that industry, and add a slow curing resin so that they 'set' over time making them permanent. [one that could be depolyermised using the right agent, so they could be removed. even if they've set... which would make clean up a darn sight easier.] <<

I believe the base is some kind of polymer, and it does set slowly. There are things which can be added on paper or in a spray to make it set faster and more securely. Yes, the cleaner works as you describe. It therefore cleans skin and hard surfaces quite well, but not fabric because the pigment itself tends to bind with certain fibers.

>> Although you'd have to expand the pigment range a bit. There's colours I haven't seen as lipsticks. <<

True, of course. Creme pastels have the super-saturated color and extensive range of fine art pastels. Graham simple chose limited sets for art therapy because that's more cost-effective and reduces the chance of choice paralysis, while still offering enough colors for expressive use.

>> Hmm... don't they do day releases for prisoners? <<

That activity is unavailable to inmates in the private wing, moderate to expensive for the standard wing, and cheap to free for the privileged wing. It depends on the purpose and duration of the trip. Educational or therapeutic trips cost less than recreational ones. An exception is compassionate release for inmates visiting family members in the hospital or attending major events such as funerals; that is usually free. But it's all part of the plan to reintroduce people gradually to the outside world so they don't just fall off a cliff on gate day.

>> I suspect Shiv might benefit from actually seeing what can be done and talking to some of the people. <<

Yes, he would. Graham is already thinking about taking him to a graffiti festival in Westbord.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-01-23 09:13 pm (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile] siliconshaman.livejournal.com
Such a trip really ought to count as therapy. It would certainly give Shiv something to think about.

You know, there might be a market in L-space for those crème pastels, I think they could be made using real-world tech. It sounds like a relative of sugru from your description.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-01-23 09:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Such a trip really ought to count as therapy. It would certainly give Shiv something to think about. <<

If Shiv is willing to talk about the trip in therapeutic context and fill out his end of the paperwork -- they use afterthought forms to confirm that an activity has therapeutic or educational value -- then it counts. Otherwise he'd have to pay for it as recreation. That's a useful conversation for him to have.

The field trip general feedback form is usually along the lines of: "What was today's goal? How well did you meet it? Where did you go? Who did you meet? What if anything went well? What if anything went wrong? How did you respond? What did you learn? How do you feel about your trip overall?" Additional worksheets can be added to account for specific therapeutic purposes. For a graffiti festival, Graham would probably add one on street art: "What artists did you meet? Did you make anything yourself? What were some of your favorite artworks? What styles did you see? How did the art make you feel? What do you think is the purpose of street art in society? What was your favorite discovery? Which souvenir did you choose to remind yourself of this trip, and why?"

*chuckle* The kicker is that Graham would probably let Shiv fill out the answers with art instead of words -- a happy little surprise for the end of the day.

>> You know, there might be a market in L-space for those crème pastels, <<

I agree. The chalk pastels and oil pastels have limitations. Coloring sticks really need to come in a range of hard and soft formats that blend together well, like you can do with say charcoals and colored pencils. Neither greasy nor crumbly media are optimum. You need something that holds together well and flows smoothly over the paper. Ideally, it should cure itself rather than requiring a fixative, with a moderate drying time -- acrylic is too short and oil too long, usually.

If any chemist wants to make this stuff, go for it.

>> I think they could be made using real-world tech. It sounds like a relative of sugru from your description. <<

T-America has a ton of things like that. Polymorph plastic is another. I hadn't noticed the hard glue form. We have already described tacky gel.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-01-24 01:24 am (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile] siliconshaman.livejournal.com
Giggling over the mental image I had of Shiv's face at the idea of being able to fill out the forms with pictures... I doubt he'd quite believe he'd be allowed to get away with it. [OTOH, frame it as bet...] But who knows, Shiv seems to be more a visual or maybe tactile thinker than someone who thinks in words.. so maybe he'd be more expressive that way.

Thinking about the crème pastels makes my fingers itch, although I was never that good a chemist, much better at making stinks, bangs and goo... but something tells me this would be more like cooking than chemistry, more alchemy than science. Although a little science in there would go along way.

Hmm.. gotta think about that, it could work, and it sounds like something that might catch on, but with the scant resources I have, I have to think twice and three times before trying anything. Which is annoying, because I can almost see how the molecular structures needed would work together... It's a non-newtonian fluid, a set of pigment nano-beads like really fine sand in a polymer resin base, which slowly increases in viscosity as it 'cures' or polymerises, but they're not binding to themselves but to the pigment particles, ..like rubberbands mixed with velcro balls...

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-01-24 02:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Giggling over the mental image I had of Shiv's face at the idea of being able to fill out the forms with pictures... <<

:D Oh yeah. That's funny.

>> I doubt he'd quite believe he'd be allowed to get away with it. [OTOH, frame it as bet...] <<

He wouldn't, but Graham is trying to teach Shiv to test things.

>> But who knows, Shiv seems to be more a visual or maybe tactile thinker than someone who thinks in words.. so maybe he'd be more expressive that way. <<

Much more expressive, in fact. Think about the art therapy session. Shiv only said a few sentences about what was bothering him -- but he drew a whole picture. That's well over half an hour of steady work on just one emotional issue, the most major one from his immediate past. Very constructive.

>> Thinking about the crème pastels makes my fingers itch, although I was never that good a chemist, much better at making stinks, bangs and goo... but something tells me this would be more like cooking than chemistry, more alchemy than science. Although a little science in there would go along way. <<

Yes.

>> Hmm.. gotta think about that, it could work, and it sounds like something that might catch on, <<

I agree that it's very promising. Artists love media. If you can make one that performs better than current options, it should sell.

>> but with the scant resources I have, I have to think twice and three times before trying anything. <<

Understood.

If it helps, you only need a prototype. Polymer components may be tricky, but I know you can buy powdered art pigments because people make their own pastels, milk paints, slip glazes, and stuff. The best ones aren't cheap, but you can test it with the ones that are -- some earth pigments like ochre exist by the hillside. Then it's just a matter of finding a company to mass-produce it.

*ponder* Or there's crowdfunding at any stage. Once you have a prototype, you could make one of the donor perks a sample size. Let people test it, and any artist who likes it will probably throw their lunch money at you.

>> Which is annoying, because I can almost see how the molecular structures needed would work together... It's a non-newtonian fluid, a set of pigment nano-beads like really fine sand in a polymer resin base, <<

It is definitely a non-newtonian fluid. It responds to the environment, to body temperature and pressure. It's basically dormant lying in the box, but comes alive under touch. Imagine oobleck in stick form.

Oh gods, now I'm wondering what would happen if you poured the semiliquid creme pastels onto a boom board and turned the sound on. It should animate. Put it on properly treated creme board, turn the sound on, get the marbling pattern you want, turn the sound off, and the sizing would freeze the colors in place. Then just set it aside and wait for it to finish drying. Here's a video of marbling oobleck.

>> which slowly increases in viscosity as it 'cures' or polymerises, but they're not binding to themselves but to the pigment particles, ..like rubberbands mixed with velcro balls... <<

Yes on these too.

I can conceive a lot more things than I can actually make. But put me with someone who knows more about the making, and I can help steer, because I know where we're going. :D

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-01-24 02:22 am (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile] siliconshaman.livejournal.com
Hmm... that link on oobleck reminded me that there's quite a bit of chemistry one can do with ingredients you find at home.

I think I see a bunch of experimental testing to be done... maybe enough to define a prototype.
Edited Date: 2016-01-24 02:23 am (UTC)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-01-24 02:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Well, there is probably a related non-Newtonian art product made from corn starch or tapioca starch. They take dye really well. They move in fascinating ways. The trick would be making them stabilize afterwards. But people make milk paint; that's a very old technique. This milk paint company also sells the pigment powders. So it's possible to turn all-natural ingredients into real paint.

>> I think I see a bunch of experimental testing to be done... maybe enough to define a prototype. <<

:D If you can make it, go for it!

properties of creme pastels

Date: 2016-12-04 08:37 am (UTC)
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
As I started reading the discussion of how creme pastels might be instantiated, I found myself wondering whether certain properties of soap, in bar form, could contribute something useful to the texture of the medium, or its ability to be stroked across the paper in different ways. There's so much I *don't* know about materials science, alas...

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-04 03:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paantha.livejournal.com
Eee. Have been waiting for Blackwork/Redwork/Whitework to be posted before reading this.

OMG, this was awesome, though. It's great to see how Shiv tentatively responds when given positive examples and reinforcement.

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