Black and White

Light and Dark

Our circadian rhythm is closely connected to day and night. Our whole life is dependent on these forces of light and darkness. During the day we are conscious and actively participate in the world. Whereas during the night we are unconscious and resting, our bodies digest and recuperate Therefore, we can say that light enables consciousness, while darkness sustains life.

“Light touches all aspects of our being, revealing a part of itself in each encounter” (Arthur Zajonc) Yet light itself is invisible, but makes all things visible. It is a mysterious force and what we see depends on how we see it. Using different techniques and art materials such as charcoal, pencil, crayon or ink we can draw, hatch or sketch. That way we experience its polarities and nuances, qualities and effects as well as how light reveals the world around us and how we perceive it in our consciousness.

Charcoal painting bringing light into the darkness

Drawing Techniques

When drawing we experience the dynamics of lines. Here we feel different gestures in vertical, rising, curved, falling or horizontal lines. We can observe, express, communicate and understand structures, order and chaos. In the emerging movements of the lines, we experience ourselves creatively and go on a journey of discovery.

Dynamic drawing for example is a playful approach which works with movement, involving both hand and body. The initially unintentional and spontaneous movement leaves visible traces by way of condensed lines. Gradually however, shapes begin to emerge and eventually a narrative unfolds that holds meaning. This method can release stress and reveal internal images. It can help people with depression and reduce anxiety.

Warming up to drawing with closed eyes, workshop at the international annual conference of the medical section at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland 13 – 18 September 2022 “The heart around us -The importance and meaning of the therapeutic community” as part of the specialist anthroposophic art therapy conference “Point and surroundings – in dialogue with the world, video courtesy of Nicole Asis

Dynamic drawing, courtesy of Elisabeth Körber, anthroposophic art therapist

An example of a therapeutic trauma informed art therapy intervention using dynamic drawing to support traumatised children. This was in the context of the Emergency Pedagogical Crisis Response, Emergency Pedagogy to the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear power plant disasters in Japan in March 2011. Dynamic drawings of a birds by Eva Mees inspired the trauma-therapy approach. The movement expressed in the element of air embodied the possibility of escape, of flight just as the bird represents a connection to the spiritual. Both, the technique of dynamic drawing as well as the motif helped to stimulate inner movement as a first step to help to gradually relieve paralysing post-traumatic shock experiences, where movement is paramount to enliven and foster the rhythmical system. Image above tsunami ravaged landscape. Image below courtesy of Susie Gay, Waldorf teacher, anthroposophic art therapist trained in emergency pedagogy and person-centred counsellor

Form drawing is a kind of free hand geometry that works with straight, vertical, and horizontal lines which can be brought into motion allowing for the line to come to life and become a wave or circular form. Many of these forms are based on ancient patterns, such as the Celtic linear knotwork, in which lines are interwoven through flowing, rhythmical movements being archetypes that convey inherent spiritual forces of vitality and transformation. However, expression of life can also be observed in modern clinical health care on life monitors to measure vital signs of breathing and heart rhythms. A curved line is an indicator of life being present, whereas a straight flat line indicates the absence of life. Various guided exercises support multisensory learning, visual motor integration, breathing and a lively as well as harmonising interconnection of thinking, feeling and willing activity. Form drawing is also applied in Emergency Pedagogy because it stimulates the frozen part of the trauma response into movement; fostering a reconnection with life. For a traumatised person it is vital to reengage in movement to avoid inertia, depression or aggression and PTSD.

Both dynamic and form drawing can be equally used on small and very large formats, paper, blackboard or directly on the ground, soil or sand. Small drawings are especially useful as a first expression to overcome inhibitions but also to preserve skills with the onset of dementia for instance as it brings order and structure on a manageable scale and support self-confidence. Large movement on the other hand is vitalising and freeing body movement that helps to integrate gross and fine motor skills. Lines can also be walked instead of drawn which increases spatial awareness and social interaction.

Form drawing, transformation of line movement (above), lemniscate (below) courtesy of Anna Hubbard, therapeutic arts practitioner, faculty member of the English Anthroposophic Medicine Training

By working with shaded areas of light and darkness, with charcoal, pastels, soft pencils or crayons we enter a more meditative state. This allows us to engage with our feelings to balance light and dark. Here we can immerse ourselves particularly well, discovering our individual relationship with light and darkness. We can go through transformative processes, finding ways to bring light into darkness. This can help, for example, in coping with fear and anxiety.

Charcoal painting series, darkness and light