Expressive Arts Carnival: Breaths

The activity for this months Expressive Arts Carnival is to:

Draw or paint your breath.

On one sheet of paper, draw or paint your breath in the moment. Then, immediately after, listen to some soothing music (if you want), close your eyes (if it is okay) and focus on your breathing. Do this for a couple minutes and try to relax.

When you are done with the breathing exercise, come back to the drawing and draw your breath again on the other paper.

When I thought of this activity, I had a very preconceived idea of what I was going to draw.  I had the patterns and colours planned.  I was “set”.  In my minds eye, the two images looked similar to these photos that I took awhile ago.

Red camellia abstractWhite camellia abstract

This is typical of what happens when I do conscious breathing.  I become calm and return to a central place of being where everything flows.  So when I sat down to do this exercise, I went with these images in my head.

What I drew, was nothing like I intended.

The first drawing was very easy, and very symbolic.  My breathing can become very shallow, choppy and quick.  It feels like I have a huge blockage in my throat that prevents my breath from going down into my lungs.  While the exhalations are short and sharp.  There’s very little fluidity about my breathing, and I can be like this for hours or days if my stress levels are high.

After doing the conscious breathing and relaxing, I came back to the paper ready to draw my nice flowing swirls to indicate how centered and aware I was.  I used finger paints, because I thought it would help me to blend the colours and feel as if I was more in touch with the whole experience.  I had six colours to chose from, and was going to cut this down to five by removing the black punnet – black didn’t fit into my view of the flowing picture I was about to draw.  But there was a strong internal message about being a censor if I didn’t allow for the possibility of black to be used; so it remained in front of me.

I’m aware that I started off with a central core of yellow, then moved outwards to the other colours.  The next thing I was aware of, was sitting back and looking at the image below.

Not quite the flowing picture I had in mind.

But in that moment, this is what was happening.  When I relaxed, the emotions came forward and were expressed through the drawing.

I think the only reason that some colour remained, was because there was an internal conflict, or backlash, about erasing another ones work.  I know I took a risk in using finger paints, I could tell there was curiosity about them.  The last time I used finger paints was probably in kindergarten.  I was aware of smiling as I dipped my finger in the yellow punnet of paint.

What’s interesting, was that there was a need to eliminate the yellow colour first.


11 thoughts on “Expressive Arts Carnival: Breaths

  1. fascinating, castor! my ideas were like yours. my typical breathing is what i think of as stressed or anxious. short, choppy. not restorative or calming. and then afterwards, i chose to listen to some soothing music, i did feel calmer.

    your second painting is so interesting and makes complete sense. when we relax, sometimes deep feelings do emerge from beneath the surface. i wonder what yellow meant, and why it was covered up first. yellow reminds me of vulnerability or positive energy…

    thank you for sharing~ wishing you well~~~

    • Hi katie,

      Thank you 🙂 I’m not sure what the yellow meant in this piece; but in many of my abstract interpretations of my internal house, yellow and pink represent innocent ones.

      It’s amazing how our breathing can tell us so much about ourselves. For years, I had people telling me to “just breathe”. My reply was always that I was standing, so therefore I was breathing! It was only after my first therapist brought my attention to it that I realised how poorly I breathed – I was once referred to the physiotherapist to “learn how to breathe”. I scoffed at that idea too.

      I still don’t breath well. But it’s one of my most frequently used coping mechanisms.

      Take care,

  2. This is really amazing. Thank you so much for sharing so much about your process. I especially like how you had known what you were planning to do but when you did it, it turned out differently.

    That happens to me a lot in art. I’ll think of something, usually photographic, because that comes more natural to me (or I’ve been doing it longer and know more about it). But if I kind of trust inside, I can do things with art materials and it’s really fun and teaches me something about myself.

    So, I think it’s great you did this. It’s amazing how the emotions can come out, huh? I’m sorry you felt pain in this. Your descriptions are needed because I wouldn’t have guessed all that pain from the images.

    Thank you so much! It will be a great addition the carnival!!

    • Thanks Paul,

      This was a really interesting exercise. It was a real fight between my intellectual side wanting the image to appear a certain way, and the emotional connection which resulted in the images produced. I can tell that the first image was still heavily influenced by the intellectual – it’s very controlled and contrived. But the second is basically a mess. Although there was still some control within the mess, as there was a stop called to the painting at that point. I get the feeling that the paper would have been covered in black if allowed to go on.

      I might have another try with the finger paints over the weekend and see what happens… I’ve already opened the box a little bit, why not go the whole way?

      I often see art as still images before I attempt them as well – whether it be drawing or Polyvore. It’s rather self-defeating, because I can never translate what I see in my head into reality.


  3. My process was similar to yours, but I used crayons. I hate both of my pictures. It made me feel stupid, childish, and felt like a waste of time. I believe I may have stumbled upon something! Cool.

    I wonder what that yellow meant for you? I hope you do play with the finger paints.


    • Hi Lisa,

      I try to think of the art as the experience for some within the system and try not to judge. I set myself up for the art to be childlike through the use of finger paints, so I need to accept what happens as a consequence.

      Yellow is flowers, daffodils, ducklings, chicks, Sun, happiness… it’s innocence and fun. Someone didn’t like that.

      Are you going to submit something for the carnival? I’d be interested in seeing what you did if you’re comfortable sharing it.

      Take care,

      • I like your yellows!

        I did submit it today but I don’t know why. It’s going to be out there, people will see it, and I’ll feel foolish. There’s someone inside who won’t feel foolish and will be very happy that it’s there and so it’s for them. I still can’t believe I did it.

        Thanks for asking.


  4. That was a very interesting post! Like others have said, I love the way that you listened to your internal communication despite what you had “planned” on doing. Very interesting. And it’s interesting to see what came out of that.

    • Thanks tai 🙂

      It was more of a switch experience, rather than listening to internal communication. I, the adult, remember shaking the paint punnets, but that was pretty much it until I came back to the piece above. I could feel the smile as I dipped my finger in the yellow paint and looked at it on my finger. I’m told I don’t smile enough, so may be I should do more finger painting with yellows 🙂

      Take care,

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