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What I do during lunch hour art workshops in businesses

When I come in to a high tech company. a financial institution, or a marketing firm and introduce myself, I'm greeted with immediate self-deprecating comments, people are antsy and unsure about their abilities. They haven't been in touch with their creative side for a while, perhaps even since elementary school. and they're afraid of judgment, of ruining things, of doing something wrong.

One of the first things I tell them to do is to go out on a search. They're foraging for foliage that speaks to them outdoors, or picking things from what I brought. In the spring or summer we try to be outside where we can relax into the fresh crisp breeze and listen to birds chirp. It gets people excited to be on these scavenger hunts.

Then I say: "This will not be a paint night-type experience. I will not give you a template to follow. You'll each create your own composition and I'll be here to give you basic techniques and concepts on composition."

That's when they get even more nervous. There's no paint by numbers thing? They'll have to exercise their creativity and be responsible for the end result which will look entirely different than their neighbor's?

"Here's what I want you to do", I say. "I want you to imagine that you're a four year old, and that you're drawing basic shapes. Can you do that?"

That's a key phrase. It gives everyone permission to access their inner child and let that child come out and play. From this point on they're in experimental mode and they're not judging themselves for playing with watercolor bubbles or doing layers of transparent washes. They stop caring about the end result.

I come through and attend to each participant. I advise people on the Golden Rule of composing, on alternating between wet on wet, wet on dry and dry on dry techniques. I lead them in an encouraging manner, allowing each person to take their time, to make mistakes and permit themselves to correct them.

"There's no such thing as mistakes in artmaking. You can always turn it into something else," I repeat. It enables and empowers people to stay open, to be innovative, to think outside the box.

Within an hour there're satisfied, relaxed faces prodding for approval and encouragement. They tried their hand at something they never thought was up their alley and they succeeded. It gives one such a boost of self-confidence and self-worth.

It has been statistically proven that exposure to art for even a half hour a day decreases cortisol levels (our stress hormones) by 50%, and I see that happen after every single one of my workshops. It's so lovely to watch this transformation in people. I absolutely love what I do.

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