If you've read my previous blogs or know a bit about me already, you'll know that I am a huge advocate for child-led parenting. This encompasses all aspects of how my husband and I raise our children. It's all about respect and love really. This blog is to talk about how being child-led relates to Sonshine Art and our creative practices: What we do, how we do it and why.
A few weeks ago my incredible creative coach @alimapletoft said this about me:
"Everything you do comes from the same place.
What you do is pure love.
What you do is pure light.
I see the work that you do as an expression of unconditional love."
It filled me up immediately.
This is Sonshine Art.
To be truly seen in this way was so strengthening and affirming.
This business is a reflection of how my husband and I parent our children.
It is unconditional love for them and for myself.
It is gifting us the opportunity to be expressive, to regulate and self-soothe.
It is accepting my sons and myself for who we truly are. Taking each day for what it is, how we are and embracing whatever needs and drives we have that day.
As you may have read in some of my other blogs, I began this little business from a desire to share the joy, learning opportunities and transformative-power creativity can have in our lives. It was sparked by an incredible painting by Youngest Sonshine when he was just 3 years old, but the core ethos for Sonshine Art has actually been applied to my life as long as I've been a parent - and probably before as well. It is how I function and how parenting feels best to me.
The core of Sonshine Art is as the intro says; Child-Led and Therapeutic. Creativity is powerful, I see it every day, for my sons and myself and those around me engaging in some form of creative expression.
When you parent with being 'Child-Led' as your compass one of the most important things to be aware of is consent. It's so important that our children experience this in their daily life from a young age. Teaching consent creates children who feel safe to explore, engage and learn at a pace that is natural for them. It teaches them autonomy and that they deserve respect. How this is applied in the context of creative play is that our children only create art when they want to. If they're not in the mood I absolutely will not force it. We just do something else!
I want to hark back to the first blog I wrote because it's so important to me and how we exist as a family:
"Sonshine Art is all about CONNECTION... I want to show you that our creativity connects us."
If you see the word 'creativity' and your mind immediately jumps up to tell you "Oh, no I'm not arty, I can't draw, I can't paint" etc... I want to tell you, please hang on. Please trust me that you ARE creative. Everyone is. There are so many different ways to be creative and we're going to explore a lot of them together.
I also want you to try to let go of the idea of an end result from that creativity. I'll say this in most posts; the result is not the purpose.
The purpose is the process, the moments, the journey, the CONNECTION.
Creativity will allow us to connect to our children and to our own true nature.
We'll find out more about ourselves at the same time as getting to know our children.
I want more than anything for you to know that you are capable and worthy of making these connections and that they have the power to transform your life.
That's a big statement.
I stick by it."
I do stick by it. I see it in my children and myself every day.
If Max is having a rotten day, disregulated and stressed; he paints. Thick and expressive and abstract. He pours his emotion into his paintings and once it's out of his body he can start to relax and heal. His breath literally slows and deepens as he creates.
And me? When I'm frazzled, depleted or even bored (which doesn't often happy as I'm a busy woman!) I draw. I paint. I photograph. I pick and arrange wildflowers into poseys, I colour my drawings using an art app. And as I'm creating and focusing on that art, I unwind, I regulate, I restore.
Here's a example of the transformative power of creativity:
This painting is called 'Sun House & Moon House'. It's by Max; Eldest Sonshine, and the text below are copied from the website shop where I talk about the creation of this piece:
As he has such limited verbal capacity Max really struggles to let us know how and what he's feeling and expressing himself is really hard. Painting has been so incredibly beneficial for him over the last few years and he's created some really powerful work particularly in these Covid times.
This painting was done on another pain day. The previous day he'd had one of his worst days yet but while he painted this he was somewhat comfortable and was smiling as he was creating. He called it 'Sun House & Moon House'.
It's another one of those paintings where everyone seems to see something different in it.
These are a few examples of what people have seen and felt:
"The green tree to me resembles a boy with a huge red eye and red ear looking out at the world. The boy's senses are bigger and he sees more than the small world realises."
"I see light and brightness shining through discomfort and difficult times. Also that home and nature are always there for him."
I get emotions of getting away quickly, 2 places to go between or the opportunity to go anywhere at all in a super fast spaceship. It's all very speedy."
"I see intense, searing pain inside a head with 2 eyes looking out onto an incomprehensible world but with light and hope as well."
"The sun I actually see as a really spikey ball. I imagine it knocking around inside him causing the pain. Like he's trying to shine through it but the pain is dark and difficult."
"I see an avenue of trees leading to sunshine."
Which resonates the most for you?
Or do you see and feel something different?
You see? This is just one example. Max has so many paintings like this where the process was transformative for him and inspired emotional responses in others.
I appreciate that everyone's go-to therapeutic activity isn't going to be drawing or painting, but that's not to say it can't be beneficial for you, as I said, there are so many ways to be creative.
Creativity is a way to express ourselves.
Drawing, painting, photography, film, digital art, pottery, sculpting, garden design and SO so much more!
But it's not just art. It's singing, dancing, writing, playing music, storytelling, designing your home interiors, carving pumpkins with your kids in Autumn and making snowflakes in Winter, it's play!
My favourite way to gently encourage creativity is to set up an Invitation To Play. In the first image of this blog you can see a set-up I made for Tristan one Summer evening. Just a mat laid outside with various art tools and resources and a large sheet of paper taped down. I didn't even need to suggest anything to him. He just walked to the garden, had a little look at what was around and let the creativity flow. What he painted is one of my favourites he's ever done and it was created so gently and naturally with zero expectation or stress. You don't need the expensive paper and paints for this. Cut a side from a cereal box and use poster paints, use crayons, use pencils, use food colouring on dry pasta, add shaving foam!
Be creative in your choice of resources and see what you come up with.
It doesn't matter if the end result isn't something you want on the wall.
It really doesn't. It's the process.
If you're feeling lost as to how to start integrating more creativity into your life - with or without young people - and especially if you suspect or know yourself to be sensory sensitive and in need of de-stressing - then I highly (but humbly) recommend you have a read of my Sensory & Creative Play blog posts to read more about how combining creativity with sensory integration benefits us. They're NOT just for kids! Truly I get as much out of some of these activities as the children I engage in them with.
I'll end with this:
Find what sparks excitement and move from there.
Find the fun.
Find the joy.
Find the connection.
And as my dear Adriene (from Yoga With Adriene) says:
Breathe lots of love in and lots of love out.
Amy (Sonshine Art Mama)