Expressive Art to Enhance Well-Being

Contributed by Alice Palen

Art has the power to enhance well-being. Anyone who wants to express themselves in art has the capacity to do so. It’s a matter of listening to your inner voice, focusing on its message and allowing words and images to emerge that capture the message. With a little instruction in using art materials an individual can create a personal image that captures the uniqueness of their thoughts and feelings. Engagement in the art process is gratifying in itself. The resulting image provides an object to reflect upon, remembering the inner voice and expanding on its message. All this leads to enhanced well-being.

I have been using this process to explore favorite quotes that have inspired and comforted me. 

“Gifts at the end of branches… Alpine fields hold blueberries to pick.” 

This is a quote I developed myself. It emerged from something I read on a label of Haskap Jam and from my joy in finding small beauties in nature. Haskap is a word the ancient Ainu people of Japan used to name berries. They called them gifts at the end of branches. When I went berry picking I was presented with Haskap, and was reminded of my gratitude for nature’s bounty and the small beautiful things in my life. 

“I shall be telling this with a sigh… Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” from The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost. 

This quote captures my thoughts and feelings about choices I have made that have led to both gratification and uncertainties. It helps me resolve longing for the roads not taken and questioning the ones I have taken.

Expressive Art to Enhance Well-Being is a series of workshops where I guide individuals through the process of focusing to hear their inner voices, journaling to clarify thoughts and feelings and art making to express them in their own personal ways. We use dry media - pastels, colored pencils and collage - to create a personal image. Instruction in use of media and materials is provided. Developing a personal expression in art is emphasized over artistic skill. Participants have been amazed at how their images reflect inner thoughts and feelings, and how this has enhanced their sense of well-being. 

Workshops will be held on the 3rd Saturday of the month, 9:30-Noon in Wasilla. The next one is “Transform a Favorite Quote into a Personal Image” on Saturday, September 17. “Explore Life Transitions in Images of Doors and Windows” will be on Oct. 15. “Express Gratitude in Cards to Others and to Yourself!” will be on Nov. 19. 

Also, in November, I will be the Featured Artist on Second Saturday at AK Frayed Knot in Palmer. We will explore weaving as a metaphor for integrating the complexities of ourselves and our lives.

Come to the workshops with a desire to explore. No artistic experience is needed, honest. You can express yourself in art!

A Word About Me:

I am inspired by the small beauties that surround me and the power of art to enhance my own well-being and that of others. My formal art training was at the University of New Mexico where I earned a Bachelor’s Of Fine Art, cum laude. I am a counselor with a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

I have provided opportunities for individuals to enhance their well-being through expressive art and have used it with groups including victims of domestic violence, individuals struggling with recovery from substance addiction and youth in foster care. I look forward to sharing the experience of enhancing well-being through expressive art with you. 

For more information or to register for a workshop, text or phone me at 907 460-8481, or send an email to