Art Journal Therapy: Dealing with Pain


I created these pages in my art journal during the painful breakup of a relationship. During this period, I used collage and writing in my journals as a way to move past grieving. I understood that artists have an opportunity to deal with their demons by turning to the creative process – so, I would show up at my art collage group with a broken heart and leave with a sense of relief, as if some part of the wounded me had started to heal.

Having done some work on dealing with emotional pain, I realized denial would not be an option for me. I was hurting, and pretending otherwise wouldn’t change that. However, expressing myself in a way that was beautiful to me and reflected my honest experience could have a transformational power. It’s as if the energy of grief can be redirected and used as fuel for self-awareness and ultimately used to heal the heart. It doesn’t happen instantly or even by itself, but it can be a powerful part of the process of moving forward. And only by going through the suffering, and that process can be facilitated by the simplest forms of creative expression, can we re-emerge as somehow more complete, more compassionate, and more human.

The connection between pain and art is undeniable – human beings have throughout time expressed their emotional, mental, and spiritual despair through some form of artistic expression, whether it’s by singing the Blues, writing songs about love lost, creating fiction that tells stories of the trails and tribulations of the human condition, or by putting onto canvas the extreme difficulties of inner and outer life. And so while it is true that suffering and pain are inevitable in life, there are endless choices we have on how to deal with them. I choose to go to my art journal, drink lattes and watch streaming Netfix.

One of my favorite artists, Frida Kahlo, began painting after she was severely injured in a bus accident. Even in the midst of extreme physical pain and emotional disappointment, she was able to develop her work and become one of Mexico’s greatest artists. Her paintings bring tears to my eyes.

two fridas
She has said,

“I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.”
– Frida Kahlo


Filed under Art Journals, Artsy Stuff, Collage, Topics I Love, Topics I Love

4 responses to “Art Journal Therapy: Dealing with Pain

  1. Lauren

    Thank you so much for the comment you left me a while ago; I haven’t been posting lately so I just saw it and wanted to acknowledge it. Now on to you. 🙂

    This collage is beautifully painful. Frida Kahlo is one of my favorite artists for the same reasons you mentioned. What is most important to me when I look at a piece of art, or read something, is what it makes me FEEL. I feel when I look at Frida’s paintings — and I felt when I looked at your collage.

    ♥ Lauren

    • Hi Lauren, thanks so much for your comments – we are on the same page here – it is what we feel when we experience a piece of art in any form that is most important. And, Frida is so powerful – I’m glad you felt something when you looked at my collage. I will stay in touch! Best, Kartika 🙂

  2. I find it interesting when people say they create to deal with pain. When I’m going through a painful experience, I withdraw from my writing. I can’t even write in my daily journal for some reason. I really like the image of the broken glass in your collage. Kind of sums up the whole relationship ending badly thing in one image.

    • Hi Jennie, Thanks for your comment. It is interesting the way different people handle pain – I find if I can push through it and start something it can move the energy – of course, not always. This particular collage helped me move through some of it – and I love it for that! Best, Kartika 🙂

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