Lanie Smith, MPS, ATR is a Registered Art Therapist and owner of Integrative Art Therapy as well as co-founder of Matters of the Heart Retreats for couples. Lanie has a true passion for combining art and nature to help others connect more deeply to themselves, others, their natural creativity, and innate wisdom.
Lanie specializes in supporting other helping professionals in both behavioral and allied health to cultivate creative and compassionate self-care as burnout prevention and provides individual and group Eco-Art Therapy as well as supervision, consultation, retreats, workshops, and trainings to support the ethical use of art in therapy.
Carrie: Welcome Lanie, when did you realize the importance of the arts in your life?
I struggled with my own overwhelming emotions and a history of family discord, so I always used creative writing and journaling growing up. I discovered painting when I finished high school and fell in love with the way color and texture could express what I otherwise had no language for.
Art was my outlet and means of communication when I did not know how to otherwise articulate what I was experiencing. I used art to cope and became more and more interested in using my creativity to pass along the many benefits, which is what led me to become an Art Therapist.
Carrie: How would you describe the work you create?
It’s changed over time as I have. I used to paint and produce prolifically with the goal of exhibiting and selling. After becoming an art therapist, I was still determined to keep up with my art to ensure I would be ‘good enough’ as both an artist and therapist. After some difficult health issues, I’ve found more compassion and permission to express myself in a variety of ways without the need to show, sell, and mass produce.
My creative life still involves some traditional sketching and painting, but over time I found myself working with more natural materials. I enjoy getting outside and collecting objects to make impermanent sculptures. I also have a number of collaborative projects in the works around the world as I find community to be really important for supporting my creative endeavours. Plus, I just love relationships.
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
I have several. I like to work outdoors as much as possible as research supports its many health benefits. So much of the work I do for myself and with clients is centered around creativity and nature, so I love creative treasure hunts outside. I have two offices and also use half of my garage as a painting studio for working large.
I have materials in all three locations, because some of the art I do is in response to clients at my Art Therapy studio office while other artmaking is done in a variety of sizes. You may find me nuzzled in my oversized chair writing, making cards, or working in an art journal next to my portable studio on wheels if my body needs a rest or pouring gallons of paint on 4X4 wood panels outside. I’ve learned to listen to my body to determine where to work.
Carrie: What are important strategies or choices do you make that help support your creative process?
I’m not sure I have specific strategies as much as I have come to welcome all stages of the creative process, which is to say that as much as I love the diving in, doing, and flow parts, there is also much importance in the initial idea phase, incubation period, and flexible commitment when things don’t go as envisioned.
Carrie: What kind of creative activities do you encourage your clients to explore? Do you have an example of one you might share?
Every client invites very unique and specific art directives, which is what I love about the work I do. Being spontaneous and influenced by the relationship creates such a wide variety of art invitations.
Some sample projects include creating a grounding or anchor bracelet out of clay beads that can be painted to remind you to breathe or love, alter a book to include timeline images and tell the story of your life where you get to decide the ending, or a natural found object to represent yourself and your natural strenghts which can then be altered or left natural.
Carrie: What’s your go-to art activity when you feel stressed, burnt out, or stuck?
As much as I love paint I have found nature to be the most grounding for me so I love a nature walk and treasure hunt to collect natural materials. This takes me out of my head and into my heart/body. This is why when I am painting I love to do so outside. I’ve even had a nice breeze blow leaves and flowers into my work which I’ve then embraced as part of the texture.
Carrie: What’s one piece of advice or practice on your blog that you find indispensable for your own artist practice?
Relinquish harsh, critical judgment and just play. Life’s too short to stress over art. It’s a portal to your soul, so be gentle and approach with curiosity instead.This is not just a lesson in art, but a lesson in life. I see them as one in the same.
Carrie: What do you wish more people understood about art?
We are all creative with various levels of talent. You do not have to be gifted to be creative and you can cultivate skill with practice if that is what you truly long for. You can also enjoy your own creativity regardless of skill level in a wide variety of areas. Art acts as a mirror of our internal world too, so even if you are not using it to show you can learn a lot about yourself to support your own spiritual journey.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
I’m resilient and incredibly resourceful so I’m hesitant to say I can’t live without anything. My favorite type of art is that which builds relationships, so I really enjoy collaborative pieces. For that reason, I’d really hate to go without my close creative colleagues who inspire me often.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
I’m inspired by humans and their emotion as well as their resiliency. As mentioned, art was a portal to my own overwhelming emotion when I was younger, so I found myself drawn to Abstract Expressionism. Works from that genre represent raw, visceral feelings that are often covered by the many defensive masks we wear. Such art forms, regardless of modality, attract me like a moth to a flame. Whether it’s a modern dance, theatre drama, or actual painting I can be touched in order to feel and experience those emotions that remind me I am human.
Love, generosity, vulnerability, connection, spirituality. I’m all about relationships, so witnessing and experiencing the above motivates and inspires me to create in many forms: art, cards, blogs, programs, collaborations. Seeing how we are all connected to each other and our world, taking care of each other and our environment, and encouraging others to do the same. That’s inspiring.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
To me, creativity is about personal expression and exploration. It’s about an attitude of play that allows you to potentially combine new and interesting ideas, images, materials, words, movement, sounds or something else like ingredients, fabrics, textures, colors, and/or designs to create something new. That means creativity is different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to express such.
Creativity is also the byproduct of being one’s true self. We have an innate creativity within us that is only stifled by judgment. Its censoring of one’s natural inclination to express him or herself in the world as a result of programming.
Whether it’s creativity in the kitchen, with your wardrobe, home decor, business designs/ventures, or through some other means such as more formal expressive arts like drama, music, dance, visual art, etc., we all have the potential to be creative and express who we really are in the world.
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Be Creatively Courageous: What is one way you play to engage your creativity? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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