It Looks Like We Made It


By Toni Johnstone

Hopefully we all made it through to the other side of December 2017, to January 2018, or at least most of us did. This may not be everyone’s favorite month of the year, but it may prove to be a great month for some of us. It might be a stressful or disappointing month, as we at least try to live up to our resolutions or silent commitments we’ve made to ourselves in all the excitement of the preceding holiday season. In actuality, many of us do delay things until that magical first of the year holiday. How many times have we heard or said, “I’ll do this, or this will happen after the holidays are over!”?

January was named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, gates, and doorways, and was usually pictured with two faces, one looking forward and one looking back. This may help explain why we are accustomed to doing that, especially in January. This concept of looking in two directions at the same time—it can sometimes feel as though we are actually doing that, and the energy and power sort of puts one into a fuzzy brain or a fugue state.

A fresh new year is here now to greet each and every one of us—fuzzy brained or not. Some of us will, indeed, make the most of every day, and some may only be waiting for the next highly advertised holiday, the ever popular vista of joy and love of Valentine’s Day followed by Sweetest Day. Oh well, it’s sort of good to have these days to break up the strings of uncelebrated days, isn’t it?

I recently read that the National Day Calendar proclaimed September as self-care, self-improvement month. Perhaps January will be that month instead of some of us. Don’t feel too bad if you aren’t able to live up to any resolution or commitment you pledged after sipping some tasty libation on December 31st. More likely, you promised something to yourself even earlier. Each day really can be a new beginning, and sheets of paper bound together in a calendar only mark the official passage of time.

If you find that you are having trouble getting your energy levels up or generating enthusiasm, I have an idea for you. Microsoft Paint is one of the best programs in which you can flex your artistic abilities without much mess or fuss. I challenge you to try it, or something similar. Today, tonight, tomorrow, or at your next opportunity to dissolve yourself into yourself. This is just an additional winter challenge. It’s a great tool for simple drawings even though you may have thought that Paint was invented just for children. Oh, contrare! In fact, if you want to begin doing art as therapy with me online using this simple method, it is definitely within the realm of possibility.

For the purpose of now, however, once at your computer, open up a fresh screen in Paint or a similar program, and draw a picture of who you were in December. Title it, then open a new screen and draw or paint a picture of who you are now, in January. Yes, it can really be that simple. All you need is a quiet space. Don’t linger too long on details. The process of using art as therapy is designed to be spontaneous and simple. If you had something particularly overwhelming happen to you, do a before and after painting/drawing of this event, or the feelings that it evokes. Yes, you have it—one or two of those feelings drawings. Customize this exercise to fit your special, unique self.

Select a medium to a large size brush in the program. Be sure to utilize the color palette that is offered, to help express yourself. It will likely take you a few or perhaps more than a few practice strokes or lines before you are minimally comfortable with it. Familiarize yourself with the options you have on the program. When you are finished, title your drawing— in fact, how about creating titles for both pictures, then save them somewhere, just in case you want to send them to me and begin an exciting journey using art to gain insight or resolve issues.

For best results, do not obsess over details or correctness of shapes and form, because the only rule is that there are no rules when you are doing this. In fact, you can use simple shapes, lines, and colors to represent yourself and other things you are trying to express. Just relax. You may find this exercise to be way more insightful than you think!

Wishes for a very happy New Year to you all!

Toni Johnstone is a registered art therapist, ATR, author, and a practicing fine artist. Visit the online directory listing in the Body Mind Spirit Guide for more information about art therapy at or contact Toni at 248-891-6247 (please leave a message) or contact her at


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