This is an example of a workshop our facilitators offer to participants in a safe, supported environment. If you’re interested in self-led workshops, please see Touchstones, At the Core: Transforming Trauma Together, and I CAN WE CAN.
This workshop gives participants an opportunity to listen to their hearts and tell their heart stories through the process of journaling, meditation and creation of a watercolor art piece.
- Watercolor paper (up to 3 pieces per participant)
- Masking tape
- Watercolor sets
- Cups with water (2 per person; one for rinsing the brush, the other to wet it for the paint)
- Paper towels
- “What is your Heart Story?” journaling template
- Relaxing, instrumental music
Introduction: 10 minutes
Demonstration: 10 minutes
Opening: 10 minutes
Warm Up: 10 minutes
Creation: 35 minutes
Closing: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
You can print a copy of the “What Is Your Heart Story” journaling template for each participant.
You can lay out the supplies for each participant to have easy access to them.
If you see fit, you can cut the watercolor papers down to smaller squares for each participant in advance. You can provide any size paper that you like, and you can give participants the option to create however many Heart Stories that you see fit. In the past, we’ve given participants an opportunity to create three.
It may be helpful to create a sample in advance to get a feel for the watercolor techniques, as well as to show participants what it can look like. If you choose to do so, we suggest creating a very basic demo sample so that participants aren’t overwhelmed by any “artistic” challenges. You may also want to leave the tape on the sample and show how a border can be created by removing it during the demonstration (see Demonstration).
You have complete freedom to alter or adapt any portion or element of this workshop to cater to your specific group’s needs.
“Before we begin, I want you to know that this is your window of time. This means that this can be a safe space to notice your thoughts, feelings, and needs. Since this space is your window of time, everything you say or do is voluntary. During this time, there is no right or wrong way to participate or create. I’m going to share some basic instructions, but you get to choose how you want to participate. You can follow along completely, or you may want to do something different, it’s completely up to you. During your window of time, you have complete freedom to choose. However you choose to spend this time will be perfectly okay. I am here to support you in any way that I can, so please feel free to ask for what you need.”
“Today, I invite you to share your Heart Story. Each of us has a story to tell. Sometimes we think ‘our’ story is the narrative of what is happening all around us, or to us. But actually, our heart stories are something different. Our heart stories are created in our hearts; they are the feelings, experiences, hopes and colors that live inside of each of us. If we listen, we can notice the learning, the wisdom and value that guides and shapes our lives and who we are, and inspires our life stories. Today, you’ll have a chance to listen to our hearts and tell their stories.”
“Our stories can be expressed in many different ways, though voice, movement and many art forms.Today, you’ll get to use watercolors. I’ll guide you through a process that lets your story emerge by listening to your heart and expressing it through colors, shapes and flowing imagination.”
You can introduce the art supplies and share the following creation process with the participants. You may want to demonstrate the steps for them.
“I’ll show you a simple watercolor ‘wash’ technique. Or feel free to play and explore if that is what feels right to you. Remember this is your window of time, to honor your thoughts, feelings, visions and needs. What you choose to do is completely up to you. If you want to just sit quietly with your hand on your heart, that’s okay. There is no right or wrong way to create or participate.”
“The way the watercolors move and blend can express so much. You can choose a simple shape to tell your story. It can be as simple as a circle or line or triangle. You don’t have to think of the shape right now. We’ll be doing a relaxation, and you can just let it come to you.”
“You can use one, two, three, or more pages to tell your story. The page(s) can represent whatever you want them to represent. They can represent how you feel on the inside, and how the world feels around you. They can represent your transformation and healing. They can represent your past, your present and your future. Or moving from ‘I can’t,’ to ‘I can’.”
You can demonstrate to the participants how to tape down the paper if you haven’t taped it prior to the workshop (Fig.1) and let them know the reasons for taping the paper down is so when the tape is removed, after the watercolor is dry, there will be a frame around the art like a window, and also the tape helps to contain the water so it stays on the page.
You can paint a shape with pure water on the paper (Fig. 2). You may want to use plenty of water so that the shape remains wet like a lake on the page.
You can then begin to drop color into the shapes (Fig. 3). Notice how the beauty of watercolor comes from what the color does by itself as it is carried through the water. When the paint is dropped into it, the magic begins effortlessly.
You can show what it’s like to drop the color near the edge and what it’s like as the color spreads and runs into other colors (Fig. 4).
You can show what it’s like to paint the area outside the shape with color, leaving a space of dry paper between the shape and the background (Fig. 5).
You can show what it’s like if you join the two wet spaces (Fig. 6).
You can invite participants to volunteer and share a word about how their heart is feeling today (Ex: light, heavy, foggy, clear, full, strong, happy, weak, sad, etc).
This may be a good opportunity to thank participants for honoring what’s in their heart, whether they shared or not.
You are welcome to use our suggested meditation, or your own. We have found that guided meditations are most effective when spoken in a soft, slow tone, pausing where it feels right.
“Before we start, I’d like to invite you to join me in a brief meditation. This is an opportunity to look inward, to connect with our hearts, and ourselves exactly where we are. If you prefer to just observe, that’s perfectly okay. Observing is participating.”
“For those of you who wish to follow along, try to get yourself in a comfortable position. If you feel safe, you can close your eyes, or keep them open. If you like, you can place both hands over your heart. However way you are most comfortable.”
“Now take a moment to relax and release some of the tension your body carries. Take a deep breath in, and as you let it go, picture letting go of any more tension in your body… and take another nice deep breath in… and let it go. As you breathe deeply, bring your attention to your hands resting on your heart.”
“Notice that this is a special time to care for your heart. All the good things, all the challenging things, all that your heart carries inside. If you remain still, can you hear any special message your heart has?… As you listen to your heart you might hear difficult things, and you might also hear wonderful things.”
“Begin to breathe in love and compassion for yourself… if expectations or doubts come up, listen to the strength in the beats of your heart and breathe. You might hear strength, hope, courage, or pain… you may hear words, songs or see shapes and colors in your minds eye. Trust your heart and take a moment to listen… Is it something personal? Is it a change you want to make in the world?”
“No story is too big or too small. You are welcome to sit in this moment for as long as you like, and whenever you are ready, you can open your eyes and begin to create what your heart tells you.”
Each participant is invited to create their shapes in water on the pages and then begin to add color as they wish. You may want to remind them that there’s no right or wrong way to create or participate. They are free to create whatever they like.
If participants finish early, you can invite them to start the journaling process.
When participants are finished, you suggest for them to leave the papers taped down until the closing. This will give the water washes a chance to dry.
After participants have created their heart stories, you can give them 5 minutes or so to journal or reflect on what they’ve created. You can offer the following prompt, “What is the story you see in front of you?” Or, they are free to write whatever feels right or good to them in this moment.
You can give everyone an opportunity to share with the group about their heart story, any discoveries they made, anything they felt or experienced through the process, or anything else they may wish to share.
You also have the option to invite participants to choose a partner, or pair them up, and give each person 2 minutes or so to share about their heart story, the process, or anything else that is coming up for them.
“Thank you for taking this time to connect and listen to your hearts, to honor yourselves and your stories exactly where you are. You are worth it. Each of your hearts are beautiful and unique in their own way, and each heart has an important story that deserves to be heard.”
After the circle, participants can go ahead and carefully take the tape off their art. If the paint is still wet, they may want to wait longer.