Art Therapy: Drawing Through It with Rebecca McFarland

We at MiXX projects + atelier believe art can be a vital positive force during tough times like those we’re all experiencing across the globe right now. We want to use our resources to bring you a series of regular emails with inspirational and therapeutic content from our artists and more, aptly titled “Art Therapy.”

This week, we hear from Rebecca McFarland, one of our favorite portrait artists, who’s created a free series of coloring pages to help us all draw through the anxiety of the unknown.

MiXX: First of all, how are you?

Rebecca McFarland: As my Aunt Nell would say, “fair to middling.” Like everyone, I’m a bit upside down and inside out.

M: Oh, I love that turn of phrase, we can absolutely relate.

M: What, if anything has changed about your studio practice since we’ve all been social distancing?

RM: I’ve always isolated myself to get into a space where art is possible. So, my studio practice hasn’t changed. Only a strange difficulty to paint in the midst of everything that’s going on. I’ve wondered more frequently lately — what is the purpose of my art?  

M: Have you found that the events surrounding the global pandemic we’re weathering have changed the nature of the work you’re making right now?

RM: At first, I didn’t think so. I often paint portraits with birds and flowers – to reflect woman’s communion with nature. As I embarked on a portrait in the first week of quarantine, I placed a bird over the eyes of one of my ladies. When I stepped back, I realized my work had become an expression of a darker relationship to nature, one where we are blind to the effect we have on the earth. Also, a contemplation on the fear we are all feeling from what we are witnessing. Maybe. I’m always interpreting my work after the fact.  

M: Do you find any sort of solace in your creative process and making artwork? Or does it serve as an outlet for any of the negative emotions I’m sure we’re all working through right now?

RM: I found some old sketches I had done for a coloring book I never completed. Knowing coloring provides a meditative space, and we all could use a way to relax right now, I made some of the pages available online for free. I’ve received over 800 requests for pages, and people from all over send me their gratitude and their finished work. It helps while isolated to reach out and provide the slightest bit of enjoyment. Believe it or not, this connection to others through my art has brought me a great deal of comfort.  

M: Art can serve so many functions, from igniting activism to providing a little visual relief when everything around us seems dark. What do you think the role of art and artists is or should be in difficult times like these?

RM: Art has always been a way to reflect ourselves back to the world. To make the invisible visible. To give meaning to wordless moments–to uplift us, expose us, provoke us. I think the same is true now. In fact, I think art, in all forms, will provide a light at the end of this dark time. When we look back at history, it’s not just the wars we study; It’s the art, the music, the architecture, the movies. Art can be a salve, but it can also help us evolve.  

M: That’s a wonderfully thoughtful perspective. Where do you find yourself turning for inspiration right now?

RM: Art Journaling, online art classes, books, movies, connecting with others and cake. There has been a lot of cake eating. 

M: Yes, cake is crucial, we couldn’t agree more.

If you’re looking for a soothing and meditative activity to take your mind off of the heavier things right now, click the link below to receive Rebecca McFarland’s coloring book pages in your inbox.

Hang in there, and keeping looking out for more Art Therapy from MiXX projects + atelier!