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Mia Janković Shentser
Krunislav Stojanovski


Open Studio Art Therapy

The open studio is a form of open group art therapy. It's a place where anybody can come to express through art, spend time in the suportive environment, experiment with art materials, discover answers to issues in one’s life, to relieve of stress, finding relaxation and insight, manage their personal growth. The artical will present the open studio approach of working in art therapy and present the model through the example of artists' open studio sessions at Cite Internationale Universitaire de Paris


Artwork made by 6 artists, 350x160cm, mixed media, photo: Private albumArtwork made by 6 artists, 350x160cm, mixed media, photo: Private album


About art therapy


Art therapy is an expressive psychotherapy which uses visual imagery of the person to reach personal meanings and understand their individual intrapsychic processes. Each emotion, conflict and a complexed psychological process has its own visual form in the imaginative world of the individual. Visual expression opens subconscious, less controlled content and makes it available through artwork where emotions and subliminal psychological processes are externalized. This is the base for the insight of the meaning and cause of processes and behavioral patterns. It is also space where different solutions of the problem are being investigated, where the foundation for their transposition to consciousness is being made until finally being integrated into the personality resulting in healing of a person.

The Basic Idea of the Open Studio Art therapy

The open studio is a form of open group art therapy. It's a place where anybody can come to express through art, spend time in suportive environment, experiment with art materials, discover answers to issues in one’s life, to relieve of stress, finding relaxation and insight, manage their personal growth. It's also a place for people to socialize, extend the circle of friends, find understanding from people that passed similar experiences, which for some populations literally means to stay alive. An open group is a form of group where a member can attend through undefined timeframe, leave the group, and someone else can come in the group at any time. Group participants are Open studio community event, Museum of Fine Arts,Osijek creating art together as a community. “In this view, the healing aspects of art-making arise from the making and doing, the trying and failing, the experimenting and succeeding, alongside others “ (Pat Allen (2008), p.11). The insight can be one-time pleasure or it can be revisited each week. Everybody take how much they need.

In an open studio, art therapy's ethics and form are followed, making all the individuals equal and respectful one to another, tolerant and excepting, and the content shared by picture or words confidential (Moon, 2001.).

This meditative approach in which you allow images to arise freely from the non-thinking part of your mind in a stream-of-consciousness way involves faith and trust in the process which inevitably bestows you back.

Open studio Art therapy, group of artists sharing;Academy of Fine arts, Osijek, CroatiaOpen studio Art therapy, group of artists sharing;Academy of Fine arts, Osijek, CroatiaIn analysing your own art, which is the next principle of the open studio as group art therapy, the artist will initially witness his/her own artwork through free writing or conversing with the part of self externalized on the artwork. It's so much more meaningful when we hear wisdom coming from ourselves than from someone else.

The sharing is the final step in the process. The artist may read her writing aloud to the group, or share feelings and thoughts. There is no interpreting of the work, even though the discussion often awakens.

There is an extensive offer of materials as well as the procedure lists in case of absence of muse, and there is an art therapist on the field who acts as an informal leader, helping and explaining, supporting and monitoring. She/he is a co-artist, invisible, but all-present element connecting the group.

Protocol modus is adjusted according to the population to be worked with, but it has been proved successful with groups of artists, adolescents with behavioral problems, youth, victims of human trafficking; psychiatric patients; children; adults without previous diagnosis; Holocaust survivors..

Artists' Open Studio Art therapy

The Open studio of art therapy was set as a part of activities at the artists’ studio Cite Internationale Universitaire de Paris where K. Stojanovski spent three months working with the fellow artists.

The artwork shown above is a result of 3 hours of art working and an hour-long free discussion. The artists were asked to express their problem, something they are ready to share, using any of abundantly offered materials. The activity of painting was free at the first level, so to develop a meeting point, the closeness among group members that have known each other only superficially. Based on this experience of expressing emotionally, which wasn’t hard for artists, they were invited to add to the artwork of other artists, giving his/her problem a positive meaning. Here the art therapeutic intervention was applied. The artist had to go deeper into the problem of his to be able to communicate it with another artist. Also, intervening with color and a brush into other person’s problem brings a set of questions, common feelings, empathy, maybe even answers to the original problem. The thought of a simple positive answer to the problem is sometimes light and fast in painting and very true and deep when made conscious. This is because the process of painting is intuitive and it gives flow to the unconscious which takes over as a natural language of painting. The discussion is optional. The result is amazing, as they all felt free, closer one to another, even happy and till the end of three-month period of sessions, they (we) functioned as a group.


Creating, photo: Private albumCreating, photo: Private album


Bit of Theory

As Jung (1943, as cited by Madden 2016.) explained, “There is no balance, no system of self-regulation, without opposition. The psyche is just such a self-regulating system”. Such activity is directly related to creativity. Through interviews with highly creative people, Andreasen (2005, as cited by Madden 2016.) identified four elements of the unconscious creative process: entering a state that is apart from reality, working as if someone or something else is directing the work, having a wandering mind, and feeling invisible. (Jordan S. Potash and Lisa Raye Garlock, as cited by Madden, 2016., p.190).

Elements of compensation can be found in the initial drawing by an artist expressing his problem. The "correction" made by another artist on the same drawing/painting to change the problem can be read as the integration process. “The act of compensation explains that the psyche generates opposites in order to ensure wholeness by creating that which is missing. Neumann (1959, as cited by Madden, 2016.) saw this tendency as a “natural curative power of the unconscious” (p. 156, ibid.). Assimilating unconsciousness into consciousness completes the creative process by identifying embedded archetype.

Both compensation and integration represent unconscious creative acts that promote awareness and innovation. Creative activity can serve to demonstrate them.“ ( Potash and Garlock, p.192,193,194, as cited by Madden, 2016.).

The painting process took about three hours and in this time probably both parts of consciousness expressed their forces and contributed. By getting more and more acquainted with each other, group has built the confidence and trust, and the persons started to approach the therapist to set an appointment for an individual session. The deeper and more complexed problems were being solved on that level. But this is a completely different story.



Allen, P.B. (2008). Commentary on community-based art studios: Underlying principles. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 25(1), 11-12;
Madden, Kathryn Wood, (2016.),“The Unconscious Roots of Creativity“; Chiron Publications, North Carolina, USA;
Moon, Catherine Hyland, (2001.) „Studio Art therapy“; Jessica Kingsley Publishers, UK;
Steiner, Raymond J.,(2016.) „Open Studio“, Art Times Journal, 2016, Vol.33 No.1;