Creative Mentors & Inspiration Re-Visited

This semester I’ve been teaching Art Therapy Studio I for Ursuline College’s Art Therapy and Counseling Program, which focuses on the exploration of creativity and self expression through engaging students in their own personal art making, creative practice, strengthening their relationship as an artist, and how this impacts art therapy framework.

Our last class dedicated some time for a creative show & tell of each student’s Artist Mentors and Inspirations.  Classic artists such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent VanGogh, and Ansel Adams to local artists, art educators, past art instructors, contemporary artists, and more were presented with lots of art, stories, and reflections about the important influence these mentors have had on the students’ creative life and artist identity.  Very inspiring!

This assignment inspired me to reflect on my own artist mentors, particularly who helped me own and claim my struggling artist identity.  Throughout childhood I had always been involved in and active with some form of the arts, but I never really saw myself as an artist– I saw this activity more as something I just did “for fun” in a social context  and really minimized its overall connection to who I was as individual.  In the visual arts, I had this pre-conceived notion that my art needed to be technically awesome drawings or well executed and rendered images to claim any kind of serious and real talent as “an artist”.

But then, when I was in high school,  I spent my senior year in Mr. Bontempo’s  (aka Mr. B.) art class, where I had the freedom to create whatever I wanted and worked on some really interesting paper cut out collages loosely inspired by the work of Stuart Davis.  I think working in collage this way started to re-set my brain about my potential contributions as an artist.

One day Mr. B privately commented to me that art  wasn’t all about drawing an image in realistic detail like some of my classmates, but was also about playing with & having creative ideas, using color, and not being afraid to experiment– three qualities that he saw as strengths in my creative process and work.  It was like a light bulb switched on!  Wow!  Yes!

Me & Mr. B- circa 1991
Me & Mr. B- circa 1991

This moment and words of wisdom planted seeds that continued to grow when I was in college during art school and starting my undergraduate education in art therapy and then my future training as an art therapist in graduate school.  Even now I continue to embrace and remember Mr. B’s strength based approach in my art, creative practice, projects, and work as an art therapist. I have sincere gratitude for Charles Bontempo and what he helped cultivate in me.

Earlier this year I shared 20 of my current artist blogger inspirations as part of Tammy Garcia’s Link Love Mission. These artists, art therapists, and creatives inspire me every day with their active practice, blogging, art challenges, status updates, Instagrams, or tweets of their art, creative space, projects, and so much more!  When I’m having a hectic or stressful day, being able to take time to connect to all their wonderful content through social media brings me to a state of enthusiasm, wonder, and receive a huge dose of grateful, good energy for my creative soul.

Who is someone who helped inspire your artist self, inspires your current creative process, or excites you about art?


Related Posts:

Inspiring, Artsy Link Love- Round Up #1

Linking Up More Creative Blog Love: Round Up #2

Shout Out Of Creative Blog Love – Round Up #3

Creative Goodness Continues: Link Love Round Up #4


Published by

Gretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC

Gretchen Miller, MA, ATR-BC, ACTP: Registered Board Certified Art Therapist, TLC Certified Trauma Practitioner, Art Therapy Community Organizer, Artist...

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