We are quite excited about this month’s Featured Art Therapist (and Featured Artist!). Jelena Mrkich is a Transpersonal Art Therapist and artist who hails from Sydney, Australia and is supremely talented and brilliant in so many ways. We recommend you read her intriguing interview below as well as view her gallery of artwork and images from her art therapy classes. We think you’ll find that she’s rather interesting, talented, and is quite the gem!
It’s an honor to feature Jelena and we hope you enjoy her insightful answers to our questions as well as her beautiful artwork she’s shared with you.
Jelena Mrkich Artwork & Image Gallery
The following gallery contains images of Jelena’s own artwork as well as images that represent a variety of activities from Jelena’s art therapy classes. Enjoy! Or you can go directly to the interview.
Art Therapy Interview With Jelena Mrkich
1a. Can you give the readers a bio about who you are, where you’re from, what you do, etc?
I am an Artist, Art Therapist and Intuitive Catalyst for Creative Transformation based on the Northern Beaches in Sydney, Australia. With a vision to assist and inspire others in living the life they were born to create, my work includes; empowering sessions, classes and workshops; creative and nurturing pregnant belly painting; visionary art, prints and cards; energy imprints and handmade artisan wares. I also bake a mean batch of cookies, really like blank paper and have a serious thing for dragonflies.
1b. You’re an accomplished artist and a Transpersonal Art Therapist. Can you describe the journey you’ve taken that has led you to your current path of helping others through art and creativity?
I would say it is a natural extension of my own personal journey. I have been creating ever since I can remember. My mum would tell me how I would happily sit for hours cutting up magazines with a pair of child-friendly scissors when I was three. I love that I now get to cut up magazines as a part of my work. As well as being an avenue of expression, art and creativity have been a way for me to process emotions and experiences, release and embrace aspects of myself and unveil a clearer reflection of who I really am. Creativity feels like a necessity for my cells to be healthy, like cells need oxygen. I simply feel better. Because of my personal experience in living a conscious creative path I feel passionate to help others in a creative way. It is amazingly rewarding and can be very fun.
1c. What made you decide to become an art therapist?
The moment I realised I would be limiting myself if I didn’t. In 2002 I came across an ad for art therapy studies and made a mental note to do that when I was ready. At the time I was focusing on graphic & web design and experimenting with my energy imprints. In 2006 I began running artistic workshops, many at Bear Cottage Children’s Hospice in Manly (Sydney, Australia) with Art IM (Artists in Motion). The following year I was invited to sit on the Art IM Board and via this inspiring organisation I furthered my experience using art as a therapeutic tool. When I noticed the adults in my groups comment on how therapeutic the sessions were, I realised in order to be able to facilitate deeper soul work it was time to further my skills. Three months later I began Transpersonal Art Therapy diploma studies at the College of Complementary Medicine (Sydney, Australia), the same college from the ad I had seen. I graduated two years later in 2009.
2a. What is Transpersonal Art Therapy? And how do you use your training, sessions, and/or workshops to help others?
Transpersonal Art Therapy is a creative expansion and transformational exploration of who you really are. It is a healing and holistic modality that utilises art and creativity as tools for expression not impression. The transpersonal aspect looks beyond the mask of everyday living. It is a path toward self realisation, it is soul work that also considers the mind, body and emotions. I use my training in this field to help others by creating the space for people to access, connect with and express their authentic self. To do this, I draw upon artistic methods, creative processes, empowering techniques, client centred counselling and a healing approach, including; meditation, visualisation, dreamwork, drawing, collage, clay work, the mandala (sacred circle), mask making, archetypes, journalling, story telling, movement, rituals and more.
2b. Can you describe your thinking/process for a first meeting with a client? Are there specific goals or answers you’re seeking after the initial meeting?
Prior to an initial session, I like to have an indication of what the client would like to work on or why they want the session, even if this may be unclear for them at the time. That way, I can better prepare for the session and if appropriate gather specific tools and resources before they arrive. I also open up to signs and symbols before a session, as these may be coming up for the client. I have a client information sheet they fill out for the first session, which is very helpful in giving me a brief overview of their history and current state.
If there were a goal after the first session, it would be that the session has served some purpose for the client, been useful or created a space for opportunities to birth out.
2c. What are some of the more successful tools, techniques, and/or activities you have used with clients? Please describe what made them successful.
Some of the tools and techniques I use include; guided meditation to assist people to tap into their imagination and the wisdom of their inner world; the medicine wheel as a navigational tool; archetypes as a way to tap into and explore aspects of the self; dreamwork to help people uncover the language of their unconscious; clay work to assist with grounding and embodiment, and journalling as a tool for self exploration and way to engage in personal amplification of art-making. I work regularly with the mandala too, as it provides a focal point and safe holding. However, to express within a contained space is not so helpful for a client who is feeling repressed or suppressed, as it might amplify that state. In one of my groups I had a participant completely dismiss the mandala while drawing. Rather than render the process unsuccessful, it allowed me to refine my approach. For example, when using the mandala I now make sure to add that one can express outside the circle as well.
I would say I find all these successful. Though in terms of what makes a tool or technique more successful than another, I find it has more to do with the behind the scenes dynamic – such as the facilitator’s approach, the relevance of the process and how safe, open and ready the client feels to go beyond the surface of their everyday life to express and explore.
3a. You’ve created a variety of art in different mediums. What are some of your favorites? What type of art/medium are you currently focusing on as an artist?
Some of my favourite types are; digital photography, photographic manipulation, collage, charcoal, oil pastels and ink. If including crafty things as well, I would add felt, feathers, beads and driftwood.
As an artist I am currently focusing on digital art and mixed media. The digital medium is wonderful, even though I have worked with it for years it has a flexibility that allows me to continually develop my technique. Mixed media is fantastic for the shear fact I get to blend in any other medium that takes my fancy, from liquid bitumen to loose leaf tea. At the moment I am working on a commissioned mixed media piece and have torn up an old love book written in Italian to include in the work. I bought the book in Florence several years ago knowing one day I would use it. Another focus is painting on skin, in particular pregnant bellies. I love working with a live canvas that moves, kicks and hiccups under the brush.
3b. We found the Chakrascopes to be very interesting, can you talk about what these are and the concept behind their creation?
I have been creating energy imprints since 2001. I was experimenting with fractal software as a medium when a friend of a friend requested healing energy be sent their way. I decided to make them a digital artwork by working with my intuition and tuning into their energetics. They loved it. Over the years I have created custom pieces for magazine publication, book & cd covers and a limited number for the public in the form of cards, prints and canvas pieces. In 2010 I made personalised pieces available as custom orders and gave my energy imprints a name, Chakrascopes – as these pieces tune into our energy centres and the vibrations and energetics of its individual intention.
4. Describe yourself in 5 words.
Creative. Exploring. Expanding. Connected. Sensitive.
5. If 3 of your best friends were hanging out with you, what’s one thing they’d all jokingly make fun of you for?
Mish-mashing my metaphors. It happens quite often but I unaware of it until they tell me!
6. What are you passionate about? This can be work-related, personal, whatever you would like to share.
I am passionate about authentic living and a heart-centred humanity. When we live more authentically we open to being responsible for our actions, experience deeper gratitude and reclaim who we really are. Western culture is a tad on the other side of this spectrum; thankfully this does not prevent us from awakening and creating a deeper connection to our heart. As so many artists, musicians, writers, activists and change makers have been showing us for generations. In the words of Buffy Saint Marie (said during her recent show in Sydney), ‘there is so much good left to do in the world, aren’t you glad we left some for you’. I find it a very exciting time to be alive at this point in our evolution. If I was another being looking in on the happenings on Earth, I would be sitting on the edge of my seat.
7. Is art, or the process of creating art, therapeutic for you in any way? If so, can you describe a recent example?
It is definitely therapeutic for me. I use art to strengthen my connection to self, help gain deeper insight into my dreams and uncover new ideas. If I am feeling out of the flow, experiencing concern, frustration or other emotion, art working it out helps me to transmute it. Therapeutic art making pops up in unexpected ways too. For example, my partner and I have chickens we have raised since they were three weeks old. One day while they were out on a walk, we lost one of them to a predator. Minutes later, while searching for the missing one, the littlest, I found a tuft of her feathers and tucked them into my pocket. I will be creating something out of them as a way to honour her life. It will hold meaning for me to have a tangible reminder of the beautiful warrior energy she carried.
8. How has art influenced your perception of life?
Art, like life, is in constant motion, ever changing, growing and evolving. The active participation and literal motion of art making has directly influenced me. Its therapeutic and empowering energy has helped me gain deeper understanding, develop greater clarity and give things more meaning in both my inner and outer worlds. There are times when I consciously use it to help me literally shift how I see things within, and out.
9. What are some other things or people that inspire/motivate you?
Animals, nature and organic materials inspire me. People who are living their purpose and those who are connected to their heart motivate me. Random things also inspire me, like the way my soy flat white stains my cup or hearing a line from a song.
10. Do you believe creativity is an innate quality? Please explain.
I see all life as living manifestations of the creative life force, it is the stuff we are made from. I deeply feel creativity is an innate expression of being human, we are literally conceived via the creative process. Each of us holds our own individual reasons for how, when and why we use creativity – including why we might disconnect with it. Creativity often appears to be reserved for children or only those with a favoured degree of talent in our culture. However, degree of talent, level of artistic ability and skill aside, creativity is a free energy resource available to everyone. How fantastic, we can rejuvenate and resuscitate our creative self at any age. We can plug in to the creative impulse and (re)connect to it at any time. I hear some of my clients say, “my work isn’t any good, it looks like a five year old made it”. When you think about it, how fabulous is that?
11. What are some wise words or advice you would like to offer people reading this?
Be your brilliant self. Know that you are loved. Learn the language of your own inner world, because you already have everything you need within you.
12. You have been selected to go on an all expenses paid vacation with 3 people you’ve never met (dead or alive). Who is going on vacation with you and where?
Buffy Sainte Marie (b.1941), Singer/Songwriter, Musician, Artist, Educator, Activist and remarkable human. Watched her Sydney performance in April, having listened to her as a kid; Susan Seddon Boulet (1941-1997), Visionary Artist who had an inspirational connection to the animal and spirit world; and Florence Scovel Shinn (1871-1940), Artist, Teacher and Metaphysical Writer whose book I am currently reading. We would travel to the Kingdom of Bhutan.
SPEED ROUND – Quick questions with quick answers. Ready, go!
What is your favorite food?
Paella is right up there. I first tried it years ago in Spain with my two sisters.
If you could be one animal, which one would you be?
A butterfly-cat. I choose to believe they exist on some level.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Right now it would be to travel at the speed of light. So I can do things like visit my younger sister and her partner in London. I could be there in a flash with a fresh batch of cookies.
Where on the world wide web can we learn more about you?
Thank you Art Therapy Blog.