The Bodyscapes Technique

Redwoods, program participant aged 8, 1995pastel on fabriano paper, 36"x24"

Redwoods by Program Participant aged 8, 1995
Pastel on Fabriano Paper, 36″x24″

I developed The Bodyscapes Technique, drawings of the parts of the body which are ill, to  reflect my deep respect for the human body. Not long after I recovered from my illness, my first opportunity to practice this technique came while working with the daughter of a friend living with liver cancer. This young girl was visiting my home and saw the drawings of my migraines and stomach aches hanging on the wall. “I’ve only ever seen a liver on my mom’s x-rays. Would you teach me to draw one so I can make a picture to help heal my mother’s liver cancer?” she asked. In that moment, I knew creating this artwork would help her deal with her sadness and find hope. Everyday, while her mom took naps, she placed the drawing on her mom’s liver to help her heal the cancer. Together, through art, she and her mom found a new language and way to communicate about the cancer and its effects on the body. 

“I’ve been to a lot of doctors and no one has given me the gift of connection and hope that Diane gave to my family. This art making of illness needs to be done in all hospitals everywhere.”  – Client of The Bodyscapes technique who had terminal cancer

 I use the same book to assist patients in understanding what the insides of their bodies look like. I bring the supplies bedside, right to the tray top tables if they are in bed or spread them out in the waiting room. After looking at medical illustrations of whichever organ in their bodies is ailing, I slowly guide each participant to draw that organ. I believe drawing is a poetic and personal method of self inquiry and that all people are born with a natural creative urge. We use high quality artist paper and French pastels. Pastels are soft and easily glide along paper immediately releasing a beautiful, unrestricted flow of colors at the hand of every person using them. Patients then blend the colors they have chosen atop the drawing of their sick organ, rubbing with their fingers, as if caressing a loved one in need of comfort. I believe this special type of healing art-making happens when a sick person forgets their pain and identity as a patient or a parent lets go of their worry to become  for a while an artist, rubbing yellow, red or blue pastel on top of a drawing of an ill organ. 

Each drawing session comes to an end. We sit and look at the drawings, siblings, parents, sick  discovering what each other thinks the illness inside their loved one looks like. Now, as a family, they are able to discuss the illness from a completely new place of knowledge of color, shapes and lines which brings even more  compassion and oftentimes greater peace. 




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