On Our Mind: Thoughts from Mark & Michelle Dean

Paste Papers: The What For…  

by Michelle Dean 09-10-2014 | 5:48PDT | Comments (2)


Artist’s journals © Michelle L. Dean

Decorated paste papers, as described in Paste papers: The How To…, may used in a multitude of educational and therapeutic applications. Using the slick and flexible pigments can facilitate abstract and playful imagery as well as lessen anxiety and encourage creative flow (Chilton, 2013). The less structured, or sometimes referred to as regressive elements, inherent in working with paste pigments may lessen defensiveness and encourages spontaneous creation and play. Working with larger pieces of paper, a minimum 18” x 24”, is recommended as it encourages bi-lateral gestures, which are associated with restorative integration and improved cognitive processing. Once the pigments are dry, the paper may be pressed with a warm iron or just placed under books to be restored to a flat sheet for drawing. If the paper is to be used in bookbinding or collage, pressing may not be necessary, as the glue will assist in holding its new shape.

Abstract Drawings:

suminagashi paper

Suminagashi paper made by the author

Instead of beginning a work of art with a stark white page, use a paste paper, or an inked suminagashi paper (to be described later), as it may take some of the anxiety out of starting a drawing or collage. For example, when working with the paper for a drawing, a design or pattern may inform the image as it may “speak” to the artist and imagistic associations may be drawn or created onto the page.  This method is akin to the projective scribble drawing (Hones, 1995) except the “scribble” is provided by the pigment or ink. Additionally, these papers may be used to elicit a symbolic or metaphorical response to: “What do you do when life hands you something you did not ask for?” like a line created by another group member in a pass a picture intervention or by utilizing the pattern created by the pigments as the “thing” to be reckoned with (McCafferty, Kwak, Dean, & Kane, 2007). The patterned paper may stand in for an undesirable event and subsequent sequela, such as a traumatic event and a graphic response, either painted, drawn or collaged, provides an opportunity to explore and work out various responses to a to an image and in turn to life’s event(s) or situation.

photo 1

Artist’s journals © Michelle L. Dean


By combining images and found objects of interest, patients may overcome anxiety associated with pressure to create a realistic image of their own as well as general resistance to art therapy itself (Landgarten, 1994). Collage may offer relief to those who lack confidence in the quality of their work and allow for many different combinations to be tested before a final commitment is made. By increasing the patient’s choices of imagery to be incorporated into a therapeutic artwork, it may also evoke an increase in dialog between patient and therapist about association to the abstract and unconscious material.

Book Binding:

Hand-made journals

Hand-made journals made by Arcadia University students utilizing their paste papers for their semester-long project.

In covering the outer pages of a book, one may select only the parts of the paste paper that are most desirable. This allows the patient to choose the area that they connect with most and place it in a way that it may be seen clearly. Along with choosing the cover of the book, patients can create a blank journals for which to carry on their creative process. This process, referred to as visual journaling, art journaling, or creative journaling, creates individual time for personal reflection and may allow for experience of underlying themes and increased familiarity with oneself.

These are only a few examples of how paste papers may be utilized in educational and therapeutic contexts. If you would like to learn more about bookbinding for therapeutic means, be sure to join us for Therapeutic Art Journals, a workshop in the near future or invite me to facilitate one near you.

Special thanks to Arcadia University art therapy student, Samantha Baggott.  She has been invited this semester to provide assistance in research for this blog and may be featured as a future guest contributor as a part of fulfilling her honors requirement for the AT310: Art Therapy: Media & Applications course this semester.








 References (not provided as links):

 Chilton, G. (2013). Art Therapy and Flow: A Review of the Literature and Applications. Art Therapy Vol. 30, 2, 64 – 70.

Hones, M. J. (1995). Clinical Application of the “Scribble Technique” with Adults in an Acute Inpatient Psychiatric Hospital, Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 12:2, 111-117

Landgarten, H. (1994). Magazine Photo Collage as a Multicultural Treatment and Assessment Technique. Art Therapy 11, 3, 218 – 219.

McCafferty, J., Kwak, K., Dean, M. L. & Kane, J. (2007). Eating disorders: A collaborative approach to treatment. In The American Art Therapy Association Conference Proceedings: vol. 38, (pp. 80), Albuquerque, NM: The American Art Therapy Association.

© 2014, All rights reserved, The Center for Psyche & the Arts, LLC; written by Michelle L. Dean, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, CGP, HLM (DVATA)

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