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    Guest Post: Katharine Doughty

    When I found a lump in my chest in early 2010, I was ten years into a series of 26 self-portraits with four 4 images to complete. A theme of reclaiming runs throughout the project: reclaiming of self-representation, of our personal and collective stories and the power of visual image. Since then I have faced three separate diagnoses. Through multiple surgeries, rounds of treatment, and vast uncertainty, I committed to my art, turned to my creativity for comfort and guidance and lived to finish the series in 2017.
    "Emerging" art piece

    Emerging - Katharine Doughty


    Continuing my long practice and career as an artist and somatic educator alongside my journey with cancer brought me to Tamalpa Institute where I graduated in 2018. In tone with my own work, self portraiture is a key element in the artistic approach developed by my teachers Daria and Anna Halprin. Tamalpa Institute’s somatic based expressive arts therapy program, in its 40th year, attracts students from around the world who apply the work in unique ways from executive performance coaching to assisting women liberated from sex trafficking in India. Enriched by my training there, I now offer guidance and consulting to patients, caregivers and healthcare providers and advocate for the inclusion of arts in healthcare. Health institutions striving to meet demands for patient centered care, individualized treatment and integrative medicine, are increasingly including arts programs as a resource for patients to creatively define their own experience. Long an integral part of healing, art is once again establishing its place in medicine.

    "The long journey" art piece

    The Long Journey - Katharine Doughty

    My daily act of reclaiming is simply stretching and moving; taking enjoyment in listening to and following my body’s impulses; moving gently or energetically, taking long pauses of stillness; whatever my body calls for as I meet myself exactly where I am. I find music that moves me in different ways and find my inner rhythm moving without music in this personal somatic practice. “Somatic” refers to physical body and awareness of body distinct from thinking mind. Understanding our anatomy and physiology, learning how to track physical sensation, recognizing our unique body history and cultural conditioning, all contribute to personal embodiment; to inhabiting and embracing our body as the container of our life experience. The concept of “self-portraiture” therefore broadens here to address who we are on many levels physically yet also emotionally and mentally. While any one creative act can be beneficial, working inter-modally, with drawing, writing, voice and movement opens multiple pathways for expression, insight and integration.

    "Transformation" art piece

    Transformation - Katharine Doughty

    Most of us have experienced subtle and overt negative messaging around self-expression. Holding these wounds tenderly and giving yourself permission to be creative can be an important piece to reclaiming. Creativity is our birthright. We are by nature creative, inventive and curious; all qualities that can help us to view our experiences in a new light. Here is an activity for you to try to open your creative channels and your mindset. 


    • Use drawing materials you have or can purchase easily and inexpensively: markers, pencils, crayons, cray-pas, a large newsprint pad or any size blank paper. For 15 to 20 minutes you will draw, move and write, allowing each portion to build on the previous.
    • First draw an instinctive 5 minute “self-portrait”; a snapshot of your current physical, emotional and mental state. It doesn’t need to even resemble a body. If you want, take a few minutes to “warm up” by filling a separate page with marks of all kinds. Applied with intention, a page full of marks can be your self-portrait!
    "Many Hands" art piece

    Many Hands - Katharine Doughty

    "In Between" art piece

    In Between - Katharine Doughty

    • Next, for five minutes, move three elements in your drawing-a color, shape or area you feel curious about. Your movement can be subtle or large, begin from standing, sitting or lying down. Find gestures, shapes, vary speed, or move the whole drawing.

      Whatever you do, it’s correct even if it feels awkward, because it’s yours.

    • Finish with five minutes of writing thoughts, impressions, maybe a poem, or narrative. Give your drawing a title and keep it where you can see it for a few days. What do you notice? Do you remember one movement? Maybe a few words or a phrase that sticks with you. You are on your way! Repeat the exercise if you want to.

    "My story of now" art piece

    My Story of Now - Katharine Doughty


    Enjoy this work as “serious play”. Rather than analyzing or judging, be gentle with it and stay with what feels helpful. An important resource when facing a health challenge are people-friends, a partner, a therapist, a community-who are available if you need support or guidance for any reason. Sharing your insights, drawing and writing can be important and helpful. Recognize the power in preserving your experience just for you and share only what will contribute positively to your growth. With continued solo exploration, or if interested, guided sessions or classes, you can develop personal themes and narratives, find your own movement language and fill your tool box with valuable resources to help you feel comfortable and confident within. Full sessions can focus on specific needs such as support preparing and recovering from surgery, lifestyle changes and integration of life changing events.

    "Coverging/Crossing" art piece

    Coverging/Crossing - Katharine Doughty

    For me creative work and simple daily practices always provide a helpful shift of perspective, mood and awareness. Sharing my work in a way that is healing for myself and others and assisting people in discovering the resource of their own creativity provides inspiration for me to continue living well with a metastatic diagnosis. In my artwork are themes and imagery I have traveled with for decades. Be it ten years or ten minutes, the essential gift is the same: focused discovery and reflection via the arts allows us to be a witness to ourselves. To hear and respond creatively to our bodies with our bodies is to reclaim a role in the healing of our bodies.

    Portrait of Katherine Doughty

    Katharine Doughty, based in North Bay, San Francisco, is an artist, certified somatic educator and therapist with a BA in fine art and certificate in somatic based expressive arts therapy. She recently completed “In My Own Language” an 18-year portraiture series and continues work on a second project “Find the Ocean” a found object jewelry journal. She applies her informed perspective of the challenges associated with facing illness to her life and her work, offering guidance, education, presentations and consulting to individuals and groups.

    Facebook: Katharine Doughty Art.
    Twitter: @doughtykatharin

    Dana Donofree

    Dana Donofree

    Founder and CEO of AnaOno. After a diagnosis of breast cancer in her late 20’s, Dana took her own lived experience and fashion design background and (re)designed intimates for those that have undergone breast surgery. Dana’s story has been published around the world in outlets like New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, The Today Show, and more.