Sticks & Bones

“Get over it, they’re just words.”

“If you let words have power over you, you’re not strong enough.”

“Rise above what they’re saying”

Yeah right. I don’t care who you are or how strong you may be. Words can hurt. They do have power. They have the capability to ruin relationships, bully, incite war, murder, tear countries apart, bring them together, fall in love, fall out of love, bring us to our knees, and raise our spirits.

Maybe you’re incredibly strong and you have the ability to push those hurtful adjectives out of your mind. Kudos! However, I guarantee that there is something in your past that still radiates hurt, or something that can be uttered that will strike a chord in you that may surprise you.

At one time, I thought that people were cruelest in their youth. Junior High and High School, to me, were the prime time for word-type-bullying. I have been proven wrong about this as I became a member of an online parenting community, and saw some of the most horrendous behaviour and language used by grown adults. I never thought that I would see women behave so awfully to one another over such trivial and simple differences of opinion. And some of the strongest and most beautiful women I have ever had the privilege to know have been victim to some brutal verbal attacks. Even they had to live with the memory of the terrible things said about them. And strong or not, you always wonder if there is any truth to it.

This prompt won’t take away the hurt. But it will help to take some of the power from words. It will help you to confront what about those particular words caused you so much pain.
And maybe those words and such cruelty doesn’t come from someone else. Maybe you are the aggressor. Maybe you’re the one who looks in the mirror and thinks ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’. You are your own bully. Stop it. Perhaps this prompt will help you recognize how terrible it is to use such language against yourself.

Sticks & Bones by Bri Ketler

I am using techniques described in the book “The Art Journal Workshop” by Traci Bunkers. As always, do not feel constricted by the instructions. You get to decide how you express yourself.

    1. On a new page (I taped two pages together), apply a thin layer of gesso using either a brush or card (I like using empty gift cards, they spread paint and gesso wonderfully). Allow to dry.
      Across both pages, using a black fine sharpie (or other permanent ink), write about a moment or situation that you can recall has caused you the most pain. Just like writing in a diary. Maybe this is a memory from 20 years ago, or maybe it’s from last week. Maybe it’s something someone said to you, or maybe it’s something you’ve said to yourself. Write it down.
    2. Over top of what you’ve written, spread a fine layer of acrylic paint using either a card or baby wipes. Baby wipes work amazingly as an application tool (thanks for the tip, Traci Bunkers!). Use colours that reflect how you are feeling about what has been written.
    3. Use photos or pictures from magazines to collage on top, if you wish, using mod podge or acrylic medium
    4. Using either marker, paint, crayon, or whatever else shows up clearly – write the key words that came up in your story.
      While writing these words, pay attention to the lines and shapes while creating the word on paper. Written word, is after all, simply lines and shapes. What power does a shape have?
      Once those words have been placed onto paper, take a moment. Look at them. Do you see the shape, or the definition? Did the act of putting those painful words onto paper in such a way take some of the power from those words? Did they make you re-evaluate the meaning of those words, or how meaningless they actually are? Did you realize that the individual (others or yourself) who used them were strategic in using them, that they had an agenda?
    5. Over top or across the page, write the sentence: “You do not define me”. Because they don’t. Those words are not who you are. You aren’t a bitch, or an asshole, or fat, or ugly, or a slut, etc etc. Let those words belong to those who uttered them. They don’t belong to you. And if they came from you, they don’t belong to your inner you either. They belong to something outside of yourself that makes you question your beauty (both physical and inner).


Writing down the words that caused so much pain can be a liberating and powerful experience. It may help you work through some of the pain from the past. It may give you power over the words that were used as weapons against you. Releasing the things that have hurt you out into the world can be raw and difficult, but I hope that it offers some peace and the ability to move forward without simple words anchoring you down.

Bri Ketler

Bri Ketler is a thirty-something mother of two, artist, crafter, and volunteer in the Calgary area. A Calgary native, she decided to spread her wings and move to Edinburgh, Scotland in 2001 to pursue a degree in the arts.She graduated with her BA in Art and Design from Edinburgh College of Art in 2005.

She worked as an Interior Designer in Calgary until her passion for art overwhelmed her desire for wealth and fame.When she is not chasing after her two young kids, she is teaching art to teen girls in need and creating dolls for her small handcrafting business, Lil’Zo.

Bri believes that art is a powerful outlet, and many internal issues can be confronted, exposed, and resolved by simply letting go and allowing oneself to be creative – even if they don’t believe they are the ‘creative type’. Everyone can benefit from getting over their fears, and simply putting pen to paper, paint to canvas, click a shutter, put hands on clay, or whatever medium one chooses. Find her online here.

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