Healing the Five Year Old I Still Hold

Practicing as an Art Therapist with families,  I look deeply into the eyes of children all day.  Then, in the studio, without intending to paint anything in particular, I move paint around a canvas and faces magically appear.  I am not trying to depict anyone, or tell a story… it just happens that emotion filled little people show up.  Maybe I am  tapping into the collective experience of being a child- that child that still lives in us. There is beauty in not knowing who they are or what they have to say.  But as long as they speak to me, they will keep coming to visit.

5 yr old sm

October 16, 2017 at 1:08 am Leave a comment

Why Paint a Buffalo? American Bison

bison ptgs no border

For twenty years my mother made paintings inspired by the cave art of Lascaux and Chauvet. Looking at the remarkable outlines of bears, elk and bison, I wondered why our ancestors of 40,000 years ago exaggerated the features they did.  I looked at the animal
with a new curiosity.

As a child, I used to see them live, roaming through the plains of North Dakota. They were big, rough, hairy, prehistoric looking beasts.  They were also the powerful stampeders herded off cliffs by Native Americans in the pages of National Geographic. That magazine was our window to the exotic outside world, when TV only offered four black and white stations.

Those paintings of hunting scenes made me sad for everyone, man and beast alike. These fleeting images float through my mind as I paint.

Current conservation efforts by many American Indian nations are reestablishing healthy bison population and reclaim and important part of their history.


February 9, 2016 at 3:28 am Leave a comment

“Bosque Afternoon” Therapy for the Therapist

30x40 Oil Painting by Amy Hautman

30×40 Oil Painting

In October I rinsed my mind with a hike among the autumn trees along the banks of the Rio Grande. Here in New Mexico is some of the cleanest, clearest air in the country. It feels good to breathe. This large oil painting began that day. Now snow covers the ground and the Aspens are bare but I finished this canvas with memories of the vibrant warm colors and fresh air. Standing in front of this piece takes me right back there.

January 4, 2015 at 3:02 am Leave a comment

Creating a Vision Board with Collage

For Career and Life Development we made our version of the vision boards popularized by Oprah and Martha Beck. Webb Garrison kicked off the project by leading us through a meditation where we walked into a forest  and came upon a treasure chest.  We opened the chest to see what was inside. These dreamy treasures gave us insight into what we wanted to include in our future.

I came out of the mediation with only a few clues but used the relaxed, open state of consciousness to try and clarify ideas about my dreams.  I pictured a cozy little green office where I could see myself practicing therapy. I imagined a large open loft studio where I could lead workshops exploring the magic of the creative process.  I could see myself writing a book about Art Therapy one day.  I like being with people who are expanding their minds.  So, maybe I would like to teach.  With these fantasies floating around in my mind, I flipped through magazines looking for images to concretize these imaginings and create my vision board.

vision board 2014 I wanted to use the collage process to help clarify my goals, involve the subconscious and then orient myself to the life I want to create.  But none of the job related ideas appeared in the magazines I had in front of me. I found a new refrigerator and a cute puppy, but the rooms I wanted didn’t show up. I clipped here and there but I was struck by how few things I wanted that I don’t already have.  The glamorous bodies, luscious lips and sleek cars just didn’t excite me.

Mostly, I gathered pictures of beautiful places that made me breathe deeply and feel grateful. That feeling of gratitude is connected to a sense that I have enough. So, instead of what I want, or what I am lacking, I focused on what I already have but want to grow.

So now I have the background full of pictures describing the states of being I want to maintain and cultivate.  And, I am keeping an eye out for images of cool spaces that might hold my future. It might be some idyllic reteat in Dwell magazine, or it might be a For Rent posting.  The visionboarding practice will help me recognize “it” when I encounter “it.”




February 3, 2014 at 11:07 pm Leave a comment

Mapping out Family Systems with Oil Painting – Genogram Project

Genogram Oil Painting

Genogram Oil Painting

I can easily draw a family tree, but in Family Art Therapy class we are making genograms to explain our relationships with our families. Many people can map out their family systems with an assortment of boxes and lines and symbols. Here is what a typical genogram looks like:

Freud's Genogram

Freud’s Genogram

I tried this method.  But I could not fit my family in boxes, at all! Maybe it is boundary issues, or lack of roles in a chaotic system. Or maybe it was my not wanting to label anyone as anything. But I tried. I made boxes and moved them around for weeks, never finding an arrangement that made sense.

Then, while hiking one day, I came upon a ridge topped with jagged dark iron rich boulders carved with ancient petroglyphs. Primitive symbols of humans, birds, spirals and crosses were etched in the sun facing surfaces. Some were clear and some were faded and vague. Studying the shapes and thinking about the history of the place, I looked out over the hills and wondered how many people had stood in this very spot, contemplating life– and how they fit in it.placitas petroglyph

These marks of history, carved in stone, were the inspiration for my genogram.  I started this painting with an ochre base and then laid a dark patina over the entire canvas. I wiped off a circle of burnt umber to reveal myself as a golden sun shedding light on the family system I know.  Then, scratching into the surface, figures began to emerge. In the shadows of the upper left is my grandpa Smed, a colorful character who died of cirrhosis.

Grandpa Smed

Grandpa Smed

But I wanted to show more than a dead alcoholic patriarch. So I gave him a jester quality to convey his humor and his importance.  Characters began to appear on the canvas, in abstract form, quite fitting for the way I knew them. At the bottom of the canvas are my two children.  They are portrayed as neutral and whole. I didn’t want to smear them with red, or aqua representing prevalent issues in our clan. I’d like to think, that awareness will make the intergenerational toxins less potent for them.

Family trees are all about facts around birth, death, marriages and children. Genograms are about relationships. That gave me much more room to lay it out in a personal and subjective way. I painted my family as I experienced it.  No one can argue with that.


January 26, 2014 at 8:49 pm 2 comments

Personal Journey Revealed in Watercolor of White Doves

White Doves Watercolor

The past year has taken me on an intense personal journey.  I have spent most of my life trying to figure things out. Recently, I am more intrigued by the mysteries of life and less concerned about what is fact.   I am enjoying wondering more than knowing.  Instead of clawing for the “right” answer, I am quietly waiting– watching the possibilities unfold before me. Living life sure is easier being open and accepting instead of trying to nail everything down. 

I have been painting birds for a long time, but my latest birds are freer, lighter and more open to something beyond…

Here is a short  video of a watercolor being painted where a pair of white doves emerge from the page.

January 13, 2014 at 8:14 pm Leave a comment

Holiday Greetings from New Mexico with Watercolor Video

Our kids are visiting Placitas, New Mexico for Christmas.  Instead of sending cards this year, I painted a little watercolor and put it to music.  The background  song is one of my all time favorites– Britt singing Silent Night when she was little.  Hope this little 2 minute video conveys the warmth and love of the season.  Happy Holidays from Rog and Amy.

December 23, 2013 at 12:35 am 1 comment

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AUTHOR Amy Hautman Bates M.A, LPCC, ATR-BC

After being a professional painter for 30 years, I broadened by scope from making art for personal edification to using art to promote health and healing in the world. I work as an Art Therapist with children and families in Santa Fe, New Mexico, witnessing  them tap into their creative energy to gain greater emotional stability, resiliency and peace.

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