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Dana Kaarina: Art as a tool to connect with your truest and deepest self


Everyone is unique from physical appearances to the mind. While humans are indeed similar, each person has a different perception, actions, and emotion when they go through the same experience. Similarly, art is fluid and subjective to the eye. Each artist expresses their creativity differently using various mediums, shapes, strokes, splashes, colors, and other innovative ways. Different meanings and feelings will emerge when people appreciate the same artwork. We are always inspired by the connection between art and life. Art has the power to heal, but how?

We reached out to Malaysian-Finnish visual artist, illustrator, and certified art psychotherapistDana Kaarina. Her artworks display vibrant and bold colors with lines and shapes that stimulate movement and emotions. With her sister Elina, they co-founded OUTLET, a one-stop concept store that curates and features visual pieces by local creatives. The duo believes in the value of artists, providing opportunities for the underprivileged, also giving back part of their proceeds towards a chosen charity or cause. A holistic business that fosters creatives and contributes to the art community.

Dana reveals her experiences and answers our curiosities on art therapy regarding the process, benefits, and connection to improve our emotional well-being.

Tell us about yourself in 10 words or less.
1. Calm.
2. Curious.
3. Wanderer/Explorer.
4. Nature-lover (Obsessed with Flowers).
5. Love meeting new people.
6. Discovering the self through art.

One color that defines who you are. Why?
It always used to be pink but now it's sage green. I’ve been very drawn to it. Everything I’ve been buying lately is sage. I believe it’s the calming effect [from the color].    

Share with us the resolutions you achieved in 2021 and goals for 2022.
To give up control of everything, to embrace where things don’t always go your way. Sometimes the plans you have don’t work out and accepting what the universe has planned [for us] is always better. Acceptance was a huge thing [for me in 2021].

[My goal in 2022 is] to keep doing that. Not being too hard on yourself as a creative person. Just explore and experiment more without being too self-critical on how it’s going to turn out. A lot of new stuff that I’m working on in 2021, I’m excited for all of it to be shared out there this year.

How would you define your art? How does your art define you?
My art is an extension of my deepest, most authentic self that I would not usually express through words, the way I dress or interact. It’s the truest part of me. It has a deep connection to where I’m from, my family, my Malaysian and Finnish heritage, a lot of that shows through my art pieces.

How did you first become involved with art therapy?
I have always used my creative process to help with my anxiety and mental health. I realized it was a career that I could pursue as there was a Master course in art psychotherapy. I’ve been doing this for two years and haven’t looked back. It was very organic.

How does art therapy work?
It provides us with another tool to explore our deepest selves. It’s a safe and healthy coping mechanism for people going through difficult experiences. It is also a tool to nurture our creativity and express what we wanted to express. We focus on the process rather than the result. That’s where the beauty comes out in art therapy, in forms of self-discovery and healing.

How can we better connect with our emotions and our artwork?
A lot of exploration, embracing what we would call mistakes. They are never usually mistakes, it’s all part of the process. Once you know how to embrace that, you will learn to trust your inner voice more, your creative voice that will become louder than the negative voices in your head. Your deepest truest self is always there to guide you, pay attention and listen to it. Through the creative process, through art, you can achieve that.

What can we do to benefit from art therapy in the long run?
Once you have unlocked it as a tool to learn more about yourself, that process itself will help you in the long run. You will learn along the way to embrace and accept things, for things to unfold as they do. There is a lot of learning and unlearning that happens throughout this discovery process about yourself. Any small thing that you do in the short run helps in the long run. It’s the little things that count.

What are the different types of therapy and how do we choose the right one?
There are so many different types. Art falls under creative, expressive sorts of therapy. The only way to choose is by exploring and figuring out what works best for you. There is no right or wrong answer, no right or wrong form of therapy. All of us are unique individuals that come from different experiences, so there isn’t a correct path to go down. Listen to yourself and trust which one works for you.

What is in your mind when you create an artwork with the “Cross The Line” liquid eyeliner pens?
I used to wear a lot of eyeliner. I wanted to tap into how much fun I used to put on a bold black eyeliner. When I was living abroad in London, I used to embrace that edgy side which I left on the low for a while. I tapped into that. This was fun! It brought back a lot of memories of being rebellious, having fun, not being so serious. Work has been taking over for a bit. At that moment, I had that glimpse of what things were like when you let loose.

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