Creating Beyond Limitations with Barbara Shelton

Creative blocks, art for pain, creative self-care

Dear Wonderful, Creative You:
Today’s interview is with Barbara Shelton, an amazing artist who has used art through recovery from a serious injury to her body and soul. I think her relationship with art, the inner critic, and her need to create will resonate with you.
You can find the other Creative Self-Care interviews here:
Creative self-care can work for you if you just give yourself some space to try like these women did.
Creatively Yours,
AMY: What are your earliest memories of art making and creating as a child?  What’s the first time you remember feeling inspired?  
BARBARA: In grade school I remember drawing a daffodil and the teacher putting it on the bulletin board.  During the school open house later in the year, my mother and I looked up and realized that about about 1/3 of the class drawings were mine.  That was the first time I could clearly see that someone valued my artIn 9th grade, I shocked my parents by entering and winning the school talent show with my singing.
But the day art was erased as a creative outlet in my spirit is etched in my memory.  I was in my 7th grade art class.  I was having trouble with perspective in a drawing assignment, so my father pulled out a college level art book to help me understand vanishing points. It was too difficult for me.  Upon graduating from high school I was torn between studying music or landscape architecture.  I chose music so I wouldn’t have to compare myself with my parents.  Talk about the destruction wrought by the inner critic!
Barbara Shelton portrait, creative self-care
AMY: What are your favorite ways to express yourself creatively?  What kind of art do you make?
BARBARA: My favorite way to creatively express myself is singing.  I played 12-string guitar and sang professionally for several years when I was younger.  It was the first time in my life I felt like I could truly let out my innermost feelings and the first time I felt my life had any real worth.  But with music I could transcend those hesitations and connect with my truest inner self.  
Barbara Shelton, creative self-care, creating beyond limitations
As an adult, I went back to college to work toward a master’s degree as an art therapist.  My art classes validated  that I indeed had talent in the fine arts.  I loved my ceramics classes as well as drawing and oil painting. But the ceramics were my favorite.  I loved the tactile/physical nature of the making – the mixing, kneading, and building, as well as the decorating.  Every element was all mine.  

art journaling class, art journaling e-book, art journaling guide, how to start art journalingBarbara is a student of Starting Your Art Journal, an e-book on using color, symbols, and shapes to explore, express, and de-stress. I’ll show you how to start and keep a meaningful, fun art journal that brings meaning and messy fun to your days. With countless step by step tutorials and nearly 50 art and writing prompts, you will have tons of ideas for expressing yourself in your art journal and finding a new language in art.



AMY: If you’ve ever gone through a period of feeling blocked or that you don’t have “permission” to make art, how did you find the courage to create again, to create beyond limitations?

BARBARA: Nearly 20 years ago, I began working at a large psychiatric hospital as a social worker/play therapist.  Unfortunately only a year and a half after starting there I was seriously injured.  I’ve gradually improved since those first years of agony, but all forms of self-expression went out the window for many years.  
A few years ago I was part of a group discussion on Linked-In about art therapy.  Someone asked a question and I responded that I no longer make art due to my injuries.  One Amy Maricle responded with such kindness and encouragement!  I had hit a brick wall and you gave me the nudge to explore ways to go around it and begin again, Amy.
Barbara Shelton creative self care
I do sing in my church choir now but my powerful solo voice falls far short of where it used to be. I am trying to create a small art making spot in my home.  For months I’ve had to drag supplies in and out of my kitchen to create on the countertop (I cannot look down for very long without my pain levels rising).  It was so discouraging.  Once in a while I sneak up there and smear a little paint on paper.  That helps.  Until responding to some of your challenges in the Creative Self Care group I felt like I was going to explode because I just needed to MAKE SOMETHING!
[bctt tweet=”You just might find … that with a little practice… you are indeed an artist, too. – Barbara Shelton” username=”amymaricle”]
I want people to know: You don’t have to be an “artist” to engage in creative acts. Don’t do it for a product.  Do it for you.  You just might find out, as I did, that with a little instruction, experimentation, and practice – you are indeed an artist, too.  To me, the act of creating is an act of making life.  It is allowing something to come into existence that was not there before.  It is a birth and that is a miracle all its own.


Courage to Create, creativity and painBarbara Shelton lives in Bossier City, Louisiana with her husband, Greg.  She received her master’s degree from the University of Louisville in Expressive Therapies and formerly worked as a social worker/play therapist at a large psychiatric hospital. She currently teaches a class called “Healthy Family” to empower parents to be better by bettering themselves as people. She also loves to sing in her church choirs.


  1. Yvonne

    Thank you both for this interview! I know the self doubts, too. I love how you describe making art as an act of making life! Wonderful, that you started to create again!
    Isn’t it amazing, how one person you haven’t even met can make such a difference? I am impressed again and again, how artists I only know online have influenced me and still do.

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      Yvonne – It’s amazing how we are all connected via the web! And, I agree that creation is of course a life affirming act.

      Thanks so much for reading and your lovely comment.


  2. Jo

    Love “act of making life”. Thank you.

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      Jo – I too resonate with Barbara’s powerful words. Thanks so much for your loving attention to her story.


  3. Terra Burns

    Barbara were you drawing in the 80’s? I came across two awesome pieces and am really curious about the artist. Thanks Terra


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