Painting Through Grief with Joy Simon

Art for Grief, Art for Loss, Creative Self-Care, Self-Care through art,

Dear Wonderful, Creative You:
Today is the last day in the Creative Self-Care interview series, and in a way, I’ve saved the most powerful story for last.
Joy Simon is an artist who I’ve known through the Mindful Art Studio community for a few years now. She is a student of Art Journaling 101 and the Starting Your Art Journal e-book. What has spoken to me over the years about Joy is how she has been able to use art to talk about and process one of the most painful and most taboo topics – child loss.
I want to share her inspiring words and art with you here because I think she shows a way for us all to talk about really difficult things in really beautiful and transforming ways. I’m moved by her work and I think you will be too.
If you are interested in reading the other amazing interviews, you can find them here:
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? 


JOY: I mostly remember the constant availability of a bucket of crayons, markers, pencils, and paper. We never had to ask permission for anything to be taken out to draw with, it was just THERE. One Christmas, I really wanted to give gifts to family members. Being 8, I had no money. So I drew everyone pictures.

I remember getting real, genuine, sincere praise from one uncle in particular. He has always encouraged me to just go for it when it comes to art, and not let anyone tell me I can’t create and I’m not an artist.

I also have an aunt who had the most amazing old cupboard FULL of anything and everything a little heart could possibly want to paint with, draw with, or glue together. It was amazing. And again, at a very young age, she would just open it up and let me create anything I wanted. My grandmother was much the same, but with sewing and knitting. I had a bunch of teachers and encouragers in a lot of areas!


In general, I think my childhood creativity was fueled by people who just asked what I wanted to create, how I wanted to do it, and let me do it. There was a lot of encouragement to create and play with so many different things. It wasn’t an “extra” thing, or a messy thing that needed to be cleaned up, it was just part of life.

Intuitive painting, mindful art, creative self-care

AMY: What are your favorite ways to express yourself creatively?  What kind of art do you make?


JOY: I love to paint. I love to play with it, smear it around, or just sit and stare, waiting to see what will happen. I LOVE texture right now. I love seeing brush strokes and paint drips and layers layers layers! I’m in the middle of finding my style, I think. Working with more intuitive art, where I used to do much more typical impressionistic landscapes and animals (which I loved doing). But I’m finding something a bit more me – a bit more expressive and emotive.



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?


Sometimes, I just need to take a break. So I do. Other times, I just keep plugging away even when I hate how what I’m working on is turning out and I’m feeling remarkably uninspired. Most of the time when that happens, the art works itself out.

If neither of those tactics work and I’m still feeling creatively blocked, I’ll zone out on Pinterest or my various art groups on Facebook looking for inspiration. There’s always bound to be something I’ll see that just makes me want to MAKE again.


painting for grief, art for grief, creative self-care, mindful art

You can find acrylic paints similar to the ones Joy uses, and the white gel pen she uses to create those lovely designs here.


[bctt tweet=”There’s something about artwork that helps break down barriers surrounding such a taboo subject like pregnancy loss and the death of a child. Joy Simon #artheals” username=”amymaricle”]


AMY: What role does art play in your life? How is art self-care for you? Does it help you express, cope or understand your world? Can you explain your process and how you use it? 


Art has become my emotional release. Creating has become an essential part of my mental self-care. My son was stillborn in 2014, and I was encouraged to write and talk about it to aid in healing. While both of those helped, what has really been freeing and the most healing for me is creating. It is how I express pain, anxiety, hope, longing, anger, and a plethora of other emotions that I just don’t have words for. I continue to use creating and art as a way to keep healing and to reach out to others who have experienced loss. There’s something about artwork that helps break down barriers surrounding such a taboo subject like pregnancy loss and the death of a child. It seems to be more socially acceptable to be open about that kind of pain and loss through art than it is to talk publicly and openly about it.

Painting through grief, mindful art, creative self-care, art prompts for grief

AMY: What inspires your art? Who are some of the artists/places/situations that inspire you?


There’s this one episode of Doctor Who, “Vincent and the Doctor.” There’s a line that refers to Van Gogh’s work and says, “He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world – No one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again.”


This line electrocuted me.


I’d been painting and doodling for years at that point just for fun, but that… I heard it right after my son died and that has become my goal. Not that I could ever be compared to a master like VanGough, but I absolutely want to use my pain to create beauty. I want to show that, even in horrible loss and pain, you can find hope and beauty.


And you, Amy, seriously. I think you were the first person I found when I become more serious about using art as self-care who so wonderfully described and showed me how to focus on “process not product. It’s inspiring and freeing to see the process of seemingly random colors, blobs, lines, dots and shapes turn into something beautiful and meaningful. There are a slew of artists I follow on Instagram for inspiration as well.


Creative Self-Care, art Journal class, intuitive art


Joy is a student in Art Journaling 101, which leads you step by step through intuitive painting and drawing exercises that will help you develop your unique artistic voice and express your feelings through art. Click here to learn more. 






AMY: Do you have artist friends? Why is being in the Mindful Art Studio community important for you?


I don’t have many in-person artist friends, but plenty of over-seas “people I know in real life but live too far away from now to interact with face to face” art friends. Which is why online groups like The Creative Self-Care group have become important to me. It’s a really encouraging and supportive group to share artwork and ideas in, without any stress of it being extraordinary. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional artist, everyone in the group is wonderfully supportive, full of praise or tips and tricks on how to improve skills.


creative self-care, pregnancy loss, artJoy Bornstein is an artist, wife, and mom originally from the U.S. and now living in Australia with her Aussie husband. She has one son here, and one she holds in her heart. She recently finished a public showing of her art titled “Grief, Hope, and Healing” on pregnancy loss at Gallery Tasmania. You can learn more about Joy, her art, and her use of art in healing after pregnancy loss on Instagram at @fire_fly_joy
Some of the links included in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no extra cost to you, you’ll support the work of Mindful Art Studio to empower the artist in all of us with each purchase. Thank you!


  1. Sally Swain

    How beautiful, Amy and Joy!
    I’ve had the privilege of connecting with each of you via the Creative Self-Care group.
    It’s a treat to hear more about your sources of inspiration, Joy.
    And thank you, Amy, for this inspiring, authentic series.
    warm wishes

    • Amy Johnson Maricle


      You are so welcome. It’s such a pleasure to bring more about each of these artists to you all. Thank you so much for taking the time to take in their words and their work and for your lovely comment.



      • Sally Swain

        Hi Amy
        It paid off in spades!
        (making the time to take in their words).
        Thank you once again.
        love Sally

  2. Bonnie Lecat

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and your artwork, Joy! And thank you for facilitating that, Amy. I really enjoy your blog:) I certainly share your beliefs about art and self care! I have been an artist my whole life, but it wasn’t until I went through some really tough times that I began to see creating art in a different way. My youngest daughter became severely disabled by anxiety and depression and when we had to send her away to a residential treatment facility, it was devastating to me. The only way I could get through the day sometimes was to create and paint. Focussing on creating was truly my medicine and my escape. As Twyla Tharp puts it “art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” I’m happy to say that my daughter is now doing extremely well and has learned many ways to deal with her anxiety and depression:) Anyway, your story touched me, Joy. I wish you all the best with your art journey! xo

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      HI Bonnie:

      Wow – thank you for sharing YOUR story here. I love how art and vulnerability have this wonderful way of bringing us together. Thank you so much for your wonderful words and wisdom.



      • Sally Swain

        Ditto ditto
        Thank you for sharing your story, Bonnie. I am touched.
        And I like how you put it, Amy – that art and vulnerability bring us together. Yes!!!

    • Jo

      Love Twyla Tharp’s quote. One of my favorites!

  3. Jo

    OH, Joy! A resounding yes! to your story. I can relate(experienced trauma) and do art with the same aspiration for beauty from pain. Your work awakens the Feminine Divine in me. Amy, thank you. Your innovative approach to art and recognizing the voices of your students is empowering.

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      HI Jo:

      It’s amazing how Joy’s work speaks so directly to the spirit, isn’t it? And thank YOU so much, Jo, for letting me know that I’m hitting the mark, part of the goal of this series was to empower more artists in the Mindful Art Studio community.

      Creatively Yours,




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