March 2020 IEATA Member Spotlight — Paula Artac

We are pleased to feature Paula Artac in our March 2020 IEATA Member Spotlight. Paula has been a dedicated IEATA member since 2008. She serves as the Coordinator of Ottawa University’s Expressive Arts Therapy program (Phoenix, AZ), and Co-Chair the IEATA 2020 Conference at Ottawa. We’re grateful for her involvement and work!

We hope that you enjoy getting to know her better!

Paula Artac with students (Jonathon Simpson)
Paula Artac with students – Photo credit: Jonathon Simpson 


Paula Artac, D.Min, ATR-BC, is a professional watercolor artist, board certified art therapist with the American Art Therapy Association, member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association, Ottawa University instructor, liturgical art designer, illuminator and author.

She holds the position of Professor in Charge of the Expressive Arts Therapy concentration within the Master of Arts in counseling graduate program at the Ottawa University, Phoenix campus, and teaches both the Expressive Arts Therapy graduate concentration courses and selected undergraduate EAT courses at Ottawa Surprise campus.

She is a published author on the topic of art therapy, spirituality and healing.

Paula is the founder of 2 Dots and A Line non-profit, creator of the Two Dots and a Line Personal Symbol Development art therapy process, and originator of the Art Spa concept which ran for 5 years at Granite Reef Senior Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Dr. Artac has been a regular presenter at numerous national and international art therapy and expressive arts conferences and workshops since 2000.  She has worked with Banner Thunderbird Hospital/MD Anderson, Ironwood Cancer & Research Center, as well as Barrow Neurological Outpatient Center and Treasure House to establish and facilitate expressive arts therapy groups.

Artac in the joy of the work (Jonathon Simpson)
Artac in the joy of the work – Photo credit: Simpson

Q and A

What drew you to the field of Expressive Arts Therapies, and from that more specifically to interests of yours within the work — such medieval illumination painting, teaching watercolor painting, sewing, and weaving?

Since 1981, I have taught the watercolor medium. It is my passion. It became very apparent to me over the years that watercolor painting was having a deep, transformative impact on my students, especially for those who had suffered a stroke, or were dealing with cancer. I knew I needed to study more about the power of creativity.

My initial graduate level training was in Art Therapy, which focuses primarily on the visual arts. Given the opportunity to teach at Ottawa University, I gradually expanded my understanding of the interconnection of various expressive media as Ottawa moved from art therapy to Expressive Arts Therapy instruction. I love to teach, to witness our new EAT students discover the phenomenology of art materials, sand tray, puppetry, and poetry which evoke a personal awareness of image, sign, symbol, metaphor and archetype.

Watercolor is a tremendously versatile medium, abundant with opportunities to explore novel, untried techniques.  I have always been fascinated by the vibrancy and intricacy of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Having been taught by a master illumination artist here in Arizona, I love the challenge of painting watercolor on goatskin vellum with very small brushes.  It’s both relaxing and meditative.

Color is a fascinating way to express oneself! AWS+I am self-taught in both embroidery and machine stitching.  However we choose to stitch our lives together, mend a tear in our relationships, or piece together a colorful quilt of life experience, it is the harmony of color that tantalizes the senses, sparks imagination and affects our well-being.

Is there any direction in which you’d like to expand your work from here – such as in different media, other localities, etc.? Do you have further growth goals? Or perhaps just to deepen the work you already do (which is wonderful as well!)? 

There has been a book, actually a couple of books, “brewing in my imagination” for quite a while.  I would like to complete the book, which started with discovering (and drawing) a fantastic cast of imaginary creatures back in the 1980s, which had emerged from the vinyl flooring designs in our bathroom of all places!

It is a tale of gentle entities who wear the “fabric of life” woven into their garments. It’s a wondrous tale that has been a collaborative work with my dear friend, Rona Barbour, a master storyteller from Scotland! And, the other book is titled, “Just Add Water!”  Of course, it is a book about watercolor, as a wondrous tool for self-awareness, joy and self-acceptance.

Artac's class in the flow (Simpson)
Artac’s class in the flow – Photo credit: Simpson 

Do you have any particular thoughts about the current direction of Expressive Arts Therapies – where we’re going, where it’d be best to be going, how we get there? What might you advise fellow IEATA members on this matter (or any other to do with the field)? 

As Professor in Charge of the Expressive Arts Therapy concentration within our Master of Arts in Counseling program at Ottawa University, I have recently noticed a growing interest (and an increase in inquiries) into the field of Expressive Arts Therapy.  Many books have been published in the last two decades about the power of creativity, and possibly there is a rise in consciousness about the benefits of non-verbal creative expression…that it transcends our “thinking self” by introducing us to our “Creative Self.”  I truly hope that we are collectively looking for deeper means of communication and understanding through the arts in all their wondrous forms!

Ottawa University is the host for the 2020, 14th Annual IEATA conference, March 26 to 29, 2020. For over a year, the planning efforts of an entire “Bee Team” composed of IEATA members and Ottawa staff and faculty have created a diverse gathering, a “beehive,” of professionals, students and artists celebrating creativity and healing. The theme of this conference, bees and the beehive, have raised the awareness that bees are precious to our global community, as are those who delight in the creative process.

 How does being part of IEATA impact your work in Expressive Arts Therapies? 

As Professor in Charge of the EAT concentration at Ottawa University, I also teach the expressive arts therapy courses.  In our supervision sessions, we take time to discuss the importance of working toward registration as an REAT or an REACE.

Being a part of IEATA, either as an upcoming intern or a seasoned professional, gives us ethical guidelines for us to practice, validates our learning and expertise, and honors our identity in a world where there are many who claim to know Expressive Arts Therapy techniques, but do not understand the depth from which we work.

I am proud to be a part of IEATA, especially understanding how this organization’s primary goal is to respect, promote and grow the opportunities for Expressive Arts Therapy to thrive culturally and creatively!

Please share anything else that you’d like to. Thank you for this exchange, and for your good work!

For the many years now that I have been teaching Expressive Arts Therapy at Ottawa University, I have seen a beautiful shift, branching out, and a “digging deep” on the part of my students, who frequently express their need to find deeper meaning in their lives.  This is their goal that they wish to bring to others in need.

I think that IEATA is being called to meet this vision, to be as Deepak Chopra describes, “a pioneer of the future.”  IEATA can be the pioneer in exploring all possibilities of creativity, and to honor who we are as creative human beings.

In Artac's class and work, the creativity and flow continues…. (Simpson)
In Artac’s class and work, the creativity and flow continues…. – Photo credit: Simpson 

Member Spotlight Archives

 Kathleen Bender — July 2018 

Anin Utigaard — January 2019 

Nicole Koethner — February 2019 

Mitchell Kossak — March 2019  

Aleck Kwong — April 2019 

Topaz Weis — May 2019 

Rebecca Kreshak — June 2019 

Fiona Chang — July 2019 

Jennie Kristel  — August 2019

Katrina Plato — September 2019 

Deborah Armstrong — October 2019 

David Eckelkamp — November 2019

Darci Adam — January 2020

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