Therapeutic benefits of art from an artist’s perspective.

little artistI believe that art therapy is a fantastic tool and often times necessary. By definition, it is a form of psychotherapy involving the encouragement of free self-expression through painting, drawing or modeling (basically any visual creative media), used as a remedial activity or an aid to diagnosis.

What I mean, and don’t mean…

What I am talking about today is not art therapy in the clinical setting with a therapist, I am talking about it from my perspective as an artist and how therapeutic art has been for me in my life and why I believe it can be beneficial for almost anyone.

I’m an artist, not a doctor…

Don’t get me wrong, if you are currently in therapy, stay there. If you are in need of therapy I am not suggesting this as a substitute for seeking professional help. I admire what the art therapists, or any therapist does, and we, as a society need their skill set… but that is not the therapy I am talking about right now. My expertise is art and design and I speak to you about the benefits I experience through being creative. The benefits that go far beyond just the act of making something tangible to sell or hang on my wall. What I am saying is this: art is extremely beneficial in many ways and you don’t have to be good at it in order to enjoy the benefits of it, no matter who you are.

I have a lot of stress in my life and many things that pull me in multiple directions. I do not need a therapist anymore…. but do continue need healthy ways to release stress. What do I do? I paint. It is my career, but even before that it helped me de-stress which, in turn, helps me think more clearly and improve my problem solving skills. When we are stressed and, like my life for example, dealing with a home that needs cleaning, laundry to wash, a garden to tend to, cats-dogs-chickens, a job, a husband, impossible in-laws, unruly and abusive stepchildren…. and my own kids yelling and fighting ALL. DAY. LONG…. It tends to make one want to scream (meaning patience gone…) ya know? – I take a little time to draw or paint or make jewelry it helps my state of mind and I can work through things much easier. If you have a hard time being creative, take a walk for 15 minutes ahead of time and begin to clear your mind.

Art calms violence and you can’t convince me otherwise………

There was art in schools when I was growing up. When I was in junior high I had art a few times a week. I never thought much of it other than it was my favorite time of the day! I never really disliked school, but art class was the one and only place that made me love being there. I had very few friends and was not even close to being one of the popular kids in school……. I was borderline outcast, I skated by without being teased too much, but did not fit in either. Every time I left the art room I felt great! I did not know why, but it always helped me calm down, release my emotions and just feel better.

My home life consisted of an emotionally abusive, manipulative step mother and a dad, who, for his self-preservation and marital peace, looked the other way – maybe he really did not see, I can’t say for sure – but my point is I had a lot of confusion, frustration and a general sense of being lost in this world. My mom was focused on taking care of my brother, who got more physical abuse as a result of our situation, so because his abuse was more visible it was the focus…nobody could see what was going on with me and I did not tell…. Art was my release. It was the safe place I could go to when I did not know how to express myself and generally did not know who I could trust anyway.

It never occurred to me to explode, puking out my anger and sense of rejection the way some kids do now. I never thought there would be a time when people would fear for their lives and wonder when or if their school would be next to be shot up by some kid who was hurting so badly that he did not know what else to do and had nowhere to release his frustrations in a healthy way. I believe there are many factors contributing to this epidemic, some more important than art, some equal to – but for the sake of this being a site focused on all things art and design, I won’t get into my thoughts there… another time, another place.

My point is that I was the kid who had huge rejection at home and few friends at school. By definition, I could have come close to fitting the “profile” of that kid, but I had people loving and praying for me… and I had art – my healthy, creative emotional release that helped me sort out all the pain in my head and let it go…..

I learned at an early age to set up a target and shoot it (the days when we could go out into the middle of nowhere and shoot for fun and it was OK…. my dad had guns when we were little and he taught us how to use them, for our safety… and that is it. It also happened to be fun) yet it never occurred to me, then or now, that hurting anyone would be a valid option. No matter how much pain I was in I never I feared I would hurt anyone…. ever. Literally, never crossed my mind to hurt anyone. What is different between me and those kids that are so desperately seeking release? (besides the things I am trying so hard not to talk about in this article) I had art. Art was in schools and art was my release.

What don’t they have now in school? art.

Enough said.

My therapy experience

There was a time, briefly, in which I went to see a marriage and family therapist – when the stress of my life was most intense and I had yet to learn how to lay appropriate boundaries to those around me for self-preservation. He used art (maybe knowing I am an artist, but it really helped me). Anyway, during that time I realized that I was trying to give too much and without knowing it, I was killing myself. I did a lot of art exercises at the time while in my studio, not finished art pieces for sale, but projects to play and release. After a few months I felt safe to discontinue. The time with the therapist was valuable, but I believe my art helped me sort out the advice he gave me and understand what I needed to do next as well as release my fears and frustrations, clearing my head to heal my heart.

Where do I start?

Start by getting paper and some good pencils…. just draw for fun. Get some brushes, paint and paper and make some watercolor paintings. Get modeling clay and play with it. It is by no means a substitute for what professional help can do, but it can help a lot when it comes to managing emotions…. and who knows, maybe you will find that release and not need anything else, or maybe it will help you sort the advice given when in therapy the way it did for me.

You do not have to be good at any of it to enjoy the benefits, but if you find you really enjoy it and want to learn more, try art classes through local artists. Most of them teach to supplement their income and you can learn a lot. Hobbies that involve creativity are healthy, fun and are beneficial in many ways.

Getting started on your own…

It is not hard to find art supplies for practice and enjoyment of all things drawing, painting, jewelry (or any art supplies). And… its fun as well. A simple pad of paper and some pencils are enough and you can create beautiful drawings. You can practice your hand-eye coordination easily by sitting with your supplies in front of a plant or a vase of flowers, or anything you have in your home that you can focus on and draw. It can be a mug and a stack of books. It does not matter what it is, learning how to draw what you see is as simple as practicing.

One thing that helped me in beginning art classes was this: draw what you see, not what you know. That is simply that when you begin to really look at things you will see that, like in a crystal vase for example, that there are shapes and reflections that will seem strange to draw. Draw them anyway. When you are done and see it all together it will look more like a crystal vase than expected because you drew the image with the shapes in the vase, not what you think it should be. Make sense?

This same principle is what I applied in life drawing classes. The image included here is from that, where I had no more than a minute to create a drawing of a person. The lines seemed strange to draw (I used ink and a brush for this one) but when it was done it became one of my favorite practice drawings… not because every line was exact but I drew what I saw and it made the figure more recognizable.

This was from my first figure class at junior college. You may not be interested in taking it so far as to take classes, but should you want to, besides local artists who teach you may want to try a local junior college. You will find that they are fun and a nice way to get away from daily stresses as well as they are not expensive.

Supplies….

I wrote an article on watercolor and all supplies for a beginner are in it. Below there are supplies for different art projects if watercolor is something you are not ready to tackle. All supplies listed are things that I have or have had. Also, I am soon going to be doing demos and/or would gladly give advice on how to use if you would like to leave comments.

Jewelry making:

beads:

howlite beadsthese are beautiful beads and at $4.99 for a 15″ strand are affordable. White howlite stone beads are a natural material and make beautiful jewelry…. jewelry making is a very relaxing hobby.

 

 

 

African turquoise beadsThese African turquoise beads are beautiful, colorful options for your relaxing jewelry project. The cost for these beauties is $6.68 on Amazon.

 

 

 

bead varietyThis variety package of beads is $9.99 and includes many beads from focal pieces to accent beads. The price is good and you have a lot to work with without having to spend a ton of money on different products.

 

 

 

colorful beads

This package of beads is already nicely organized which is great if your space is limited and small, compact and easy to store supplies is what you need. These are irregular, loose stone/crystal beads that are about 7-8 mm each. This variety pack may be right for you if you want the different colors to choose from. This is priced at $15.99.

 

moonstone beadsThese unpolished moonstone beads are beautiful and affordable at $7.98.

Other jewelry making tools and supplies:

jewelry making tool kit

this set of three tools may be just what you need for starting. The price is good $6.50 and you can always add to it later if you find that you love making jewelry!

 

jewelry making tools

this high grade set of tools is great if you already know that jewelry making is for you. It is priced well at $25.47 on Amazon and is easy to store when you are done because it comes with the case in the photo.

 

jewelry tools and supplies

I love this option for a starter kit. It is priced well at $18.99 and comes with a zippered case full of tools as well as stretch cord and jewelry findings (different metal pieces such as rings and head pins etc). It has a lot of what you might want as a beginner.

 

 

necklace cordThese necklace cords with clasps are great for a beginner. When I first started (and I am self-taught in my jewelry making) I did not know how to make my own necklace so I used these. This allows you to make your own pendants and not worry about making your own necklaces right away, if you ever want to… at $8.99 for 50 of these you may never need or want to make your own.

 

 

assorted charms

This package of assorted charms might be great for you to start your jewelry making adventures. It is priced well at $8.45 on Amazon for 100 pieces.

 

 

There are so very many options out there and I can, in no way, post them all. My goal was to give you a start and hopefully some ideas to get you started. Drawing and painting is not for everyone but jewelry is a great way to enjoy being creative and benefit from the effects of creative thinking, and you don’t have to worry about the intimidation some feel when trying to draw. I hope I have inspired you!

drawing supplies:

drawing paper

this canson drawing paper is a good choice. It is 11×14 and is priced at $7.97. This paper is really good for pencil but not much more. It is a thinner paper just for drawing.

 

 

 

 

mixed media paper

This pad of canson mixed media paper is priced at $12.96 on Amazon. This is what I use and where I purchase it from. This paper is more versatile in case you have interest in pen and ink drawing or using watercolor with the drawings you create. It is great as a drawing paper as well for me because I like a little heavier paper. It does not tear as easily so it can handle and eraser just a bit better than a thinner drawing paper can. While I like the drawing paper and would not say don’t buy it (I do not recommend anything I would not or do not buy myself) but I like having the versatility to be able to use more than one medium if I choose. If you only do pencil then the regular drawing paper will work just fine.

 

kneaded rubber eraserYes, I do have a preference for an eraser…. The kneaded rubber eraser is what I have been using in my studio since I was in high school…. that’s been a while. My grandmother introduced me to them because they do not shed little eraser chunks all over the paper the way traditional erasers do so there is less wiping the paper necessary and not as likely to smear your drawing while using it. The cost is $4.99 for three and they last forever. When it starts to get pencil on it and blackens you squish it up and keep using it. I have some that have lasted years – until I lose

drawing pencils

Prismacolor is the brand I recommend above all others. I have been using them since college. A few times I tried another brand because prismacolors were a little more but they just do not compare. This is the only brand I buy unless I just want cheap pencils for the kids. This set sells for $20.74, and you will not be disappointed with them!

 

colored pencils

These Prismacolor colored pencils are wonderful. You get good, rich color (if you do not want to just draw black and white). I love these and keep them in my studio for use all the time! this set is $39.99 for 72 colors. I have to have this many color options but in case you don’t need so many, take a look at the smaller set. Here is two more sets, one with 36 pencils for$19.98and this set of 12 for $9.03

36 pencil set12 pencil set

These are all items I use in my studio. You can see images of jewelry I made here, and some of my art here. The abstract drawings in the link are done on the same paper and with the same pencils I recommend.  I welcome any questions you have. Art is very therapeutic and I recommend anyone, whether you are good at art or just want to enjoy being creative in some way it helps calm nerves and improves decision-making skills. Again, I am not recommending self-help or “home art therapy” as a replacement for professional art therapy, or any other therapy. I am recommending it for anyone and everyone as a healthy emotional release and brain “un-clogger” because it works like magic for me (always has!).

2 thoughts on “Therapeutic benefits of art from an artist’s perspective.

  1. I have a background in performing arts and I feel those of us that are inclined towards anything artistic are more inclinded to get ourselves on emotional roller coasters. I agree that creating art can help-especially creating visual art. But I also think that sometimes we just need to balance our lives without our art because if we go too far into the world of ‘inspiration’ without grounding ourselves, we can find ourselves in a whole lot of trouble. I have recently witnessed my brother who was an accomplished concert pianist take this idea of ‘Art’ too far where it has reached a point it is an extremist form of religion for him and he has become someone whose life is imploding. So, having witnessed this and having been a performing artist for 20 years myself (not anymore) I am weary of Art to a certain degree. It needs to be balanced with earthly things. Do you agree?

    1. I agree and disagree at the same time… here’s why: some people tend to embrace the stereotype of the emotionally uncontrollable artist with emotions all over the map and extreme behavior and zero balance or control and zero thought outside whatever our medium is…..embracing the one track “artist” mind – that person (minus the artistic gift) is the person who has an unhealthy reliance on a therapist, or something else be it food, relationships, gambling, shopping… any OK thing can become unhealthy (not just art) if we have an unhealthy or unbalanced way of thinking. That person is not likely to be helped by anything or anyone until they can let go of extremist thinking and choose to learn balance. 

      That said, I know there is no one size fits all for anything so visual art may not be good for every living person on earth – what I am saying is when I was in school and we did have art there was less violence and more “normal” people… yes, there were bullies but that was the exception. Art is missing now and now there is extreme bullying and school shootings…..there are other factors, but healthy release of emotions is one thing missing now. 

      I do believe art is a great release and being in the right brain, if even for a little while has always helped me and if I can inspire one person to try it and they find it helpful then I am happy and I have done what I set out to do… help someone to find healthy stress release the way I did. Art itself is no miracle, but I would only be weary of it for the people with extreme behaviors who have no balance anyway…. art is an aid that helps calm the brain and when the brain calms we are able to think more clearly and improve our decision making. 

      I understand that you have seen some scary scenarios but knowing what you have seen, and if you have balance in your life there is no need to be weary unless you have the same addictive tendency… for example, my husband comes from a family with several alcoholics in it. He knows he has addictive tendencies so he has literally never even let a drop of alcohol cross his lips – because he knows what could happen to him because of what he has seen. He knows himself enough to know he needs to stay away from things that can be addictive. He has seen some scary things in his life because of his loved ones who live with severe addictions – that is how he balances.

       I just think everyone needs a healthy release. You sound balanced and know what works for you in the same way my husband does because you see the damage in someone you love….. so I agree in the sense that if you have seen something that has scared you or caused great concern for someone you love, that you may want to stay away from that thing….but I also think the extreme obsession is exception. I have many artist friends who are quite balanced ( a couple who are not, but most of them live full, healthy lives).  Do you think that if he was not creative, given an obsession with his medium that maybe he would have another addiction? Or that if he chose to learn balance in his life that his art could be more healing and not damaging as it is now? I fully believe art is extremely therapeutic but like everything in life there should be balance and not obsession. what do you think?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *