We know that human beings have had the desire to express themselves artistically throughout history thanks to the discovery of the famous cave paintings in Lascaux, in France which are thought to be around 20.000 years old. All the extraordinary art that fills our galleries and museums around the world reiterates this.
Pablo Picasso famously said: “Every child is an artist”.
Unfortunately, for many years, we have thought of artists as being ‘special’, or credited with some divine talent, totally out of reach of the average person. At school, we have also separated the children who are “good at art” from those who are “no good at art”. This is a shame and a misconception.
Creativity is at the core of every person’’s being. If we do not express ourselves creatively, we are missing out on a very important and fulfilling part of ourselves.
If we suffer from anxiety or depression, it can be difficult to find the words to express how we feel. Art can be a very useful and beneficial tool in reducing anxiety, because words are no longer necessary. This is why art therapy and music therapy are used in hospitals around the world for improving mental health.
Carl Jung used Mandalas in psychotherapy, as a tool for processing emotions. These are intricate circular and symmetrical patterns which can be filled in with colour. It is interesting to note that the same tool is used in Tibetan and other Eastern philosophies for meditation and mindfulness. Colouring books for adults have recently become very popular in this country for their potentially healing effect.
Thomas Merton said “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”.
We can indeed process our ‘stuff’ whilst creating, and going ‘into the zone’. Finding the time to be creative, whether it is through Art, Craft, Music, Cooking, Gardening, or any other creative means, can take us away from our problems and into a meditative state which is now proven to be very beneficial to our mental health. If we can release expectations, and detach ourselves from the outcome and simply enjoy the process of creating, we are likely to feel much happier in all other areas of our lives.
I am fortunate enough to be a full time professional artist, and because I have found this to be potentially transformational in my own life, as well as other people’s lives, I completed a foundation course in Art therapy and now give workshops from my studio on Dartmoor. No previous knowledge of art is necessary, but within a few hours, each student creates a beautiful and colourful painting they can hang on their wall. I provide a calm and safe place for my students to express themselves creatively.
I have also travelled to Peru and India where the children I worked with, had no art materials whatsoever. My son and I travelled with a suitcase full of art materials and gave workshops in orphanages, which was a very rewarding experience. Initially, the children were quiet and shy and seemed almost afraid of the chance to express themselves through art. But they soon relaxed and created beautiful, colourful paintings and, at the end of the day, the beautiful smiles on their faces told us all we needed to know.