A drawing is simply a line going for a walk ~ Paul Klee
Unless you are an artist, drawing is one of those things we stop doing after childhood.
The last time I remember drawing regularly was doodling on a piece of paper whilst sitting a GCSE exam, we were given paper alongside our test paper and I remember using it to doodle on.
What I realise now, is that the doodling was my go-to when anxious.
I started this week of my best year yet project wanting to increase my creativity. It did. What I REALLY took away from the week though was what a great tool it is for coping with anxiety.
‘The sciencey bit’
Before you click away saying to yourself “I can’t draw”…it doesn’t matter. Science says so.
Girija Kaimal, Assistant Professor of creative arts therapies at Drexel University conducted a study on examining the effects of making art on stress-related hormones in the body.
The results were published in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. It was titled “Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants’ Responses Following Art Making”.
The study found that 45 minutes of creative activity significantly lessens stress in the body, regardless of artistic experience or talent.
The study invited 39 adults ranging from 18 to 59-year-olds and tested their levels of cortisol before conducting the study. In short, they then spent 45 minutes creating whatever they wanted.
The Result? After the ‘craft party’ the participants were re-tested and 75% had lower levels of cortisol.
What is interesting about the study is that it made NO DIFFERENCE whether they had artistic talent or not.
My artistic talent had severely dwindled over the years.
I chose drawing as my artistic exercise as it is very portable.
Armed with a small sketchpad and a Christmas gift of a mindfulness colouring book I set to work.
Drawing – Getting started
If you want to join in on this then you can get started very simply with the following:
A couple of pencils – I used an HB, 2B, and 4H (it was what I had in my stationary box!)
Some colouring pencils
Fineliner (not essential)
I started out by looking at some videos on YouTube and found these gems to get me going:
Just get going!
I set to with a fresh sheet of paper and sat there staring at it for a good 10 minutes…..
I found a picture of a robin and thought that might be a nice start (I love them!).
The proportions were completely wrong on the first couple of attempts so I scrapped them and then by the third outline there was a shape I could work with (that didn’t look like a snowman…)
It was so therapeutic just stroking the page with coloured pencils – trying to get a feather-like appearance.
An hour flew by and I had something resembling a robin. I realised I had been completely absorbed in what I was doing. Although the finished article was ok, I could see how I would do it differently next time.
The point of it was, I loved doing it. I felt calm, creative and inspired.
Drawing in different forms
As the week went on, I did more drawings and again was completely absorbed in them. Each time I sat down to draw I could feel any anxiety lifting within minutes.
I dug out a colouring book that had been gifted to me and spent 10 minutes each day colouring an elephant.
It seems colouring in as a therapy is nothing new – Carl Jung would prescribe it to patients thinking it would help his patient’s access their subconscious and new self-knowledge. Many psychologists suggest it as an alternative to meditation, it is a calming tool and a vehicle for relaxation. It helps the individual focus on the intricacies of colouring complex patterns and focuses on staying in the moment instead of more destructive behaviour patterns.
It struck me that part of the reason I loved drawing so much is that I was doing it for the sheer joy of it and not focusing on an outcome or goal.
There are plenty of places to buy these books now – Amazon has a great selection!
Combining drawing and colouring
Towards the end of the week, I wanted to combine the drawing I was enjoying with the therapeutic benefits of colouring.
I got into Zentangle a few years ago, it is one of the most creatively satisfying processes I have enjoyed. I hadn’t done any for a while so, in this creative week, it was time to start again.
What is Zentangle?
- Zentangle is an easy to learn, fun way of creating beautiful pictures made up of patterns.
- Traditionally, Zentangle drawings are always created on 3.5 inch (8.9 cm) square tiles, and they are always done in black ink on white paper with grey pencil shading.
The best resource for learning the true Zentangle patterns is here
From the Zentangle website, they state “By avoiding common blocks to creative flow such as self-criticism, fear of failure, lack of immediate positive feedback, worrying about outcomes, frustration with lengthy training, lack of inspiration and doubts about what to do next, you can create beautiful art right away.”
If you are a perfectionist or get anxious when trying to master something Zentangle is perfect – because you start with small squares you don’t get overwhelmed by spending hours on a big sheet of paper.
It is a structured form of doodling, a method that I wish they would teach to kids so they can take this form of meditation forward with them into adulthood.
Some folks have taken the process of Zentangle and formed incredible art with it.
One of my favourites to follow on Instagram is @zentagleh amongst others.
This rabbit is a project I would love to work on.
So I have finished this week full of creative ideas and much less anxiety. The simple act of putting pencil to paper has quite remarkable results.
Why not come and get some ideas from my Pinterest board, there are drawing tips, links and Zentangle images to inspire you to pick up a pencil and get started.
This next week is all about Random Acts of Kindness and I cannot wait to spend a whole week trying out different kindness ideas.
With love from (a less anxious)