Get creative and de-stress.

Healthy Living: Art Smart
Credit: Van Chaplin

Making art puts me in the best mood. My paintbrush or pen draws my attention away from myself (i.e. stress, worries, problems, deadlines, etc.) and into a zone of pure pleasure. Not worried about the finished art piece, I get lost in the doing. I feel like a little kid in kindergarten with not a care in the world.

Express Yourself
Creating art can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. Remember, when you are doing something for enjoyment, release expectations and rules, and just do it. Explore different options before buying out the art supply store. If this is your first foray into two-dimensional art (painting, drawing, pastels, etc.), start with the basic tools for the medium you select. (See below.) Books will guide you in your endeavor. Or you might prefer taking an art class at a local studio or community center.

Media Matters
Here are just a few of the many different ways to express yourself artistically.

  • Acrylics: Water-based "plastic" paint. Use on paper, canvas, cardboard, wood, etc.
  • Charcoal: Typically used on paper, it creates dark, strong lines. (With a smudge factor, it can be messy.)
  • Collage: Combine different materials (newspaper or magazine pictures, fabric, etc.) on one surface.
  • Oils: This paint requires a solvent for diluting and clean up. Though richer in color, it takes longer to dry.
  • Pastels: This media comes in two forms--chalk and oil, depending on what binds the pigments.
  • Watercolors: This quick-dryingwater-based paint is available in a tube or cake form. Typically used on paper.

If you want the fun without a lot of thought, pick up an inexpensive pad and pencil, and doodle. Take a lesson from a child, and get distracted with a coloring book and a box of crayons. You can even color outside the lines.

Rx: Make Something
Art therapy, recognized as an alternative approach to certain mental heath issues, uses the creative process to help individuals emotionally and mentally. This psychotherapeutic discipline (around since the 1940s) encourages patients to express themselves through their artwork when verbalizing feelings or conflicts may be difficult.

Editor's Tips
No science involved here, just years of letting art work for me.

  • Keep a small sketchbook handy. A quick drawing of any object can take your mind off an immediate problem.
  • Paint (or draw, sculpt, etc.) with pleasure. Leave the innercritic for more weighty matters, and take delight in the joy of creativity.
  • When all else fails, let other artwork lift your spirit. Georgia O'Keeffe's bold and vibrant paintings do the trick for me.

"Art Smart" is from the April 2006 issue of Southern Living.