As part of my opening disclaimer, you should know that I’m not really an artist. What, you too? Great! Then this post is definitely for you.
My parents brought eight children in to the world, and at least three of them are naturally gifted in the visual arts. What does this mean? Those three can sketch pretty much anything that pops into their heads. One of them even makes his living in the art industry.
I’m one of the other five kids. Were I a humbler soul, I’d post a picture of the “dragon” I drew for the Little Butt last week. But I’m not, so I won’t.
Sometime around sixth grade Mom decided it was time for my sister Katrina and me to begin private art lessons. She’d drop us off one afternoon each week for a magical hour in Mrs. Zemo’s studio. Nancy Zemo is one of those people towards whom you cannot feel ambivalent. Thankfully, her sense of humor clicked for us and we instantly loved her. To this day, I smile each time I drive past her home.
Mrs. Zemo tried to make an artist out of me—heaven knows she gave me all the tools and training—but after three years of lessons, all that really stuck was the proper way to shade a picture. Oh, and my love of good-quality art supplies.
The desire to create is in my system
I’ve always envied Katrina’s ability to doodle and draw. And yet, with all the time and money my parents invested in that part of my education, every time I picked up a pencil out popped something a first grader might create.
If you’ve read my post about Zentangle, you know that it’s been almost two years since the desire to doodle overcame me and changed my life. That’s not an exaggeration. Art is powerful.
I’m still no artist, but I do consider myself artistic these days. And the benefits are huge, which leads me to the point of this post.
Maybe you’re like me, with no innate artistic skill. Even so, here are six reasons I’d suggest giving the visual arts a try:
1. Lowered stress
In my later teen years, I asked Katrina to take me on as a student. She began walking me through a few lessons from the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I discovered that I, a very time-conscious person, lost all track of time while completing her assignments.
A quick look into the origins of Zentangle reveals that practicing art is similar to meditation, in that it creates a sense of timelessness, well-being, and focus. For those of us who struggle to practice mindfulness, the physical action of drawing simple lines can give us the same benefits.
I’ve found that if I take a doodle break when I’m in a stressful situation/day, the tension eases. Because of this, I always keep my favorite pens handy, no matter where I am. Go check the diaper bag—you’ll see I’m telling the truth. 😉
2. Personal sense of pride
Until practicing Zentangle, I had a distinct us/them division in my mind when it came to artists. They were creative; I was not. They were skilled. They were blessed with this gift.
While visual arts aren’t my strength, music is. It’s been years since I’ve composed a new piece, but when I sit down at the piano and play one of my creations, I’m reminded again that I’ve been blessed with a gift. I made that. It feels good.
3. Creativity adds joy
During #FightingFebruary2015 I purposed to create one Zentangle each day. After completing each piece, I washi-taped them to my kitchen wall to enjoy all month long. When I posted a picture of that, my friend Karen shared how art doesn’t just bring joy during the initial creation. Every time you view that piece, you relive a bit of that process and the joy is ongoing. I’ve certainly found this to be true in my case.
Creativity adds joy in little ways, as well. These days my focus is on hand lettering, and while it is still quite juvenile, seeing my creations in my planner brings joy to my day. And sometimes the joy is laughter…like when I focus so much on my pen strokes that I spell “future” f-u-t-r-e. Go, me!
4. Make precious gifts affordably
These days I enjoy creating for others. I’m not entirely certain that anyone beyond my mom wants my art, but it gives me joy (are you seeing a theme?) to create and share it. In my case, I might paint some flowers with a favorite word or create a card. No one is banging down the door for my work, but I know that I’d feel crazy special if someone put that kind of effort into a gift for me.
When the Little Miss arrived last April, my friend Elizabeth (whom I had not yet met) sent a card. She decorated the outside with flowers and creative lettering. I save all the kids’ cards, but that envelope made it into the memory box, as well, and made a huge first-impression of my soon-to-be friend.
5. Social activity to share with others
Paint nights are all the rage these days, at least in my Facebook feed. And they are fun, but you don’t need a studio to get the same result. My sisters and I plan art nights, and everyone brings whatever she wants to work on. Table-shaking laughter occasionally messes up my pen-lines, but then I can see that memory when I look back on my work.
Shaina started a tradition in 2014 of taking all the girls to a pottery-painting studio a few weeks before Christmas. We each create our piece, then she wraps them up and gives them to us at our family celebration.
Art is always a great activity to share with kids. The Little Butt has his paint supplies, “paint pencils” (what do you call watercolor pencils?), crayons, markers, and stamps that he pulls out when it’s time to create. The table gets messy, but it’s also a memory.
6. Increased confidence to try new things
I don’t know where the limiting voices came from, but for years I carried around a mental list of all the things I thought I was incapable of. Art was one of many.
Then I experimented with Zentangle…and found that I could. So I tried my hand at lettering…and saw that it would. Then I tried paint, and watercolor pencils, and the list continues to grow.
Practicing art restored faith in my ability to dream big and do anything. No, I won’t be the best at everything. But those things I’m truly called and equipped for? Those I will do boldly, because I know now that I can.
What are you going to create?
It’s crazy what art can do. Have you given it a try? Can I persuade you to go pick up a pen or a paintbrush or even a crayon? It’s good for your soul.