Using Art for Relaxation

For many of us, stressful times are high and even when we get a few hours to try and relax, it's hard to come up with any ideas to accomplish this relaxed state we're supposed to be striving for. For me, I turn to a number things and one of them is making art. We all de-stress in a number of different ways, and I've tried some that worked and some that did. Here's how I use art to de-stress, in case it comes in handy for you sometime or if you'd like to try any of these out for yourself.

When I'm making art to de-stress, I'm not making art with a mind to share it or even make it appealing for anyone--sometimes it doesn't even have to appeal to myself 😂. I have a lot of artwork that no one else will ever see. Scribbles, funny faces, attempts at drawing flowers, shading studies, color studies, animals that look bizarre because I didn't care about what the anatomy is supposed to look like, really loose sketches of people doing interesting poses, faces making exaggerated expressions, hats, hands, feet, characters with backstories that my brain fills out at the time that I'll forget a few months down the road. Drawings in digital mediums, watercolor, pencil crayon, sometimes I'll just pick up a ballpoint pen and draw on some computer paper. Comic strips that are funny to me but probably no one else. 😅

When it comes to drawing for relaxation, one of the golden rules is to not judge yourself and remind yourself that you are not obligated to share your relaxation art with anybody--unless you wanted to. Otherwise, this is purely for you! The drawing above this section was done back in early 2018. I drew it in Photoshop and this is the first time I've shared it anybody. It'll probably never become anything more than a doodle, but I liked how the puffy clouds and the colors made me feel at the time. 😊

And so, I like doing some of these exercises...

Circles for color and shading studies. I start with a circle, then imagine a feeling or a setting and fill in the colors that I would want to use. Sometimes I add sunlight or what I call "moon lighting", which is just a scene that is mostly in shadow or dark with a small amount of light and contrast.

Breaking out of my comfort zone. I know how counterintuitive this sounds, but hear me out. I like breaking out of my comfort zone and drawing something that I normally veer away from. Lately, I've been struggling with drawing flowers. Somehow, knowing that nobody will see my flower drawing attempts helps me relax as I'm able to focus on just making lines without worrying whether my tulips look like tulips or not.

Draw a moody scene. If I want to be in a relaxed mood, I try to envision a scene that would relax me. Sometimes the scene is me standing on a pier looking over a cold Pacific Ocean. Or me lying in a grassy field and looking up at the clouds and power lines. Whatever the scene is in my head, I try to bring it to the canvas. This only works to relax me if I remind myself that no one else is going to see this drawing so it doesn't matter if it's a random splatter of color, or the lines are wrong, or the birds I drew look more like cupcakes than birds. Pulling the scene out of my head, even if it's not perfectly executed on paper or canvas, gives me something to focus on and gives me that satisfied feeling of making something happen on the canvas that my brain thought up.

Draw some patterns. Repetition in lines and filling up a canvas with lines, shapes or colors is very relaxing to me. Don't let yourself overthink the pattern. Sometimes, I just start with a scribble or a blob in the middle of a canvas then draw a pattern or lines around the blob. Sometimes I try to draw the same shape over and over again. I never try to fill out the entire canvas. It's not about finishing something so much as it is about taking your mind off of stressful thoughts and refocusing it on making something with your hands. My steam animal drawings incorporate elements from some of my "pattern relaxation exercises".

Come up with a character or scenario. I often like to imagine stories that go along with the characters or scenes that I draw. Sometimes those stories are short scenarios, some of those scenarios are funny, some are exciting, some are kind of mundane. Sometimes the scene in my head has nothing or very little to do with what I actually put on canvas. And all of it is OK. I don't share these stories or scenarios with anyone. Most of the time, I don't even write them down and that's the beauty of it for me. No one ever has to know that the dog eating a cookie that I just drew has a dark past involving a cookie crumbling business. Or is it a crumbling cookie business? Who knows?  👀

I hope you try out some of these exercises sometime. And if you do try out any, I hope it helps bring in some relaxing energy!

Let's talk some more about art sometime soon. ❤️

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