Art as Self-Care: Ways to Attend Yourself Through Artmaking
Updated: Jun 27
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ~ Pablo Picasso
As an art therapist, I believe that artmaking is a way to care for ourselves or listening to the unheard voices within ourselves. For those of you who wish you try artmaking as self-care, here is the list of ideas!
For relaxation & stress reduction:
1) Paint an image that comes to your mind as you listen to your favorite music or nature sound.
"The receiving bowl" (2020), Oil on canvas
This was painted as I listened to nature sounds and reflected on the pandemic.
2) Magazine photo collage: find magazines you don’t need any more and flip through pages. Cut out images and words that catch your attention. Now glue them to a blank piece of paper. Give it a title.
"Are you a change agent?" (2020)
Collage with tissue papers, magazine phots, and watercolor
3) Doing something mindless is relaxing. Using a marker or pen, doddle on a blank piece of paper. Tilt the paper in different directions. Do you see any shapes? Creatures? Landscapes? Objects? Color them in. And a final touch – Write a story about what you just colored.
"Snake and Caterpillar" (2021), A doodle drawing + story
4) Mandala drawing: On a blank piece of paper draw a circle by tracing a dessert plate (or a mug cup if you want something you can complete in a short-time). Fill in the circle however you want. Give it a title.
5) Another way to engage in mindless artmaking: Create an image using Zentangle technique (https://zentangle.com/pages/get-started).
Pages from my sketchbook completed with Zentangle techniques
6) Create a photo project. Pick a theme for each week (e.g. take pictures of what you are grateful for; picture of what you consider beautiful; pictures of what relaxes you). Put them together as a digital photo collage (Use a program like Adobe Spark).
"Relax & Refresh" A digital collage
with Adobe Spark and their stock photos.
1) Make a card for yourself – You know yourself the best. What message do you need to hear right now? Can you write the message down? You can decorate the card with collage materials or a drawing.
2) Trace your hand on a piece of paper. Now, let’s answer these questions with honesty – What do you have control over in your life? Draw symbols that describe them in the hand you just traced. What can you not control in your life? Draw symbols for those outside of the hand. When you finish, hang them up on a wall and observe your drawing. What do you notice? What needs to change? Are there things you thought were under your control but actually aren’t? Are there things that you can let go?
3) Create an image of your current feeling or mood. What would the image say to you if it had a voice? Try writing a letter to the feeling as if it were a person. What would you like to say to it? What does it need to hear from you?
4) Find a quote that inspires you. Create an image that goes with the quote.
A page from my sketchbook with Valarie Kaur's quote
5) Get a sketchbook. Use it as a book of writing, poems, and images just for you – treat it like a safe space for your creative self. Commit yourself to complete one page a week or more. Remember that you are practicing to show up for yourself when you are opening this sketchbook. Do you have something you need to voice? Be witnessed? Vent? Or can you create an image as a gift to yourself? If you are new to artmaking, I recommend a smaller sketchbook like 5 x 5 inches. Medium weight paper (120lb) is recommended if you want to use watercolor paints. You can also use the sketchbook as a place to gather your favorite quotes as inspiration and create images that go with them.
I usually have several different sizes of sketchbooks in my art room at home.
Depending on how I feel each day, I choose which one to use.
Download the idea list as a PDF document here. And Please take good care of yourself!