Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Art... Better Than Pills and No Side Effects!!

Thank you all for your wonderfully supportive comments.  : )  This blogging thing isn't quite so scary after all!  Denise - I loved your suggestion about painting a fern and am gathering my fern photos together to use for inspiration.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.

The past few days I've been sorting through magazines and came across info about boosting creativity and the benefits art has on our health.  For instance, the November 2011 Good Housekeeping magazine (page 45) comments on research done in Norway on more than 50,000 people that found that "engaging in arts and culture--watching as well as doing--was linked with higher self-scores of physical and emotional health".  Think about it... not only are we (people who enjoy creating art) benefiting our own physical and emotional health when we engage in our chosen form of art, but we are also contributing to the improved health of our viewing audience!  Wow.  That is, to me, the ultimate of 'win-win' and a strong motivator to keep creating and putting my art out for other people to see.

Creativity, as you've probably already discovered, is at times unpredictable and prone to dry periods and blocks.  So if being creative is so good for us is there anything we can do to keep a consistent flow of it in our lives?  Interestingly the March 21, 2011 edition of Woman's World magazine had two suggestions (on pages 4 and 26).  Regularly spending time with loved ones contributes to people having more creative ideas according to research from the UK's University of Portsmouth lead study author Lorenzo Stafford, Ph.D. The reason given is that socializing raises the brain's level of dopamine--a happiness-triggering chemical that also activates areas of the brain responsible for creative thinking.  Another article discussed other research reported on by study author Ravi Mehta that suggests that gazing at the colour blue contributes to having more innovative ideas. The colour blue reduces tension and lowers stress, and the study states that, "Relaxed people are more open to new ideas."  Hmm... makes me want to repaint the walls of my work area a lovely light blue.

Speaking of colour, I had coffee a few days ago with a friend with whom I have wonderful conversations about the emotional benefit of art.  She is someone who has experienced some very traumatic things early on in life.  She did not think of herself as artistic, but in the past few years someone convinced her to give painting a try.  Long story short, she loved the experience of painting, continues to find it very therapeutic and produces some lovely works in acrylic.  I asked her what painting had done for her life.  Without much hesitation she explained that previously life had felt grey and colourless but painting literally and figuratively brought colour to her life.

For myself, once I got past the fear of putting paint on paper, I found the process of stroking the paint onto the paper (or canvas as the case may be) to be calming and relaxing.  I can get completely absorbed in the process and lose track of time.  Just last week I got so involved with a painting I was two hours late having dinner even though twice I told myself, "I'm hungry... I really have to stop and eat..." I've come to the conclusion that the phrase, "starving artist" may not have been coined strictly to describe artists having a hard time financially.  Rather, it may have become popular to describe artists who got so involved in their work they forget to eat!  (Who would have ever thought I would get so 'into' what I was doing I could forget to eat!!! lol...)  This past week I also discovered a pretty fool proof way of measuring when I've been focussed on my painting long enough and need a break... It's time to stop when I find myself washing out my paintbrush in my cold cup of tea!!  : )

This past week I spent some really enjoyable time with a relative down at the waterfront.  At the time I had not read the articles on boosting creativity, but I intuitively did both of the recommended things--spent time with a loved one and gazed at the colour blue (the ocean), and it was a very uplifting time that sparked some creativity.  How could you not feel creative looking at the beautiful colours of fall...

... observing other people's humorous handiwork...

... and watching a powerful creature like a bald eagle noshing on freshly caught salmon "sushi"!

As for painting, I am still working on the watercolour-on-canvas picture of the forest stream. It has indeed proved to be challenging!  I took it to art class this morning quite convinced that I'd ruined it but the teacher suggested one or two changes and I am now quite a bit happier with the way it is looking.  Once it's finished I'll take a photo and post it here so you can see how it turned out.

I'm curious... What are some of the benefits you personally find from engaging in creating art?  Does it lift your spirits?  Perhaps it helps you escape from stress?  Do you find it brings physical relief from pain or discomfort?  If you'd care to share, I'd love to hear your experience.

I hope all is going well for each of you.  Time for me to sign off... I hear my paint brush calling...  lol!!
: )  Fern


  1. woohoo ! what a glorious post Fern !! ..capped off at the end with shots of a beautiful bald eagle wow!!! so gorgeous!.. I know my life loses all color when i stop creating for sure!!!

    Cheers , Helen

  2. Fern! I LOVE the name of your blog! And really wonderful post and photos! I have been saying for quite some time that art is better than any drug! Seriously,, when my back hurts or i just feel tired, i start creating and the aches or tiredness just seem to float away! If i feel upset or depressed i just can lose myself in my paper and paints and my troubles seem to disappear! I always feel better no matter what when i am in the act of creating! The fact that many people tell me my art makes them happy, well, that is like a huge bonus :) i definitely think art is the best medicine....
    Your blog looks wonderful, Fern and i will be be back for sure

  3. Hiya Fern,
    Love the pic of the eagle coming in for his 'meal-to-go! -_*

    That was good info from the Woman's World mag, makes perfect sense. Though some people are very creative in a dark mood also, happiness is definitely a motivator. And when I'm unhappy, being creative definitely can shorten the time period.

    I've always wanted to paint but always afraid to try. I even bought videos and books to help me with the Donna Dewberry technique. Actually, as I'm writing this, I realize I didn't do too bad. The biggest problem was me looking for perfection instead of just enjoying the experience. I still have all my supplies, perhaps I'll try it again . . .

    Keep up the good work, enjoying your blog. : )

  4. I love the humour in this piece - your take on the starving artist & your cold cup of tea, I hear you :)

    Blue!! Oh yes :) When we moved to this house, I decided to have the dining half of the living room painted pretty much smurf blue. A lot of people looked at me strangely and asked if I was sure, but I was ;) And there hasn't been a visitor since who didn't love it :) (there are lots of photos on my FB and blog with the blue as background, it has been helping with my current need for blue & orange photographs as well!) I had no idea about its inherent qualities, but I know that I've been happiest ever since we moved :D Maybe the blue wall plays a part?

    & yes, defnitely, happiness makes me want to reach for my pens and brushes, but I know when I'm feeling low or stressed, I need it - & it benefits me - even MORE! It's just that much harder to get up off the couch and go DO it...

    I love your blogging honesty Fern, I'll be back to read about your journey! & can't wait to see the gessoed canvas finished!!

  5. Dear Fern,
    This is a beautiful post and I love your gorgeous photos and inspiring thoughtful words! Lots to think about here, and thank you so much for sharing with all of us, and I agree with you completely :) xo

  6. Love all the posts I've been reading about creativity and spirit. Something I need to remember sometimes! I used to paint but haven't in years, I keep thinking about going back to it...

  7. What a wonderful and thoughtful post! I can relate and I agree with everything. To me being creative and making art makes me feel more myself. Hence it reduces stress for me and lifts my spirits. Although it´s also frustrating at times, when the results don´t meet the expectations. But the often I declare with defiance that I´ll never take a paintbrush again, the often I go back to my drawings and paintings. It´s just a part of me and it´s good for me (and for others) when I take my time for my art.
    The photos here by the way are beautiful!
    Happy painting! Can´t wait to see more of your paintings.