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Integrate 'Art as Therapy' into Your Life

Over the span of two years I have submerged myself into a lifestyle of expressing my emotions artistically, as a form of therapy. Ever since I could hold a crayon I was doodling or creating art. I have memories of my tiny hand, hovering over a fresh piece of pink construction paper and I would sit and think for what felt like hours, trying to decide what to draw. Even now, with every freshly unwrapped canvas, I ask myself, "what am I going to create?" That is where my therapy begins.

Like most humans, I overanalyze everything I do. When I hold a pen or paintbrush in my hand, I genuinely feel immediate frustration. Surprised? -

Even as an artist, I feel lost, frustrated and completely uninspired at times. It can be hard for me to recognize my own talent. That is why I have to use my frustration within my work as a catalyst to express personal feelings or fantasies that I hold onto. The stories that my paintings hold may be hidden to your eyes, but each piece holds a secret, dream or a hidden objective. Although to you, they are simply flowers.

There truly is no standard for art. What I find appealing may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it sure as hell is someone's. As humans, we put limitations on ourselves of what we believe our capabilities are. Those limits we set for ourselves, block us from seeing what we are capable of. This post is meant to outline simple ways in which I integrate art into a form of therapy. This article is solely based on my own experience and process of creating art through an expression of emotions using colour, movement and an open mind. So, if you want to challenge yourself and learn how to integrate these simple practices into your own life; when approaching an artistic challenge, everyday bullshit or if you are just looking for something new to try, then this post is for you. It is a fun, creative and healthy way to express yourself.

For the sake of this article and writing from personal experience, these tips are related to painting and my personal process. This blog is meant to outline tips and suggestions for creating art and expressing your emotions. I am not an expert in therapy or mental health and these tips should not be used as a form of real medical treatment.

Let's get started...

5 Simple Steps To Express Yourself Through Art

1. The Brain Drain

My first tip is a simple method called, 'The Brain Drain'. This is a very beneficial practice that helps me to approach any new project, problem or even a new day. 'The Brain Drain' is a simple practice of writing. It is that easy, there is only one rule; you must fill an entire page length, with words. What do you write? That does not matter, whatever comes to your mind first. I know you are already annoyed that I gave you homework before starting, but this step will be the most impactful when finally approaching your art or daily life. Throughout our everyday lives, we collect and harbour so many unconscious thoughts or useless spirals of overthinking. When you approach your art, you want to bring with you a positive and open energy. Life and society fills our brains with real and subliminal limitations on everything around us. If we approach our art with predisposed expectations, ideas, or a crowded mind; we limit ourselves from the ability to freely express our creative objective. By first expressing yourself through writing, it allows us to empty our minds of the useful or useless thoughts we carry with us. Do not put too much pressure on yourself to make sense of it. Allow yourself the freedom to just write. Once you begin, you'll soon realize you end up filling more than one page and if you don't, that's okay too.

2. Pick your Colours

Now, before diving right into your art, be sure to carefully select your colour vibe. When choosing colours for expression, try to connect with the energy that each colour holds. How does the colour blue make you feel? What do you relate each colour to? And, What emotion does the colours you chose, hold for you? Do not forget, there is no correct or incorrect answers in art. Follow your intuition and let your heart guide you. This step may seem silly, but it is probably the most important step of all.

3. Pick your Tools

My third step, is to pick your tools. For myself, my choice of art is always painting, but there are many other creative ways to express yourself, such as; drawing, sculpting or even creating a collage. For the sake of this article and writing from personal experience, these tips are related to painting.

When choosing my tools, I usually decide by my mood that day. Now, whether you are or are NOT an artist or have painted before, I would highly suggest going into this, the first time, without any tools. AKA finger painting. You might be like "Yoh, Ryley you're wild!", but trust me on this and embrace your inner child. Even holding a paintbrush in our hands, can at times, disconnect us from our intentions. When choosing a paintbrush or pallette knife, it automatically limits our capabilities of what and how we create, especially if painting is a foreign subject to you. This is not about creating a picture or showing whether or not you are sad or happy on a canvas- It's about creating a flow of energy and allowing you to access a state of meditation. If you are choosing your tools because you are thinking about what you are 'wanting' to create, you will be unsuccessful. You will quickly realize, you do not know what you are doing and rather than getting frustrated and trying to control this experience, drop your brush and start getting dirty. Once you start, you will not want to stop and don't forget, after the first layer dries, you might feel like you want to give the paintbrush another try! Just let the painting be what it wants to be. ;)

4. Get Grounded and Connect

Your next challenge, is getting grounded in your intentions and connecting with yourself and your surroundings. Firstly, we are going to start by setting an intention for our art. This intention should be simple, direct and relate to how or what you want to express on the canvas. An easy example could be, "My intention is to express the feeling of love" or anger or whatever feelings you are carrying. I am sure when you read that intention, you had an image in your mind, colours maybe, even if you did not feel a connection to that specific intention, you created a connection of subconscious thought. By recognizing and validating our subconscious thoughts, we allow ourselves to address the feelings we have attached to those thoughts. Rather than approaching this practice with an empty mind, approach it with a conscious mind. It is very easy to get distracted or caught up in the small details of your painting. Similar to everyday life, we must acknowledge our distractions, accept them and reconnect with your intention. This is how we stay grounded in our emotions and connect to a state of artistic expression. When connecting yourself with your surroundings, the best approach to stay focused and inspired is through music or the sound of nature.

5. Start.

Finally, just start painting. Do not hold expectations of yourself. You will probably hate what you create, but the end result is not about the painting, it is how you feel. It is a moment and an opportunity to reconnect with yourself and your emotions and disconnect from the stress of our daily lives.

These 5 steps are really just a guideline to help you be more mindful and to find healthy expression in new areas of your life. As 2021 comes to a close and we reflect on the year; how we have adapted, found new ways to experience joy and for all of us it has been another year of profound challenge and growth and for that I wish all of you a healthy and successful year to come and I hope to continue to inspire all of you to step outside of your comfort zone and express yourself in new ways.

Thank you for reading!

-Ryley James xx

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