You don’t need to be an artist to enjoy making art. Just like you don’t need to be a chef to enjoy cooking or athletic to enjoy yoga (I am testament to that). There has been much written about the benefits of drawing, resulting in the rise in popularity of adult colouring books. The benefits of putting pencil to paper include relaxation, a reduction in stress and even improved medical outcomes.
Despite this, many people are reluctant to pick up a drawing implement. Perhaps they are overwhelmed by the technical details: the sheer number of materials on offer is immense. The choice between pencil, pastel, watercolour, texta, charcoal and ink is overwhelming- it’s difficult to know where to start. Let me assure you, all you need is a pen and the back of an envelope.
The greatest barrier for most people is the fear of failure. We worry about it looking weird or not being anatomically correct. This is why I love watching children draw. They have no inhibition. My son fills exercise book after exercise book with characters from his imagination; witches with scissor feet, elephant-men with flipper ears, pencils that breath fire. The colours are unrealistic, their eyes are unsymmetrical and half the time I can’t even guess what he is drawing. But I can tell you this: he loves it. He is developing his confidence, his imagination, his problem-solving skills and at the same time he is dealing with his worst fears: overcoming his monsters by forcing them into the light of day. He is compelled to draw, to create, to invent; not just for me to admire, but for himself.
Humans have always had a desire to draw, to leave a mark. The oldest surviving cave drawing is over 40,000 years old, although I don’t doubt we were drawing before that. Our ancestors told stories, passed down from generation to generation through the spoken word and also through pictures. When we draw we fulfil a basic human need. In the same way that we need to connect with the earth and connect with others, creating art helps to connect us with our inner thoughts.
I concede that drawing is not for everyone. Some people prefer to express their creativity in different ways: through gardening, cooking, singing or dancing. Others prefer yoga, hiking or running. The act of making something with your hands, or expressing yourself in a physical way is very satisfying. Your mind is a product of your physical well-being. In our busy, modern world, we spend our time commuting in cars, sitting at desks, speaking on phones and flying in planes. Such activities are based on recent invention. When you consider these activities against the history of human evolution they seem rather unnatural. In a world that is becoming ever more reliant on technology, it is even more important to find your inner spirit, by connecting with your physical body.
Outdoor activities are particularly important to our mental health as they connect us with the ground, literally. We evolved to live on the earth: walk, sleep and sit on the ground. Traditional cultures, such as the Australian aborigines, have a strong connection to the land. In our world of high-rise apartments, indoor workplaces, elevators, bridges and even high-heeled shoes, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay grounded.
Resultantly, there is a fast-growing movement that embrace bare feet, known as ‘Earthing.’ Earthing is based upon the belief that connecting to the Earth’s natural energy is foundational for vibrant health. Feeling the sand between your toes or the grass underfoot is said to increase antioxidants and improve sleep quality. The popularity of earthing has resulted in the development of barefoot running shoes. Such shoes are lighter and more slimline, allowing the wearer to feel the ground underneath.
This need to connect with the earth explains the growing popularity of yoga. Preformed barefoot, yoga connects the mind and the body to the ground. The art of yoga originated in Northern India over 5,000 years ago, although some researchers think it may be 10,000 years old. Yoga has evolved over time and these days there are many variations of yoga which are practiced all around the world.
Personally, yoga helps me to connect with my creative side. Through yoga I have developed my own personal mantra: ‘creative, happy, healthy’. Making art, is my own form of mediation: it requires a level of concentration that clears my mind. It helps me to relax whilst also working through things that are bothering me. I work through my issues by expressing them in my art. People think of making art as a very contemplative, sedentary activity, and it definitely is. However, at other times it can be quite physically draining. Like yoga, it can be simultaneously physically taxing and mentally relaxing. Like all good things, creativity takes time, patience, reflection and some hard work.
Most importantly, creating art keeps me grounded and at peace. I implore you to find your equivalent (if you haven’t already). Everyone has an inner artist, waiting to come out. Find yours and embrace it.
Touch the earth.
Dance like no one is watching.
Draw like no one is judging.
Create like you never have before.
A version of this post was published on the personal development blog called PurposeFairy on 26 February 2019.
About the author
Leah is a financial professional turned artist. She creates artwork about fashion, feminism and family. Sign up for artist e-news here or follow her on Facebook and Instagram @leahmarianiartspace.