We all recall moments from childhood: curled up on the couch on a rainy day, so lost in our favorite coloring books that sounds of home and the outside world faded for hours. Remember the free and peaceful feeling that came from this?
Well, as adults we can recapture the magic. ‘Getting lost’ in personal art projects has very real and powerful healing benefits: not only for children, but also adults of all ages.
This practice of self healing is called art therapy. Here on Self Love Sanctuary we’ll be doing lots of posts exploring how you can do it all by yourself, so you will have some new tools to help you through even the most traumatic times in life.
Today we will guide you through a journey through an art therapy project that anyone can do. No previous experience necessary!
The amazing healing power of art therapy
Whether you are trying to heal from trauma, learning to meditate through art, or just trying something new:
There are always new things to learn about yourself – through sifting the vast amounts of information, guidance, and wealth of perspectives found online … then using them to inspire creations of your own that arise from deep inside.
With this project, through internet research you will find and identify phrases that resonate with you.
Then you will choose a phrase that you will use as the inspiration for a simple art project. You will build your project around the feelings that the phrase inspires in you.
Art therapy has no barriers
Perhaps you have never tried to do an art project of your own in your life! Even in kindergarten! (kidding. wait, no: .. seriously!?)
However, don’t worry if you’re a beginner: the benefits of art therapy all come about from the process of actually doing… and not from judging the outcome.
Through practice, patience and perseverance you will become better at using the art tools needed for this this project. You will find that by practicing, everything becomes easier.
You will learn that a meditative state called “the zone” can be attained through doing artwork. This creative process releases dopamine: a brain chemical that is associated with feelings of wellness.
Getting lost in the artistic zone is a form of self love
You will learn that paying attention to what you are feeling and thinking, does make a difference.
Self love will be practiced while making something tangible for your living space that will remind you of your thoughts and conclusions, every time you view the comforting and meaningful art that you have committed hours of your life to creating.
You’ll also be able to brag to your friends and family about the beautiful artwork you have created for you, from you 🙂
SELF LOVE ART THERAPY 01: ABSTRACT COLOR COMPOSITION
A peek at the example project
The finished project follows the format of the following piece:
Some supplies you will need for this project
Internet Access: Internet access is need to search out a healing phrase or sentence via a search engine or YouTube. Of course, since you’re reading this right now you should be all set with that!
Colored Pencils: High quality colored pencils are recommended for beginners. Acrylic, watercolor pencils, or high quality markers will also work.
- A long straight edge (a yardstick will do fine)
- Pencil sharpener
- Good lighting
Step 1: Resonating Research (choose your phrase)
The first step in this art therapy project is to discover the phrase or sentence that ‘hits home’ with you today, lately, or just this hour.
Any sources can be used. Internet, books, magazines and or any other media are welcomed. We have some suggestions on where to get started at the end of this article.
The criteria for choosing a phrase that resonates with you are:
- That the phrase feels like something that you wish to pay more attention to within your understanding or consciousness
That it is a positive phrase or sentence.
That it is no longer than one sentence for space considerations
If you feel like you are experiencing a lack of self love, you may encounter a meme that reads “You are the love that you have been seeking” – which ‘resonates’ or feels congruent with your personal message.
Then, you will use whatever message you chose as the inspiration and ‘seed’ for the artwork that you will be creating for this project.
The process is the therapy
Remember: the final outcome of your artwork is secondary to the act of creative expression.
The art therapy process, when followed closely – is the actual therapy
This means there is no such thing as a right or wrong, good or bad result. Art therapy is all about learning about yourself.
Since there are so many applications for this project and its therapeutic scope, we feel that the way in which you research – or exactly what you feel is your personal message at the moment – these are your own.
For this project the only limitations are the ones listed above.
Also, if it suits you, feel free to use your own words after researching.
Step 2: Lay Boundaries Around Your Canvas Area
After choosing your phrase or sentence, we can get started creating!
Get out your illustration board or canvas. You can start off preparing the canvas by marking off the borders of the piece by using your straight edge to draw a rectangle inside of the edges of the board
Leave a bit of room on all sides of the rectangle. It does not have to be perfectly rectangular, just come as close as you can.
For example – in the image below we have chosen roughly 11″ x 23″ as our dimensions, since our chosen phrase was more than a few words. However the size you make it is completely up to you.
Step 3: Draw Some Interior Lines
Next – using our straight edge and a sharp pencil, we draw between four and 7 lines that extend from one border of the rectangle all the way to another border in either random or intentional fashion, like so:
Here in the above image we chose to do a little of both. The lines should be as straight as possible, and they will intersect over each other wherever they land. We chose to use 7 lines in this case.
Step 4: More Lines and Shapes
Now draw up to 15 or more lines. These lines do not have to continue from border to border. However, we do want both ends of each line to terminate at either:
- another line, or
- an outer border
We do this to prevent lines from ending in empty space. This is because we are trying to create enclosed shapes that we will color in later. Keep in mind while you are making these lines that you will be filling the empty shapes between them with colors or grey.
So try not to leave too many huge shapes, because they can become quite tedious in the coloring process. Smaller shapes are easier to fill.
On the other hand, you will also want to think of not leaving too many tiny shapes for the opposite reason.
Most importantly, however:
Don’t spend too much time making these decisions. Take no more than a minute deciding for each line.
Step 5: Curves and Circles
Now you can draw up to 5 curved lines or round shapes on top.
Remember to be mindful as you create of and try not to cause too many issues for yourself later. And also to not take more than a little while to make creative decisions: go with your instincts!
Use sketching to try out ideas
You can start by drawing very, very lightly, also known as ‘sketching’, before making the lines darker. This way you can erase lines easily if you don’t like them. We find that often the confident first time approach works well also.
In the above example we chose a circle and couple of ellipses. We used a big coffee can for tracing the circle. Notice that we were not afraid of going over the borders? We figure ‘Feels good .. why not?!’ 🙂
Step 6: Adding Your Phrase
We recommend that you lightly write your phrase or sentence on your piece, so that if you are unhappy about the placement or size you can erase and start again.
It may be helpful to make a couple of light, straight lines to help guide the placement of the phrase on your artwork. Or you may prefer that it looks more random.
You can use any font you would like, or your own printing or cursive. It’s totally up to you. The important thing in this case is that you know what it says and the feelings it has for you personally.
Once you have the phrase on your surface it’s important that you make the letters thicker than the other lines. This way they will stand out when it’s colored.
Step 7: Coloring In
Ok: it’s time to start coloring! If you have chosen to use paint, we assume that you have done some art before, so we will not be teaching painting or marker technique with this project.
Some colored pencil tips
If you are a beginner, here are the finer points of using colored pencils correctly:
About sharpening colored pencils
It is unnecessary to sharpen colored pencils until the wax color starts to disappear into the wood. This will save you both time and money from sharpening too much.
If you need a sharper edge, try turning the pencil at an angle to make use of the edge that you create while making marks.
Try coloring in tiny circles
Instead of trying to make colored lines back and forth, try to make tiny little circular motions a few millimeters in diameter. This will make your coloring more consistent and allow you to control how much color you are marking on the board. The tooth of the board with coldpress illustration boards is more forgiving.
Color mixing tips
You can mix colors by pressing lightly while coloring, using different colors as layers. For this project try to make each shape consistent in color, and always test out your color combo outside of the borders since it will be hard to erase if you decide you want to change it.
You may choose whatever color scheme or colors you would like. Perhaps you want to think about colors that make you feel good, or even just be random.
Again the most important thing is that you have fun with these choices and make it you.
It is important to realize that the text will be harder to read if you put darker colors around it, but once again, this is your art.
We have chosen to use blue and orange. We have started with only the lighter tones of those 2 colors and some light greys. Here is the image again:
You can control how dark it will be by using lighter colors for lighter shapes, as well by not pressing hard on the board while coloring.
We tried to be mindful of not using the same color in 2 shapes that share a line, but that’s not a hard rule.
Get lost in the flow
Be sure to relax and start to immerse yourself into the image. If you would like, it’s always good to put on some music of your choice. As you find yourself coloring shape by shape, realize that you are letting go of any negativity. Let your mind wander.
Continue to color the rest of the shapes. Use darker colors or continue with light or other colors.
Have you been losing track of time? Good!
Step 8: Switching Hands
As soon as you are getting comfortable with the way the piece is progressing, here is something to try that is an important part of many kinds of therapy:
By switching back and forth between coloring with your dominant hand and non dominant hand, you will be constantly activating both brain hemispheres.
This technique can amplify the positive affects of your meditative ‘zone’ and its ability to heal negative emotions.
At first it is difficult to do this – but, just like everything else in life – it becomes easier with practice. Many people find that after a while they are even more comfortable coloring with the other, non-dominant hand.
Getting in the zone with art therapy
Breathing deeply while working and not being distracted may also be important for some – while loud rock or techno might do it for others.
The most important idea here is that you will become immersed in the art and coloring, while focusing your energies on creating your own new intention and understanding.
The project may be repeated every other day if desired. And should take as long as you want it to. Experiment!
Enjoy yourself, you’ve earned it!
Do you have any questions? Care to show us your project? Let us know in the comments below!