I recently shared a few thoughts about impostor syndrome and how I’ve been able to overcome it — for the most part. It’s a form of anxiety — a concern over how an art project will turn out, that imaginary feeling that everyone is watching me, an incessant worry that I’ll say or do the wrong thing. Again, I’ve gotten past that — for the most part.
Still, anxiety will always be part of life. In addition to the sort of art anxiety I’ve experienced in the past, there are other interesting connections between art and anxiety. I set out to do a little research, and I’ve found that some paintings can supposedly reduce feelings of anxiety. Curious, I scrolled through the list. The truth? I did not feel any great sense of comfort from any of the paintings. One, in particular, actually made me feel more anxious:
If you’d like to see the complete list, you can visit Daily Art to see 10 Art Masterpieces to Calm Your Anxiety. Again, as I scrolled through, I didn’t feel especially soothed, but I probably wasn’t doing it quite right. The site explains:
Breathe in, breathe out, relax, focus, look at the painting and actually start to see it. Look at the details. Ask yourself questions: What do you see? What elements catch your eye first? Which colors? Do you see any patterns, any relations between the elements of the painting? What emotions do you feel while looking at this particular piece? Time is your friend here. Even if you don’t see or feel anything at the beginning give yourself time. Be patient. Try to unwind from and let yourself dive into the universe of the painting, even for seconds or minutes, if not for hours.
It’s part of that idea of slow art that we discussed before. I think a lot of anxiety does stem from all the rushing around we do in our busy lives.
Another way to think about art and anxiety is to see the process of art as an antidote. Sometimes maybe it can help us alleviate stress and nervousness if we pick up a paintbrush and let our feelings out. Art is said to be cathartic — and not just visual arts. Culture Colectiva says this:
Writing a song, a book, a poem, or taking a picture, creating a sculpture, or a movie; they help people let out anything that messes with their minds. I guess that’s why they say artists are crazy.
Drawings and paintings that express anxiety can be disturbing, but if you’re up to it, you might want to follow this link — The Pain of Crippling Anxiety in 10 Paintings.
Poet T. S. Eliot said that anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity. It is thought to be the fuel that fires our passions, and the list of artists who have suffered from anxiety, depression, and mental illness is long. All things considered, it would seem that we need some anxiety in order to create art — in any form — but personally I’m not sure I want to think of art or creativity as products of an anxious mind. I want art to be restful, soothing, peaceful, and reflective.
My research led me to a lot of interesting articles about art, anxiety, and the connections between them. If you’re interested in learning more about the topic, you might want to check out these links:
All of this was interesting reading, but I think the most helpful — and most useful — advice comes from this article on how to Relieve Stress and Anxiety by Creating Art. It’s a good read, provides additional resources that might be of interest, and offers valuable tips:
- Play and experiment with color
- Keep a visual “gratitude” journal
- Keep a daily sketchbook or art journal
- Do a small painting a day
- Start drawing shapes
- Draw or paint your mood
- Make a “spirit” or “soul” collage
- Practice seeing and drawing
- Try coloring
- Join an art class or get together with friends to create art
These are great ideas whether we’re experiencing anxiety or not!
And so, it seems that “art and anxiety” are inextricably linked. We need a bit of anxiety in order to create art, yet we can also create art to relieve anxiety. I’m glad that my own “art anxiety” is merely a bit of nervousness now and then, an occasional doubt, that persistent question as to whether or not I’m really an artist.
Yes, I am an artist. Part of my objective as an artist is to paint serene landscapes, ones that give viewers a sense of peace, a respite from the world, an opportunity to take a deep breath and simply appreciate the beauty of the world. I guess that’s my way of dealing with “art and anxiety”.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH IT?