I received my first sketchbook on March 14, 2010. I used this book to sketch out floor plans, fashion designs, replicate drawings I found on Pinterest, and to unleash my love of The Lord of the Rings. My love for creating art took root in this sketchbook, but before I could start developing my art skills, I abandoned it completely.
I admit this sounds a bit dramatic, but for the most part it’s true. Around sixth grade, I started noticing that I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed drawing. Many of my classmates created sketches of their own, and I began comparing my artwork to theirs. I quickly came to the conclusion that I was not good at art, at least not as good as my peers. And so I thought, why try if I’ll never be as good as them?
Looking back, I wish I hadn’t just completely given up on creating art. I picked it back up my freshman year, and it’s currently proving to be a very calming practice during quarantine. Since we’re all locked up at home, now is the perfect time to experiment. If you’ve ever felt nervous to create or intimidated by other’s work, creating art at home with no one to tell you their opinions on your creation is a great way to begin creating.
Just the other night, I asked my younger brother if he wanted to paint with me. He responded with “no that’s okay, I’m not good at it.” I told him what I wish someone had told me five years ago: that there’s no limit as to who can create art. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that there’s no wrong way to create art and that everybody can do so. As long as you’re expressing yourself, that’s art.
“In my opinion, the only incorrect way to make art is to not make art at all,” said Oyster River High School art teacher, Maria Rosi. You should create art even if you don’t think you’re “good” at it because the benefits far outweigh the only drawback which is the possibility of you just simply not liking it.
According to the article the “Positive Benefits of Creating Art” by Arts From the Streets, “there is no correct answer to art, and the process of creating and creative thinking allows you to come up with unique ideas and solutions in the moment, and that thinking can translate over to your everyday life, infusing creativity into your latest project at work, or your homework assignment for school.”
Focusing on a piece and allowing yourself to get lost in the process, without worrying about perfection, can help you to escape and take a break from your everyday routine. I find that in my everyday life, I’m constantly stressed out. It’s almost second nature at this point. According to the article “Positive Benefits of Creating Art,” being stressed out and feeling anxious on a regular basis can be harmful to “one’s mental and physical health over time,” and getting wrapped up in something that isn’t school or work can be therapeutic and a major form of stress relief.
As people, we face a good amount of stress and anxiety throughout our lifetime. Art can help to release some of our built up stress, and provide us with a way to relax and unwind with the added benefit of creating something in the process.
“Art gives you a creative way to put whatever is on your mind on a piece of paper. You can use it to calm yourself,” said Henry Zent (‘22). “I’ve been doing art a lot recently because I have a lot of time on my hands and it’s also a really stressful time. It’s a nice way to express yourself in a calm way and make something that you like.”
While creating art can be a form of stress relief, it also has the power to enhance our problem solving skills and our memory. The study, “Educational Research: The Art of Problem Solving” by ArtsEdSearch looked at art’s impact on fifth graders’ problem solving skills. It found that “[art] students demonstrated that they are more likely to be intentional in their decision making, follow through on tasks, be deliberate in their approaches, and approach accidents and difficulties with patience.”
Creating art benefits older brains as well, as it requires skills such as visualization and memorization. “Mental decline is partly due to the loss of communication between brain cells rather than the death of brain cells, and practicing art can contribute to brain stimulation as well as the growth of new neurons,” according to “The Positive Benefits of Creating Art.”
With all of these benefits it’s clear to see that art does wonders for our mental health and can be of use during quarantine. Art is something we can all do. A practice we don’t need to practice for.
“I definitely think everyone can create art,” said Hannah Jeong (‘21). “I think a lot of the time people feel that what they create has to be groundbreaking and amazing, and that keeps people from creating art. I struggle with the pressure to create really great art too a lot of times but I’ve learned that art should always be for yourself and what you want to make, and anybody can do that.”
What Jeong said is something you can not only apply to creating art but other aspects of life. When you obsess over doing something perfectly, you might not be able to do it at all for fear of not being good at it. You’ve got to learn how to just do it. If you aim for perfection the first time you create art by yourself with no instruction, you may end up disappointing yourself and giving up on creating art.
It’s important to note that creating art is about the process more than it is the product. Understanding that can help with the fear of not creating something worthy enough.“I’ve learned that worrying about art is one of the silliest things you can possibly do,” said Zent. “You can’t do anything wrong.”
While I’ll admit that finishing a piece I created all by myself feels amazing, and I completely agree with Connor Quigley (‘20) who said,“getting something to a finished state gives me a good amount of accomplishment,” the true bliss lies in the process of creating.
Learning to overcome the pressure to produce a masterpiece each time you create art is necessary if you ever want to enjoy the process. According to the article “The Healing Power of Art” by Harvard Health Publishing, “the beneficial effects of creating aren’t dependent on a person’s skill or talents. It’s the process, not the product.”
At this point in my life I’ve gotten rid of that pressure to create a perfect work of art, as I know that art is something I do for myself as Jeong mentioned. One way I got rid of it is by starting with a used canvas or painting a base coat of a bright color when I use acrylic paint. Fortunately enough for me, my grandmother is an artist so I have plenty of canvases lying around my house. If you don’t, paint over whatever material you’ll be painting on with any color besides white and let it dry before starting your painting. This “technique” is similar to writing down whatever comes into your head when faced with a blank page. It’s just to get you going. Keep in mind this works best with acrylic paint as it dries quickly. Once it does so, you’ll be able to paint over the base color you painted without activating the dried paint.
If you’ve never considered yourself to be an artsy person and don’t see yourself drawing or painting, maybe you’d like art journaling. Art journaling is getting a notebook, sketchbook, or journal of any kind and using it to not only write down your thoughts like a regular journal, but to also incorporate art. This could be anything from stickers to a watercolor portrait. I’ve found that cutting pictures and quotes out of magazines and gluing them into my journal can be very relaxing. You can use one page to scribble all over and use the next to plan out your week.
An art journal is whatever you want it to be, and can be as messy or as neat as you like. Don’t hold back or limit yourself to what you think you can do. Art isn’t for just a select few: it’s for everyone. How are you going to find out that you make killer mosaics if you don’t give yourself the chance to find out?
If even a part of you is interested in creating art in some way or another, go for it. “I think there are enough mediums of art for anyone to find and create something in,” said Quigley.
Everybody has their own definition of art and their own creative process, but I think that the majority of us can agree that art is nothing if not a form of expression. “I think art is whatever you want it to be,” said Jeong. “Sometimes it can be an outlet emotionally for you to put all your thoughts and feelings down on paper and allows you to create something really meaningful, and sometimes it can be a fun doodle that doesn’t mean anything. Art is just a way for you to express yourself in whatever way you want. I think there should be a lot of freedom in what art can be.”
If you find yourself stressed or nervous in this time of uncertainty, I urge you to pick up a pencil, paintbrush, or outdated magazine. Try to release the fear of failure, grab a family member or seclude yourself in a comfortable space, and allow yourself the pleasure of creating art.
Artwork by Acadia Manning