Brains are wired to be creative. Whether you are a confident artist or someone who shudders at the thought, you are capable of creativity. Yet, most shy away from conventional art projects. Foreign experiences are intimidating. Yet, the beauty of art is that it’s subjective. You can decide the goal of creative exercise, which may be to feel better.
Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash
Creativity benefits your health and wellbeing. From a psychological perspective, art is a mood booster and promotes resilience. From a physiological perspective, art decreases stress and increases blood flow. Being creative makes people happier.
The field of neuroaesthetics studies the neuroscience behind art. You you can read about neuroaesthetics here.
Often, the challenge of creativity is where to start. Below are five ways to channel your inner artist. So put on your favorite playlist, grab some supplies, and get started.
1. Write in Different Colors
What You'll Need: Colored Markers, Pens, Paper or Journal
This first exercise is simple and plays into color psychology. Color psychology is the principle that different colors stimulate varying psychological responses. Yellow causes the release of serotonin, a feel good hormone. Blue simulates concentration and focus.
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash
In this exercise, write down your feelings in varying colors. Start with a single word. If you’re feeling sad, write down the word ‘sad’ with any color that speaks to you. Continue to write down the word, but change the colors that you’re using. Chances are the word’s meaning will change based on the color you pick.
Color coordination can go beyond journaling. Try writing in different colors as an organizational strategy. For example, you can take notes or write in planners with many colors. Again, this stimulates your brain and neural activity.
Photos by Esteé Janseens on Unsplash
2. Practice Line Drawings
What you’ll need: black pen/marker and a piece of paper
Art by Meghan McCarthy
This exercise is especially great for perfectionists. Line drawings are shapes and outlines created by simple lines. While some can be elaborate, they can be as basic as drawing a water bottle in front of you.
To start line drawings, find a simple object. Take a black fine tip pen and draw the object’s outline. If you want a challenge, try drawing the object without taking your pen off of the paper (ie, all one line).
For perfectionists out there, you can’t do this in pencil! The point of this exercise is to move beyond aesthetic standards.
Just draw what you observe-- and you can draw the same object over and over again. If you don’t like observational drawings, let your imagination go wild. Plants, faces, and anything natural are all great inspirations.
3. Learn the Art of Zentangling
What You’ll Need: plain paper or sketchbook, fine tipped black pen or marker
Zentangling is a form of doodling with patterns. Zentangle art has defined sections that are each filled with different patterns. This method of drawing promotes relaxation. It's a great way to destress and practice mindfulness. Beginner zentangles can be basic. As you practice, there is room to get more intricate and ornate.
To start your zentangle, fold your paper so there are four quadrants. Because zentangling involves patterns, you don’t need a whole piece of paper for your first one. Start small!
Outline one quadrant. You can make this outline four straight lines, but you can also make them curvy and fluid. Now, you will have something like a defined box. Create three to four sections in this box. They can be equal sizes or different shapes. Again, they can be straight or curvy.
Take your fine tip pen or marker, and in each of the three sections, draw a pattern. Like line drawings, you can’t use a pencil for zentangling! If you make a “mistake,” incorporate it in the pattern. There are many established zentangle patterns. You can make up your own, or copy one of the established ones. Below are some examples. You can also find a video pattern tutorial here. If you like zentangling, you can make your drawings more detailed. Use a whole piece of paper and create many sections.
Pictured Above: [Left] Simple Zentangle and Patterns, [Right] Complex Zentangle by Meghan McCarthy
4. Try a Cubist Painting or Drawing
What You’ll Need: Canvas (or canvas paper), acrylic paint, paint brushes, pencil, markers
While the word cubism can be daunting, your cubist piece doesn’t have to look like Picasso’s. Basic cubism is overlapping, repeating shapes. To start small, think of different geometric shapes. Pick three to four, and sketch them on paper or canvas. Fill up the negative space by repeating these shapes all over the paper. For variety, make some of the edges overlapping and mix up the size and scale of the shapes. If you chose a circle, for example, make some small and others large.
Example of Simple Cubist Drawing with Markers by Meghan McCarthy
After sketching this, create a paint palette by picking five acrylic colors. For beginners, less is more when it comes to color variety. To establish knowledge of color harmony and hues, test out mixing these five colors. You can mix yellow and green to make a lighter green. Then, begin painting the shapes. You can make them all different shades and hues, or make some the same. One idea is to assign one color to each shape. Then, change up how dark or light the tint and shade of it is by adding black or white. If you don’t have paint, no problem. You can complete this project using colored pencils or markers.
If you enjoy cubism, you can try drawing objects or scenes instead of geometric figures. The principles are all the same, simplify your inspiration into 2D shapes.
Cubist Cityscape, Lighthouse, and Still Life by Meghan McCarthy
5. Create a Mood Board with Collage
What You’ll Need: Glue, Magazines or any graphics, scissors, construction paper
Just looking at art has still has a positive psychological impact. Collage is one exercise that activates many areas of your brain.
Mood boards are a great starting point for further projects. If you’re moving, you can create mood boards for your ideal home design aesthetic. If you’ve lost work motivation, you can create a mood board that embodies what you’re working for (ie: if you’re a student, create a mood board of how you envision your life and career). If you’re feeling sad, you can create a mood board manifesting how you want to feel.
Photo by Andy Art on Unsplash
To start your mood board, find or pick up some magazines that speak to you. They can be random, or specific to the purpose of your board. Often, a mix of both is best. Cut, or even rip out, the photos that speak to you. Taking a piece of solid construction paper, begin gluing these photos to the paper. They can be overlapping or deliberately placed. If you want to get super creative, you can pick a color scheme to increase color harmony.
Art doesn’t have to be complicated. More importantly, it doesn’t have to have any purpose greater than ‘filling your cup.’ While these are great starting points, don’t limit your creativity. The more time you spend trying to fit a mold or aesthetic, the less impactful the art session is psychologically and emotionally. No matter the project, try to be present, relaxed, and aim to have fun.