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On drawing art and mental health

Art and mental health

Recently, my friend and I attended a live sketch class. We came with our pencils and sketchpad to draw a live model. The young man did a series of different poses of varying lengths; we worked our way up to 20-minute sketches over the 2-hour session. And I loved it! I felt so proud that not only had I done something new – I hadn’t attended a live model class before – but also I was proud of the art I produced that night. I hope to continue to draw and not only with a pencil but also with brushes and paints. Most of all, I would like to try to paint something using bright watercolor paints and professional watercolor brushes. Especially given that painting, drawing art and mental health research show a positive connection, including a better mood.

Benefits for both art creators and viewers

A few years back, the adult coloring book trend took off. Internet ads and storefronts promoted these books and the nostalgic act of coloring as a meditative practice to lower stress and anxiety. And they’re not wrong; a significant amount of studies identify the act of making art as very therapeutic. Artistic activities can draw people’s attention to details and the environment, mimicking the experience of meditation.

Furthermore, art therapy is widely in use to help patients forget about their illnesses and focus on positive emotions, lowering the stress hormone, cortisol, significantly. In fact, even viewing art can prove beneficial, as those who spent 35 minutes or more during their lunch break exploring an art gallery reported feeling less stressed.

Aside from the popular bullet journaling and adult forms of coloring, sketching is a great way to act on the benefits of creating art.

5 benefits of drawing art and mental health (and physical health)

There are numerous ways sketching can improve mood and better mental health and physical health overall. The five benefits of sketching are:

1. Helps creativity.

Drawing offers you the ability to think in a different way than you’re used to. In particular, sketching encourages open-ended thought and creativity. That’s why it’s such a popular activity for kids.

2. Enables more strategic thinking.

The cognitive and cerebral benefits of drawing are endless. Plus, sketching helps to build new connections and pathways throughout the brain.

3. Art and mental health: Boosts holistic health.

The activity mimics that of meditation, helping with both relaxation and stress relief. Drawing relaxes the brain, giving it a break from the strain of continuous concentration. The result can be better mental health overall.

4. Improves communication skills.

Because sketching is visual, and there is often no text present, you’re forced to communicate through pictures. Thus, this process leads to better decision-making skills and understanding of different feelings and emotions.

5. Helps with coordination.

The more you draw, the more you improve hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Infographic on drawing art and mental health

Lastly, Invaluable created this neat infographic that explains some of the benefits of sketching. It also shows some ways to use the meditative practice as a way to manage different emotions.

Whether you’re feeling anxious or sad, use the ideas as inspiration, and just start drawing! Does the research on art and mental health surprise you?

Are and mental health research infographic
Infographic from Invaluable

42 thoughts on “On drawing art and mental health”

  1. Great post! Just earlier today I found a box full of my old sketchbooks in the basement. It was so therapeutic looking through all of the old drawings. Some are terribly horrible and embarrassing, but others are absolutely wonderful and inspiring! It inspired me to want to create more, because it really does soothe the soul. And now I am seeing your post! Your sketches are beautiful! Thank you for sharing and inspiring. ❤️

  2. The info graphic is great! My sister bought me an adult coloring book and I love it. I don’t meditate often do this really helps quiet my mind. Although, now I’m inspired to start sketching…during boring business meetings ;)

  3. Urban Experiences

    I would like to start an art therapy studio someday. It is really hard to find any kind of specialized classes for it though.

    1. I hope you have a studio one day! For classes, do you mean how to get the education and training you need to start an art therapy studio?

    2. Urban Experiences

      Yes. There’s of course a psychology degree and I already have an Bachelor of Art. It’s hard to find classes that actually teach you ways to use art in a therapeutic way.

    3. Oh I see. Yes it’s a specialized area for sure. I appreciate that you want to help people in through art. If you’re into online courses, Udemy has some art therapy classes you might want to check out.

  4. I have a desk blotter calendar that contains a border for adult coloring. While I’m thinking about what to write next, or waiting for a page to load on my computer, I’ll grab my colored pencils and spend a few minutes chilling.

  5. I have only attended one set of classes with a live model at a community center. We actually took turns in being the model in subsequent weeks. It was fun.

    As an artist, it is really relaxing to create art most of the time. Occasionally things do not turn out the way one might wish, but the act of creating art is therapeutic as you mentioned. I often play relaxing music at the same time when I am painting, drawing, or printing my linocuts. A win-win!

  6. Great post! Very well written. I hadn’t ever made the connection between creation and meditation. But makes sense that it would redirect a wandering mind into a focused activity. Very cool.


  7. Love this post, Christy. Such great advice. I used to attend live model sketch classes on the regular. Haven’t done it for a while. You’ve inspired me. Nice work on your sketches. I have taken up art journaling which involves sketching as well as unstructured more abstract work. It is very therapeutic. Same benefits as you mention. Nice Infographic too. Thanks for sharing and for the inspiration to continue my art.

    1. Hi Lisa, art journaling sounds like a great activity! I’ll have to try it. If you go to a live sketch class again, let me know how it goes. I’m planning to go again next week. Thanks for the enthusiastic comment here and for the share over on Twitter :) Cheers to creating art!

    1. Draw!! OR Paint… do free feel splashes, they come out fab. Sketching is not a pre requisite for enjoying doing art, expressing through art or communicating. I say this as I am not an artist per se, but I am learning to use art to be a wonderful me.

    2. Keep expressing yourself in mediums that appeal to you and feel how fantastic it is for both mind and body, Kathy and Resa! xxoo

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