I was raised by my mother, the artist, and while most of the things that I inherited from her are decidedly negative, my love of art is definitely a positive. I was raised surrounded by paint and film and clay, I spent summers at art camp, and all of this cemented art as a huge part of my life. Making art is a part of who I am, and I’d like to tell you why.
1. It gives me a sense of satisfaction: There’s nothing like completing something to give you a little jolt of satisfaction. When I finish a project, and it turns out how I was envisioning (or even better!), I feel good in a way I rarely get from other things. Although the more I write, the more I get a comparable happy feeling. Right now, when I’m not working or in school, I need something like art to make me feel like I can be successful at something.
2. I get to use my hands: For me, art in inherently stimmy. Whether I’m swirling paint on a palette, kneading clay, or folding paper, I’m using my hands, and that’s calming for me. Often times when I get that mental itch to do something with my hands, art is the only thing that can scratch it. It’s different enough from stimming with a toy that they’re not interchangeable. Interestingly, usually having something messy or sticky on my hands is immediate sensory hell, but my brain seems to have an exception for art supplies because I can finger paint, play with clay, and get glue on my hands without repercussions.
3. I’m doing something that doesn’t have a purpose: I’m what I like to call a lapsed perfectionist, and I have a very hard time “wasting” time on something that doesn’t have a purpose. And while you can argue (like I am in the post) that art does, in fact, have a purpose, there are parts of my brain that would argue that art falls under the umbrella of “useless”. I think that pushing through that feeling and doing something that I enjoy anyway is good for my brain. No, art might not have the immediate and visible rewards that research or learning does, but it definitely has worth in its own way.
4. It’s meditative: I make art in two ways. one, where I’m active and full of ideas and energy, and two, where I’m listening to movie soundtracks on my phone and zoning out with my art supplies. It’s the second one that I want to talk about now. I can admit that I’m terrible at standard meditation. I find visualization stressful, and breathing exercises make me hyperventilate. But sometimes when I make art, I can get into a mindset where I can empty my mind, and focus solely on what I’m doing in the moment. For whatever reason, this usually happens when I’m painting with watercolors, and the abstract pieces that come out of my pseudo-meditative state are fascinating. Plus, when I finish, I always feel refreshed!
5. It’s easier to sort out my feelings visually: When I was in Eating Disorder treatment, we had lots of therapy groups, and, surprise surprise, my favorite was Art Therapy. A lot of people liked it because it was easy, they could put on headphones and dab paint on a page, and no one forced them to talk about anything. I, however, liked Art Therapy because it gave me an outlet. A big part of treatment is journaling, and I don’t really find that very useful. The writing that I do here is often therapeutic, but not in the way that journaling is supposed to be. I definitely a visual person, and while I’m good with words, I can’t really use them to describe my experiences. Art is good for me because even if I can’t put my feelings into words, for whatever reason I can recreate them using colors and shapes and textures.
6. I can’t not: Sometimes I start to feel a pressure in my head, right behind my sinuses. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that I was getting a cold, but at this point in my life, I know what that feeling means: I need to express myself. In my mind’s eye, I can see what I need to do, and I know the sensation won’t go away until I do. While this can be inconvenient if I’m not at home, or I’m doing something with a higher priority, usually, it’s a good thing. The pressure is telling me that I need to reconnect with myself and that I’ve been neglecting that side of me for too long. It says to me that I have a feeling that I need to work through, or that there’s something that I need to communicate. Giving in and making art takes a weight off my shoulders, and lets me move on, with my soul satisfied. Until next time of course.
While writing this out, I realized that it reads as a Special Interest, and I don’t really consider it to be one. The urge to interact with my Special Interest and to Infodump about it does feel similar, but it’s not quite the same.
I consider art to be anything from painting, to photography, to scrapbook, to crocheting. Anything that feels creative to you. Do you make art? Do you share it? How does the process make you feel? Let me know in the comments!