The Power of Paint

Adapted from an article I was invited to write for the Mind blog, published in August 2013.
Let’s get one thing straight from the start – I’m not what you’d call artistic. My art teacher at school told my parents I was the worst pupil she’d ever had (I was quite proud).But just because you can’t draw something that looks like what it’s meant to doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy art. About ten years ago a ridiculous run of bad luck in my personal and professional life led me to a period of anxiety. And I’m not talking about feeling a bit worried and having the odd sleepless night – I’m talking about world-caving-in-around-you-in-a-hurricane stress and anxiety, day in day out, for months.I started going to art evening classes to give myself something outside the daily worries of work and home, and it was terrifying to start with. I almost didn’t go to the first class, and then when I did get there I almost didn’t stay beyond the first five minutes. But I’m so glad I did.

It was brilliant to have a tutor who didn’t judge me on ‘skill’ but who taught me how to use all sorts of techniques, from charcoal to oil paints, pen and ink to watercolour and then to PLAY with them.

But more than that, it gave me a way to switch off. Losing myself in drawing, painting, mixing colours and creating something focused my mind and calmed me. Creating something made me proud, happy and confident, and those are very powerful feelings to someone who is feeling low.

Gradually I started talking to my friends about the classes and I revelled in having something positive to talk about. It’s great that friends check how you are when you’re low, really valuable, but after a while I felt like we’d never talked about anything other than my horrible luck and the way it was eating away at the good things in my life.

All these years on those anxious feelings I’m writing about from back then seem, thankfully, a long way away and life has moved on to better things. I can’t claim that I keep up with my sketchbook or my paints as regularly as I’d like, but I do dig them out every few months and play, especially when something’s bothering me or I need some ‘calm’. I’m ever grateful to the tutor from my evening class, who gave me such a different view on creativity to the one I’d been given at school. And, for me at least, there will always now be a link between creativity and looking after my wellbeing.

Originally published on my old website on 12/6/2017

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