Art, both the act of making it and the act of viewing it, is an incredible aspect of humanity that contributes to our well being in many ways. Art making is a uniquely human activity that dates back to our earliest days on earth, and evidence of this can be found in cave paintings around the globe. Examples include the bull paintings located in the Lascaux Cave in France, as well as in the many statuettes that have been located around these cave sites, like the famous Venus of Willendorf. These artifacts give us clues about how our ancestors saw themselves and the world around them. Today, we continue to create and observe art in ways that are just as meaningful. We interact with and make art, regardless of our skill level, experience, or talent, as a way of connecting with ourselves and with the world at large.
There are many different ways to make art as one can see from the varying and sometimes silly examples of “Modern Art” in the world, but the most common and accessible methods tend to be painting, drawing, or sculpting with clay or wood. Art making is therapeutic in that it can be both soothing and enlightening. We feel soothed by the actual process of making art including the rhythmic sound of a brush against a canvas, the crisp connection of a pencil on paper, the soft feeling of earthy clay in our hands, or the cathartic release of hammering a nail into a board. Each of these can soothe and relax both the body and the mind. Art making is enlightening in that it gives us a window into ourselves, our perspectives, and what is important to us as reflected in our choice of subject matter, color scheme, design, and execution.
When we are making observational art- when we draw or paint something that is directly in front of us- there is a suspension of anxious ruminative thinking which is replaced by the focus of observation and the somewhat meditative experience of transposing the object into a work of art. When we sit and focus like this, we are practicing grounding as well as producing something that grounds us. When the work is complete, we are able to see that art connects us to the outside world in as much as it provides a window into the process of how we connect with and express ourselves. One of the best parts about expressing yourself through art is that the painting, drawing, or sculpture is uniquely yours. You are completely free to say whatever you need or want to say, in whatever manner you choose. This can be extremely liberating and cathartic which also contributes to a sense of well being.
Lastly, it is interesting to consider what type of art you like to make. Do you enjoy making landscapes, portraits, trees, or abstract images? What is it about that imagery that draws your attention and energy? Which artists are you most interested in and why? Note how your work, regardless of the size or skill level involved, is creating a singular story (yours) as well as being an expression of the greater human experience. I will leave you with this quote by the famous sculptor, Antony Gormley, on the ancient handprints found in caves around the world, “…it was never about the handprint, it was about the place where a hand once was.”
And this is why we need art in our lives.
By Tina Kaminski, MA, MSW, LISW-CP