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How to Encourage Joy Through Art-Making

By Fraser Mental Health Professional and Art Therapist Briana Colton and Pam Dewey • art making and joy, art-making, art and mental health, creating joy through art, art therapy, expressing yourself through art, creativing, exploring creativity, mental healthcare, self-care, • January 27, 2022

As a kid, you probably loved dipping your fingers into brightly colored paint and smearing it all over a blank piece of paper. Or maybe you remember the joy you felt when you opened a new box of crayons. Those small sticks of color contained endless possibilities.

You might not make time for such simple pleasures as you get older. But seeking out joy is incredibly important for your mental and physical health. Joy can help boost our immune systems and make our brains work better. According to Medium, “More present research has revealed that positive emotions (such as joy) also help us bounce back from negative experiences.”

One good way to reconnect with a sense of joy is through art-making. In this blog, Fraser Mental Health Professional and Art Therapist Briana Colton shares how you can encourage joy by making art.

Everyone can make art

As an art therapist, Colton says her clients often say, ‘I can’t do art.’ She always tells them it’s not about making “good art,” rather, art is more about making meaning from what you create. Art gives you time and space to express your feelings. It also gives you the chance to learn more about yourself and experiment.

“Art should be a process that opens you instead of closing you off,” Colton says. “When you start to create something, you want to feel your heart open. Joy feels like an opening.”

Different projects spark joy in different people

You may be unsure how to find the kind of art you enjoy making. Colton recommends people who like step-by-step or more structured projects try a paint by numbers kit or another type of craft kit. For those who want fewer rules, try starting with a blank pad of paper and playing around with colored pencils, pastels and maybe even watercolors. Using various materials will help you find what you like, and a blank piece of paper leaves you free to explore possibilities. 

Explore your creativity

One of the most joyful things about art-making is the opportunity it gives you to experiment. Colton says when she starts a painting, she always rotates the canvas partway through to view the piece from a different perspective. This sometimes inspires her to take the painting in a new direction. She also suggests trying a new color or a different medium. Even stepping away from a piece and then coming back to it can be helpful.

“You want to let your creativity guide you, rather you guiding your creativity,” Colton says. “I find I’m the most joyful when I just play and experiment and see what happens.”

Art projects can be joyful on your own or as a group

Colton says your focus should guide whether you do it independently or with a group of friends. If you’re playing around or learning a new type of art, it can be fun to do that in a group. Taking a class to learn about a specific kind of art-making can be helpful. Colton said it could be good to start with a single class and then sign up for more, if you decide you enjoy it. There are also community education classes and many art tutorials on YouTube. But if you’re looking for some time for introspection or a break from daily life, making art by yourself is probably the way to go.

Avoid the agenda

Colton warns that viewing art as self-care isn’t always helpful. To experience joy while art-making, you don’t want it to be purpose-driven. It’s more about fun and play.

“Make art for yourself. It’s not a box to check. Find the joy in it without an agenda,” Colton says.