OVER the past two weeks, I have shared “water” and “words” as my “ones” in reducing family anxiety. My third and final installment is a bit more fun and also my favorite: art.
As the world continues to struggle in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has sounded alarm bells that “children and young people may be feeling more isolated, anxious, bored and uncertain. They may feel fear and grief over the impact of the virus on their families.”
As adults, especially for our elderly who may be more isolated, the case is no different. With cases at an all-time high, we cannot help but feel even more fearful even as we try to quiet the fear. We try to reach back in our minds for the normalcy that once defined our lives, in the hopes of finding comfort even in the mundane, but inevitably the worries come up. My initial reaction some months ago was to dismiss the fears offhand. Fast forward to today, and I can say my reaction to these moments of panic is to breathe and then remind myself that “many things in life, regardless of how much we plan, are just not in our control.” Then, I turn to art.
Art for me is a visual release and an avenue to relaxation. I am not an art collector but I do like buying art that soothes. Recently, I found this Paulina Luz Sotto piece from our fundraising in Ateneo, which I have positioned to be visible right when I go down our stairs. Art is also that one activity that when you pick up a colored medium, allows you to feel lost in the beginning because you do not where to start. Then it allows you to start even with a dot, line or shape, letting you then flow freely without having to be answerable to anyone but your own eyes. Once you are done, you realize there is nothing wrong with having no control. This is quite a difficult thing to absorb especially for highly driven and successful people. That’s why my daughter Meagan and I thought of gifting my dad with an art case with Crayola markers, colored pencils and crayons inside. Meagan wrote a note inside to ask her “Kongkong” to write her encouraging quotes in Mandarin using these materials.
Not everyone is a verbal communicator. It is also not always easy to put our feelings into words, nor do many have the courage to share such writing to people, especially when it involves revealing our vulnerabilities. This simple and child-like visual exercise, in my opinion, allows us to unconsciously pour our thoughts and even inner tantrums into something tangible. It’s like talking out loud by yourself.
One can even find a professional to conduct art therapy sessions. For example, according to Arttherapyblog.com, “art therapy for children can provide kids with an easier way to express themselves since children are more naturally artistic and creative.”
However, it also states that “if you go into art as therapy and learn about the basic concepts and ideas that it represents, then you can learn a lot about yourself through your own isolated creative expression. It’s something you can do on your own to just relieve stress, discover yourself in new ways, etc.”
Below are some of the simple ways, which I have tried, on how you can start feeling lighter with art:
Pencil Art—Get a regular or a 6B pencil. Look around at the easiest thing you can draw or trace. Then play around with the shades, on how dark or light you want to repeatedly shade the image. That freedom alone to decide is a start. Then cap it with your own title. Mine in February 1997 was: “If you think you’re alone in your struggles, Think Again.”
Traced Art—If you want to go further but are not confident with your drawing skills, you can buy an onion skin to trace over a picture. You can also get a carbon paper and trace below it. Free-flowing art happens because while you choose to copy an image, you can then add your own elements of, say, a sun, star or patterns; and color with any medium you choose. Again, label it afterwards. I labeled mine “However Steep the Road May Be…”
Digital Art—For our kids, they may prefer to create art digitally. Encourage them to find a photo they like then manipulate it through photo applications. Both my daughter and I love using Canva.
Free Art—When you get bolder, pick up any medium that you feel like that day—paint, cray-pas, markers, crayons or craft materials. Start with symbols you like and build your art from there.
Art is my most favorite form of expression. Maybe because it was the medium I coped with most when I was a child. I was labeled as an overly sensitive person in my family. I would usually find expressing my hurt and anger in colors and, forming art through clay and water. It was only when I attended meditation classes at age 28 that my teacher Noelle told me that my sensitivity is a gift.
Today, I thank God even more for showing me art. Without it, I would not have found the beautiful gift of harnessing my sensitivity and bringing art’s colorful beauty into my life.