Do you ever ask yourself the question, 'why paint?'
When the idea of learning to paint first started to tug at me it was a thing that troubled me.
What purpose does painting serve?
Does painting matter?
Yes… I’m an overthinker… perhaps you can relate.
I can only conclude that painting really is important and the benefits of painting are many and varied. At first glance, painting is simply a relaxing hobby. But there is so much more - painting has both intellectual and spiritual benefits. It is a mindfulness practice and a communication tool. It is a form of therapy that meets you where you need it (even if you think you don’t need it). Painting teaches you to appreciate what is in front of you and leaves you with a more optimistic outlook on life. And did I mention it is fun?
Paint for your mental and emotional well being
Painting for communication
Sometimes you need to say something without using words. There are times when a few blobs and dashes are enough to get things off your chest. Georgia O’Keefe explains it so well…
Painting for self expression
Painting might be wordless communication, but sometimes it is only after painting that you realise that you had something to say in the first place. The words of this writer applies equally, I think, to other forms of creative expression like painting.
Painting for self discovery
Whether you intend it to be or not, I find that painting is an exercise in self exploration.
The creative process can be a mirror to your strengths and weaknesses in things like handling criticism, being persistent, and letting go.
Painting helps you to remember who you really are and what you really want.
Paint because grown ups need to play too
Play is not just for kids. When we play, we get to safely experiment, explore and discover. Start to paint and you end up learning all sorts of things about yourself and your world that you just didn’t see before.
Psychologist, Dr Stuart Brown, says the opposite of play is depression.
Play is vital.
It is not just something children do in preparation for adulthood but a biological process necessary in all phases of life. Neuroscientists have worked out that play lights up our brains - there is even an entire scholarly journal dedicated to it, The American Journal of Play!
Want to start playing with a free class?
Paint for your spiritual well being
Paint to be present
I always say that painting is like meditating for people who don’t like meditation. It is a bit of a reset button.
When you find yourself absorbed in the business of working on your painting, you have a single focus on the task at hand. You are fully present and in the very beneficial creative ‘flow’ state.
This is mindfulness.
I can’t think of an easier or more fun way of practicing mindfulness. Can you?
Paint to be still
You may have related to my earlier point about the sort of guilt we sometimes feel about doing nothing. Thing is - rest is just as important as activity. You can’t have one without the other.
Painting is a way to do nothing, while still doing something.
If you find it hard to slow down and rest, give painting a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Paint to reverse the flow
The modern world bombards us with stimulation, doesn’t it? I mean, is it just me, or do you have days when you feel like a slave to the world’s machine, having your day dictated by every beeping notification, ringing phone and email. On days like these what I really need is a way to reverse the flow of that energy.
Instead of being a consumer of information reacting to alerts, using your hands is a perfect way to you remember your own voice, not just as a responder but as an instigator.
Paint to remember your own creative power
When you paint, it demonstrates to you that you have your own creative power - not just in the whole woo way (!) but a practical reminder that you can, with your own two hands, create something that previously did not exist in its current form.
Paint for the relaxation benefits
Paint because it’s a fun hobby
Who doesn't need a bit more fun in their life?
Actually I think the fact that it is fun is part of the reason we start questioning our motives for painting in the first place. Once you get into the serious business of adulting, nearly everything you do is for a Very Good Reason. Some sort of sensible useful purpose.
Exercise because you need to stay fit and healthy.
Turn up for work because you need to get paid.
Attend that boring work/family function because it is your duty.
Doing all these necessary things becomes the norm. So when you find yourself doing something for fun there is a sense of guilt.
Are you wasting valuable time?
Couldn’t you be more productive elsewhere?
Fun doesn’t seem to be a good enough reason. But it really, really is.
Doing something fun regenerates you, giving you the energy to do the things that are necessary.
Paint because you don’t have to
How much of your day is scripted?
I came to painting at a point in my life where I felt like some sort of puppet. Every minute of the day seemed to have tasks I was required to do. Not many of them felt like my choice.
Taking up a hobby like painting was like a breath of fresh air. You won’t believe how liberating it is to do something that you don’t have to do.
Paint for the cheapest therapy ever
Paint because its better than therapy
I’m sure you know that art therapy is a thing. Before I started painting ‘art therapy’ ‘brought to my mind images of white coated doctors, traumatised children and serious mental health concerns. It applies to all of those for sure, but please don’t underestimate the therapeutic power of a little painting to salve the normal neuroses of everyday life.
Painting has something to offer everyone.
Sit down with a cup of tea and juicy paintbrush and I am sure you will agree.
A spot of painting can occupy your monkey mind while your clever unconscious mind unpacks your troubles.
Paint because Colour makes you happier
I don’t know about you, but a splash of bright colour just makes me plain happy. Or if it is soft blue or mauve, it makes me feel calmer.
There are some studies that show that colour does influence our moods, feelings and behaviours. Ancient cultures have used it as therapy - a healing modality called chromotherapy, which you can still find today.
Frankly, I don’t really care whether it has been scientifically proved or not. I know, without doubt, that playing with the rainbow of colour in my paintbox will always leave me smiling.
How about you?
Paint for the tactile pleasure of working with your hands
Now I love technology. I mean I really love it. I remember the days before the internet, and I relish each new opportunity to learn, connect, and more easily manage most aspects of daily life that our tech driven world offers. I love that i could theoretically acquire pretty much anything I need at the press of a button.
But…. there has to be a trade off doesn’t there… ?
Since you can now buy the things you need we work so much less with our hands. Whether it is baking the daily bread, sewing the clothes you need to wear or writing a letter (you know with…. um, a pen and paper and postage stamps and all) we used to use our hands so much more. And there is a therapeutic tactile pleasure to those activities that we no longer find in the everyday.
Our hands where meant to be used to construct, repair and create. Dr Kelly Lambert, a neuroscientist and psychologist, found that meaningful handwork boosts mood and that decreased hand use is linked to depression.
Paint for the Intellectual Well being and Stimulation
Paint to keep learning
It is a wonderful thing to be learning something new - at any age.
When you are little life is an adventure and everything seems new because there is always something to learn.
It’s a marvellous thing that you can still have that experience. I find painting offers me seemingly endless new challenges to tackle. Now there’s a way to feel young again.
In fact, learning something new actually changes your brain. As you practice the new skill of learning to paint the myelin (white matter in your brain) becomes more dense. The more dense the myelin the better you learn. So learning a new skill like painting actually helps you learn other things faster over time.
Paint to exercise your decision making muscle
Some of us are better at making decisions than others. At times, this is a question of trusting your own judgement. How marvellous that when you paint you get to exercise your decision making muscle on low consequence choices.
Paint to expand your imagination
When you paint, you open the door to your imagination. The question you keep returning to is what if…
What if that lamp post wasn’t there?
What if her hair were blue?
What if I add a butterfly or two?
Once you start your imagination going, you might be surprised at what it comes up with. The more you use it, the more imaginative you become.
Don’t believe me? Guess you will have to give it a try then….
Paint to practice problem solving
If there is one thing I can tell you from my own experience it’s that painting involves solving one problem after another. From composition to colour choices to fixing ‘mistakes’ (don’t get me started on that one) a painting comes together by solving the central problem of how to get this blank piece of paper or canvas to reflect the subject and mood one has chosen.
Paint to see with a child’s eye
When you start to learn to paint, it makes you really look at the things around you and see the world with a child’s eye. You acquire a new power of observation.
It is a bit like getting spectacles. Little details that you never noticed before seem to pop out at you. Sunlight is brighter, shadows are beautiful.
Just like a small child, you suddenly find that tiny things hold far more fascination than you ever imagined, like the dewdrop on a blade of grass or the woodgrain on the kitchen table…. And the play of colours between that exuberant yellow sunflower and its deep blue vase.
Painting helps you notice the beauty in what can be a challenging world. This is a more helpful habit than we realise.
What you are practicing is spotting the silver lining. When we appreciate the little things right in front of us and feel gratitude for the tiny joys in the everyday, we gain a more optimistic outlook on life in general.
So, why paint…?…. how can you not?