Creating art brings you many mental and emotional benefits, whether it’s scrapbooking or photography. Here’s how you can discover your artistic talent. By Janice Lin
For most of us, painting or drawing is something we’ve not done since art classes in school. And while most of us will never need to pick up a paint brush, there is a case to be made for taking on art as a hobby.
Psychologists have long studied the benefits of creating art and art therapy — studies suggest it helps lower stress and anxiety levels and improve concentration. The process of creating art puts you in a state of mind that psychologists refer to as “flow”. When we are in flow, our minds are wholly absorbed in the activity we’re carrying out, so much that we “lose ourselves” in the activity and stop thinking about everything else — the stresses at work, family obligations and even the physical exhaustion we may feel. Flow has an effect that is similar to meditation, as it helps clear your mind and counter the body’s natural stress responses.
Beyond reducing stress, art also helps you build confidence and feel happier. The process of creating something new on your own releases dopamine in the brain, which contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Dopamine also keeps us motivated — increases in the chemical fuel our anticipation of reward and causes us to become more driven in finishing our tasks. This, in turn, leads to the sense of accomplishment we get when we finally complete our artwork.
Over a longer period of time, this helps us build confidence in ourselves — as well as our artistic abilities. Knowing that you can not only pick up a new skill, but also work towards mastering it boosts your sense of self-efficacy — the belief in your ability to set goals and achieve them.
Any form of art can be your outlet. Try picking up a pencil and sketching for a start, or if you are feeling more ambitious, go for a cake decorating or pottery class. The best way to begin to identify your area of interest and how you prefer to express yourself.
But if you are still unsure where to start, try looking at courses offered by NUSS, in partnership with the National Silver Academy (NSA), which has, since 2017, offered members and guests a range of courses ranging from the humanities to information technology, science, finance and business, as well as arts and design.
Two NSA instructors, Ms Chi Pin Lay and Ms Audrey Ng, provide some tips on the art they teach.
Chi Pin Lay, Journey in Ink
Journey in Ink is more than just your typical Chinese calligraphy class — it encourages the practice of mindfulness in participants, through the use of specific brush strokes and techniques such as ink dilution.
Tip 1: Chinese ink brush painting requires patience, so rushing the whole process to get a finished product is not helpful. Get to know your brush and rice papers. Does your brush hold enough water? What happens if I tilt it, or push it against the grain of the rice paper? These are the actions that require full concentration, and our instructors will be on hand to guide you through each class.
Tip 2: Set up a painting corner in your room. You’ll only need a table, two brushes, a piece of cloth, some rice papers and black ink. By setting up your own corner, you’ll be more motivated to pick up your brush when you have free time.
Tip 3: Paint to express yourself and enjoy the process of dipping your brush in ink, pigment and water.
Tip 4: Inspire yourself by looking at beautiful calligraphy. Try various social media platforms, such as Pinterest or Instagram.
Audrey Ng, Japanese Pastel Nagomi Art
Nagomi art is a form of art therapy that is done using gentle strokes of one’s fingers and soft, pastel powder. The process of creating this promotes inner calmness and focus in the artist.
Tip 1: Identify which objects or themes you will paint first — and be adventurous! Explore what’s on your mind and don’t be afraid to put it on paper.
Tip 2: When painting, learn to empty your mind, relax and listen to the images, sensations and draw with joy. You’ll begin to feel self-fulfilment, self-satisfaction, self-affirmation and self-love. Pride and confidence will be enhanced, along with a sense of bliss.
Tip 3: The process is more important than the final product, so don’t rush it. This is your “me” time, so use it to fully enjoy the process of what you’re creating.
Additional reporting by Susan Dickie