Art making is SO good for your mental health
My name is Alana and I am a 22-year-old Brisbane artist. I deliberately make mental health a focus of my art practice because for me, art has been an outlet, a place to say what I need to say, and a way to clarify my own thoughts.
I struggled as a teenager- and sometimes still do- with depressive and anxious thoughts about myself and my future, debilitating self-doubt, and a rather shaky sense of who I am. Through those particularly difficult and crippling moments I used art as a way to cope and eventually, I got the opportunity to travel around Australia for two years and share my experiences in art and mental health with various audiences in every state as part of my job. I still love to speak about art and how it is GREAT to find some solace in creating something.
Here’s the thing: Art totally does not need to be about skill. It doesn’t even have to be shared with others. If you can “only draw stick people” (the absolute first thing anyone says to me when we chat about art) you still qualify. If you need somewhere to say something, and you enjoy creating, art can 100% be the thing that pulls you out of whatever dark corner you might mentally find yourself in (and if that’s you, I’m real sorry about that- you are totally not by yourself in it…and you will NOT always feel that way).
One of my drawings is called “My Fears And Flaws Are Magnified In My Mind’s Eye And Sometimes They Get The Better Of Me” (…. long titles are something I enjoy). I drew this to give myself the gentle reminder that sometimes the way I see things can be distorted in my mind. For me, this specifically was about being self-critical and learning to take a step back and realise I was being way too harsh towards myself.
Another drawing I did is called “My Future Is Spread Out Before Me On The Table, I Just Can’t Quite Reach It Yet.”
This drawing was one I drew when I was 18, fresh out of high school, and completely petrified about what my future held. I was full to the brim of doubts about my capabilities, and I perceived the world to be quite hostile. The drawing presents me as a little child on a ladder, and I am unable to see or reach the banquet on the table. The main message from this artwork is that it is okay to feel small; that no one knows what their future holds. I found comfort through drawing this in realizing that it is okay to live with uncertainty- and that everyone has a feast of a future spread out and prepared…and the future doesn’t need to be visible yet.
I published a book earlier in 2016 about resilience- it is a conversational, whimsical book full of drawings and ideas (most are my work, I got about 11 contributors to add their thoughts). There is so much more to explore in this field and so much more we have yet to learn about the way we think and the way we wade through painful experiences in life. It is such an important conversation to be open to having.
If you are struggling with the clouds in your mind, I’d love to tell you this:
The sun DOES comes out (promise), you are more powerful than you realise, and picking up a paintbrush or pencil might just clear your grey skies that little bit more.