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Let Art Be Thy Therapy

by J. R. Lowe about a year ago in self help
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Liberation through creation

Ego (Multimedia)

Hippocrates once said:

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

Wise words to live by, but unfortunately, eating a salad doesn't always cut it. Especially when life becomes a little too much to handle and you desperately need a break from... everything.

I often think back to the days when my biggest challenge was selecting the right colours to use for my colouring book. They were much simpler times, and perhaps I took them for granted. As children, we’re so blissfully ignorant of the stress that comes with growing up, until one day it’s too late, and you wake up as an adult with bills to pay, a job to work, and parents to forget to call back.

But what if you could go back to those times? What of you could forget your adult responsibilities, if only for one peaceful moment, every day, and just be you? You can. Not literally, but luckily enough, I've found another way of getting this much needed break from everyday life – art.

At the risk of overloading you with quotes, I think Picasso summed it up really well when he said:

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

Keeping your creativity alive when you grow up is a struggle, especially if you work in the science realm as I do. But using art to let off a little steam after a hard day is revitalising to say the least.

Each and every one of my artworks has a story behind it, and more often than not, they come from a place of frustration. Each piece is a memory that was made in a state of stress or cluttered thoughts which were eventually dumped onto a page and mashed into some form of imagery. The following are just some of the results of my many mindful making breaks, and the stories behind them.

An antipathy to consumerism

More (Lino prints)

I'm not sure when I developed such a profound obsession with the concept of consumerism. I think it was established during my teens when I was under the pressure of deciding what kind of career I wanted to pursue, what university I wanted to apply for and where I wanted to go in life in general.

I was lost. It's a rather overwhelming task to try and pick a career at such a young age. There are so many options, so many possibilities. But the underlying message was always the same - you need to make money. The trend that I had noticed at the time was that no matter how much money or material objects people obtain, they always seem to want more.

It lead me to question a lot about myself, and humanity as a whole. Why are we so greedy? So money-orientated? So... immoral? I suppose I was rather disappointed in myself when I found out I was no different than anyone else in this regard. As much as I hate to admit it, I too am a sucker for consumerism.

How Much Does Your Morality Cost? (Multimedia collage)

A lot of my pieces on this topic were rather satirically inspired by the works of Edvard Munch and Barbara Kruger, which I think is quite blatantly illustrated in my collage How Much Does Your Morality Cost?

Kruger is renowned for the use of red monochromatic colour schemes which snatch the viewer's attention and have eerie connotations of danger. The contrast of red on an achromatic background draws substantial attention to her cleverly constructed phrases.

Edvard Munch's influence, on the other hand, can be easily spotted in the iconic figure from one of his most famous works The Scream. Such an iconic figure was appropriated because, well, I absolutely love and relate to his work. I don't suffer from agoraphobia, but I still adore his work and relate to his inner turmoil, even if it is for a different reason.

I became rather obsessed with his ghostly figure, and decided to have a go at drawing one of my own in this body of work. Its stupefied expression somewhat satirically mocks consumers and the satisfaction that is felt when making purchases, or rather, the incomprehensible horror one experiences when they miss out on the latest sales.

So while I don't suffer from a serious anxiety disorder as Munch once did, I absolutely can relate to the feeling of being overwhelmed with thought, emotions, and expectations. We all need to let out a little 'Scream' every now and then.

A tribute to self-expression

You Don't Know Me (Multimedia - Photography)

Not all of my art is as focussed on global issues like consumerism though. Personality and emotion were always a deep interest of mine as well. As someone who often leaves a lot unsaid, bottling things up is all too common. Will I say something back to the rude woman who pushed in at the check-out? Probably not. Will I go home and unleash absolute havoc on my drawing pad? Absolutely. Take that, Karen.

For this piece I actually got some friends and family involved. It was a rather fun photo-shoot. I didn't stop there though, I asked each of them to write down what they were thinking in a diary over the next few days. After editing the photos, I printed them out onto A2 paper, wrote the text from each of their diaries on the paper, and framed them. They've been hanging on the wall of my parent's lounge room ever since.

People are always so quick to judge, without ever really getting to know people for who they really are. I wanted to create a piece that really captures that concept, and provides a more wholesome representation of who people truly are, beyond the limits of physical appearance.

Through the use of body language, colour psychology and the depiction of highly personal thoughts and emotions, you get to know the models profoundly, without even seeing what these people really look like.

Of course, art doesn't always have to be on a page or a canvas. It doesn't even have to be made in your own home for that matter...

You can quite literally create art from anything, anywhere, anytime. If you want a breath of fresh air, then go for a walk. Let nature inspire you.

Untitled (literally just random stuff on the beach)

I'm not even sure what was on my mind when I made this. But whatever it was, it manifested itself as a series of patterns in the sand. While I absolutely love creating art that has satirical underlying meaning, sometimes mindlessly tracing patterns in the ground and arranging objects is all you need to clear your mind.

Or why not recycle cheap art from the shop?

Untitled (yes I literally just painted over a $10 canvas I bought from the store)

After purchasing this cheap painting from the store and hanging it in my house for the past four years (right image), I decided it was time for a personal touch (left image). Maybe it was the stress or the boredom that came in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the announcement of yet another lockdown that finally pushed me to do it. Either way, it was certainly a liberating experience.

I felt like I was going insane in lockdown, and I had been eyeing up that plain canvas painting for several months prior. So one evening, I finally lost the plot, poured myself a generous glass of wine, ripped the canvas off the wall, and painted over it with the only paint I had in the house at the time.

I think the final result sums up how I was feeling at the time pretty well - isolated, and patiently watching the world sort itself out from my own special place. As an introvert, I was quite comfortable being at home with the household dog, but it was also rather unnerving not knowing when I'd be able to safely leave the house again.

The new canvas is currently hanging in my living room, and every time I walk past it, I smile a little at the memory.

Art is therapy

So whether you're creating things from scratch, thoughtlessly organising random objects on the beach, or recycling old artworks into something new and personal, art is a platform for self expression and an avenue to achieve a much needed break from life.

Having creative projects is not only key to unwinding, but it's also vital in getting to know yourself better.

Art is therapy - so go forth and create!

self help

About the author

J. R. Lowe

I confess, I don't exactly have a specific topic or writing style, or an organised train of thought for that matter. On the plus side, that means there's probably something here everyone ;)


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