3 Creative Ways You Can De-Stress Through Art at Any Level

By Deanna Kei | Posted May 18, 2023

When we hear the term “R&R” the usual methods come to mind: meditation, yoga, maybe a trip to a spa- but those don’t work for everyone. Relaxation isn’t a “one size fits all” concept. If you’re searching for a solution that will get your mind moving and allow you to focus as much or as little as you want, while still shaving off stress, then maybe you’re ready to exercise your creative side and de-stress through art.

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Below I’m sharing my three favorite ways to de-stress through art.

The best part is that anyone can enjoy these simple exercises no matter what your experience level is. You don’t need to identify as an artist to benefit from them.

Art is a form of active meditation. You can try out new things without worrying about logic and will learn as you let your senses lead you. It can be something you do just for yourself. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. There’s no pressure, and you can set your own pace.

The three exercises I’m going to share are forms of doodling, painting, and coloring. These are just guides. You’ll make each exercise your own.

1. Get yourself in the zone

Put on your favorite playlist, grab some markers, and some papers. We’re not aiming to create a masterpiece here so you can even grab some old newspapers or recycled cardboard for a sustainable canvas option. 

Once you’re all set up and have your music playing, you’re ready to scribble to the beat. Let your arm really flow and have your colors dance through the marker across the paper. Imagine that your marker is an ice skater. Guide them across your canvas as if they’re skating to your music. If you feel like dancing too, go for it! 

You’ll find aimlessly scribbling lines and colors to be really therapeutic. Switch back and forth between colors and watch how each new shade changes the scene. I like using markers for this exercise because the colors layer. 

The purpose of this exercise is to get your arm and hand loose, and to also loosen up your mind and consciousness. You may or may not create something beautiful, but you’ll definitely enjoy the process. It’s also a great technique for illustrators to practice pen pressure and line quality, and a way to play with different color combinations. 

You can also follow up this exercise with a series of doodles. Keep your music playing for inspiration and see what you come up with!

2. Watch the path develop in front of you

Art can be a great vehicle for expressing your emotions and feelings -but you don’t always have to have an end goal. Sometimes I just like to let the colors drip down the page and watch where they land. In a drip painting your brush stroke is the catalyst, but then the colors transform and take their own direction and become something unplanned and beautiful on their own. 

To get started, you’ll need some water color paints and a canvas. (I like to use canvases for this exercise because you don’t have to worry about the water or colors seeping through and making a mess if you over-saturate it.) Pick your favorite color and paint a wet line across the top of the canvas. Then stand the canvas up and watch the color run down it like a stream rushing across new ground after a heavy rain. 

You can play with the amount of water and color you add. You can also add different colors and watch them mix and dance around each other.  Experiment with turning the canvas on its sides, and standing it upside down. Each turn creates a new direction for your stream of colors to flow in. As the paints are drying, you can add more water to create even more runoff and reinvigorate some colors while adding new ones. Try placing your color at different shapes and starting the runoff from different heights on the canvas. 

Water color paints are light and airy and create light soothing scenes. Sitting back and watching the water take its own course is so calming. This is my absolute favorite way to clear my head. 

You might not want to hang your piece on the wall – (my closet is full of drip canvases that I can’t hang) – but maybe you’ll surprise yourself!

3. Lose yourself in color

Coloring books are a great alternative for those who love art but feel uncomfortable starting with a blank page. The pre-drawn lines give you the freedom to lose yourself in the scene and let it take over your senses. You can hear the sound of the pencils scratching the paper; feel the resistance of the texture on the tip of your crayons; see the way each new color brings that section to life. 

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, experiment with picking a small set of colors to play with. Maybe you’ll only pull out different shades of blues and greens and will fill your page with just those tones. See how each color story makes you feel.

You can even get some inspiration for styling and mixing colors for your own outfits. If coloring and fashion are your thing, check out my coloring book: Fashion In Color: A Fashion Coloring. 

Colors can help us express and even elevate our moods, feelings, and emotions. Sometimes it’s wonderful just to surround yourself in a color that fits the vibe you’d like to have for the day. My office is purple. I feel the most inspired and calm when I’m in that purple room. I have sheer purple curtains, too so when the sun streams through my window, it creates a purple tint on my workspace. You don’t have to go as far as repainting your room to match your mood, though. Through the exercises above you can create your own color journey and see where it leads you!

There is a form of art for each person.

Sometimes people will tell me they don’t feel like they’re artistically talented. I believe there is a form of art for each person. Many people just haven’t found theirs yet.

  • If you feel the drive to create something but are frustrated by a lack of control with a pencil, give sculpting a try.
  • If you don’t think that’s for you then maybe flower arranging is your thing.
  • If you feel yourself getting stressed, change courses.

Sometimes I’ll have an off day with drawing and that’s fine. I’ll pull out my paintbrush instead. The outlets are endless. Giving yourself the space to try new things is so important for your mental health.