Why Art is so good for you.
Looking at it, owning it and creating it.
It is good for you.
Grayson Perry has most recently described art as therapy. He commented that whatever is bubbling under the in the artist’s subconscious will come through in their artwork, and in turn will speak to the viewer’s subconscious. Art has an immediacy in its language all of its own, that kind of therapy simply can't be bought! And I’ve begun to wonder whether or not I, and other artists take it for granted.
I think there is something wonderful about wandering round a gallery and simply becoming absorbed in the art work that I'm looking at. Sometimes I might know the artwork well, it might be incredibly famous, or something that I have studied before. As often than not, as I get older, I become more and more drawn to things that I have never seriously looked at before! I am drawn to artists that I hadn't previously studied. Grayson Perry is right, art can communicate from creator to viewer in an immediate way. It's good for us to see and “feel” art.
Alain de Botton has even written and entire book entitled “Art as therapy”. It's brilliant and I heartily recommend it.
He refers to the idea that art helps us recall, remember and make safe our memories. The wonderful piece by Jean Baptist Regnault pondering the start of painting; depicting a young couple in love. The woman, so afraid she will forget her lover's face, traced his shadow with a pieces of charcoal. It's beautiful and touching, (regardless of its accuracy) it makes me think of how we often wish to make mental pictures and artists used to be the only people that could truly help with that!
One thing that really strikes us when we look at art is the view. The creation of a window on the world. In Britain especially we are drawn to enormous skies and seascapes; is this because we are an island race? a nation of sailors? who knows, but seascapes appear to be the paintings speaking to us when we visit galleries.
Most recently I have been working on a series of animals and these seem to speak to people even more than my landscapes and views. Again we are nation of animal lovers, we can't get enough of them. People seem to become very attached to paintings of animals very quickly they start saying “I love him” or “look at her she's so sweet” when looking at one of my cows, sheep or ducks. I think it is interesting how quickly we can engage in work of art, albeit a beautiful one, simply because it is speaking to us on a different level.
I also think the art helps us in our daily lives because it can raise our own sense of self and self esteem. This isn't simply about status and showing off at a dinner party, though a large oil painting in our lounge can well do that! But it raises our esteem by making us smile. Every time we walk past our painting we feel a little bit of warmth inside us, we might remember the place the work depicts or the lovely day we bought the work of art. Or maybe it's our own self conscious filling in the gaps and sending us somewhere else.
There is new trend in adult colouring books now, supposedly as a kind of art therapy or a kind of arty mindfulness. I don't mind adult colouring in at all in fact I think it's a lovely little hobby and can be calming. But creating art, or learning to draw is even better for you than colouring in. Last night there was a program on TV called “How to stay young” , they made reference to going to life drawing in order to help your brain stay young. Life drawing is an extraordinary activity and unlike constantly doing sudoko puzzles for instance, life drawing presents a completely different challenge every time you sit down to draw.
I regularly go to life drawing even though very little of my professional works are are figures, but life drawing keeps me fresh, there's always something to learn and is an artist it contributes to your skill. As a non-artist, if you attend life drawing classes incredible things will happen to your brain as both sides of the brain engage in the activity and create electrical impulses all across your brain. Even if there isn’t a life drawing class or art workshop near you, you can reap the benefits by drawing anything from direct observation. It’s best that you're not copying a photograph because the problem has already been solved - a 2D photo into a 2-D drawing. However sitting down and drawing one of the dining room chairs, or drawing the view through the door from one room can create an incredible exercise for your brain. You'll also find it wonderfully relaxing as well it's something you can do every day if you want to.
So I urge you this week, try to get some art in your life
Go and have a look at some art work in a gallery, even a small local gallery or pay attention to the art work you might see in a local coffee shop or restaurant and let some art in your life.
Draw. Just do a little drawing, don't worry about showing it to anyone. But do draw.
Because art is good for you.
It really is.