At least those 4 elements have improved measurably in my life as a direct result of art.
How? That’s probably what you are thinking.
For those who know me well enough, there might be some surprised looks as you read this, general head scratching and ‘what is he going on about?’ thoughts too.
It’s been a journey over a few years and it has lead to some amazing changes for me as a person.
Like many, school was an off-putting experience when it came to art for me, according to an extensive study by Brene Brown, possibly one of my favourite authors and if you get a chance check out her fab Ted Talk, she discovered that 85% of adults had a shaming experience that still affected their self-confidence in adult life and of those people the vast majority had the shaming from art.
Art is visual, no hiding place, and ridicule is scarring. Most adults when you approach them about doing some art laugh and say things like ‘I can’t draw’. Yet, I believe we are all artists, all capable of expressing ourselves through art and like everything, the more you practice the easier you find to create better work. Better means, the best that you can do, not measured against others, as comparison does not serve any of us any good.
So for most of my adult life after school I hardly did any form of art, well as a student and youth I did a lot of ‘art’, but that was more, ok stop. I did do a bit of colouring in when we had young kids and always loved doing that.
It wasn’t until about 4 years ago, that my mate Doug got me into art when we hosted a mini-version of one of his fab ‘Art for Work’s Sake’ workshops at my coworking space. He started everyone off with ‘drawing for the bin’, as we all pretty much thought we couldn’t draw, although deep down I always wanted to do art and thought that I was good until the voice in my head said ‘don’t be silly’. Drawing for the bin is a warm up exercise that removes the pressure of having to produce something for others or to keep, so just scribbling or having a go at drawing with no pressure as you’re throwing it away is hugely liberating.
Anyway, the session started me off on my journey with art that has now taken me to be doing art on a daily basis, totally loving it, running a weekly Art Club and now teaming up with Doug and Stephanie to run ‘The Art of Innovation’ workshops in London and Berlin this coming June & July.
OK then, how has art helped my creativity, connections, self-confidence and well-being?
Self-confidence is one of the starting points for many things and the shaming of school art can knock us particularly as art is visual, so to become brave enough to do some art again and then have the confidence to start to share that with the world was a big step for me, even though I was in my mid-forties, it was still stepping into the unknown.
What happened was people started to like it and compliment. Looking back on some of the earlier stuff I shared, no doubt out of pure kindness!!! But that initial feedback and my own evaluation of my work, more importantly, gave me the confidence to continue and it made me feel generally good about myself, which has and is having a boost to other things that I do
It also gave me the courage to try more ambitious things and as I was now sharing my work in a non-judgemental and non-shaming environment I felt safe to do so.
So I have gone from mainly pencil drawings to now using inks, pastels, oil pastels, watercolours, acrylic paint, oil paints, charcoals, and many materials and methods.
It has encouraged me to have the self-confidence to just start things, practice, experiment and get better. This has reduced my fear of starting things, not just art, but in general.
Creativity is hard if you limit yourself to things you have always done, obvious as this seems, if you keep trying the same things, don’t be overly surprised to get the same results. Art has enabled me to experiment with things and that has again spilt over into other elements of my life. I have definitely become more creative in my approach to challenges and often turning those challenges into visual things like mindmaps or sketches has allowed me to think more diversely and differently about solutions and strategies to cope with problems.
Connections are critical to our success in life. If we have ideas, unless we connect with others and share them, they are simply that, ‘ideas’, and ideas are cheap. If we want to realise our dreams we need to connect with others and I have found art is a great way of doing that. Whenever we have to do something together and where we have to be creative, make something, draw, paint etc, we form a bond with others and it helps build a stronger connection to people.
Since starting my Art Club I have made loads of new connections with people and as it is not in the normally ‘buy my stuff’ in your face networking environment, you connect with people in a more genuine way.
Finally, and not to be overlooked, well-being, and the enhancement of mine through art has been one of the best outcomes from choosing to take up art and practice doing some art on a daily basis and once a week within a group environment.
The boost to self-confidence along does wonders for our wellness, added to the therapeutic nature of art, a form of meditation where you become completely wrapped up and focused on the art so that you relax and switch off from the world around and your mind switches off too.
If you get a chance, wherever you are and whatever you have planned for the day, grab a pencil or a pen, a scrap of paper and draw something, as Doug says ‘for the bin’, so there is no pressure. Then keep that going for a week, a month or a lifetime and I guarantee you will reap so many benefits. What have you got to lose?
If you fancy coming along to our London or Berlin workshops or just finding out more then click here.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.