Little Art School co-founders, Joanne and Melissa, explain how research and experience have come together with the Little Art School to demonstrate how you can increase your happiness by learning to draw and paint
In the last eight years we have had had hundreds of artists of all ages pass through our studios. In the last year, since the launch of our Online Course, we have welcomed many more people from further afield to our Little Art School family. We believe with absolute conviction that learning to draw and paint can help to calm the mind, to increase your sense of well-being and help you to feel happier. We have seen it on so many occasions; heard the exclamations ‘I was so stressed and unhappy when I started, it’s all just faded away!’ more times than we can count. We know because we see it but does research back up our own anecdotal findings?
Categorically yes! Paper after paper have been published showing the benefits of drawing and painting on wellbeing. Many Studies show that art can make you happier. Academics state that the reason behind this is that doing something you love releases endorphins – feel-good chemicals that combat stress and reduce pain. Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, who battled chronic pain throughout her life once famously said “I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy as long as I can paint”.
How does drawing and painting release these endorphins and reduce stress? A big reason is that art has the power to engage you so fully, bringing you into the present moment. It truly distracts you from other worries – it is hard to dwell on troubles once in the flow of a painting. This is something we have all experienced ourselves as well as seen in students of all ages; from 5 to 105. When you are head down mixing paint or drawing lines, your stress levels lower and you are left feeling mentally clear and calm.
Creating art also provides a distraction, giving your brain a break from your usual thoughts. When you are totally immersed in a creative endeavour, you may find yourself in what’s known as “the zone” or a state of “flow.” This meditative-like state focuses your mind and temporarily pushes aside all your worries.
Creating art also trains you to concentrate on details and pay more attention to your environment. This ‘seeing like an artist’ is something we encourage every lesson, in our studio-based classes for children and in our online course for adults. We have had many students report back that they begin to see the world around them in a different way. In this way, it acts like meditation.
Perhaps one of the most important ways that art can increase your happiness is that it builds self-esteem. This is at the heart of everything we do at the Little Art School; it is our ‘why’. Painting provides a challenge and you constantly build skills. It is an activity with an absolutely tangible result, a drawing or a painting that everyone can see. The more our students dedicate themselves they can see improvement and feel a sense of achievement.
For our children showing their paintings to proud parents, grandparents, friends and teachers really boosts their self-esteem. For our adult online students displaying their latest work of art, either at home or sharing online, instils the same feeling. This increases the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine; it gives you that “I did it!” feeling when you accomplish what you set out to do.
Let’s leave the final words to Picasso, as always, he can sum up so much in just a few strokes of a brush or a very few words:
“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” — Pablo Picasso
If you would like to find out more about enrolling your children in our classes or signing up for our online course for adults, visit our website. We believe anyone can learn to draw and paint and that learning, the Little Art School way, will lessen stress and increase self-esteem.
*Normalisation of salivary cortisol levels and self-report stress by a brief lunchtime visit to an art gallery – Angela Clow with Cathrine Fredhoi, University of Westminster 2006
*How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity – Anne Bolwerk, Christian Maihofner, July 2014.