I've been allowing myself to doodle, color, draw, and paint to my heart's content lately without any attachment to how anything "turns out" and it is SO freeing! I've never really thought of myself as a perfectionist, but I realized recently that I have been denying myself the joy and healing that comes from creating art just because I didn't think I had a good idea of what to draw or paint. That is, I had some ideas for major paintings that had been turning around in my head for a while, but I would never let myself start on them; always just waiting for the perfect inspiration so I would feel really "ready" to create what was in my head. That is a long-winded way of saying I was afraid of failing at doing art.
I'm so thankful I realized how perfectionism and fear of failure were robbing me of the potential for spiritual healing and connection through creating art. When you look at creating art for those reasons rather than trying to make a "good" painting that people like, it becomes a sacred activity that frees you to explore and give voice to your heart!
The simplest form of art therapy is doodling, scribbling, and coloring. Coloring can ease you into an alpha brainwave state, especially when you use the best materials. A five-year old recently taught me the perfect tool for coloring, and although I initially resisted her suggestion, I finally realized that she was absolutely right. What is this ultimate coloring tool? The gel pen.
Coloring with pencils or crayons is relaxing too, but there is something special about the way the gel pen flows color onto the blank paper so effortlessly and smoothly—it's exquisite! And it relaxes me so much as I hypnotically watch my hand moving the pen across the paper to line-by-line fill the void with richly flowing color. Ahh!
If you don't have one of the many lovely adult coloring books available, you can find free coloring pages online to print out. To really free-hand it, try closing your eyes and scribbling onto the page; then open your eyes and make shapes out of the scribbles or just add color freely. This can be a very meditative activity that contributes to your mental focus.
Art therapy is an arm of psychology and can be a very in-depth form of emotional counseling. However there are also many resources available to try art therapy projects on your own for fun, inspiration, and even healing and self-discovery.
Two of the most basic art therapy projects that I have enjoyed are very simple ideas. The first idea is to create a series of self-portraits depicting you in various moods, not worrying about how much it looks like you but concentrating on expressing a specific mood. There are infinite variations on this idea when you imagine the different materials that can be used and the different moods that you might depict.
The second idea is to create an imaginary landscape. Include hills and valleys, and let the hills symbolize times in your life when you were experiencing something happy and positive. Let the valleys symbolize a time when you were unhappy or experiencing low energy levels. Maybe you want to draw a bridge across two of the hills? Anything goes in your imaginary landscape. Maybe you draw an escape route of some kind out of your "valley of despair" to remind you that there are more hills—or "highs"—on the horizon.
I discovered an inspiring artist/life coach named Whitney Freya who talks about using symbols in her paintings. She throws liberal amounts of paint on her canvas with absolutely no inhibitions, using intuition to guide her next color choice or brush stroke.
She talks about choosing a symbol for yourself to use in your paintings, something that elicits an energy and quality you want to magnify in your life. This could be a lotus flower, the sun or the moon, or even an animal image that "speaks" to you.
Using a symbol in your artwork can give you a starting point to which color, shapes, or even words can be added. Freya also talks about creating "shamanic" paintings where she gets into a meditative state and then freely paints affirmative words on the canvas, then a symbol of her choosing, then adding paint or even collage elements that end up covering up the affirmative words written on the canvas, choosing every color and brush stroke with the intention of the words in mind.
This kind of painting can be very healing and inspiring for the artist creating it, but also for the audience enjoying it. I believe it has a certain "magic" embedded in it by the strong intention of the artist. The use of symbols in these "magic" paintings speak directly to the subconscious mind, and the underpainting of affirmative words gives even more energy to the positive intention embedded in the painting.