OPINION: Find therapy in art

Art can soothe, distract during chaotic times



“Find a form of art that speaks to you.”


Because of quarantine, we have to do everything from home, but that doesn’t mean everything needs to be a chore. Some things can be done to release stress and for me, that’s art. I love to draw, and I use that as an outlet for my stress even though I wouldn’t consider myself to be the best artist. I do it because I enjoy it. Art is a creative way to express yourself and to relax. 

Shanda Stinebaugh, graduate teaching assistant and instructor for 2D Foundations, said art is an anchor for her.

“It allows me to get out of my own head every once in a while. It’s like a release valve for me; it lets out some of that steam,” she said. 

Stinebaugh said art you create is not meant for other people, but for yourself, especially right now. While we sit in isolation, making art allows you to get things out of your head and onto paper.

It’s a way to process what’s happening right now, she said. 

“[Art] is a way of taking chaos in our heads and doing something with it, rather than just feeling depressed or anxious,”  Stinebaugh said. 

She said when she first got into the art realm, she felt like she didn’t know what she was doing. But eventually, she overcame those struggles, both personally and professionally, to be where she is right now.

“[Art] has really given me purpose,” Stinebaugh said.

For beginning artists or those just starting to explore mediums, she recommends that you get creative with your art by looking for materials found at home that you can repurpose. Some examples include junk mail or sticks found outside, but Stinebaugh said one could also use basic materials like crayons and colored pencils as a medium. She also suggested keeping a sketchbook and drawing every day.

For inspiration, she recommended looking up visual artists you enjoy and learning about the story behind the art. It might be hard at first, but don’t give up!

“You have to plug past that phase where what you see in your head doesn’t match what you are doing, and just know that over time, what you see can be something that you create,” Stinebaugh said.

If drawing doesn’t work, try another art form, like ceramics or sculpting. She said it’s important to try new things until something clicks.

Joe Hedges, assistant professor of painting and intermedia, said art is central to the human experience.

“Setting aside some time to be creative during the day, whether that’s cooking, knitting, doing a sketch or something to kind of release that creative energy can be really healthy,” Hedges said.

Hedges agreed with Stinebaugh that it is especially important during the pandemic to have art or another creative practice to get through the day.

“It can help us through dark times,” Hedges said.

Art is not only a way to destress, but to express your emotions as well, he said.

“We all have a desire to be heard, seen or affirmed in different ways. It’s valuable to be able to make something and to just take pride in it,” Hedges said.

Not only is the art itself important, but also building your own community through art, Hedges said.

He spoke about how in the past, most artists were seen as lone wolves, but now that idea is changing.

“Artists now are more and more willing and encouraged to develop communities … maintaining those communities is vital,” Hedges said.

He said some people can be held back by the fear of rejection or judgment toward the final product of something they create, but he believes the key to getting over that comes with “a little bit of tenacity and practice.”

To Hedges, finding a form of art that speaks to you is a good way to start.

“The important thing is to find a medium that gets you very excited,” he said.

You don’t have to produce a “perfect” piece as soon as you touch pencil to paper; the only criteria that you need to meet is enjoyment. As Bob Ross once said, “You can do anything here — the only prerequisite is that it makes you happy.”