Art Therapy Painting for Stress-Relief

For those who've tried painting and decided that it was hard, they weren't doing this kind of painting. Painting for stress relief is easy, fun and absolutely not what they teach in those fine upstanding art schools.

Paint Brushes for Therapy

Old paint brushes are great for this type of therapy. Use brushes of any size, any shape. Get a few in different sizes from very small to large. Any variety of paint brushes will do. This is more about expression than technique. Wall painting brushes can be used too.

Art Canvas for Painting

The canvas should be fairly big, the bigger the better, but no smaller than 16"x20." Canvas is best to use instead of other materials - it has a certain "feel" to it that enhances the creativity. A new one can be bought or simply use an old one that has been lying around but remember what is on the canvas will be destroyed so using old paintings is not recommended.

If you can't afford or don't have a canvas, find a smooth piece of wood or something sturdy and big, this project is to relieve stress, not to make it worse by spending money that the painter doesn't have.

Paints to Use for Art Therapy

Just about any paint will do, but acrylics are preferred; they dry quickly and are thick enough to "play" with. If there are no paints and they need to be bought, start off with a few basic colors: white, red, blue, yellow and black - then expand out from there depending on budget to any colors that are appealing.

If paint isn't in the budget, but there is some old latex wall paint laying around, use that. The point here isn't what is used, it's that something is done. Don't forget, this is for relieving stress.

Preparing to Paint

Use a plain white flat paint for the base coat. Technically, this should be a gesso (artists' base coat) but technical is not necessary, so use whatever is available.

Use the largest brush and paint it on in long, even strokes. First applying them vertically, then horizontally, until the entire canvas is covered. Let the canvas dry completely before painting.

Put on music that moves. Get into comfortable clothes (expect that paint may get on them so make them old ones). Put newspaper all over the painting area, or a large drop-cloth or anything that will protect the furniture and other things in the work area from paint.

Grab a styrofoam plate, or something that can be used to put paint on like a palette. Put a small amount of each paint on it, much like an artist would with a paint palette, from lightest to darkest or in the form of a color wheel or some way that makes sense. There is no right or wrong, just keep it stress-free.

Expressing Your Emotions

At this point, take a deep breath and start to block out all outside noises and influences. The painter should tell themselves "I am here for me. I am not here to impress anyone and no one ever needs to see the end results, this time is about me."

This process is going to express emotions with paint and canvas; let the paint and the music move the painting. Start to feel the stress being relieved. With this process the painter will be able to express his anger, happiness, or whatever he is feeling.

To begin the process, use any brush and dip it into one of the colors of paint or dip half of it in one color and the other half in another color. Start to apply this to the canvas in any way that feels good. Brush it on with long slow strokes, dab it on with tiny little dabs or smear it on with a scrubbing motion - whatever suits the mood. Relax and let the emotions flow.

Take a deep breath and let it out. Take another brush, fill the brush with another color or colors and use a different technique than the first one. Paint in a different spot or over the last spot - it doesn't matter, just paint. Use the emotions to guide the hand. The painter should be able to close her eyes and and feel the paint mixing with the canvas and to feel the stress leaving her body.

Alternate brushes and colors and strokes, use the music to set the speed of the strokes. Dab to the beat, stroke with the guitar rhythm or smoosh with the tuba, whatever is felt. Let go of any anger.

Take a deep breath and let it out. Use another brush, a rag, a sponge, hands or whatever else that can be thought up and do some more painting. Use a plastic spoon and scrape some of the paint off that was earlier applied, or grab a glass and swirl the lip edge around in the paint - let the imagination run wild. No need to worry about conventional thinking; think more about being a child. Remember finger painting!

Step back and look at what has been done. It's beautiful! Even if the eyes don't know it, the soul will understand the emotions and repression that was released and it will be beautiful.

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