Can painting improve your health?

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Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Donna MacDonald of Calgary, Alberta wrote, “Is there a possibility that painting might improve your health? I’ve suffered from chronic migraines for over 30 years and I’ve noticed an amazing phenomenon. On the days that I paint I don’t get a migraine! At first I thought it was a coincidence but after close observation to the timing it’s become evident that there’s a correlation. I started painting full time 5 years ago and it has literally changed my life! Have you heard of this?”

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“Kipper”
original painting
8 x 10 inches
by Donna MacDonald

Thanks, Donna. Migraines are one of the most frequently reported maladies of artists. So when you mentioned you don’t have them when you’re painting, it was music to my ears. Migraines are still not fully understood by the medical profession. There are several main types, and adult women are three times more likely to have them as adult men. “Triggers” like stress, hunger, drink, diet and bright or moving lights can set them off. Apparently, a neurotransmitter called serotonin plays a role. Low serotonin levels in the brain may lead to constriction of blood vessels. Serotonergic agonists like triptins, LSD or psilocin can activate serotonin receptors to stop a migraine.

Many painters find painting to be a leveling sanctuary in an otherwise frantic world. Perhaps it’s because of the heightened involvement, challenge, and attention to detail that painting requires. Fact is, many of us attest to “feeling no pain” while painting. While the act of painting may not perk up your depleted serotonin, it may release something I’m calling “muselocin.” This is the nice stuff you feel when you’re finding your muse.

Yes, others have reported to me that it’s important to anticipate a good day rather than a bad one. The potentially afflicted artist needs to set up, squeeze out, choose the right background music and, with a tall glass of cold water, start to work. After a few minutes, mildly hypnotized by the job at hand, the painter-patient becomes pleasantly “lost.”

I can’t attest to great gushes of good goo being released into the blood, but artists tell me they feel like something magic is happening. The élan of painterly process and ongoing accomplishment certainly eats time. It may just head off pain as well. Back problems, anxiety and arthritis also respond to this underutilized and inexpensive drug.

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“The Reader”
original painting
16 x 20 inches
by Donna MacDonald

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “Making art is good for your health, especially if it is done in fun.” (Orythia Johnston)

Esoterica: The motivation to work against all odds also arises when you bring to your art a sense of service. By that I mean doing it for someone or for some noble cause. The art of giving neutralizes pain, both mental and physical. “Artists are just as important as doctors and nurses,” says painter Marni California. “People need nourishing of their souls as well as their bodies; in Navajo culture the medicine man and artist are one and the same.” We’ve included some of Donna MacDonald’s work at the bottom of this letter. Interestingly, Donna contributes 10% of her profits from the sale of her paintings to Kiva, an organization that provides loans to people in third world countries to start or expand a business. “A wonderful way to feel like I’m making a difference!” she says.

Donna MacDonald

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“The Study”
original painting 8 x 10 inches

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“City Slickers”
original painting 24 x 36 inches

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“The Plot Thickens”
original painting
12 x 12 inches

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“All for One”
original painting
12 x 12 inches

Life saved by painting
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA

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“Modests fly pieces”
oil painting by Rick Rotante

The health issue on making art can only be experienced by those who practice painting. When I work, my breathing is slowed and so is my blood pressure. My mental faculties are humming along in tune with the work. Time passes effortlessly and there is no stress within those hours. That has got to be beneficial to your well being. Also, when I demonstrate, I get a natural high. I lecture and paint at the same time and those around me are getting the benefits of good health as a result. Right? I can go as far as to say painting has saved my life. I don’t know what I would be doing now if it were not for painting. The only time art causes me any stress is when I don’t sell any of it. Now that is stressful.



There are 3 comments for Life saved by painting by Rick Rotante

From: Betty Wyans — Jul 15, 2011

Beautiful! The Blue/Green light is so well done.

From: Rose White — Jul 15, 2011

This figure is so well done. Bravo! The simplicity of the face is exquisite! Thanks for sharing.

From: Tikiwheats — Aug 13, 2011

Overall a lovely painting of figure. 2 things. 1/white highlighted area on neck makes no sense to me unless it’s a goiter and 2/the pubic are needs more definition even just a shadow etc.


Celiac Disease
by Pamela Sweet, Marinette County, WI, USA

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Untitled
acrylic painting by Pamela Sweet

I have Celiac Disease (eating grains destroys your small intestine) and had suffered with migraines, also. Migraine is a classic sign of wheat intolerance or Celiac Disease because it contributes to low levels of vitamin D3 due to poor absorption. If you are painting outdoors more, could you be getting more vitamin D3 from the sun? Are you eating less wheat or grains because you are so busy painting? If you can say yes to both questions or only one, maybe the answer to your happiness is in where or what you are doing as you paint and not just the painting. Some interesting sites to visit for more information: Vitamin D Council and Celiac Disease Foundation.



There is 1 comment for Celiac Disease by Pamela Sweet

From: LD Tennessee — Jul 17, 2011

Love this painting Pamela, lucious color :)


Art as therapy
by Maria Oppenheim, Wiesbaden, Germany

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“Sonnennacht”
acrylic painting
by Maria Oppenheim

If art didn’t improve your health, there would be no art therapists. Artists have often seen art as a life saver and have used it as such in their art and their life (which is actually not separable). Think of Niki de Saint Phalle or Frida Kahlo. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all art created in a therapeutic situation will go down in art history. Doing art in a therapeutic setting together with a therapist is a different process. What happens to the artist/patient is deeply related to what we feel when we get involved with our colors and brushes.

Art in the waiting room
by Mike Barr, Adelaide, South Australia

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“Puddles on Waymouth”
acrylic painting by Mike Barr

Apart from the obvious benefits of painting to artists, I’m a firm believer in the health benefits of art to the viewer. A couple of years ago, I had an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia on the benefits of good art on waiting room walls.

For too long, doctors’ waiting rooms have been lazily plastered with well-meaning but horrific posters on what might ail us! A dissected aorta with globs of fatty tissue being squeezed out, detailed diagrams of clogged arteries or other views of possible internal troubles have been put on show with complete abandon. I can assure the support staff at medical centres that this does not help the people in the waiting room who are already sick! Doctors need to have good art — art that you can walk into and lose yourself for a while. This is much more appropriate in lowering the stress rates in a waiting room!



There are 2 comments for Art in the waiting room by Mike Barr

From: Stephanie — Jul 11, 2011

A beautiful painting, Mike. Maybe that’s why my general practice was so successful; I always had art on the walls – some was even my own…..

From: Sarah — Jul 12, 2011

Completely agree with you. The posters in your doctors office also point to a major problem–the unholy alliance between medical practice and the giant pharmaceuticals who “give” the doctors those posters.

Sitting or standing, feeling no pain
by Mary Susan Vaughn, Charlotte, NC, USA

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“Freedom street”
oil painting 46 x 30 inches
by Mary Susan Vaughn

I can attest to the fact that painting truly is one of the best pain relievers. Although not a sufferer of migraines, I have suffered for 35 years with serious back troubles. Surgery aside, which I had 28 years ago for severe scoliosis, and a Herrington rod and fusion in place, I now suffer from degenerative discs in my neck and lower back. I hate talking about this stuff so I’ll make this short — When I paint I feel no pain. Literally. I get comfortable, turn on my music, set out my paints, and then find myself taken on a journey of focus that gives my brain no room for anything else. I can stand for hours, occasionally sitting, and feel no pain. However, there have been a number of occasions when after my work day is done in the studio I have trouble moving and need 3 Advil. The hours I spend painting are not only cathartic, but relieving of all stress and pain in my life and I could not ask for a better way to spend my day.

Lupus sufferer relieved by art
by Lynne Hurd Bryant, Hartville, WY, USA

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“Under the Heavens”
watercolour 15 x 11 inches
by Lynne Hurd Bryant

I have suffered from SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) for about 18 years. From 1983 when I earned my BFA until May of 2009, I didn’t paint. I raised a family and did a lot of suffering with SLE. One of my children goaded me into taking up painting again and taking it seriously. I had my first bricks and mortar gallery 6 months later; I was meant to do this and do it at this point in my life. From the time I got into that gallery in January 2010 until now, I have not had a lupus flare. This is a lengthy remission for me, as I have had times in my life when I flared almost constantly, having just a few days between when I felt remotely human instead of like a medical case of maladies. The lupus hasn’t gone, but it is underground. Plein air painting is still not possible as I am “allergic” to the sunlight and more than just a few minutes in direct light will raise tiny blisters on any exposed skin and give me a nasty fever, so I only do studio work, but I DO studio work! I have the energy to work hard at painting, work a full time job that is not art, and take care of myself. I owe this to the brush.



There is 1 comment for Lupus sufferer relieved by art by Lynne Hurd Bryant

From: Anonymous — Jul 12, 2011

Looking good,Lynne.Great sky!!

The mojo came back
by Lori Farmer, Brandon, MS, USA

This past weekend I framed a pen and ink portrait that I did back in 1979 and then created four 12″ square paintings for a long gallery wall in my son’s bathroom. I have not created any art for years and was so afraid that my mojo was lost. However, after framing the picture and realizing that the artwork was really worthy of being framed after all these years, my muse slowly crept up, grabbed me and I took off. I finished the other four canvases and I felt ALIVE – had not had that feeling for so long, I’d forgotten the “magic” that takes over when creating. I’m committed to drawing and painting once again and do not want this to slip by me again. It’s like being reborn. And, my arthritic knuckles did not ache, nor my back, nor my sinuses, nor any other distracting ailment that usually clings to me during a regular day. The “good goo” drug, the muse, the magic does exist and I’m hungry for it.

Bedside painting distracts and relieves
by Rebecca Gottesman, White River Junction, VT, USA

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“Alaska fishing”
watercolour by Rebecca Gottesman

As a painter and teacher of workshops, I have the privilege of also being the “artist in residence” at our local hospital that has a major leading cancer center within it. For 10 hours a week I visit with people who are either in-patient or out-patient dealing with cancer and other diseases. My purpose is to distract and relieve them of their pain, anxiety, and depression while they are receiving their treatments. I have found this work to be the most sacred of all the creative endeavors I have ever undertaken. It is great if I can get the patient to play with materials, i.e., watercolors, beads, etc. But I have found if I waited only for the patients who said yes to play, I would be looking for a long time to find participants. So, instead of only asking the patient to play, I have also developed another million dollar question to get them to participate. I ask them, if they could be anywhere else other than here in the hospital getting their treatments, where would they go that makes them feel whole and wonderful. They smile and describe their favorite place and with that I take my watercolors, sit next to them, and paint their special place for them. Then I sign the watercolor to them and give them the painting to keep! This process may take an hour or more, and in that time I listen and am a great distraction to their pain and fear. I don’t know how I am able to paint these places that I have never been to, but I do! It’s magic, it’s shamanistic and it is wonderful! I find all those years of observation provided me with the vocabulary to execute my work.



There are 4 comments for Bedside painting distracts and relieves by Rebecca Gottesman

From: Kay Christopher — Jul 11, 2011

How very beautiful that you paint for these people and bring them joy, take them to the places they love so much. What a wonderful gift you give them!

From: Patrick — Jul 11, 2011

Hi Rebecca, I am a cancer patient. While people paint for many reasons (fame, fortune, ego or simply pleasure) I can not think of a reason more gracious, more noble, more kind or more caring than you just described. Hearing your story made me cry. Not for myself, but for those which you so obviously have touched.

From: Nancy Oppenheimer — Jul 12, 2011

I too have tears in my eyes. The artists I know have beautiful souls; their sensitivities are finely tuned. Rebecca’s soul is especially beautiful.

From: Darrell Baschak — Jul 12, 2011

What a wonderful thing you are doing, I applaud you. I recently lost my sister in law to Ovarian Cancer. She was a musician/composer who attempted to work at her profession until the very end and I know that it lessened the pain she was in.

Cocoon of peaceful creation
by Melanie Hall-Szyszkiewicz, Kelowna, BC, Canada

In a workshop, Pei Zhong Chen shared with us moments of his early life in China, where he was born and raised in a very poor family during the years of communist regime and Mao. He told us of his good fortune to be selected from thousands of applicants to receive a scholarship to study art. I had the good fortune to study with Pei Zhong in a variety of mediums, including Chinese water color, charcoal sketching, acrylic portrait and landscape. The man is truly amazing in his versatility and speed. I especially liked the classes when we did the Chinese water color where he would play classical Chinese music, and we would study works of the masters, and try to replicate their style. Pei Zhong told us the Masters all live to a very old age, as to create art is a very peaceful calm existence for both the mind and body. I must say, I felt encapsulated in a wonderful cocoon of peaceful creation for those 3 hour classes. That combination of paint, music and green tea felt oh so healing and wonderfully healthy. Those classes are amongst my most enjoyable and memorable for the peacefulness of just being “one with the creative forces within one’s self.” The Chinese masters would agree — painting really does improve your health!

Weird but wonderful
by Claudio Ghirardo, Mississauga, ON, Canada

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“Woman irons”
original painting
by Claudio Ghirardo

I’ve heard many stories of people having some ailments but when involved in a creative process, there is no ailment. I heard of a composer who developed arthritis years later but he would play the piano regularly just as well as he did in the early days and he played as though he had no arthritis. I remember years back I had this unbelievable headache and had to finish a painting for class the next day. I pushed myself to get the assignment done and suddenly my headache was gone.



There is 1 comment for Weird but wonderful by Claudio Ghirardo

From: wac — Jul 12, 2011

Love, love, love that painting!

Painter’s pain relief system featured in article
by Patty Kruger, Scottsdale, AZ, USA

I am an artist and a chronic pain patient and I thought you might find it interesting that I was featured in the monthly “Arizona Pain Monthly” magazine because of the way I handle my pain and the fact that I use painting and creativity to help manage my pain.

When asked by my physician to be featured in their magazine, my hope was that it would help others. I am “living proof” that getting on the “right side of the brain,” can be used to relieve pain.

Anxiety over jurying process
by Pam Talley, Tallahassee, FL, USA

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“Tarpon”
original painting
by Pam Talley

I have judged art and selected judges for years. It’s always such a mixed bag of results. At our Annual Student Art Show, we invite a different judge each year. Some are better than others. I usually like the ones who are able to balance technical skill with creativity. Winners are elated, losers get their feelings hurt and we are considering doing away with the judging altogether. Do you have any posts that might help me explain the art judging process to my students? I work with children (who take the judging in stride) as well as adults.

(RG note) Thanks, Pam. We’ve previously talked about the sticky business of jurying here, here, here and here.

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Boats of Port Isabel

oil painting 20 x 24 inches
Ellie Taylor, TX, USA

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Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Can painting improve your health?

 

 

From: Dorothy Gardiner — Jul 08, 2011
From: Sandra Taylor Hedges — Jul 08, 2011

I have always known and advocated that Art heals mental illness issues. I myself suffer from manic / depressive problems and it is when I spend too much time doing Left Brain activities which rob my creative time from me that I have episodes. When I feel this coming on I make time to Paint (no matter what) and become “Lost” for the day in it. I emerge healthy and centered again. As a result of this belief I am recommended to parents of troubled children as an Art Teacher so they can paint with someone who is like them and understands their demons and how to tame them.

From: Darla — Jul 08, 2011

Sandra, that is very interesting. Since autoimmune and many types of mental disorders stem from physical hormone or neurotransmitter imbalances, painters are “resetting the balance” by spending time painting. Imagine getting a prescription for hours of painting to make you feel better! If doctors understood how this works, it would be the greatest thing since antibiotics. The best part is that it actually works.

From: Fredericks — Jul 08, 2011

I struggled with depression until I began painting. Now, I am living through a serious cancer journey and face the very real likelihood of not surviving it. Painting has lifted the weight of depression and given my life joy and meaning.

From: Marian Johnson — Jul 08, 2011

Several years ago I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (unknown at the time). After many doctors’ visits, 2 trips to Mayo Clinic, I dis-covered the treatment that works for me. Painting/drawing, etc. While attending a local art class, I would have to lie down on the couch for awhile and then get back to the easel – it worked until now I can go to my studio and enjoy the pleasure of painting with little or no pain. Some days do not require even one Ibuprofen!! Blessed.

From: CJ Charles — Jul 08, 2011

Dorothy – I agree with you about painting being like meditation. When painting, your attention and whole being is drawn in and focused. I sometimes do not hear someone talking to me and then I know I am really in the right place. My husband (a writer) was advised by his priest that when unable to pray, to write – write anything – and that was his prayer. And whether it is prayer or meditation, painting, writing, whatever your art is, your soul and humanity get fed.

From: Jackie Knott — Jul 08, 2011

I also have an autoimmune disease and have noticed a significant reduction in discomfort when I paint. But I think it is because endorphins are released in the body. I identify the same pleasant sensation after walking, gardening, or a full body massage as when I’m painting (and writing, but to a far lesser degree because it is static. Too much sitting and the reverse is true.). It is more than just feeling content doing what you know you should be doing.

I find it interesting a mental occupation produces the same effect as physical. Athletes and joggers describe this same endorphin response as an “exercise high.”

I don’t know the chemical connection between serotonin and endorphins, except I’ve read there is one. I just know I feel better painting.

From: Priya Drews — Jul 08, 2011

Meditation has proved very healing for any number of conditions. Since painting or any activity where one is completely immersed in the moment is basically a meditation, ergo, painting is a healing activity. After and enthralling painting session, I certainly feel more at peace, happier and relaxed. According to a friend, art activity is as close to our inner being as is meditation-

From: peter h — Jul 08, 2011

Funny-I have had the exact opposite reaction. Sometimes after a long session of painting, I may get a migraine that evening especially if I am under some other stress from daily matters or a business problem. I think that painting can be stressful as well as relaxing. Sometimes if a painting is not going well, the intense concentration and sometimes frustration can lead to stress on the body.

From: Terry Gay Puckett — Jul 08, 2011

I find painting and drawing to be meditative, and therefore healing. I have turned to painting throughout my lifetime to release stress. I have found that sketching in the doctor’s office while waiting for my appointment makes the time fly, and when my blood pressure is taken it is always good because I am relaxed.

From: Anonymous — Jul 08, 2011

Donna may need to look at the migraine triggers she avoids on the days she paints. The opposite can happen for me if I’m so obsessed with painting that I forget to eat.

From: Mary Aikens — Jul 08, 2011

I find that the periods of depression occur when I do not paint or do any other art-type activities. Art is very therapeutic, especially for those who have or had experienced periods of depression. The best tip for painting during those “dark days” is to chose a happy and/or a comical subject matter.

From: Marilyn Hartley — Jul 08, 2011

When I read the current newsletter about painting and migraines, and especially the “esoterica” part, I thought it would be good to send that to the state and federal legislators who think that cutting funds for the arts is the first thing to do when a government body says they need to balance the budget. Somehow they cut the arts first ’cause they think it’s just “fluff”, I guess. Makes me real angry!

From: Paul Hough — Jul 08, 2011

Methinks it is the inhaling of the ketones,aromatics and aliphatics that clears the head. Only an old chemical peddler would know of this solution.

From: Eugene Kovacs — Jul 08, 2011

I started painting three years ago and since that time, I am able to relieve my stress. My general health has also improved. Nevertheless, in the medical field, painting is used as a therapy, even with people with chronic illnesses.

Furthermore, today we hear too often about violence everywhere, even in the family structure. To be an artist in the 21st century has less value and is not appreciated at all. The galleries are empty. Finally, for me painting will always be the path to reach the goal of my life.

From: Grace Karczewski — Jul 08, 2011

It is true about the sanctuary of painting it does give a sense of tranquility in our hustle and bustle of our busy life.

From: Steve Moore — Jul 08, 2011
From: Richard Gagnon — Jul 08, 2011

I have had chronic migraines as far back as I can remember. My daughter has the same affliction and yes it is probably my fault. While painting doesn’t stop or ward off my migraines, I find that I do my best work (whatever that may be at the time) when I have one. Of course I have to motivate myself up off my ass to do anything but as I get older that seems to be easier to do. Could it be that, in line with your letter, Donna is already thinking about painting before she gets up which probably gets the serotonin flowing and wards off the migraine. As for triggers, atmospheric pressure will do it too.

From: Betty Henderson — Jul 08, 2011
From: Emilie Sykes — Jul 08, 2011

Painting creates a special internal space that we can take refuge in.

From: Phillippa K. Lack — Jul 08, 2011

Definitely! I have known women who have stopped drinking, smoking, just because of silk painting. For myself, it is definitely my escape and inspiration. Am sure my blood pressure goes down several points when I am painting, and in the FLOW, as they say. Even if it is to splash dye all over and create a piece to be cut up and used in another composition…

From: Jacqueline Glover — Jul 08, 2011

Of course it can help. Music therapy, art therapy are useful for physical pain as well as emotional. Jackie (registered art therapist).

From: Pat Stamp — Jul 08, 2011

Very Interesting. According to a piece I heard on the (CBC)Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Alzheimer’s patients in Ottawa are being given the opportunity to paint. When ask about their paintings they are able to communicate fluently and articulately but the same people are unable to have normal, simple conversations.

Making art stimulates the brain in ways we don’t fully understand yet. Perhaps everyone with mental health issues should be given art therapy.

From: Jane Hinrichs — Jul 08, 2011

This letter has given me a bit of hope. Maybe art would work with other health issues too. Maybe painting again would help my situation. I’m on my way to being diagnosed with a disease that often ends up really crippling people. And I am not happy about this. Emotionally I’m swinging back and forth. I love to paint. I’ve even sold several paintings, but it seems life has gotten in the way lately for letting me paint. I have had some empty canvases for months just waiting for me to paint them. I’m going to have to think on this.

From: Tricia Earle — Jul 08, 2011

Love MacDonald’s work.

From: Sheila Psaledas — Jul 08, 2011

I think of painting (or any creative endeavor) as a means enter the ‘altered state’. Anyone who has spent hours painting with intense focus suddenly realizes that hours have passed, and it may have only seemed like minutes. Time does not exist in the altered state. It is the soul, singing.

From: Valerie May — Jul 08, 2011

We are on to something…I suffer chronic pain and I find when I’m really getting into my painting I don’t feel as bad.

From: Teresa Sharp — Jul 08, 2011

I got a migraine yesterday while painting, looking into bright sunlight while trying to paint the seascape.

From: John Smith — Jul 08, 2011

A lovely article Robert, nothing quite like being in the Zone!

From: Marion Rose — Jul 08, 2011

You bet it can! I am on my second round of chemo in 4 years, and I actually have a blast in the studio during the treatments. There is no such thing as normal in this situation so when I’m ready to dance at 4 am I just head to the studio and do some of my best work. Maybe the drugs help, so my friends say, but getting lost in my art makes time fly and the rewards are fantastic!

From: Paula Timpson — Jul 08, 2011

Peace

restless

hearts

find

peace in creating…

soulful passion

emits a silent force

of dreams,

alive

Forever

From: marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley — Jul 08, 2011

For me, the beneficial feelings accompany the satisfaction derived from a productive painting session. Even though I’ve been painting for 40 years, it doesn’t always happen. The same holds true for seasoned participants in the world of golf.

From: Diane Oser — Jul 08, 2011

I totally endorse the healing aspects of creating art. For me, it is a totally transcendental, meditative experience. Very much like practicing scales on the piano, or learning a difficult piece.

I agree with most of what you stated, except for the ‘inexpensive’ part in your last paragraph. I find that the cost of creating art is prohibitively expensive, especially living in the wonderful and beautiful and remote West Kootenays of British Columbia.

I do stop feeling the horrific back pain, when I am painting, and I do stop worrying about the other problems of life that I, and everyone else experience. For me, painting is somewhat like an addictive drug, and apart from the cost of supplies, harmless and soul enriching.

From: Donna MacDonald — Jul 10, 2011

I just wanted to thank you for including my letter in your twice weekly letter to artists. I’ve had some wonderful feedback via email. The live comments are really interesting as well. I may send this along to my doctor as she seemed surprised when I said that painting helped my migraines. Thanks again.

From: Esther White — Jul 10, 2011

This spring I helped lead a 8 week session of Art with early dementia clients and their caregivers for Arts and Alzheimer’s in Victoria BC. The act of creating art was a calming and positive experience for all. What began with sketchbooks and coloured pencils, moved on to watercolour, tinting b/w photos and collage of road trip pictures of Vancouver Island. From the client responses during the sessions it was found that Art was the highlight of their week, they asked and looked forward to meeting together and being creative, even involving their family’s interest in ways not seen before. All that was needed from me was enthusiasm, empathy and excitement in making Art a creative experience for all of us. This session will expand to 10 weeks this fall, and enrollment will increase to 15-20!

From: Gwen Fox — Jul 10, 2011

A question was put to a group of sick people by a Native American Medicine Man….”WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU DANCED?” Painting is like a dance as when we release our creative spirit we dance the dance of personal and emotional freedom. Next time you enter the studio put your music on a little louder and ……dance.

From: Igaki igaki@comcast.net — Jul 10, 2011
From: Kay Sandler — Jul 10, 2011

Donna is very fortunate that painting stops her from getting a migraine. I too, have had migraines since I was 13, and get them no matter what I do or don’t do. When I have a migraine, there isn’t much that I can do. It is hard to focus on things when you feel bad and are in pain. However, I can paint when I have a migraine. I have actually accomplished a lot of painting when I take a sick day off from everything else and just spend the day in my studio. I listen to an audio book, and paint. Between those two things, my mind drifts away from the pain.

From: Jennie Rosenbaum — Jul 10, 2011

I credit painting with helping me to lead a full and happy life after a car accident gave me a permanent chronic pain disability. I was so bored and in so much pain that I picked up my brushes again, and lost myself in the world of art – and I haven’t resurfaced yet!

It’s more than just being lost in the zone and painting until you drop (which on some days I literally do) it’s also about losing yourself in a passion- so that even when you aren’t actively painting you are thinking about art, thinking about the business of art, thinking about everything – it’s all about discovering your passion and living it to the full, rather than losing yourself in the pain and the feeling of loss that can come through it.

it’s documented that chronic and/or frequently recurring pain can cause depression. Art is also excellent for treating depression. it’s more than just the act of creating, it’s even more than the fumes- it’s about reaching inside and exploring your feelings and finding a way to share them with the world. it’s about feeling like you are part of the world again.

From: Cindy — Jul 10, 2011

What about pain relief from the wound of love lost? Yes, while memories flicker, the brush goes on and forms a new entity, bereft, yes, but it is also whole, loving, caressing, and not without joy. Stroke by stroke, color by color, the canvases mend.

From: T. C. Fain — Jul 11, 2011

This letter’s topic, the possible therapeutic nature of making art, is of inherent interest to me as an artist and a person who suffers chronic pain, often severe despite the medications. I have to chuckle too that this subject should follow the newsletter on the superiority of women. In addition to all the wonderful qualities that characterize so many women is the sad fact that they also out do men in a whole host of poorly understood, much less diagnosed or adequately treated, illnesses which all seem to have to do with having or processing enough serotonin.

But doing art is my salvation on two levels. The actual doing, being engaged in painting, and the fact that I do art, that I am an artist and create things of interest and beauty on my best days. There is no doubt that painting, once I get into the zone, takes center stage for hours, keeping pain far in the background. Activities that take complete attention can do that. For instance you can find yourself surprised at how far in the background your pain was when you conclude a great conversation. But, for me, art and sex are the most complete diversion from pain. The catch-22 can be getting to that activity.

Of course one always has to pay the piper at some point. And that is when the second aspect of art as salvation plays a role in keeping pain in line. The pain will reassert its dominance as I tire or on bad days and once I put my brushes down for the day. It can be so frustrating when the pain determines my thoughts and actions, when it “wins”. I find myself hurting and worn out at the end of my painting day, and I am not as productive as many of my friends. Still the pain has to share space with a large sense of satisfaction of a day well spent. And, on my best days the pain has to make room for a powerful and wonderful sense that I am able to perform magic.

Overall doing art, the act and the fact, that powerful magic of creating, serves me very well in maintaining a sense of perspective in which, pain or no, I am a very lucky person. The pain can be very frustrating in all the ways it can limit my life but that all seems to pale by comparison to the fact that I get to do art at all.

One lesson my chronic pain has taught me well, and to my great benefit, is that even though we may not be able to control the circumstances we can control the attitude we take toward those circumstances.

Pelham, MA 413-256-6859 tfain@sadri.umass.edu

From: Allan Kennedy — Jul 11, 2011

Focus on anything absorbing is good to take your mind off what’s bugging you, including pain.

From: Cheryl Quist — Jul 11, 2011

Certainly in my experience painting has improved my health. Naturally, it will take a long time for the medical profession to dot the I’s and cross the t’s. I’m saddled with a genetic condition that causes chronic pain among other niceties. Since 2006 I’ve been unable to work and, at the suggestion of a career counsellor, I renewed my childhood passion for art. I began with watercolor and on the days that I wasn’t feeling good enough to paint I simply opened my palette, looked at the beautiful colors, smiled, and went back to my resting. Over time I noticed that when I pushed myself to paint I got a different result than when I pushed myself to do housework. I began looking forward to my painting sessions and showing my hubby the results. I began looking forward to living! I signed up for art classes at ACAD for a year, then found Sharon Williams’ Watermedia all year class through Chinook College. I’ve morphed through many stages of obsession; mixed media and acrylic followed watercolor, altered books, and this summer I’ve added oil painting. Now I paint as much as I can and I make it a priority – I LOVE It and it takes good care of me.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

From: Jacklyn William — Jul 12, 2011

One of your best letters! Thank-you!

From: misspeggyartist — Jul 12, 2011

ahhhhh painting and fishing – two passions requiring patience and persistence – where is my fishing pole

From: Rob Rothschild — Jul 13, 2011
From: Suzy Shealy — Jul 20, 2011

I began painting 5 months after my oldest son, SGT A Joseph Derrick was KIA, Baghdad, Iraq September 23, 2005. I began painting from the images on his flash drive that came with his personal effects. Words can never express what being able to bare my soul on canvas has meant to my inner healing…..the grief is always there, but I am using giclee prints made from these paintings to encourage the military family my wonderful son left behind as well. I truly feel a heart connection to my son when I paint and believe he is well pleased with my feeble efforts.

I can not imagine life without painting/creating.

Thank you for allowing me to share.

Suzy Shealy

www.suzyshealy.com

suzy@suzyshealy.com

Proud Mother of a Fallen Hero

 

 

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