We’ve talked a lot about what to do when creating art - but what does art DO for YOU? You’ve alway known that creating art makes you feel like a better person: that exhilaration when you master a particularly tricky element, the joy of completing a piece in its entirety, the tranquility of immersing yourself in your process. But I’m here to tell you there is scientific- or at least very convincing - evidence to support your long-held belief that creating makes you a better person.
Evidence #1: Stress Relief: While we have all had those days where we want to stomp away from our art and never create again, for the most part art can be stress relieving. Drexel University “found that making art can significantly reduce stress-related hormones in your body”. In particular, cortisol levels (a stress hormone marker) reduced in 75% of those taking part in the trial during a 45 minute art activity. And the best part? It didn’t matter how proficient the participants were at art. It was stress reducing for amateurs and artists alike.
Evidence #2: Therapy: The recent rise in ‘Art Therapy’ is testimony to the relaxing effects of art. Art therapy uses art as a means to enable a patient to therapeutically process and understand emotions while creating art. This form of therapy is used to help deal with many issues, from rehabilitation to processing past trauma. As the Sage Neuroscience Centre explains: “The main goal of art therapy is to help the person struggling to finally be able to relax enough to get in touch with their emotions.”
Evidence #3: Problem solving skills: As artists we are overcoming problems all the time. How much medium can I mix into my paint without compromising its integrity? How can I get the light I need in this photograph to create the effect I want? What textile will be strong enough for this artwork? So it should come as no surprise that in studies of children and the benefits of art, problem solving is a key finding. A four year study (2006-10) conducted by the Guggenheim Museum showed that children with an arts background demonstrated stronger problem solving skills in three out of six areas including “flexibility, resource recognition, and connection of ends and aims”, than those without an arts background.
Evidence #4: Positive Thinking: This one probably comes as no surprise but there is evidence that art promotes positive thought, even for those experiencing adversity. In studies of people with chronic illness, the American Journal of Public Health collated the results of five separate studies detailing the benefits of visual arts in patients (including painting, drawing, photography, pottery, and textiles). These studies found that: art improved well–being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones” and “improved medical outcomes, [including] trends toward reduced depression”.
So next time someone suggests you are ‘wasting time’ making art or you decide that it’s time to stop your art career, remember the silent benefits you get each and every time you create. Because creating is clearly making you a better person.