Using Art to Relax

Using Art to Relax

Dear Wonderful, Creative You:

If you’ve hung out here at Mindful Art Studio you know that creative self-care is what I’m about – how to use simple art techniques to express your feelings in a playful, joyful way.

As someone who tends toward the more anxious, driven, perfectionistic side of the spectrum, I know how effective art is for stress relief. Art making invites me to get out of my own head, let go of control, and watch emerge on the the lines, shapes, and colors emerge on the page.

Who, Me? Anxious? Nah.

I’d love to give you an example of the way my anxiety can get in the way, and how art helps me practice letting go instead of worrying and controlling.

Although I’ve been running half marathons for a few years, I just started training for my very first full marathon. In preparation for my long run this Saturday, I found myself staring at my plan, doing complex calculations to figure out what pace I was supposed to run. I started to worry: “What if I get this wrong and I under-train? What if I overdo it every week and wear myself out before the race? What if, what if….”

Standing around with my training buddies before the run, I began quizzing them about whether they follow the 20% pace rule or 10% pace rule, and how they approach pacing these runs through the season, etc.


Luckily for me, my friends are kind and understanding, and understand the anxieties of a first time marathoner. A friend said, “Well, I guess I’m just not taking the numbers in such an exact way, I’m just going out comfortably and pushing the pace when it says to add in some harder miles.” After about 5 minutes of these types of responses, it finally sunk in. No one said it directly, but I heard the voice in my head saying,

“Chill OUT, Amy, it’s not that exact.”

I thanked my friends for delivering this message in a way I could hear it.

Art Journaling for Anxiety

Having a plan is great, but I also need to give myself permission to depart from it.  At the end of the day, the reason I’m running is to enjoy it. At some point, it’s time to forget about the details and focus on the scenery, my breathing, the effort of my legs and arms moving, and the blessing of friendships forged over long miles.

Art is the same way. Frequently I sit down to paint, start to doubt some mark I’ve made, and internally I hear,

“Chill OUT, Amy, it’s not that exact.”

Art Journaling for Stress Relief

Art reminds me, like my running buddies do, that it’s important to not get too caught up in the details of any particular plan. Part of the joy is being open to what I find that particular day. If I dislike something I do, I can always cover it up with paint, cut it out, or glue two pages together and hide it.

Art making this way is a metaphor for learning to let go and engage a mindful presence. When I make art mindfully and openly, it’s a bit like running: I listen to my breathing, and notice sights, sounds, and sensations I’m experiencing. I let my imagination out to play.  Like on the page below, as the yellow streaks appeared, I imagined fireflies or souls drifting off into the ether.

I allow myself to leave logical thought behind and get lost in the process. I stop trying to control the next step, the next shape, the next color, and instead open myself to seeing what might want to appear, regardless of whether or not I think it will look “good.”

Art Journaling for Perfectionists

With all the talk about how art heals, I think what a lot of people with limited art experience don’t understand is that you don’t need special skills or much “talent” to benefit from art making and art play. The power of art is that it lets you get lost in the creative realm, lose track of time, and let go.  Anyone, even “non-artists” can sit down, explore mixing paint on a page, and potentially get stress relief.
Using Art for Stress

I find that when I open myself some of my best work emerges. Art has so many metaphors for your life if you are just willing to listen. Mine speaks to me about mystery, letting go, and finding beauty. What are the metaphors that appear in your art?

Art for Stress Relief

This is what I want to teach you: how to use art as a tool – a way to let go of life’s stressors and immerse yourself in painty, playful fun. You can let go by exploring the colors, shapes, and wild creatures that appear in your art.Freeing the Muse- Art journaling for Stress

My new mini e-course, Freeing the Muse, is for busy, creative people who want to develop a way to relieve stress through art and for experienced artists who want to lose their creative inhibitions.

You’ll learn to:

  • Tune into the pleasure of playing with art mindfully.
  • Learn how embracing “mistakes” in your art can lead to more expressive, creative work.
  • Create a playful, “judgment-free zone” where you can make art freely – no one has to see but you!
  • Make art without traditional art materials or techniques.
  • Play with the metaphors that arise in your art.
  • Develop forms, patterns, and mysterious beings that you never saw before in your art.
  • Join the community on a private FB class page to share your work and questions in a supportive community.

Let me teach you how. You can learn more here.

I’m so grateful that you’re here and shared this time with me today. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Creatively Yours,



P.S. If you are interested in the materials I used to create this piece, I used my tiny tubes of Reeves paint from my portable art kit, my Sakura Gelly Roll pen in white, Sanford Uniball Gel pen in gold, and worked in my tan paged Strathmore journal. These are affiliate links, so if you choose to click and purchase something, you’ll support the work I’m doing here at no extra cost to you. Happy Art Making!


DISCLOSURE: The information described here is not art therapy. This post is for informational purposes and should not be considered a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment.  Please seek advice from a mental health professional in your area if you are experiencing mental health challenges.

How Even Non-Artists Can Use Art Journaling to Relieve Stress

Art Journaling to Relieve Stress

Dear Wonderful, Creative You:

Even non-artists can learn to express and explore their inner worlds and release stress through some simple art techniques, it’s part of what I call creative self-care. Today on the You Are an Artist Podcast, I’ll share a bit about how and why even the most art-phobic can use art for healing if she wishes. Take a listen:

(If the Soundcloud app pops up asking you to download, you can just “X” out of it and continue playing the podcast here.)

Episode 1 of the You Are an Artist Podcast: How to Push Past Fear in Your Art

Episode 2 of the You Are an Artist Podcast: Roxanne Coble: Welcoming Fear with Open, Shaky Arms

Here are some links that relate to the art journaling ideas I shared in  today’s podcast:

Classes Collage

I have a new class up, Freeing the Muse! It’s a step-by-step online class that will teach you to use a few simple materials and exercises to regain the joy and wonder of art play and self-expression. When I do these exercises, I’m always amazed at what appears, and it feels like a scrubbing for my soul!

Freeing the Muse


You can also check out more of my CLASSES, or e-books. Also, be sure to sign up to get your FREE GUIDE TO CREATIVE SELF-CARE and get weekly updates on creative techniques for stress reduction and personal growth. You can also meet up with other budding creatives in our private Facebook group, Creative Self-Care.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Creatively Yours,




DISCLAIMER: This is not art therapy, but rather art techniques for personal growth and exploration. For a listing of trained art therapists who can help with mental health issues, go to the American Art Therapy website.

My Favorite Art Journaling Supplies

My Favorite Art Journaling Supplies

Hello Wonderful, Creative You:

It’s always fun to know what supplies other artists are using, isn’t it? Working with new materials gives me such a kick of inspiration. Does it work that way for you too? And if you are new to art journaling and creative self-care techniques, it’s comforting to have someone you know give you some ideas about what to buy. (Even if we only know each other in that internet-art-buddy kinda way – it’s amazing how much you can truly connect this way. I’ve made some real friends on the internet because of art – you know who you are!)

Favorite Paints and Gel Pens

I’m sharing my favorite art journaling supplies. Of course, the materials I use rotate a bit – keeping things fresh is part of what keeps me inspired, but I wanted to share some of the goodies that are consistently in heavy rotation in my art journaling work.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’ve been into mini journals for the last few months. This weekend I started experimenting with watercolor patterns too, you’ll see those below. You can see more of my 2-inch mini journal process in this video.

Watercolor Minis with Pens

For these tiny works of art, I used simple materials: inexpensive but intensely pigmented Artist’s Loft pan watercolors, Micron pen in size 01, and Sakura Gelly Roll gel pens. Whether in paint or pen, doodling is just so darn much fun, isn’t it? I think it’s a great way to give yourself permission to experiment. Each little square is a chance to try something new. The paper I used to cut the squares is Strathmore Mixed Media – it’s nice and stiff and stands up well to hole punching, watercolor, and liquid acrylic.

Liquid Acrylic Journal Fun

In my tan paged journal, I frequently work with liquid acrylics and gesso. I only discovered liquid acrylics within the last year or so, but they have changed the way I do art. I just love the fact that I can drip, smudge, scrape, and wipe them to layer over pages that aren’t quite working, or as a way to create a background onto which I can overlay text, images, or paintings.

The blobs that appear help my imagination run wild and I love watching what I can create. I use the high flow acrylics from Golden and apply them with credit cards, brushes, or my fingers. Working in my tan paged Strathmore journal with these paints is so satisfying because it stands up even to rather wet pages, and I like the intensity of the colors against the sandy color of the journal.

Journal Spread Liquid Acrylics

Did I mention that the liquid acrylics are fun? No? Well, I really can’t get enough of them! If you’d like to learn to use some of these intuitive journaling techniques, you might enjoy my online class, Art Journaling 101 Online.

When I need to glue paper, cloth, string, beads, or other objects, I use gel medium and apply a thick coating with a brush.

Collage Journal Page

Another technique I love using is hand-cut stamps. I often stamp on a page as a way to get a background or pattern going, then layer in paint, doodles, text, or images.

Stamping on Journal Pages

For the two photos on the left, I used a high quality carving block called Moo Carve and my Speedball carving tools, but the shape on the right was cut from craft foam. I’ve made some of my favorite stamps this way. Using inexpensive materials to make beautiful art is really satisfying and makes experimenting in an art journal really accessible to everyone. I love that.

If you want a journal with white pages or that sits open without using binder clips, you might also like this accordion fold from moleskine, or a spiral bound notebook. If you’d like to make your own journal, there are several techniques I feature in this post, many that are quite simple.

Finally, you can also take an old book, with or without words, with or without pictures, and paint, draw, write, cut, paste, and sew your heart out all over it. I have a Pinterest board on altered books that will help give you lots of ideas.

If you want to get started and feel overwhelmed, or you need a good dose of inspiration, check out one of my online art classes you might enjoy my online mini class, Freeing the Muse. It will help you get past creative blocks to uncover your unique, magical images.

Mountains of Journals

Here’s me with only a few of my journals, some store bought and some handmade. I *may* have a little journal acquisition problem. I promise I use them all eventually!

If you are looking for a list of even more supplies I love, you’ll find them on this post about gifts for the artist in your life.

What supplies can’t you live without in your art journal? Tell us about it in the comments! Let’s get creating!

Creatively Yours,



*The links in this post are affiliate links. If you choose to click on them and purchase something, you’ll be supporting the work of Mindful Art Studio at no extra cost to you. Thank you!