Simple Drawing Techniques for Anxiety
Dear Wonderful, Creative You,
I don’t normally like to engage in “telling secrets,” but today I will, because I want to share three artistic secrets with you. Don’t tell anyone. Unless you like them. Or find them useful, or fun, or entertaining. Then please tell them to everyone you meet, scream it from your rooftop, and tattoo it to your forehead. Okay?
Artistic Secret #1: Everyone Can Draw
Doing art as creative self-care for this many years has taught me so much about myself, my feelings, and life. One of the things it’s taught me is that “art” is not as tightly defined as the general population seems to think it is. Most people say, “I can’t draw.” The secret is, I know they can. Of course not all of us can draw like DaVinci, but in my experience with students, most people can draw a lot better than they think they can, especially when they open up their idea of what constitutes a drawing or a “good drawing.”
[bctt tweet=”Everyone can draw, you just don’t know it yet. “]
Artistic Secret #2: Drawing Can Be Calming
When you are non-judgmental and open up your definition of what a “good drawing” is, drawing can be a very calming activity, especially for those of us who get a bit high strung or anxious. (Ahem. Who? Me? )
So how about it? Would you be willing to try some very simple art exercises and see whether or not they have a positive impact on your mood? As long as you can hold a pen, you can do it right.
[bctt tweet=”As long as you can hold a pen, you can draw.”]
Artistic Secret #3: Your Inner Critic is Just Scared
If you think your inner critic might get in the way of you approaching this with an open mind, you might want to first do the inner critic exercise from the Starting Your Art Journal e-book. Sometimes we all need some help getting our fears to step aside before we bravely try something new. Now let’s do some art exercises for relaxation!
You can draw with whatever you’ve got at home – a pen or pencil and computer paper work just fine. If you are looking to get some of the same effects as I do in the pages below, or getting some new supplies will help you feel more inspired, you can find the Micron pen I use here, and the small Moleskine journal here.
Drawing Exercise: Drawing Lines
I find this exercise really helpful when I want to draw but feel uninspired, unfocused, or overwhelmed. I like to watch the lines appear across the page. I give myself permission to draw as fast or slow as feels good in the moment. Usually if I start out drawing fast and sloppy, after a few minutes I’ll find my lines getting neater and closer together, my breathing slows down, and I can think straight again. I particularly like this one when I feel really anxious. It’s grounding for me. Does this work for you?
While it seems silly, I really like the look of these pages in my journals. Sometimes I’ll leave them as is, and at others, I will use them as a background for writing, painting, or collage.
Drawing Exercise: Drawing Circles
This is one of my new favorite drawing techniques. I’ve been playing with it in my journals and in my paintings on canvas. I draw tiny little circles and barely make any decisions about where they are going. Instead, I just observe as they appear and migrate across the page.
My hand seems to pick up a rhythm and I follow along. Making the jagged lines in between which the circles exist suggests all sorts of natural things to me – maps, microscopic photography, or growth on the underside of a leaf. What do you see?
If you like these Micron pens you see pictured, you can find them here.*
Drawing Exercise: Blind Contour Drawing
Recently I found a wonderful artist, Koosje Keone, who shares her beautiful journals and drawing techniques. Please check her out. She’s inspired me to get back into my blind contour drawings lately.
Blind contour drawing involves looking only at your subject, not your paper, and keeping one continuous line on the page. The results are distorted and yet precise, emotional, and very beautiful. I love how it brings me very forcefully into the present moment as I slowly move my pen across the edge of my subject.
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Thank you Amy! This is incredibly spot on! For me, repetitive drawing is always calming with surprisingly cool results. Thank you for sharing this with us. 🙂
I’m so tickled to have you over here on the blog! Isn’t it amazing how beautiful some of the results are just using repetitive circles or lines and letting them meander? Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, it really means a lot.
As an anxious and imperfect Artist I find this information to be very useful to me
Ah Beth! So happy to have this comment. So many can identify with you. Please let me know if I can point you towards any other resources. All the best,
Thanks so much for your work! I love it.
It’s so sweet of you to say so. I hope that it helps inspire your own work and take you in new and interesting directions. Creatively Yours,
Loved this because when I was younger this used to be my secret technique and you reminded me of my past and how creative I am thank u(:
I love this! I do art journaling all the time to calm down during anxiety and sometimes , having to come up with a PLAN or an IDEA of what to draw can be overwhelming. Just being able to do some repetition like circles or lines while still being creative is such a great idea.
Thanks for sharing! <3
I’m so happy that you like the idea. Please let me know how it goes! You may also like my post today with a free DIY Coloring Book. I also enjoyed reading your post about balancing introspection and mindfulness and not getting too caught up in your head!
Totally agree, I’ve been wanting 2 start my journal since (last julember)
Fear I say it’s not but it is…
I started on this rd by accident, im really poorly at the moment, and do I dnt crack up stuck in 4 walls, 7 started cutting the pictures out of wallpaper samples. We’ll I have a lot as u can imagine, then I spotted mixes media art journaling. I felt I’d come home, oh yes, I have come home I just haven’t taken my coat off yet. 😂
That’s the metaphor for the fear why I haven’t started.
So then u jumped out of my fone, and said follow me, putting how u feel down in an art form, amazing.. I can not wait.
Thank you so much for sharing. X
I’m so happy that you are here! Do take off your coat. You’re in the right place and we can all let our creative selves out to play! Xo. Amy
I’ve been drawing for so many decades, I can’t recall a time when I didn’t. When I discovered Zentangle (R) very early in 2012, I knew I’d come across something that I would use for the rest of my life, and now I don’t often let a day pass without doing at least a small drawing. I’m not a person who gets anxious nor nervous, so art isn’t something that is meant to calm me down; it’s uplifting, joyous, happy and fun.
I did get a kick out of the drawing of circles; some days, they’re my favorite thing to draw, and they nearly always lead to a much larger, much more complicated drawing. I don’t draw “realistically,” just not wanting to (I can, but don’t enjoy it as much as free form), but I do also enjoy drawing cartoons, especially of my coworkers, who are usually flattered that I would choose one of them to draw. I make sure to be kind–don’t want to answer to God for meanness–but also am accurate about some of their funny foibles.
Hi Amy, I love hearing about others who feel the way I do about art. I recently broke my ankle and was going insane doing nothing so I asked my husband to get me a canvas from the dollar store and so started my obsession with drawing and painting. I want to tell everyone I talk to how therapeutic it is but I don’t feel like people really understand the true benefit of just loosing yourself in your drawing. I guess either its a passion or its not. My ankle has since healed (mostly). Turns out If I wouldn’t of broke ankle I wouldn’t of found this new found love for art. Take care..Nancy
I have to say, I’m sort of glad you broke your ankle since it brought you to art! Sorry about the ankle (and really hope you make a full recovery) but thrilled that you found art! It’s just amazing how soothing it can be, isn’t it?
I’m so glad you found Mindful Art Studio too! It sounds like you are in the right place! You might enjoy a recent video post on transforming art work you don’t care for, or my art tutorials page.
I hope to “see” you here again soon!
thankyou Amy. i m writing to u from India and trust me ur blog is like a ray of hope for me. seriously Amy thanks a ton
Oh my goodness, what wonderful news! it’s always gratifying to know that these posts can help. Be sure to sign up for the mailing list if you’d like to see more.
This simple drawing techniques are so handy. I used the mine system immediately & ended up creating someone more to add between the lines. I love it.
Next I’m doing the circles, and by next I mean right now! Haha
Thanks for sharing this!!!
I’m so happy it speaks to you! xo
Thank you so much for this! I will totally give it a shot 🙂
I’m so happy you are inspired to try these techniques. The paintings and drawings on your Etsy shop are so playful and fun. Happy Arting!
Thanks Amy art is my ‘thing’ but the anxiety paralyses me. I manage just 10 minutes per day trying to sketch something but l give up.
I will try your exercises and hope to push through the barriers.
Thanks so much.
I am glad you see some hope in this approach. You might also enjoy my class, Freeing the Muse. It’s an hour long class (self-paced and always available) with a set of exercises designed to help loosen you up and get back the joy in art. For some it’s a huge help with that paralyzed feeling when you are trying to create. You can learn more here if it sounds up your alley: http://mindfulartstudio.com/freeing-the-muse-an-online-class/
I like how these are things that I already do when I’m feeling down. Simple shapes, lines, circles they all help me calm down, but I always felt I was wasting my drawing time by doing something uncreative. I guess I should just care less, and draw more.
YES! I think part of the key is seeing the art process – as that – a process. We have to be willing to engage in the process for the joy of engaging in it – to have permission to be a beginner and to engage with curiosity. THat’s how skills grow, depth, and enjoyment. I teach a more in depth version of this in my class, Freeing the Muse, if you feel like you need more help with this: http://mindfulartstudio.com/freeing-the-muse-an-online-class/ XO Amy
Your link at the very beginning to access how to silence our inner art critic does not work. It takes me to the page about your ebook and the links to purchase it.
HI Shelley: Oh I’m so sorry if that’s confusing! The exercise is in my e-book on starting an art journal. It’s a $9 jam packed resource for folks starting an art journal, but I also find that getting the inner critic out of the way is SO IMPORTANT so I usually include some exercises to help folks do that before they begin. If you are looking for free resources, I’ve got tons of tutorials and such to help get you started on my youtube channel. Thanks so much for being here! XO Amy
Hola Amy. Thank you very much for sharing so beautiful ideas. I work as a volunteer in the women prison in Bogotá, Colombia, and I am happy to have found some new activities to make them calm and relaxed.
Hola Ana Maria!
Gracias por visitar mi pagina! I’m so happy that you will find a good use for the techniques with the women you work with. They are lucky to have you.
Not sure how I found you but glad I did. I am struggling, for years, with focussing. I have too many interests and want to do to many things. So I believe you might be my ticket. Thank you…
Laurie – Oh this is such a common problem! I hear you! I’m really glad this technique speaks to you and I hope to hear more about how it goes. I have a free art journaling and creativity class that might be helpful too: https://mindfulartstudio.com/free-art-journaling-class/
HI Amy, i am excited to try a few things. the art journal recommended here isn’t free, maybe it was before. any recommendations other than this e book to start a journal ?
I’m not sure which e-book you are referring to, I apologize. I have a free 6 day art journaling and creativity class, called The Guide to Creative Self-Care. I’ve made the form easier to navigate on this page, but also, you can just click here to register: https://mindfulartstudio.com/free-art-journaling-class/
I also have a great post full of ideas on how to start an art journal. You’ll find that here.
Happy creating and please let me know if I can help point you to any other resources. You’re going to have so much fun!
When I follow the link to buy your ‘Start Your Art Journal’ ebook, it says – This product is not currently for sale.
I am using a laptop and not a mobile device. Do you sell it somewhere else?
HI Kim: It’s in my shop.I’ve fixed that link – thanks for the heads up. XO I’ll link you to Starting Your Art Journal right here to make it easy. xo
Finally a website I can come to for good advice on how to start a doodle sketchbook!
I’m hoping to start this as a regular thing in the new year!
So glad I can help! xo
These are so helpful! I had a anxiety problem yesterday and this calmed me down. Another one is drawing a random shape and trying to make something out of it
HI Cam – I’m so happy that this was nurturing for you! And making random shapes and working with them is so fun too!
This is very helpful for my anxiety I am probably going to use the line technique…
I’m so glad you find it helpful Rylee! xo
Thank you so much for this! Recently I’ve been having anxiety problems and this will really help, as I’ve recently discovered repetitive drawing is something I really like. Again, thank you!
Hi Kahlan: I’m so glad you are here and that you are finding these drawing techniques helpful. I run a weekly Slow Drawing workshop that I think you’d really enjoy. You can sign up here.