Creative Stress Relief - Meditative Painting

Doodle Therapy - Blueness - Patricia Kay


Looking for a creative way to relax?  Have trouble sitting still to meditate?  Meditative painting might be just the thing you're looking for.  No painting skill or experience necessary - only a desire to relax and become more creative.

Whether you are without any experience, or a seasoned pro, this method takes you deeper into the creative process by letting your intuition take the lead.  This approach is also a great way to overcome the creative block of not knowing where to start or what you would like to create.  There is no object of subject to paint or think about.

The Body-Mind Connection of Meditative Painting

This method is all about feeling at several levels.  A desired state can be achieved by letting outwhat is going on inside, or by bringing in what is needed.  By that, I mean, the body-mind connection is a two-way, expressive channel that can be used to your benefit.  Negative or stressful energy can flow out onto the paper, or positive, relaxing, healing energy from what was painted can be brought inward.

Which way you choose will be up to you and what your are feeling at the moment.  Generally, if you are feeling very unsettled or anxious - express what you are feeling.  If you are experiencing low energy, boredom or no direction, you need to bring uplifting energy in.

So how do you do this?  You will need to depend a lot on your own intuition and follow its direction.

Here's What You Will Need:
  • Acrylic Paint - I use Liquitex.  If you don't have paint on hand and are not sure what colors to purchase, use this as your guide.  First, select colors you love.  Pick a few that you find exciting and uplifting to use when your energy is low.  Then select a few that you find soothing, peaceful and pleasing when you need to achieve a calmer and serene state.
  • Brushes - A variety of brushes will give you the ability to be more expressive in your meditative paintings.  You don't need any specific size, but include larger rounds and flats, along with fans and mops.  Fans will allow you to add expressive textures and "punctuation" to your painting.  Mops and wash brushes are great for dreamy-like washes of color or for covering a large area with color.  If you do not have any brushes, you can find variety packs at varying costs and quality.  Choose what fits your budget. Pick the ones that appeal to you and select what you are drawn to - that's your intuition guiding you.  
  • Paper - I use various size pads of Bristol Vellum.  It's inexpensive and will not buckle.  I find that if I use something that is not expensive, I am freer to experiment.
  • Optional - Glazing medium can be added to the paint to thin it and create transparent layers.  But adding water to thin the paint works just fine.
  • Miscellaneous - You will need cups or jars for water - use one for a first rinse and a second for a final rinse, a palette or plate for mixing paint, paper towels for cleanup and mishaps and a protective surface under your paper.
How-to's:
  • Take a minute to reflect on what you are feeling and where you feel it in your body.  Ask yourself a few questions:  Do you feel the need to release tension or bring uplifting energy in?  Do you feel a build up of stress or not enough positive energy.  The need to release tension or stress would indicate that allowing that energy to flow out onto the paper would be the best approach.  If you're feeling low energy and need uplifting, you can paint what that looks like or you can choose to paint in a way that would give you the energy you need.  I will explain how as we go along.
  • Line up all your paint colors.  Looking at the colors you have available, which colors are you drawn to?  What do you want to reach for? These are the colors your intuition is telling you that you need.  Every color has its own energy level and can help to raise or lower yours.  The colors you choose will have the most impact on your reaction to the painting, so follow your intuition.
As an example, let's just say that you are gravitating to a bright red.  You could be drawn to this because you are feeling something intensely in a negative way that needs to be released or you could be feeling the need of its strong energy to elevate yours.  You could logically conclude that if you are feeling intense stress, that a softer or lower energy color might be a better choice to bring about calmness - and that would be true. 

But I would suggest that when there is strong gravitation to a color - go with that.  The need for a color or feeling to be expressed may be stronger than the need to sooth or calm it.  The therapy in this process is trusting your intuition to take you in the right direction.
  • Now, for the fun part!  You can approach the way you paint in a number of ways.  First, pick a brush you want to use in the same way you chose your color.  When you start to paint, you can dab paint quickly across the paper, streak broad strokes of color or add squiggly lines or dots.  But most importantly, approach it in a child-like manner - don't think about it - just do what you feel like doing and don't hold back.
  • To begin, I like to thin my paint with a little water or glazing medium to make it more transparent.  This technique will allow the layers and details below to blend and still be seen.   
  • I usually start with a big fluffy mop brush and let the brush dance across the page in swirls and circular motions - it creates the texture of my first layer and instantly calms me.  However, you can use a large flat brush, fan or any brush you like to start your first layer.  I might do this step repeatedly with the same color to intensify it or an alternating color that appeals to me - allowing the paint to dry in between layers. 
  • How you use your brush to express what you are feeling is what is important.  The intensity of the stroke, the marks and patterns created, the movement and rhythm used, all create the message and feel of the painting.  The color creates the energy and mood.  You can do similar brush strokes layer after layer or switch it up.  Let your intuition lead your hand.  Go with what you feel like doing, not what you think you should do.  As with regular meditation, you need to turn off the mind.
  • If you want to achieve a calmer or meditative state, use slower, repetitive brush strokes.  For some a curving, meandering movement will be more relaxing and soothing.  For others, the preference may be a straighter more linear approach.
  • Check in with how you are feeling.  If you are losing track of time and feeling more serene - you're on the right track.  If you're getting bored or tense, change the way you are painting.  Either use a different brush, brush stroke or different color.  Keep changing until the tension melts away.
  • You can use just one color for the entire painting, creating textures and patterns by using different brushes and brush strokes, one color plus black or use multiple colors like the one below.  Again, follow your intuition.

Doodle Therapy - Ripples - Patricia Kay

  • Notice how the fan brush was used to create swirls in this painting.  Depending on your taste, you may find this type of repetitive brush stroke very soothing to do or very annoying.  For me, it puts me in a meditative state - I'm really not painting anymore, it is more of an "active meditation".  Remember:  the goal of this method is to achieve the same benefits you would obtain from meditation, not the end product of the painting.
  • Experiment with your brush strokes.  Quick, strong brush strokes like streaks and splashes are great for getting out excessive energy.  Dots and curvy lines can convey a more upbeat energy.  Straight lines, boxes and triangles can bring about more order.  Use lines and shapes that appeal to you.  They are the symbols of your creative language.  You will soon find which ones bring you to a calm, meditative state and which ones can unlock and release negative energy. 
If you would like more ideas on how to create paintings like these that can be used for art projects, I recommend reading Painted Paper, Techniques & Projects for Handmade Books and Cards, by Alisa Golden and Collage With Color, Create Unique Expressive Collages in Vibrant Color, by Jane Davies.

Painted Paper offers a multitude of techniques that are explained very well and illustrated beautifully.  If you are a scrapbooker looking to create original art for your background pages, try meditation painting or the techniques described in these books.

Collage With Color is filled with bright and "happy" paintings.  For me, just paging through the book gets me energized.  The techniques and projects are simple and easy to understand.  If you're looking for inspiration, this book has plenty of it.  Try some of her techniques, then try using them in your mediation painting.

Once your painting is finished, take some time to look at it and reflect on what you created.  Did the process lower your stress level or raise your energy to a positive state?  If it didn't and you have the time, try another painting.

Hold on to your paintings and use them for reflective meditation.  You will find that if you experience the same feelings again, just gazing at these will help you relax or energize.  A great benefit when you don't have the time to sit down and create a new painting.

Another great way to release stress or raise your energy level is Drawing to Music.  See my post on how to do this and try painting to music and don't forget to keep up your Daily Doodle Journal.

Happy Doodling!