Painting is a truly wonderful hobby that results in some beautifully expressive final products. Not only can painting be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of their age or if they utilise stair lifts at home, there are also myriad benefits associated with the hobby, from improved brain function to reduced stress. In this article we present just some of these benefits, letting you know about what painting could do for you if you decided to take it up.
Painting is an intrinsically creative activity and for many, finding an outlet to embrace their creative side is rare. Being creative is not only great fun but it encourages you to use part of your brain that may have been sitting dormant for quite some time. Painting can actually help brain function in numerous ways, including boosting your memory, as studies have found that creative outlets like painting reduce the chance of contracting memory loss illnesses.
Rachel, an artist from the blog from Watercolours by Rachel, has shared the reason why she paints, giving an insight into the joys of being creative: “I love the process; I know I could take a photo, but painting is different. We all (me included) snap away with our phones but when you sit in a field and look, really look and paint the way it feels, you never forget that scene.”
The team at London Art College spoke to us about what benefits they believe painting can offer for older people, in particular, highlighting the enjoyment of being creative and how it can help the mind: “London Art College has many students who have taken up or returned to drawing and painting at a late stage in their life. Our older students find that it gives them a focus for their creative skills as well as helping with their mental acuity and wellbeing. There are many research projects that show that art can help improve brain function in a variety of ways, helping to keep the artist’s brain more resilient.”
Artist Jem Bowden teaches watercolour painting, with many of his clients being of retirement age. He told us that he believes “painting can be beneficial for a lot of reasons,” describing how it encourages creative thinking: “Painting is very creative and can be more or less so, since you can either just 'copy' something, or be more expressive, more experimental, or it be linked to an illustrative, narrative or another graphic purpose. Additionally, there is the manual and physical aspect of painting. It also helps you to enjoy the whole of the 'visual world' of life more. When outdoors in any situation you can look at things as if with 'new eyes' and think 'how would I paint that', etc. There is so much to enjoy about the whole process and the learning never ends.”
One of the most wonderful benefits of painting is its ability to relieve stress and provide a pleasant distraction from the demands of everyday life. By sitting down in complete focus on your art, you can forget what is currently on your mind.
Rachel Toll, from Watercolours by Rachel, spoke to us about how painting can take you away from the world and be a much-needed escape: “I think painting is a process that you can do anywhere even from the comfort of an armchair. It involves your mind and your body; it takes you away from everyday problems and totally engages you for an hour or two.”
Jem Bowden lists paintings’ ability to help one relax as another key benefit: “These days painting is often cited as a good 'mindfulness' practice. Time passes in a semi-meditative state because when painting you are absorbed in every moment of what you are doing. One thing you are NOT doing is worrying about other things, past or future. I do believe this is one reason why many find it so peaceful and calming. It is also good for the brain for a number of reasons, and leaves the brain refreshed after a session.”
Image credit: Liam O’Farrell
Liam O’Farrell is an artist who has discussed benefits such as this in a video he has made about tips for painting at home which he published during COVID-19 lockdown. There is lots of great information in there and it is a helpful resource for those interested in taking up painting.
Liam says: “There are enormous benefits with taking up drawing and painting. Not only do you get the satisfaction from feeling productive, but it is also a meditative pursuit which can deliver a great sense of calm and relaxation. Once you get going, the hours can slip by almost without you noticing them. There may even be a few financial benefits, I haven’t bought a birthday card in years!” For those getting started, Liam recommends painting postcards as they are cheap and “you can get rolling right away”.
London Art College also recognises painting’s stress-relieving capabilities: “Art is also a very relaxing hobby which can help with reducing any feelings of stress or anxiety. Our courses are self-paced, so there is no time pressure for the completion of the course and as they are distance learning course they can be completed from your own home. We offer a wide range of drawing and painting courses which are suitable for artists from complete beginners (yes, you can start a new hobby at any age) to more experienced artists looking to try something new.”
Painting doesn’t have to entail being locked away indoors alone as many painters love getting outside and painting the world that they see around them. Jem Bowden is one of these very artists and shared with us that this is a big benefit for him personally: “As an 'en plein air' painter mostly, I get a great benefit from being outdoors, taking inspiration from the situation of being there in nature - again 'in the moment' or in front of other inspiring subjects and locations.”
Jem also made sure to discuss the social dimension of painting, as you can also get out and about in groups and classes, benefitting both teacher and student alike: “The social aspect of teaching is often great fun, and it's very rewarding being able to help people learn to do things that they enjoy and get a lot out of. I especially enjoy teaching on 'painting holidays' (residential courses of several days' duration) based in lovely parts of the country with inspiring painting locations.
“There are also many art groups which one could find to join locally, and these are usually very sociable as a priority! All of these things can be highly beneficial to anyone who takes up painting, either for pure fun or with more serious intent, and age is certainly no object.”
Alan Reed, an artist and owner of the Alan Reed Art Gallery in Newcastle, told us that he knows many people who have taken up painting in later life, many of which decide to come on the painting holidays he provides to Italy or comes along to a class. This social aspect is something he knows to be a big positive for painters:
“The simple pleasure of painting can be a fulfilling experience and rewarding. Of course, it can be frustrating if you don’t know what you’re doing but joining an art class or receiving expert tuition will help to tackle the frustrations.
“Being part of an art class or painting club can bring a sense of community and belonging which can help to overcome loneliness and social anxiety.”
Fine motor skills are defined as the coordination of small muscles in movements involving the hands and fingers. It can also be labelled as dexterity which is something that many people would like to improve, especially as they reach a certain age. This is yet another realm where painting can make a difference, as delicately handling a paintbrush for often small and intricate strokes can increase the mobility in your hands and fingers. Painters often end up developing mental shortcuts that your brain will end up utilising in other parts of your life, helping you in various tasks outside of artistic pursuits.
Alan Reed recognised this particular benefit when talking to us: “Painting, particularly when it’s from life, can help you become more visually aware and will stimulate the brain. It also helps the hand to eye co-ordination. I personally find that I will often ‘draw’ with a brush and paint, working directly with the brush onto either paper or canvas. This very spontaneous, direct approach can result in a very expressive and attractive painting that is fun to do.”
Many of us could use with a self-esteem boost and this is something particularly prevalent with older demographics. Painting provides one with a safe space for delving into their creative side and the pride one can take away from creating a piece of art is significant. If you spend many hours of hard work carefully crafting a painting, the sense of accomplishment you gain from a job well done can’t help but improve your mood and confidence.
Alan Reed shares: “There are many folks who have taken up painting to discover that their paintings are liked by others and they are able to sell their work.” As Alan says, by sharing your painting with friends and family, someone might want to put it on their wall, and this will most certainly provide you with some positive vibes. The pride of having created something is certainly a benefit to take note of.
If you are someone who struggles with expression emotions, finding an outlet where you can pour out your heart and release what you are holding inside is an excellent idea. Painting is the perfect conduit for such feelings, allowing you to express yourself in any manner that you wish. If you can’t talk about it, paint it. Painting is also used as a method for self-analysation. It can help you to understand what you are feeling and come to grips with it. Many artists find painting to be a very cathartic experience. Some people take advantage of art therapy more formally, as it is a form of psychotherapy that utilises art as a mode of communication and expression.
As you can see, there are some wonderful benefits to be had from painting. So why not pick up a brush and give it a go yourself? You can either take some beginner’s lessons or just grab some paint and see what happens. There are bound to be even more benefits to the hobby that you will discover.
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