The May edition of National Geographic explains that pursuing artistic challenges isn’t just a right side of the brain thing. It’s a workout for the whole brain including the unconscious as well as the conscious mind. It makes people who are good at being creative also good at critical thinking and outside-the-box problem solving. We’ve all heard of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) curricula in our public schools. Now there is a STEAM movement, incorporating Art into STEM to aid young minds in becoming the problem solvers of tomorrow.
Young students’ brains aren’t the only ones that benefit from artistic pursuits. Ours do, too! (And it doesn’t matter if you’re a horrible crafter, a terrible artist, or a bad poet. It’s the process, not the result, which benefits our brains.) In my circle of art friends, we’ve braved creative challenges like:
- Doodling with the non-dominant hand.
- Writing a poem of exactly 100 lines.
- Painting a scene by filling in only the area around objects, not the objects themselves.
- Building a sculpture with office supplies.
- Creating art from trash. (Before you cringe, check out the stunning 3D works of an artist named Stuart Haygarth who uses discarded items like plastic that washed ashore on the beach: http://www.stuarthaygarth.com/.)
- Starting a painting, then turning it upside down and continuing with a different painting.
- Sketching a scene by looking at the sketchpad in a mirror to do it.
I’ve been working on my own outside-the-box, creative, brain benefiting exercise. I made a list pairing vastly different art mediums, techniques, or hobbies together. The idea is to create a series of paintings based on the pairings:
- Watercolors and gold leaf.
- Watercolors and a fluffy ceiling paint roller.
- Green paint and credit cards.
- Poetry and math.
- Blue paint and baking supplies.
For the first challenge, I used a very loose, drippy method to paint an evening landscape, then added gold leaf to represent the last glints of setting sun on the ridges.
In the second example, I got rid of the paintbrush and tried to paint a floral scene by manipulating watercolor paint with a big, LINTY ceiling roller. I spent a lot of time afterwards picking out tiny pieces of fuzz!
For the third challenge, I mixed up a greenish color and painted a winter landscape using credit cards instead of a paintbrush.
Okay, the fourth challenge, poetry and math, isn’t mine. That pairing was Dear Husband’s. In our daily love notes back-n-forth to each other via his lunchbox, he often gets creative.
I’m still working on the blue paint and baking supplies challenge. It’s sitting on the kitchen countertop, a work in progress, and the wet and colorful parchment paper is witness. I hope it turns out, but it’s okay if it doesn’t because, as I remind myself again, it’s the process that benefits our brains, not the end result.
Make this day even better. Consider:
• Reading, too, is good for our brains. I recently read a book about, appropriately enough, the brain and how it’s affected by the Internet. It’s called The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. The book is full of well documented research that Carr has translated into ordinary language for the lay person. It’s a fascinating book, quite readable, and not just another the-Internet-is-evil book. In fact, Carr points out what may be benefits from our screen time . . . but he does point out the surprising negative effects, too. Our local library had the book, but I see that the ebook from Amazon is available for $7.74, and the paperback is $8.15. (Still, if you’re watching your pennies, visit your library. That’s what it’s there for!) Fabulous read.