10 Art Therapy Techniques To Get You Through That Lingering Winter Gloom

10 Art Therapy Techniques To Get You Through That Lingering Winter Gloom

This post goes out to all our readers who have just about had it with winter. Whether you've been in hibernation since pre-Winter Storm Juno, watched everything on your Netflix queue, or just can't wait for avocados to come back into peak season, we're here to help. The following art therapy techniques are designed to stimulate the imagination and warm the soul even in the coldest of temperatures, with easy exercises for anyone from age five to 100. What better way to stay locked up in your apartment than bundle up and let the creative juices start flowing?

Art therapy is a form of therapy predicated on the belief that artistic expression has the power to help us in healing, in self-esteem or simply in chilling out. It's unique in that most other forms of therapy rely on language as the foremost mode of communication, whereas art requires something different, something harder to define.

We're not art therapists, and the techniques below are only suggestions based on practices familiar to the art therapy community. But for those hungry for a creative outlet to relieve the tension that tends to build up this time of year, the practices below may help. They require few materials and no artistic background -- in fact, the less art you make, the better. The following suggestions are less about the final product, and more about the transformation that occurs along the way.

1. Craft your own dream guardian


You've heard of a dreamcatcher. We're tweaking the tradition a little bit, thus freeing up the possibilities of what shapes your new dream guardian can take. Create a dangling sculpture to hang above your bed that will watch over you while you sleep. Feel free to use the traditional willow hoop with feathers and beads, or veer off track and get experimental with fabric, bells, photos, or whatever brings you peace of mind. Soon you'll have a new friend to keep an eye on you as your dreams sweep you off into another world.

2. Make a painting with no tools but your body

finger painting

Don't have the time (or the funds) to invest in a new batch of art tools? No worries, all you need to get creative is your own beautiful body. Explore the possibilities of your own anatomy -- the plush curves of your fingertip, the sharp edge of your nail, the capabilities of hand and foot and even hair, if you're feeling bold. Not only will your canvas end up looking unexpectedly magnificent, but you'll probably resemble a work of art yourself.

3. Revamp a stuffed animal


We've been dying to give this one a go since we caught a glimpse of Jenny Ottinger's latest exhibition, in which she conducts slightly botched surgeries on stuffed teddy bears, producing jumbled creatures at once adorable and creepy. We'd recommend a less frightening version for a therapeutic result. Take a beloved childhood toy and transform it into a work of art, either by patching its holes, replacing its ragged parts or going a more avant-garde route. You'll finally be able to return your beloved teddy to its rightful spot on your bed, while proudly displaying an original objet d'art.

4. Craft a memory rock


Next time you have a special day, take a home a free souvenir in the form of a rock -- or a receipt, or a brochure, or a leaf; anything will do the trick really. Call it your new canvas. Decorate your new keepsake with memories from throughout the day -- however abstract or concrete your creative self desires. If you're feeling painter's block, use the natural creases and edges of the rock to guide your aesthetic decisions. A few memory rocks down the road, you'll have a rock garden that instantly conjures recollections of your most joyous days, to help with the glum ones.

5. Channel Guiseppe Arcimboldo


Brief art history primer: Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a 16th century Italian painter primarily known for his surreal self-portraits made from painted objects like fruit, veggies, books and fish. Channel good ole Giuseppe with objects that mean something to you. Whether you draw, paint or collage, create a version of that precious punam of yours made from the objects that help define you or make your heart flutter -- whether it's your dog, sunflowers or the In-N-Out logo.

6. Make an ephemeral artwork

chalk drawing

Practice the art of letting go by creating a work of art with an expiration date. Work with a material that erodes with time -- whether it's a sand castle that washes away in the sea, a chalk mural that fades in the sun, or a drawing attached to a balloon and set into flight. You know what they say, f you love something, set it free!

7. Paint a mirror or window


Overhaul the concept of a blank canvas by selecting a surface that already tells a vivid story. Apply pigment to a mirror or window, and let your brushstrokes mingle with whatever's already gracing your uncanny canvas -- be it a snowy day or your own reflection. Just think of it as makeup's way artsier second cousin.

8. Turn a journal entry into a work of art

journal entry

Whether you're drawing inspiration from last week's misadventure or your third grade trials and tribulations, why not creative a visual adaptation of your own first-person narration? Take an old journal entry -- one that was especially poignant, difficult, joyous, or totally arbitrary -- and recreate the text as imagery. Feel free to draw, paint, collage, whatever can best express the atmosphere of that one day.

9. Design your (artsy) spirit animal

spirit animal painting

Do you have a spirit animal? Have you never been quite satisfied with the classic genus and species currently available to you? Here's your chance to craft the imaginary hybrid creature of your wildest fantasies. From a liger to a jellyfish-dragon to a pegasus-zebra, the only limit to the wildlife available to you are the zoological limits of your mind.

10. Make a morning drawing (every morning)


What do you do first thing in the morning? Check Facebook? Chug coffee? Read the paper? Change things up a bit by creating a morning drawing before you even get out of bed. Recreate last night's dream or draft out the day's intentions, either way, you may be surprised by what you can create in the first moments of the day, in that rare time spent transitioning from sleeping to waking.

For more art therapy suggestions, check out our previous posts here, here and here.

Before You Go

Outside The Lines, A Coloring Book


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