For me, the pursuit of making collages on a regular basis came along at a time where i was at a creative crossroads. I have always been employed and involved in creative constructs, be it as a DJ, a graphic designer, working in art supply stores, making album covers for friends, drawing, teaching others certain skills etc. However, it wasn't until the very recent past that I discovered collage and a real sense of making art that represented my true personal vision.
I started making collages in earnest as an informal meditation - a time spent without outside influence or dictation which embodied my love of sampling culture, a love derived from Warhol to DJ Shadow and back again. Yes I share it on social media, and yes I fall into that trap of allowing my brain's reward center to be triggered by likes and comments/compliments, but it's the process that is the most satisfying element of all that comes with making these images.
Art and it's journey from idea to fruition is helping a lot of people in a lot of different situations. I want to bring your attention to two articles I have read recently - one is a very frank and personal account written by Irish artist Jason Kearney aka Cuts Collage about the way collage was something that got him out of an anxiety induced darkness, the other a University study on lowering stress hormones via creativity.
In his article written for the website A Lust For Life Kearny makes mention of "mark making" - the process of creating without prior skills or talent, art not made for others - rather it is art made "at a more embodied, primitive, raw level." That's not to say he doesn't want others to enjoy experiencing his work, but at it's core it serves as a way to not only expose vulnerability, but to also abscond from the dark trappings of self analysis. His long standing depression and anxiety had been given a well deserved respite.
This practice of mark making is at odds of course with the reward systems contained within the structures of social media. The way platforms such as Instagram often fail in their intention is due to the fact that by and large many people like repetition, people like predictable, safe, familiar. This often extends to the music they like, the clothes they wear etc. This is something I've observed as both a visual artist and as a DJ. I've seen many amazing artists go largely unnoticed, whilst others can basically recreate the same work over and over to mass adulation thanks largely to the way society responds to the linear. For example, studies show that people will "like" a post with a lot of notes, compared to the exact same piece of art posted with a low note count.
Social media, for the anxious artist, or those suffering any kind of depression isn't a kind ally at times. My personal experience in the year I've been posting my artwork has had both rewards and letdowns, but often they are of my own creation due to old habits of overthinking. It's tricky traversing a world where we allow complete strangers to dictate our sense of self, of achievement or creative worth. For this reason alone, we should be ensuring that we make art for ourselves, first and foremost.
Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA is an academically comprehensive and globally engaged urban research university. In a recent article hosted on the website PsyPost, it focuses on the body's levels of the hormone Cortisol, measured in the study through saliva samples. The higher a person’s cortisol level, the more stressed a person is likely to be. Of those who took part in an art as therapy study, just under half reported that they had limited experience in making art. The researchers found that 75 percent of the participants’ cortisol levels lowered during their 45 minutes of making art.
The ability to switch off the chatter in our brain is something that many people are trying to obtain as we continue to experience more and more sensory saturation. Often the options available, whilst kind and beneficial to our brains, aren't so forgiving on our wallets. I believe that the encouragement of artistic pursuits in those who are caught in the struggle is a very crucial one. If you or somebody you know needs that special space, that relief, or just a moment spent giving yourself a pat on the shoulder, making something with just your hands will deliver that without a doubt. It doesn't have to be pretty, it doesn't have to be perfect. You don't need to show it to anybody. You don't have to keep it. You just have to sit and let it out of you. Even if you have doubts, try it, you've got everything to lose.
Please don't hold back on posting your own thoughts and experiences with using art as your personal care practice in the comments block below, I'd love to read them. - Lyndon
When Words Are Not Enough: Art And My Mental Health by Jason Kearney
Stress-related hormone cortisol lowers significantly after just 45 minutes of art creation