How Art Can Help You Understand Yourself

Art is difficult to define. What makes one thing art and another not can be a hard line to find. However, we think of it more generally as adding beauty, detail and/or quality to the world and the things in it. Art is creating and there are nearly limitless possibilities to what you can create. Art, and making art, can be a tool for getting to know yourself. There are a few ways this happens. 

paper streamers of various shapes, stars, flowers, circles, and rabbits, are strung across a hallway. they are colorful and beautiful. a painting of a little girl with an umbrella is seen in the background beneath a window. the artful touches, though simple, make the space feel special.

First, it’s vital that you know that making art is about so much more than your “abilities”. It doesn’t matter how “good” or “bad” you are (or how good/bad you think you are). Just create and have fun with it, you owe it to yourself. Giving yourself permission to be “bad” at something and to do it anyway can unlock new possibilities. It can inspire you in ways you never knew you could, or even needed to, be.

Hands are holding a white and blue twine, seemingly measuring it out to make something. They are on a light wood table covered in arts and crafts supplies: other twines, paintbrushes, beads, blues, feathers and more.

Second, especially if you’re creating by yourself, making art can be a time of quiet reflection. You can use it to think about the things in life that you’re grateful for, or to think about what else you might want out of the life you’re living, or as a form of meditation. Getting fully involved with a craft or project can let your mind relax, with some occasional wandering. When this happens, take a moment to acknowledge what it is your mind has stumbled onto, write down a note if you need to, and get back to focusing on the work at hand. 

Two hands are holding a tiny clay bird that they are creating. There is clay on their hands and the tool they are using to add details, such as the eyes and the feathers around the neck, is gently pulled away while they decide on their next move.

Third, if you’re creating with friends then you may find yourself making similar things with some beautiful and varied differences. This can teach you about the diversity in the way you view the world and what’s in it. The colors you choose and other ways your work differs from those around you, can give some insight into your preferences and favorites, the things that you see as beautiful, and what you want to surround yourself with. Even in a follow-along painting, everybody’s end result is unique. Use these distinctions to discover, reflect on, and appreciate the ways in which you are you

A group of painters are standing together smiling at the end of a guided painting party hosted by Apple Pie Painting. They've painted flowers and everyone's is unique and beautiful, with different colors and styles showing.

Third, what you choose to create, whether it’s paintings, sculptures, drawings, jewelry, cookies, quilts… the medium you are using and the works you are creating say something about you. They offer insight into the things you value. Making a quilt? It’s likely that you value comfort and coziness, and if you’re making it as a gift it means you want to give someone a beautiful way to be comfortable and cozy. Crafting jewelry? You probably hold self expression to be highly important and use the accessories you’re creating to tell the world something about yourself (and to allow others to do the same). Painting? You likely enjoy watching things come together and seeing the way that two things (like colors or strokes) can blend together and create something entirely different. 

Even the details you notice when making something are unique to you. You may focus on the colors, the stitching, the layout… What grabs your attention is a reflection of the things you are most drawn to, the things that signify beauty to you.

yellow orange red green purple and blue brush strokes are smeared down the upper left corner of a white canvas, the colors blending together and gently spread down fading to almost nothing

Next time you’re making something (and we hope it’s soon), try tuning in to some of these things. Notice where your mind wanders, where you differ from others, where your eyes focus, and where you give your attention.

Happy creating,

Apple Pie Painting

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