Arts: Therapeutic Art Activities

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My top 3 therapeutic art activities you can try at home!

The powerful and therapeutic effects art-making can have on mental health is now widely recognised and evidenced. Here at Arc, we see the positive impact creativity has on people’s lives every day. Our programmes explore art-making as a tool and process that help people to relax, build confidence, have fun and express themselves.

Over the past year, 91% of participants on Arc’s wellbeing programme ‘Challenge’ described the benefits of therapeutic art activities with an increase in their wellbeing.

“Art has helped me chill out at home. My stress levels are high, so it has given me something else to focus on and helps switch my head off.”

This month I have picked my 3 favourite therapeutic art activities that are often delivered on our arts for wellbeing programmes, for you to try at home:

Therapeutic art activities

Mark Making

This playful, expressive and accessible abstract art activity is a firm favourite with participants on our outreach programme. Experimental and fun, it often leads to some of the most striking and bold artworks created on the programme. Be prepared to get messy!

What you will need

Acrylic paint, large cartridge paper, objects/materials that will make an interesting mark eg. Bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard, foil, toy car, tennis ball, stick, sponge, bottle top etc. No pencils or paintbrushes.

Method

  • Start with a few colours of acrylic paint on a pallet
  • Dip one of the objects/materials into the paint.
  • Print, roll, scrape, splat, roll the painted object onto the paper
  • Experiment with different objects, colours and levels of paint, overlapping marks and creating patterns


Top Tip

Try spraying water onto the marks to blend colours and create a contrasting watercolour effect!

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Block Printing

Printmaking is one of my favourite artistic mediums, I love the element of surprise it brings and how just one block can create a multitude of different effects and artworks.

Polystyrene/quick print block printing is a great starter activity for anyone interested in printmaking. Fast, simple and accessible for all ages, it’s an easy activity to try out at home.

What you will need

Quick print/polystyrene pizza base, block printing ink, a roller, perspex/glass sheet, A4 paper, pencil.

Method

  • Begin by cutting the polystyrene into a size and shape to fit the paper
  • Draw your design onto the polystyrene block. Every scored mark will appear in your printed design.
  • Add a small amount of ink to the perspex sheet, then roll on with the roller transferring the ink to the roller.
  • Once you have a fine and even coating of ink on the roller, roll onto your block.
  • You are now ready to print. Place the block, ink-face down, onto the paper. Use your hand to rub and add pressure to the block, applying particular attention to the corners of the block and design area.
  • Lift the block off the page to reveal the print!


Top Tip

The polystyrene block is robust enough to print multiple times.  Try applying a mix of colours and printing on different coloured papers and fabric. Why not pick a theme for example “portraiture” or “types of mushroom”? You could even copy images or shapes from a book. Alternatively cut out different shapes and create patterns.

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Clay Pinch Pot

The tactile, sensory quality of clay is a wonderfully relaxing and therapeutic material to play, mould and model with.  This simple activity is a great starter exercise for anyone new to clay.

What you will need

Air drying clay.

Method

  • Take a small amount of air-drying clay (no bigger than a tennis ball) and roll into a ball.
  • Push your thumb into the middle of the ball, leaving around 1cm at the base.
  • With your thumb in the centre of the clay and your fingers on the outside, begin pinching from bottom to top to create a thin and even wall, rotating as you go along.
  • Continue to pinch until you are happy with the width of the wall and shape of the pot.

Top Tip

Build the pot higher and create a decorative design, by adding coils of clay or small balls above the pot. To attach the additional elements, smooth down the clay coils onto the inside of the thumb pot. To maintain the design, you do not need to do this on the outside of the pot. Once dry, add colour with acrylic paint or Sharpie type pens.

If you enjoyed playing with clay and would like to explore it further, check out our upcoming pottery courses and workshops starting in September or subscribe to the workshops mailing list.
You can also find out more about our free arts for wellbeing programmes.

I hope you enjoy these activities as much as we do!


Annette Naor Hilton,
Senior Project Manager, Arc

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