How art and mental health tie together during times of need

Bee Chaudhury

Staff Writer

     Historically, art has been used to express human emotions, starting way back with prehistoric cave art made with blood or fruit juice to stain the stone walls. In modern times, humans have created many different mediums to express themselves including painting, drawing, as well as performing arts such as dance. With the global pandemic, people are using art more than ever to express themselves during this time of isolation.

    Robbie Yue (10), a sophomore at American High School who has been drawing digitally for years, talks about what drew them into art.

     “I think it looks cool. It just feels cool to create something, and I’m like ’Whoa I did that’ for then also seeing other people’s art, and be like, ‘Whoa, people can do that,’” stated Yue. 

     This sort of mentality also affected their art during quarantine.

     “It’s just the style but, I’ve been wanting to put more thought into what I am drawing to have, like, more meaning behind it. Since quarantine started, I’ll get to do that,” explained Robbie Yue (10). 

     However, someone like Jalen Reyes, a sophomore in dance and colorguard, might have a different experience.

     “[Quarantine] has given me more time to think about [colorguard] and reflect on how well I’ve done in it, because during quarantine, I did absolutely no flag or rifle equipment whatsoever. The first time we got equipment was the first time I had touched it in months, because I was so scared that when we came back, will I even remember anything? And then when we really started doing like the zoom breakout rooms, it kind of just came back to me like muscle memory. I guess it’s just the fear of losing my skills. What happens, for example, when you dance you have all people understand that like when you don’t dance for a long time, you lose [technique]. You get out of shape, and I thought guard would be the same, but it’s not, it’s all muscle memory, with your practice and your fundamentals.” Jalen Reyes (10) responded when asked about her personal experience with guard and dance during quarantine. 

     Jalen also is in Art 2 at American, but doesn’t use it as much to express herself.

     “It’s like expressing emotions and feelings through live art, like physically, people are physically watching you, versus, like in a drawing people kind of can just see it as kind of like a stamp. On paper, it’s always there and you can stare at it for a long time and always find new things about it but what I like about performing arts is like it’s an in-the-moment type of emotion and feeling that you’re showing and presenting.” Jalen Reyes (10) expressed 

     Of course, someone like an art teacher might have a different opinion.

     “It’s like any relationship in your life, so some of my paintings and I had a beautiful time together. And it just flowed and everything was perfect. Some paintings, it was a struggle and we had to work through it, and it was a journey. And, you know, I always look at them and I see the struggle that happens so it really, you know, it might sound really strange but it is different for each, each piece.” Ms. Olson (Art Teacher) explained when describing her personal art.

     However, her regular experience with painting was only slightly affected by the pandemic.

     “I travel a lot and we had to cancel a bunch of trips that I had planned and I was very sad about that. But because I was trapped here, I got a lot more art done and I generally do, because there was nothing else to do. As far as how the quarantine impacted my artwork, it didn’t really [impact her art]. I just did more of it so I was much more prolific. Tragically, since school started, I haven’t painted at all because distance learning is a 24/7 situation. Yeah, but surely I’ll get into the rhythm and get some time for myself sometime soon.” Ms. Olsen further elaborated.

     She then delved further into her personal art.

     “I don’t use colored pencils for my art. I don’t do pencil drawings, I don’t do still life drawings, I’m an oil painter, and there’s a very different style in my own work than what I show [students] because it’s different. [Students] need to learn all the different skills, and I’m trying to show content and the things that I love, so it’s  just very different, and part of it is just the medium. So, yes, very different. So when I do a demo for [students] I feel like okay that’s done, but when I’m doing my own painting, I don’t notice time passing. It’s like, you just get into this state of flow where you’re just painting, and sometimes everything just clicks. And it’s a really lovely place to be in. Sometimes it doesn’t click and then you have this sort of discussion between you and the painting and what you want from it and what it wants to be. And it’s kind of a back and forth situation which is really interesting, but you don’t get that with a demo, because that’s really just skills that I’m trying to teach [students].” Ms. Olson elaborated when asked about her classes. 

     Art is a generally good way to express emotions and feelings. For most people, it does take time to figure out what kind of art they can express themselves through, as not every type of art is the same or even remotely similar in cases of performing arts. Having art as an outlet is also important, as human emotions can get built up and it’s good to “let the emotions out” so to speak. Overall, art is pretty good for you.

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