Yesterday, I took a break from my artwork and writing to enjoy a cup of tea. I sat down on the couch, sipped my tea and switched on the television news.
What a mistake that was.
The news story covered all the black Friday insanity going on around the country. There were images of people wrestling over merchandise. Masses of humanity, stampeding into warehouses full of holiday toys, clothing and accessories.
Presumably, people are vying for the best deals. Or, they want to be the first to snatch popular items “before supplies run out.”
Yes, we are blessed to be free and living in a country with so much abundance. But does all this frenzied shopping and holiday hustle make us any happier?
I’ll answer my own question and say, “No.”
We might feel temporarily happy that we got Dad a new sweater. We might congratulate ourselves for surprising our spouse with that new iPad. But deep down, the gifts and feelings they produce are fleeting.
Perhaps the answer is to simplify things by tapping our artful creativity. Doing so is good for our health and brings joy to others.
A healthy state of mind
An article in Psychologies.co.uk noted:
“Exercising our creativity can give us an outlet from our daily routines, helping us express emotions and boost our happiness levels.”
The article shared the reflections of artist Juliet Davey, who made four points about how creating art benefits us. Here are Juliet’s four points:
“Distracts from other worries — it is hard to dwell on troubles once in the flow of a painting. It has the power to engage you so fully, bringing you into the present moment.
Reduces stress — studies show that both creating and observing art can reduce cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’. Doing something you love also releases endorphins — feel-good chemicals that combat stress and reduce pain.
Builds self-esteem — I feel anything but confident as I start each project. Painting provides a challenge and with each hour I paint, I am building skills. It is an activity with a tangible result and the more I dedicate myself, slowly but surely, the more I can see improvement and feel a sense of achievement.
Creates a healthy state of mind — participants in a 2014 study who produced art demonstrated: ‘a significant improvement in psychological resilience’ as well as increased levels of ‘functional connectivity’ in the parts of the brain responsible for introspection, self-monitoring and memory. The study, involving participants aged between 62 and 70, also concluded that creating artwork can delay ageing.”
When I was a boy I fell in love with drawing and cartooning. I spent hours with my drawing pads, sketching and doodling. It consistently produced a healt state of mind for me.
I loved creating handmade Christmas cards for family and friends. The best part was watching their faces when they opened the cards.
Even in adulthood, when my schedule was full, I found time to doodle little cartoons inside the Christmas cards I mailed out. Invariably, I heard more from people about my cartoons than the bottle of wine or cookies I sent them.
Before I retired last year from the police department, I drew a cartoon which served as our department’s official holiday card. It was much more popular than the commercial cards we typically used.
Speaking of holiday cards, I have an artist buddy named Seth Foley who has crafted personalized greeting cards for years. He’s both an amazing artist, cartoonist and photo-shop wizzard.
Seth’s birthday and Christmas cards have become something we always look forward to. Here’s an example of Seth’s handiwork. It’s a photoshopped image of my wife and I as cast members from the popular TV series Outlander. I think I looked rather rugged in that kilt!
Surprise them with original art
If you like to draw or paint, why not craft an orginal picture of your loved one or friend? You don’t have to be Rembrandt to create something they will treasure. In fact, your handcrafted gift will likely be remembered and cherished much longer than any store bought item.
Here’s a painting I did years ago of my wife’s niece.
We presented it to the family during Christmas, and they were thrilled. Being an artist, I’m not happy with the painting. I see the flaws in it now, but that’s not the point.
The point is, the painting created joy. Joy in me, for the satisfaction of completing a nice oil painting. And joy in the family who received the painting (which still hangs proudly in their home).
Such a gift is far more fulfilling to make and receive than any boxed, half-off item you fought over in a crowded department store!
You don’t have to be a professional artist in order to tap your creativity and artfulness. For example, when we moved to the dessert in southern Nevada, my wife’s girlfriend gave us this clever gift.
Just a cactus in a pot with a clever, home made label. We still laugh about it.
When I retired last year after 26 years in law enforcement, my wife used my old service boot to create this beautiful, holiday display on our front door. It celebrated both the Christmas season and the “thin blue line” of law enforcement.
Flowers are always a great gift idea, and they can be paired with candles, mason jars filled with goodies, etc. Below is a holiday display my wife crafted. This is an artful and creative gift idea that anyone would appreciate receiving.
The power of the written word
Let’s say you can’t draw at all and are allergic to flowers. No problem, how about poetry? Never underestimate the power of the written word!
I met a guy named Kevin Devaney a few years back outside a bookstore, during the holidays. He had an old typewriter and was selling “personalized poems” to passersby. The poems were typed out on delicate, onion paper. It was really cool.
What’s stopping you from filling a Moleskine notebook with poems and letters for someone special this holiday season?
Get an old notebook and fill it with poems, letters and photos
Imagine their surprise to receive such an unexpected and thoughtful gift. The kind of gift likely to remain in their possession for a long time.
Some people fill an entire journal with quotes, poems and musings as a gift idea. Photos and other images can be affixed inside. This kind of gift becomes a keepsake that anyone would love to have.
Support other artists
If time is tight and you don’t feel that creative, how about purchasing artwork as a gift? There are so many talented artists and artisans out there. Instead of buying some tired out piece of plastic from China, why not invest in original artwork?
My wife surprised me with this wonderful drawing one year. She found an amazing pencil artist named Charles Randolph Bruce who does medieval portraits. Here is the drawing she gave me.
Whether you craft your own artful gifts for family and friends, or tap the creativity of other artists, the outcome will be more memorable holiday gifts.
Let’s boycott the craziness and frenetic holiday shopping. Brew yourself a cup of tea, nibble on a Christmas cookie, and make something special by hand. Be it a cartoon, painting, poem or floral arrangement.
All you have to do is carve out a little time and keep chipping away at it.
The sky is the limit when it comes to artful ideas for the holidays. Whatever you create, it’s sure to be good for your soul. Also, whoever receives your creative effort will be moved and thankful!
(Originally published in Art Plus Marketing)