How drawing and painting teaches life and boosts mental fitness

Drawing and painting are some of the best things we can do in order to increase the brain activity, improve memory (not only visual) and become more confident, self-aware and efficient with making decisions.

How so? Every line and brush stroke we put down on paper or canvas comes from the brain impulses and activity of neurons at certain parts of the brain. Your hand doesn’t move on its own, it’s guided by our perception and the ability to transform visually or with other senses perceived information into individualized personal experience which is reflected as you draw or paint. It is a very complex process, and we tend to think there are mysterious powers of some kind involved. I sort of want to remove the magic aspect from creativity, just to keep things simple. Inspiration will add the magic, but we have to start from the basics.

Most people do not see the surrounding world as an artist does. So, the first task is learning to recognize all the multiple aspects of transforming a simple visual image into art that exhibits the artistically applicable features of this image. How do we do that?

Anything we draw or paint must find some echo in the storage space of our imagination. Such space of stored imaginary images is present within any memory based on associative and a priori acquired knowledge. Anything we create always relates to our fundamental knowledge of this world. Yet, the drawing or painting we are doing has SPECIFIC OBJECTS, VERY SPECIFIC ITEMS, a VERY SPECIFIC THEME and ATMOSPHERE. It is a scene like no other because it always presents individual features. No two apples are exactly the same, now flower copies the other one exactly line by line, vein by vein and trees come all in very various shapes, not to mention faces, landscapes or other scenery.

Since most people who learn painting or drawing believe that getting all information from the outside and simply following somebody without making their own decision will do the job, first artworks usually do not come out that great. While we are sketching or blocking in the basic shapes or lines, we should already try to decide why everything is where it is, and why composition evolves as it does. The reason we place our objects based on some principle on our paper or canvas is deciding early and planning for effects which we create later.

Adding paint or other elements is always making decisions: first about values, then about shapes, edges, washes and eventually we need to apply color if it is watercolor or acrylic or oil painting in color. Our brain has to make these decisions fast. Most mediums require using relevant timing. If we hesitate too much in some watercolor layers, it simply is too late to achieve the type of wash that makes such painting outstanding. If we are too slow, the acrylic layer we worked at is already dry or tacky and we have to return to it later.

Some images from recent art classes


Blooming in studio, painting makes us happier and definitely boosts mental fitness



There are two main things blocking our ability to proceed with painting or drawing when somebody attends or watches a class: we believe that instructor has made all decisions for us and our task is to blindly follow and to repeat what we see; and we are trying to do everything without any knowledge of why. There is no reasoning, no decisions which arise from our current activity.

For instance, when asked what he or she is doing with some particular part of painting, a very frequent answer is: “I don’t know”. How come? You have to know why you want one part dark and how to achieve that, you have to decide whether that particular object is small or large, has lost edges or sharp edges. That is, basically, we have to decide what exactly and why exactly every time we do something with our painting or drawing.

The biggest trouble maker is simple, aimless brushing around, moving paint all over until everything what there was is lost. That comes from not making a decision. When we decide that clouds are large and grey, we act to achieve this. It’s obvious that only acting based on decision can contribute to implementation of our intentions.

The instructor or art teacher isn’t a magician; they cannot affect directly and immediately the way your brain works. They hope you pay attention to what they say and demonstrate and you will make your own decisions based on this advice. However, if you do not answer for yourself why, what, when and how, the progress is noticeably delayed. Therefore, I also advice doing value sketches. This does not slow one down, but helps tremendously with planning and deciding on what, where and what way.

Eventually, the decision making we learn in classroom makes one much more efficient in other areas of life; hence, everything should be based on decision, not impulse and lack of thinking, so that we do not have to admit: I don’t know why I am doing this. You have to. Unfortunately, nobody can provide you with a dose of understanding perspective, values, shapes, contrasts, layouts and other elements as a capsule or tablet to simply swallow and apply. Everybody has their own ways of making the necessary decisions and they should arrive to this understanding on their own, based on advice, recommendations, techniques and principles teacher, demo or class has provided with.

2 new still life paintings for sale


Sunny still life, 12 x 16 in, acrylic on canvas


Recent study

Lifeschool post has some suggestions on how to avoid preventable accidents and also shares some stories of people who required lengthy recovery:  Preventing bad accidents

41 Replies to “How drawing and painting teaches life and boosts mental fitness”

  1. Totally agree – painting certainly makes me better equipped mentally for my world. I love the red jug you painted 4 years ago. It has such depth and solidity (sorry couldn’t think of a better word to describe it).

    1. Thanks Christine! I was a bit inaccurate: it was started 4 years ago, then thrown into pile of unfinished works, then touched up here and there until I recently decided to do something about it, so I finished it just now a few weeks ago. I use that red jug as a reference for many paintings in set-ups. I have about 8 different jugs, they look good in paintings and I love the shape.

    1. Thanks Diane! I call them values, strong and weak, or you could say shadows, etc. which basically is different shades of color: dark, medium dark (mostly local color) and lights, lightest lights and highlights. It takes a lot of layers; with the smaller still life, I got really tired because I find yellow is such a badly performing acrylic color now.

      1. When you say layers, does that mean you paint the different shades ..lighter, dark over top of each other. ? I don’t mean to ask you again, but I was wondering if that’s what it really means… Diane

        1. Yes, that’s exactly what I do. Acrylic dries way too fast to get everything done at the same time, so we just take it one step at a time. Medium dark/light color which we call local color is a good starting point because you can go both directions from there: darker and lighter. We should use highlights at the end. Sometimes glazing over helps, that’s a thin layer, diluted either with some glazing medium or you could use simply water. You do not correct or paint over spots that are already good, but add lights or darks where they are missing.

  2. Bonjour ou Bonsoir INESE très très belle peinture de jolis tableaux

    Quand je suis de passage sur ton blog

    Je le regarde et j’aperçois une grande lumière

    Je me dis que sur celui-ci, j’ai une personne

    avec de la gentillesse dans le cœur

    Cette amitié est pour moi un paysage

    Où on y viens qui efface les moindres petits nuages

    L’amitié ce n’est pas un feu de bois, loin de là

    C’est de partager ensemble

    Des moments intenses de toute beauté

    Merci à toi, d’être là

    C’est un pur bonheur rempli de douceur

    Passe une belle journée ou une belle soirée

    Bisous , Bernard

    1. Well, along with art which I have been doing since very early childhood I am involved in medical research. That means studying all kinds of medical matters, comparing data from clinical trials and patient data, etc., as well as writing instructions for medical personnel. I write about this in my other blog
      I was always amazed how drawing developed my memory, to the extent that I could easily memorize up to 60 pages just looking at them. Studying at University due to this was extremely easy. I do not need any lists, I usually don’t take any measurements, and I mainly do not need to use camera because memory stores it all.
      Therefore, my main interest in clinical research has always been the brain activity and the way brain chemicals work, interact and so on. Such information was not available back then, 50 or so years ago; but internet has enabled quick exchange of data and that proves that our current knowledge of the brain is still somewhat extremely limited.
      Nevertheless, there is nothing like drawing and painting when it comes to maintenance and development of brain cells: this activity among any others is very specific and fulfills all requirements and addresses all processes which involve brain activity. In the result of this, not only neurons extend their life, there are way more new ones and brain does not decrease in mass and these cells do not die off as fast with human aging. That’s a huge material and lots and lots of data, but the proof is already out there. Why the popularity of this conclusion is so limited? Because promoting simple drawing and brushing around with paints doesn’t provide pharmaceutical companies with their insane profits as in case of some miracle supplement. I’ve been writing about this very many times. The only precondition is doing it very regularly and using for subjects real life scenes or objects.

      1. I’m only 19 at the moment but I’m slowly trying to evolve as an artist and see what happens. I love learning new information about art in general. Yeah art isn’t ignolaged as much as it should be. That’s why people like us are here to share. I quit my job recently and I’m working-class on art full time and trying to run a few websites. I fell like I have no purpose on this world but to create art. If that means I die a “poor” man in the materialistic matter. I’ll have all my art and be happy. That’s worth more than money to me.

        1. It’s certainly worth a try. Sticking with what makes one happy as opposed to what makes one rich isn’t such a bad thing. There are lots more people who will never appreciate any art, but there is also a big deal of those who will. You can spend your time surrounded by creative ideas and colors instead of stressful coworkers and angry bosses. I hope it turns out great and you have all kinds of success.

        2. Thank every little bit helps. Everyday I contine living I always wonder why am I doing this…. you get it lol. See I have to look at the progression and never give up

    1. Thanks Melanie! I would do so well with plein-air painting in France. We don’t have that much close-by outdoor attractions. It’s rather boring here. I live with inspiration I get in Europe for a long time. I suppose my entire perception is somewhat European since I only relocated to Canada when I was 46. This perception pretty much defines everything I am doing.

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