This past July, ArtResin's Dave Zak embarked on a journey to see if making art for 100 days in a row could help alleviate his anxiety. Today, he's sharing his results.
October 10th is World Mental Health Day, a day to create awareness about mental health challenges. In 2019, according to the World Health Organization, one out of every eight individuals was living with a mental health disorder, the most common being anxiety and depression. Globally, this amounted to a staggering 970 million people, and in 2020, that number rose even higher due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet, in the midst of life's challenges, art has emerged as a powerful way to help promote mental and emotional well-being.
In other words, creating art can actually help us feel happier.
Please don't think you need to be an 'artist' to reap the benefits; this is about creating, not about perfection. It's the simple act of putting pencil to paper or brush to canvas that allows our brains to focus on something positive and relaxing, diverting our attention away from life's daily stresses. Creating art enhances our ability to concentrate and problem solve, and gives us a sense of fulfillment. Even more importantly, art offers an outlet to process memories, thoughts, and feelings that may be difficult to express otherwise. And if painting or drawing is not your thing? No problem. All creative activities including sculpture, music, writing, dancing, or singing provide the same healing benefits that can boost happiness and a sense of well-being. In fact, art (in its many forms) has become an important therapeutic tool in the treatment of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues.
On July 2nd, 2023, ArtResin co-founder Dave Zak decided to investigate whether daily art creation could help with his own anxiety. He committed to a 100 Day Art Challenge, dedicating 15 minutes each day to making art and documented his journey on social media for accountability.
In a fortunate coincidence, Dave's 100 Day Art Challenge ended on October 9th, the day before World Mental Health Day. To mark the occasion, Dave decided to exhibit his creations and share the insights he gained to raise awareness about the healing benefits of art on mental well-being.
See Dave's results:
Why did you get started with your 100 Days of Art challenge?
I started this 100-day challenge because two things lined up perfectly, and I'm desperate for relief from anxiety:
First, my wife suggested, "Why don’t you do a 100-day art challenge and see if making art can help your anxiety?"
Second, the following day, I took my kids to the library and randomly/accidentally picked up a book called Healing With The Arts, which is basically a 100 day (12- week) program to heal yourself through art. I knew I had to do it.
What's your art background?
I have always been naturally drawn towards creativity. I started with the TV show Mr Dressup, making the crafts or drawing his drawings. I moved on to books about how to draw animals and sketched for hours during the church services I had to quietly sit through. Most of my adolescent years were spent playing guitar, drums, or painting. In my later teen years, I got into computers: designing graphics, building websites, editing videos, and mixing music. I studied Multimedia design and production, 3D animation, and graduated with a Fine Arts degree in painting. After college, I started out in graphic and web design before moving into motion design within the advertising industry. It was during this time that my wife and I launched our business. While it was exciting and successful, the demands of our growing company, along with our growing family and home gradually consumed all my attention, and I kinda lost myself along the way.
Why do you want to make art?
I don’t know why I want to make art. There's something about it that feels like it's the very best use of my time, and that by making art, I'm closer to matching what my real self wants to do. I want to align my life with who I am.
What mediums do you like to work with?
I work with mixed media, which can include prints from the computer, collage, acrylic paints, inks, markers, paper towel, and more. I usually start with a background of abstract colors. I love working on large wooden art panels so I can apply resin afterward. For me, a piece isn’t finished until it's resined - that's when it becomes ‘a thing’.
Currently, I'm re-engaging with creating art and music. I've taken on a ‘100 Days Of Art’ painting challenge, and I'm also mixing loops of Taylor Swift's music with Wu-Tang Clan drums. It feels really good to create things and be satisfied with what I've made.
What do you hope someone sees or feels when they look at your art?
I want people to like my art because it makes me feel special. When someone says they like my art, it means they like me.
Do you think mental health affects art? Does it affect your work?
I wonder if the best art is made during extreme emotional states. Happy art feels happy. Frantic art feels frantic. Dark art feels dark.
What do you think the role of the artist is in society?
I’m not sure. Being around art is really nice though.
What helps you bounce back on days that you feel overwhelmed, frustrated or you just don’t feel like making art?
Going to bed and hoping I wake up in a better mental space.
Has your work or your creative process changed as a result of your challenge?
It hasn't changed, but I noticed that I've lost touch with myself and I need to make some drastic changes.
What kind of impact do you hope that your work has?
I simply want relief from depression and anxiety so I can be my best for my wife and kids. I am doing this for myself and trying to not consider what others may think. This is for me.
How can artists raise awareness for mental health?
By sharing their art and talking about it.
You’ve shared your journey on Instagram and YouTube. Has social media been helpful (or hurtful in any way) to your art challenge and your mental health overall?
It has been helpful to know someone is following and enjoying my art. Social media kept me accountable because I always had to show new work and progress.
It has been harmful because it's a huge waste of time. Our brains cannot compete with the custom tailored algorithms that are only getting stronger at hijacking our attention.
Can you recommend any resources for people that want to get into art to help support their mental well-being?
Tell other people that you want to make more art and have weekly/daily goals to do this. Ask them to check in to see if you are doing it. Being accountable to someone else makes you make art because you don’t want to tell them that you failed.
What advice would you give to those who may be struggling to keep their creative motivation going?
Set up a space: Honor your art-making by giving it a good spot, such as a chair, window, or table…
Keep a reference pile: Gather magazines, photos, designs, color palettes—anything that catches your eye.
Gather materials: Ensure you have paints, canvas, pencils, ink, glue—you need the right tools to do the job.
Put on a podcast, audiobook, or music.
Dave's 9 Reasons To Make Art
1. Making art consistently makes you be around art more often.
2. It feels really good when you wake up in the morning and look at a piece of art that you just finished the day before.
Art is powerful and completing a piece of artwork not only makes you feel good, but gives you a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, fulfillment and purpose.
3. The world needs more art right now.
My approach as an artist has always been pretty simple: life must have purpose and beauty. Simply put, I want to leave the world in better shape than when I arrived. I want to spread happiness. Give more than I receive.
I love being creative and I want to facilitate creativity wherever possible, in myself and others, by sharing art and sharing ideas. This is really and truly how I feel and I believe most artists feel the same.
4. Making art gives your brain something else to think about.
When you create art, your brain becomes absorbed in the task and can take a break from life's worries. The beauty of it is that there's no right or wrong way to approach art, which means it encourages flexible thinking and highly individual, creative problem solving - which feels good!
5. Your imagination can be your worst nightmare or your greatest super-power.
What you think about impacts how you feel. When you're in the art studio, your imagination can be buzzing with creative ideas. But when you're not making art, you can get stuck in your head, and you can start inventing things to worry about. Making art gets you out of that overthinking headspace.
6. "We are what we repeatedly do." - Aristotle.
I'm an artist because I make art. Who are you?
7. Once you start making art, you can keep going.
Think of it like hitting the gym or working out. When you begin, it feels new but as you keep at it, it turns into a regular habit. That's the beauty of making art. It not only brings moments of feeling good; it becomes a part of who you are, something you get to keep doing.
8. Art is good for me.
My wife Rebecca was the one who encouraged me to do this challenge. She made these letters for me, so I put them on a panel and I'm going to put it up somewhere I can see it everyday. I wasn't making art before this challenge so I owe it to Rebecca for suggesting I do this.
9. Remember Who You Are
Art helps you understand yourself better. When you make art, it gives you a chance to think about your past, as well as what's happening in your life right now. This can make you feel more self-compassion and help you really get to know and understand who you are. Art also lets you imagine a more fulfilling future and can inspire you to grow and become a better person.
We hope you feel inspired to create some art of your own. If you're not sure where to start, there are lots of tutorials on YouTube for just about any medium you'd like to explore. If cost is an issue, journalling, drawing, and dance require little to no investment, yet still provide the same healing benefits. Grab a pencil and a piece of paper, start doodling, and see where it takes you!
Has art made a difference with your mental or emotional well-being? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is always available:
USA: Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org
CANADA: Call 1-833-456-4566 24/7/365 or text 456454 4PM-midnight ET.
ArtResin: Made For Artists, By Artists.