Why People Who “Can’t Draw” Should Do Art | Why Do Art, Part 3

I need art in my life.

And I’m a firm believer that you need art in your life too.

I’m fortunate. I’ve been encouraged to make art. As a result, I’ve had more chances and been given more leeway to practice and hone my skills.

But most people haven’t.

why do art


Maybe you realized early on that a classmate was much better at art than you. Or a teacher was less than impressed with your school art projects.

Whatever the reason, you’ve decided you “can’t draw.” We’ve already talked about how this mindset is a lie.

Now I’m going to give you 6 concrete reasons to make art and go into how art impacts our lives.


1. Art can help you de-stress.

Who doesn’t need to de-stress?

A 2016 study shows that spending 45 minutes making art decreases the cortisol levels in your brain. Cortisol is a hormone in the brain responsible for your “fight or flight” response. A little cortisol keeps up alert during potentially dangerous situations.

But when high cortisol levels remain in your brain for an extended period of time, it starts to have a negative effect on your health. That’s why it’s so important to have ways to de-stress.

And the great thing about this art and cortisol study?

Art reduced stress in all participants, even if they weren’t skilled artists.

You can take a look at the study’s abstract here if, like me, research is your thing.


2. Art is good for your mental health.

This is a broad statement, but it needs to be said. There are several specific ways that art improves mental health and can be a tool for managing mental illness.

Let’s get into the specifics.

why do art emoji brain


3. Art helps you process traumatic experiences.

Our brains store traumatic memories as images, not words.

So art can help us access, articulate and work through difficult experiences.

Drawing an image can be the first step toward processing an event or emotion. It then works as a gateway toward being able to explain your thoughts with words.

why do art child drawing

This is why you see all those TV shows with little kids’ traumas/crimes/domestic violence revealed through their drawings.

But art isn’t just for getting over past or childhood trauma. It works for current events too.

After I read up on how art helps trauma, I found that it lined up with my experience. I’m the most driven to do art during difficult times.

In my life, this has ranged from the death of a friend to large-scale tragedies.

The Ferguson non-indictment, Charleston Emanuel AME shooting, and Pulse nightclub shooting are just a few recent examples when I felt moved to just create something.

Why do art Emanuel AME portraits

In part, the reason I am so moved to do art during these hard times is because there’s nothing else I can do. Art gives you a sense of doing. It requires physical movement, planning, and forethought. And it presents you with something tangible when you’re done.


4. Art helps you move on and re-imagine your life.

We grieve and heal from one-time events. But some circumstances stay with us.

Several research studies examine the effects of art on cancer patients.

One of these studies was a case study on three women with cancer.

Over the course of art therapy sessions, these women used art therapy to process their illnesses and identify coping mechanisms that they would use for the duration of their treatment.

In another study, doing art reduced stress and negative emotions in a much larger group of cancer patients.

However, art hasn’t just been effective for people with cancer.

Drawing helped people with heart disease visualize their condition. This is important for the next point.


5. Art can help therapists and other health professionals tailor treatment.

Art therapy exists for a reason.

Drawing helps patients articulate themselves. And being able to explain yourself isn’t just good for your mental well-being.

It also helps art therapists or other health professionals understand how a patient perceives their illness and make changes accordingly.

In the heart disease study above, researchers concluded that seeing how patients visualized their illness could give health professionals a better understanding of the patient’s perspective.

While this might not sound like a big deal, it could help us develop more accurate and nuanced treatment for several different illnesses.

Research consistently indicates that drawing is a useful way to supplement traditional methods of collecting data and track patient progress.


6. Art can help you focus.

You don’t have to be struggling through difficult times to get any benefit from art. Just as art can help you de-stress, it also helps you focus.

We’ve all probably seen this in action.

Do you doodle during telephone calls? Long lectures? Meetings? Conferences?

It turns out, there’s a scientific reason behind this habit.

why do art phone notes

Mindless art, like doodling, helps us focus on listening especially when the content is boring. That would explain why notes from my business classes were packed with doodles, while my sociology notes remained fairly clean.

However, there is a catch. Art can help you focus on what you’re hearing, but it might actually impair your visual memory. So if you’ve been doodling during a lecture, you might have difficulty recalling visual information like graphics or images.

But doodling while talking on the phone?

Keep it up.


So, Why Do Art?

If you’re still asking, I’d honestly be a little disappointed. But if you cheated and skimmed to the end for answers, the answer is this: why not?

What do you have to lose by doing some art? You’d be taking care of yourself, letting your subconscious have free reign for a short while, and maybe even improving your focus and productivity.

So find an art form that sounds fun (or at least not too scary), and give it a try!

You might even enjoy yourself.


Other Posts in This Series:

Part 1: Why People Who “Can’t Draw” Are Wrong

Part 2: 5 Non-Artists Who Do Art (And It’s Awesome)

Bonus: 7 Easy Art Tutorials to Help Anyone Get Into Art




5 Non-Artists Who Do Art (and It’s Awesome) | Why Do Art, Part 2

Last I told you that if you think you can’t do art, you’re wrong.

This time I’ll present you with real-life examples of “non-artists” who do art.

Plenty of people enjoy doing “non-artistic” art for their businesses or for enjoyment. And guess what? A lot of people enjoy viewing this “non-professional” art.

Disclaimer-type note: I do consider all of these people artists since, well, they’re making art. #2 and #3 are probably just straight up artists. Just not in the traditional fine arts sense. So they still count.

non-artists who do art

Here are 5 individuals who aren’t professional artists but are still making art, and making it work!

1. Liz Ryan

Career Coach and Founder of the Human Workplace

Take a look at her site. Click through a few blog posts. Don’t worry about reading for now, just look.

Isn’t it fun to look at?

Liz Ryan’s cute, quirky art is one of the highlights of her website. It differentiates her brand from the pack. Obviously she provides solid career advice too, but look at the atmosphere she’s created, all by adding hand-drawn images.

People love her drawings.

Could a child have drawn these images?


Does it matter?

2. Hyperbole and a Half

Adorable and Amusing Slice of Life Blog by Allie Brosh

With some hesitation jealousy, I now refer you to Hyperbole and a Half.

If you haven’t heard of Hyperbole, maybe you’ve been into living “off the grid” for years, and are just now coming back to society. Welcome back.


It’s beautiful.

Okay maybe not by all artistic standards.

Brosh uses a style of illustration that you might experimented with using the very first Microsoft Paint program. The difference is she kept honing her skill, while you dismissed this entire art form.

Shame on you.

Even Andy Warhol saw its value.

Meanwhile Brosh has swept the nation with classics like The Alot, Spiders Are Scary, and How a Fish Almost Destroyed My Childhood.

She has a book now and seems to be working on a second.

3. tiny snek comics

A Tiny Comic with a Big Following

Not for people of every political slant, tiny snek is all about exposing the evils of capitalism and making puns.

What can I really say about tiny snek? Only that it has a certain silly charm that keeps me scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling through tiny snek comics.

You can support tiny snek comics’ creator Alex Cohen on Patreon.

In my Valentine’s post on Becoming JiHye, I added some Hyperbole/Tiny Snek inspired doodles to my post. Did it add value? I dunno, but it was fun. Besides, that isn’t my art website, so no pressure, right?

4. Drawings for my Grandchildren

A Cool Grandfather on Instagram

This is a viral story. If you’ve heard it, then congrats, you’re successfully in the know.

Ji Lee, this unnamed grandfather’s son, has a video explaining the origins of Drawings for My Grandchildren that tells the story far better than I could. You really should watch it.

But this is the gist of it:

A Korean grandfather creates daily drawings and posts them on Instagram as a way to connect with and leave a something tangible for his grandchildren.

Their family is spread out around the world. The grandfather lives in Brazil, while his grandchildren live in South Korea and America. But his drawings (and Instagram) brings their family together.


5. George W. Bush

Yes, Bush.

Even a former president is doing art, now that he has so much time on his hands.

Bush recently published a book of his paintings entitled “Portraits of Courage.” His paintings, and their accompanying stories, honor veterans who have served the US. The stories highlight moments of bravery and journeys to recovery.

You might look at his paintings and say, hey, he’s pretty good! He must have had some latent artistic talent!

Hold on now.

Sure, maybe Bush really did like art as a child. Maybe he got so caught up in becoming the leader of the free world that he abandoned his passion and is finally getting a chance to rediscover it.

But I kind of doubt that.

Let’s do the same reality check we did in the last post.

Remember, the lovely and patriotic paintings that Bush has published in a book are meant for the whole world to see. They are not the whole picture.

Far in the back of his studio, lying in a dusty corner, there are probably paintings that tell the whole story. The story that learning to paint is a journey, and getting results requires making mistakes.

I’m certain that George Bush has some really sad-looking still life paintings, some wonky-faced portraits, and several unfinished canvases that have been thrown away over the years.

But he’s human, so why would he show you any of those?

If George Bush can do art, why can’t you?

True, he probably has a well-paid personal art instructor and oodles of time on his hands now. But is your goal to shock the world and publish a surprise book of paintings?


(At least I hope not, for the sake of my argument.)

So what are you waiting for?

Other Posts in This Series:

Part 1: Why People Who “Can’t Draw” Are Wrong

Part 3: Why People Who “Can’t Draw” Should Do Art

Bonus: 7 Easy Art Tutorials to help Anyone Get Into Art

Why People Who “Can’t Draw” Are Wrong | Why Do Art, Part 1

I’ve heard it a million times.

I can’t draw.

I’m not artistic.

I could never do that.

And to that I say…


What people don’t realize is that the world isn’t divided into artistic people and non-artistic people. It’s divided into people who do art and people who don’t.

But it’s not your fault. The world is constructed in a way that makes it look like there’s a huge gap between the creatives and the not-creatives.

Even I contribute to this myth.

One, the art that I let you see is only the good stuff, or the good-enough-to-show-someone art. I have artistic failures all the time, but it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get to see them (and honestly, I doubt you’d want to).

Two, the art that you see isn’t a standalone piece. I didn’t just one day just will it into being. My art actually takes  a lot of planning. And it’s the result of over twenty years of practice. I don’t remember at what age I started drawing, but trust me when I say it was pretty early on.

Kids draw.

Kids like to draw.

The difference is that some kids receive validation of their so-called artistic talents, while others don’t. Unfortunately, these others might even be laughed at, mocked, or relentlessly compared to their more “artistic” peers.

When someone else is really amazing at something, and you’re not, you probably get a little bit discouraged. And when someone who is an ultimate authority in your life (say, a parent or teacher), reinforces this belief, well you might decide to just abandon that thing you’re not very good at anyway.

Who needs art, right?

why peoplewho can't draw are wrong not artistic


Smushed Interests

By the time we become adults (I’m not sure exactly when that is, to be honest), most people’s artistic dreams have been smushed. Or their artistic interests have been smushed before they’ve had a chance to turn into dreams.

But guess what?

People actually like doing art.

Not just looking at it, or pretending to be cultured

And I’ll prove it.


Proof #1

To best illustrate this point, I need you to get up. Get out of bed. Go to any hipstery part of town. The people who frequent this area should be mostly white, in the middle to upper-class income bracket.

Take a walk.

And time how long it takes you to come across one of those “canvas and cocktails” places. You know, the ones where you take a painting class and drink wine.

Painting with a Twist.

Paint and Sip.

Cork and Canvas.

Pinot’s Palette.

Sipping and Painting.


I could go on and on.

Why are these painting classes are so popular?

Well, people like wine, you’re probably thinking. Okay sure. I won’t argue with that. But people must also like to paint. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they just drink their wine at home or with a nice steak?

wine painting abstractPhoto by Prawny licensed under CC0.


Proof #2

Before you go home, I need you to make a detour.

Go to a bookstore. Maybe not a used one, but any other bookstore.

Check out the arts or crafts or miscellaneous items section. Tell me how many adult coloring books you see.

coloring book for adultsPhoto by the3cats licensed under CC0.

A lot.

These books have blown up. They’re everywhere.

But I actually hate them.

-Tangent time-

Aren’t these coloring books supposed to help you relax and de-stress? And yet, just because they’re for adults, the creators make them so intricately detailed that it takes an eternity to finish one page.

I have one of these books.

I’ve never completed a single page. There are just too many tiny leaves and flowers for me.

I hope publishers rectify this situation soon.

-End tangent-


Even though I don’t like these coloring books, other people do. So apparently, there’s something about coloring that people like.


Coloring and painting. Can I make the leap and say that adults, even non-artistic adults, seem to like doing art?

Not just going to museums and galleries to feel fancy, but actually doing art themselves?

So what’s that you say?

You can’t do art because you’re “not artistic”?


So What?

If we’ve been taught that we’re “not good” at something, it’s frightening to go and do that thing. We’re not good at it, right? So we’ll probably just fail. Why even bother?

The thing is now that you’re an adult, you’re free!

It doesn’t actually matter what anyone thinks of your art. It doesn’t matter if you fail.

Technical skill is irrelevant.

No one needs to judge your art or even see it.


But if you’re still not convinced, you can hold off for two more weeks, using the excuse that you’re waiting for my upcoming posts to procrastinate.


Other Posts in this Series:

Part 2: 5 Non-Artists Who Do Art (And It’s awesome)

Part 3: Why People Who “Can’t Draw” Should Do art

Bonus: 7 Easy Art Tutorials to Help Anyone Get Into Art