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How painting can help me process my thoughts

Three paint brushes are resting on a table covered by a white dust sheet. To the left of the brushes is some making tape. To the right of the brushes a paint roller. All of the items look unused.


I love to paint. Be it oil on canvas or emulsion on walls, I love it. I find the whole process absorbing. There are no lines, no restrictions. I can work fast or slow. I can work while listening to music, podcasts or plays, or be in total silence.

When working in silence I can think, reflect, rehearse and refine. Painting provides an opportunity to puzzle things out. I value it. 

According to

Modern brain scan techniques have found that art might even change the structure of your brain, with artists having significantly more grey matter in certain areas of the parietal lobe.1

Perhaps it is the mix of specific physical movement matched with updating or re-imagining the canvas in front me that triggers my synaptic charge. I just know it helps me process ideas.

Painting and Power

Creative art expresses something within the individual in a way that words cannot. We assign meaning to abstract images. Shapes and patterns stand for something other than what they are. Colours symbolise mood and express meaning; I can shrink vast landscapes down onto a canvas the size of a postcard. Or enlarge a minute detail to the size of a truck.

As an artist I become all-powerful. This is my world, my rules, and I choose how much time and attention I will give the piece I am working on. I decide when the work is complete or I can leave it incomplete.

As the creator of my canvas, I am in a place of power. Any rules are of my making. It does not have to make sense to anyone else; it can be abstract in a way that words can’t. (Notable exceptions to abstract thought expressed through language being, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce).

Painting and Mood

The act of painting improves mood. Even to look at a painting impacts the brain.

Professor Semir Zeki, chair in neuroaesthetics at University College London conducted an experience that mapped the brain’s response to beautiful images:

‘We put people in a scanner and showed them a series of paintings every ten seconds. We then measured the change in blood flow in one part of the brain. 

The reaction was immediate. What we found was the increase in blood flow was in proportion to how much the painting was liked. 

The blood flow increased for a beautiful painting just as it increases when you look at somebody you love. It tells us art induces a feel good sensation direct to the brain.’2

If painting is not for you, at least consider taking a relaxing walk through a gallery. The benefits alone are worth thinking about.


  2. Mendick, R. (2011) Brain scans reveal the power of art. The Telegraph. 8:00 am BST 08 May 2011;

#painting #brain #power  #flow

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