Artistic Healing Anyone Can Do

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This article is written by Laura Shelton Thykeson

art journals as healing art

Anyone who knows me hardly at all knows that I have spent a LOT of time in the hospital, having heart attacks, surgeries, tests, observations, etc…now, make no mistake – I am so definitely not here to whine. I am here to encourage others, faced with similar and worse circumstances, learn to channel that pain, frustration, and sometimes even depression into something clean and pure and healing-Art! It is such a simple concept, yet so many shy away from it because they “don’t have the supplies”,  “have no talent” (that’s the one that drives me crazy, lol!),  “don’t feel like it” and any other excuse the human brain can conjure up to stop us from having fun. Just because we are ill doesn’t mean we stop being human. This is actually the time of your life when you are the MOST human! All of those emotions, right there on the surface, just screaming to be expressed and gotten out in some constructive, healthy way. Well, here is my best suggestion, and I only push this because it has gotten me through so much and made everything so much easier in the process. I honestly feel this process has helped to save my life and helped keep me alive so far

art journals as healing art

What I am suggesting is SIMPLE, Expressive Art Journaling. Not in a fancy expensive journal, or with expensive, professional art supplies, and it doesn’t matter if you have “talent” or not, because this type of art journal is not for “show and tell” unless you want it to be…this is a place for you to escape to when the going gets tough, the pain won’t stop, and you are so tired and exhausted and weak that you can barely hold a marker, but still can’t sleep and can‘t lay there another minute.

art journals as healing art

art journals as healing art

Picture this scenario: You are laying in your hospital bed, or at home. You have some sort of medical procedure scheduled for tomorrow. Do YOU think you are going to be able to sleep? Then why not take that time you would have spent worrying, and spend it playing with vibrant colors, various shapes, blobs and drips and splatters of paints or inks, scribbling with pens and markers, and whatever else you decide to use.

Don’t worry, you will soon find your own way, your own path through the pain and insanity that has seemingly taken over everything in your life, and suddenly-YOU are back in control of your life again! You will lose track of time, maybe just a few moments, any is a relief, and that means you aren’t experiencing the pains of being ill during that time! Worth a shot, now isn’t it?

Maybe you just scribble with a set of colored felt tip markers…maybe splash around some children’s watercolors. What you use and how “artistically” that you do it DOES NOT MATTER. What matters is you got through it again, and now, each time it happens, you have a refuge to go to, always waiting for you to begin. And while some of my pages look more complicated, that is just because it is my style…I haI would sit in my hospital bed for hours, just swishing paint, sometimes making designs, sometimes just watching the color spill across the pages, and rarely did I ever actually “journal” on these pages. No words could explain, so I let the colors and the shapes do the talking for me. Plus I had some pre-printed Scripture cards that I added to most of the pages and they worked perfectly for what I wanted.. Some of the pages are just paint, or just napkins decopauged on, or collage from magazines or colored Sharpies

art journals as healing art

art journals as healing art

art journals as healing art

Now, here is the easy part…here is a suggested list of basic supplies to get you started, and you can get them all at the Dollar Store!

Some type of tote bag to hold everything and tote back and forth to hospital and doctors appointments.

Sewn Spine Composition Notebook to use as journal – (stock up during back to school sales!)

Set of children’s pan watercolors

Set of colored felt tip markers (optional)

School glue

Glue stick

Small set scissors

Pencil and eraser

Black marker and black ink pen

Couple old magazines for collage (optional)

Maybe some cheap craft paint (optional)

Couple of decent paintbrushes

This is more than enough to get you started, and believe me, as you go, you are going to start accumulating more and more supplies and odds and ends for your journal pages…glue in snips of papers, hospital bracelets, discharge papers, anything that was a part of your day. It all matters…I can’t really explain why, but somehow it validates that you were there, you struggled through it, and you survived it all! When looking back months or years later, these things will touch you deeply in ways only you can understand. We enter those surgical rooms and go through those tests ALONE, and ALONE we find the courage to come back out, face the future and begin the sometimes long and painful journey toward being as healthy as we can be again. Oh yes…those little snippets you stuck in that journal that day are gonna mean more and more to you as time passes

art journals as healing art

art journals as healing art

art journals as healing art

One last note I would like to add:

Take the time to decorate, paint, collage or otherwise embellish your composition notebook/art journal and give it a name. Something that means something to you personally. It makes that book really “belong” to you, and it becomes a part of you in the process. Whether fancy or plain, it is no longer “just” a notebook. It is your story, and it is just waiting to be told by the only one who truly can – YOU!


Laura Thykeson has been totally immersed in mixed media art for many years. She discovered altered books and art journals about a year ago and have been hooked ever since! She has always loved mixed media art because of the variety and the “no rules” aspect! Laura lives in Granbury, Texas USA.

You can see more of Laura’s work at Taz’s Corner




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  1. Laura, my darling, dearest, artiste! Our long, shared, nights, when pain becomes no longer our friend, and we have each other to just speak , sometimes what we will not speak of elsewhere, is worth a million other friends. Yes, art saves us, as do our interactions with others, who quietly suffer some long nights. It is a matter of just getting through the night..jsut that, just, please god let daylight come. I have a deep and abiding sense that , if I can bear it til morning, I will be okay again until night comes with its vengeance. But, I know, for a fact, that “there you are” and when I can no longer bear it, you would help me bear up…ah, the art we have done. xoxoxo

  2. Carol, there are no words that I can find to thank you for both your comment, and your friendship as we travel the often painful nights together….We are HERE and we both know it…maybe that is all that needs to be said…

  3. Bindu says:

    I started my journal recently. I started exactly the way you mentioned in this article. Just one regular notebook, magazine papers, the crayola markers, which my daughter outgrown by now and the colour pencils and crayons, i kept in abox to donate one day. No, I wasn’t trying to get better because of illness. It was just an accidental discovery. Now, I am adding more things and trying my hands on mixed media while learning more about art everyday.
    I glad that I discover this site. This is one of the inspiration websites for me.

  4. Bindu, I am so glad you have discovered the art and joy of art journaling, and art in general! I hope that it continues to bring you happiness and joy as you explore it more and more! Thank you for the comment!

  5. Shari Welch says:

    Art has helped myself as well as others I know to get through difficult times in life. Thank you for sharing your discovery through art. I believe this will touch others and am sharing on my page.

  6. Esther says:

    Very nice! I love mixed media since I found it. I go through artistic phases. And when I see these beautiful creations I think I must do art again! This idea of using a spiral bound pad is an interesting idea for me. I think I might try that.

  7. Thank you to Shari Welch and Esther! So glad that you enjoyed the articles, and I truly hope that your art helps you through whatever trying times you may encounter! Please contact me if you want for more information. I will be glad to share with you!

  8. Susan says:

    This is such synchronicity! I belong to a Facebook group for people with a particular chronic illness and just tonight someone asked how others get out of the “funk” that is common for people with chronic illness. Dr. Visits, hospitalizations, tests, uncertainty are things we all endure. I answered that I like to art journal and posted a couple of YouTube videos for beginners. I’m sharing it in our group. Thank you!

  9. Riya says:

    My Dearest friend Laura, I am so happy for you that you still enjoy art, ^_^. I hope life is a little more friendlier and happier for you these days, and that you can enjoy your days without too much worries. I hope that seeing your art again inspires me to go on with my ‘Alter me Silly’ journal. I just stopped after you got ill, I tried but getting ill myself and missing your inspiration just got me on hold. But seeing your art here makes me just want to pick it up again and start making new pages. I have missed you and your art, and after some hard time, for both of us, I just hope it all will go just better by the day.

    Have a wonderful day, my dear Laura,

    Hugs and Love, Riya

  10. Terri Sproul says:

    amazing article, thanks for sharing, I also am in pain daily and its my art that keep me happy

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