Paint it. Frame it. Name it.
By Leyna Roget
A child’s mind is so appropriately suited for creative adventuring in this world. They are void of the limitations of self-consciousness and socially contrived parameters on what constitutes art. Although adults may loose sight of this freedom and find themselves discouraged from taking chances to express themselves creatively, for Zach Desjardins, a young man in his twenties, painting is an inspired escape that he has practiced since the age of three. Painting has become a way for Zach to channel his creativity, participate in the meditative, healing artistic process, and transform discarded materials into beautiful works of art.
Zach’s parents valued the importance of encouraging visually stimulating activities and saw painting as a way to occupy their young son’s time. Nowadays Zach struggles to find enough time between his twelve-hour workdays remodeling houses to fulfill his desire for unstructured painting sessions. It’s important to Zach that he not force the act of painting, but instead let the flow of ideas amplify in his head until he can translate them onto the canvas. It can be a nerve-racking process when initial thoughts for a piece get lost in the organic process of imagination. Surprise transformations lead to images not originally conceived, yet Zach appreciates these changes in direction as he taps into an enlightened inner consciousness, which he finds produces more meaningful results.
Neither Zach nor his parents could have anticipated the value of art as a free form tool for discovering and relieving daily anxieties. Zach believes his painting to be an expressive recall for thoughts and emotions both positive and negative. According to the Jefferson Medical College Stress Reduction Program at Thomas Jefferson University, “Mindfulness is a meditative process that quiets the mind and releases physical distress. Through mindfulness you can experience greater vitality and well-being in the present moment.” The fundamental objective of meditation is to relax the body and calm the mind. Research studies have demonstrated that mindfulness through art is effective in reducing chronic pain, medical symptoms, anxiety and depression. Zach recalls the time when his mother was stricken with illness and painting afforded him an outlet from unpleasant wanderings through the thoughts in his head. In moments of Zenful painting, attention is diverted to seeing things in new ways, processing emotions without the filter of the mind, and relinquishing negative energy by remaining focused on a calm, meditative communication of ideas.
Art therapy is a mental health treatment that emphasizes the therapeutic benefits of reflecting on and making art. The intent is for people to improve and empower their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing in the face of illness, trauma, or stress. The belief is that the creative process illuminates a connection between mindfulness and neurobiological functions that lead to a more calm state of being. The patterns of electrical brain wave activity of cancer patients before and after producing art indicate a notable difference in neurobiological activity. In the article Conducting Art Therapy Research Using Quantitative EEG Measures, Art Therapist Christopher Belkofer and Psychologist Lukasz Konopka explain how “human interactions, learning, and the performance of certain activities can all alter the patterns of brain activity as well as a person’s emotions. ‘By altering both the activity and the structure of the connections between neurons, experience directly shapes the circuits responsible for such processes as memory, emotion, and self-awareness’…if art therapy alters our brain, one can expect it to affect our emotions.” Zach is able to use art therapy to resolve emotional disrupt similar to how cancer patients settle conflict, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight through art.
Zach currently applies his artistic touch as a craftsman, piecing together elaborate mosaics of tile in homes that he and his father refurbish. Having limited funds, Zach welcomes the leftover paints and construction supplies. He uses discarded paint, old window sashes, plywood remnants, and plaster materials to further his hobby. A lack of formal art training has had little affect on Zach developing confidence and originality in his approach to creativity. Simply deciding to pay attention to his talent and the way art assists his wellbeing will provide Zach with a useful outlet for coping with situations. The recognition and praise that Zach’s paintings get from strangers and friends encourages him to continue his craft. He hopes this creative enthusiasm will drive other rogue artists to want to invent their own masterpieces.