Peace of Mind

Art provides a way to escape the stressful realities that come with life. Painting or even simply doodling can give a sense of tranquility.


Whether it be music, dance, painting or writing, art comes in a million different forms. For this very reason, almost everyone can appreciate and connect with art. Some people spend hours at museums or shows. Others prefer to create art themselves, using it as an outlet for creativity, a source of therapy or simply as an activity they enjoy doing. However, oftentimes art is put on the back burner and pushed aside as people rush through their busy lives in the pursuit of other careers.

Art by Julie Holding

When people are finally able to bring artwork back into the forefront of their lives, they find hidden talents and beautiful meaning in what can start out as a small hobby. As people seek higher education, enter the workforce or navigate the professional world, creating art can grant many people the opportunity to cultivate a side of themselves that was never given the chance to flourish.

“I found by accident one day that doodling calmed me,” retired engineer Julie Holding said. In 2007, Holding found herself being pulled in many directions when her company faced changes due to competitive pressure in the global market. In the midst of her whirlwind work world, Holding needed a way to ease the stress. After finding that doodling added some much-needed calmness into her life, Holding decided to try other forms of art in an attempt to find some relaxation. “I began painting idly daily just to keep my peace of mind,” Holding said. “The more painting I did, the more I found serenity and balance.”

When the corporation Holding worked for acquired a company in India, she could either move to India for the company or stay in the Bay Area but switch positions. Holding, however, went with a different option. “I chose early retirement,” Holding said. “This decision gave me time and freedom to take art lessons and to paint.” Her decision to retire introduced her to many amazing people in the art community. “I was fortunate to have met wonderful teachers who opened my eyes to beauty and passionate fellow students who brought joy to me in the pursuit of art.”

As she developed the skills to appreciate art from a painter’s perspective, Holding began to find that art was more than just a way to calm herself. “I think painting taught me to be more accepting and to go with the flow,” Holding said. “After I had been painting for about a year, I noticed that my eyes became more sensitized to color than before.”

Her passion for painting brought color to her world. “I am grateful that painting made the world a more vivid and interesting place,” Holding said. “Before 2008, I wandered aimlessly in painting to make my mind quiet. After 2008, the joy and beauty of painting made my heart sing.”

Barbara Cottrell, a retired graphic designer and art teacher, agrees that art has brought an added beauty to her life. As a child, she experienced intermittent hearing loss, which shaped her into becoming more of a visual learner. “I did not do well in school, but I loved looking closely at the natural world and drawing what I observed,” Cottrell said.

Cottrell further explored her interests in school and became a graphic designer, eventually becoming an art teacher. Despite pursuing art as a profession, Cottrell still finds that it is a relaxing activity. Losing herself in the drawing process, she can escape the stresses of a fast-paced lifestyle and slow down while she closely observes the world around her.

“Drawing for me becomes a form of meditation — I lose track of time when I draw and paint,” Cottrell said. Drawing and painting foster creative and emotional growth as they serve as a way for people to become more in touch with themselves and ignore the distractions of a busy world around them. Artists pour their emotional expression onto the canvas to convey to viewers the allure that only an artists’ eye can notice in everyday life. The expressive process of creating artwork naturally makes activities like painting and drawing an outlet to let out the tensions of the day or simply tell a story to viewers. “I can’t imagine any other pastime which would bring me more joy,” Cottrell said.

While today’s professional world offers little room for art and personal creative expression, now is more important of a time than ever to show how learning how to paint or draw can lift off the stress of meeting deadlines and making large life decisions. As simple as learning how to stop and smell the roses, art is a strong connecting force that can tie people closer to other artists, nature and themselves.

“To me, art is the language of the heart,” Holding said. “It is ageless, expressive, and universal. I love that it can bring people of different cultures together.”