I’ve been trying for years (decades?) to become Someone Who Meditates because everyone (including my various medical counsels over the years) thinks it’s good for everyone, but especially for those of us with anxiety disorders.
Long story short: It never worked.
BUT! I have found a great meditative practice which is: Painting. I started doing it during lockdown in 2020 and I’ve kept with it pretty consistently since. I’m not doing it to sell art, I’m not even doing it to create finished pieces to display…I’m just doing it for the moments of peace it gives me while I’m doing it. And my psychiatrist has stopped trying to get me to meditate: “I think this painting practice is benefitting you in the same way meditation would.”
I’ve had a few people who have been watching this journey on social media ask me about supplies, etc…so I thought I’d write about that here. NOTE: I am a beginner with no traditional skills. I can’t paint real things, everything is either abstract or botanical because I’ve taken a few video lessons on botanicals. But the majority of what I do is shapes and colors. If you’re wanting tips on starting to paint REAL things, this info might not work for you. This is mainly if you’re like me: Full of creative energy, in need of something to clear your head every day, and new to painting.
What got me started painting was just simply wanting to revive and play around with a Gouache paint set Nyoka had asked for as a gift one year. She swore art TikTok loved Gouache paints but she forgot how busy her life is and it just never stuck as a hobby, so I asked if I could play with the set for awhile.
About Setting Yourself Up For Success
(And understanding what that success looks like.)
For me – what I wanted was a routine. Ideally, something I could do every morning in lieu of meditation. Something to start my day (or end my day some nights) by clearing my head of the worry cycle and zone out on something that takes just enough of my attention to keep me from falling into the default worry stage, but not so much of my attention that it becomes another thing to worry about. This is why I don’t paint with any purpose. I’m not making gifts, I’m not wanting to display my art, I’m not wanting to sell anything. For me: Success was something that would become habitual and not add more stress in my life. This meant ease and convenience played huge parts in choosing supplies in the beginning until this became a routine. I stuck to these basics I’ll talk about there for a good 2 years before I started branching out. By then it was a solid habit/routine so I could add levels of difficulty to my practice.
Why Everyone Should Start With A Gouache Set
If you are like me and not a traditional “artist” who paints regularly, you probably don’t know what colors or styles you like. A gouache set (this is the one we had) is excellent because gouache paints are so flexible/versatile. They can be as opaque as you want them to be (like acrylics), or you can simply dilute them with water and they function like water color. I also really love mixing colors, or lightening with white to play around. I used that set non-stop for over a year and there’s still plenty of paint left. I did buy one of these replacement pouches of white because I used white a lot for color variations.
The other think I like about this set is it doesn’t “go bad” since all it needs is some water to revive it. If you want to learn more about painting with gouache I would spend some time on YouTube. I watched a lot of “beginning with gouache” videos and I also found videos about how to revive and care for gouache paints that dry out. I found small spray bottles and eye droppers for adding water are super useful!
The reason I say start with a set even if there are colors you won’t think you’ll use much, is because mixing those colors with colors you like is super fun. I loved some of the colors I got mixing browns with other colors. You’ll start to learn what colors you like to use.
Gouache sets are also super portable and easy to get out/put up. I can’t leave my paints out because we have a disruptive kitten. It is such a bitter pain in the ass to clean up after my million acrylic tubes than it was when I was just using gouache.
Negative about gouache: You can’t “layer” with basic gouache. Water does “revive” it so you can take something wet and paint over it. I did not have any problems with this at first. But now that I’ve been using paints you can layer with, it feels a little daunting to start painting and know I can’t paint over it!
Here are some things I’ve painting with my gouache set.
The reason I started with painting in notebooks was simple: I really like the aesthetic of a full notebook and I wanted to feel accomplished seeing it on the shelf.
I prefer painting in journals/notebooks because again: Portable/easy. I liked the spiral bound as a beginner because it was easy to keep set on one page. I used water-color paper which is thick enough to paint on BOTH sides. These are the notebooks in this picture and I give them 5 starts for sure.
Now that I’ve been doing this for awhile I enjoying having bound notebooks to do two-page spreads, and I like square paper, but all of that is I think something you play around with once you’ve got a routine down. Like I said – I used these things and these things only for two years.
I still get very frustrated with paint brushes. There is definitely a difference in quality/cost. But not a truly consistent one and I still get very frustrated trying to paint certain types of lines and shapes. The best luck I’ve actually had was with this set but honestly, I think some of the variations is how you paint, hold your hand, what lines you like to paint. I really think starting with a decent set of different brushes is the wait to go at first. You can google advice about what brushes to use but I got so frustrated because there’s a million types of brushes and a million reasons to choose each of them. I really think you find a decent mixed set and start there. Not bottom of the line, but not top of the line.