Practicing art helps me to come out of emotional pain of my past and reduces everyday stress.
By Linish Balan
Until the age of 28 I didn’t even draw a single flower properly. In childhood I never tried to draw anything by myself though I had a great fascination for visuals. In school days drawing classes were so boring and my art teacher used to scold me because my drawings were unclean and clumsy.
Our art teacher would give us half of an image which had so many curves, straight lines and geometrical shapes. We had to draw another half of the image as same as the given half. In my drawing sheet, one half was always marked with scribbling and big holes which I made with an eraser. Finally, my art teacher got fed up with me and stopped scolding me too.
Despite my fascination for visuals and colors in childhood, my mild hidden dyspraxia (a separate diagnosis than the condition of my autism) blocked me from practicing art. Still, even now, I don’t know how to draw and paint properly. But nowadays I practice painting as a therapy rather than an art form. Practicing art helps me to come out of emotional pain of my past and reduces everyday stress.
When I was 20 years old, because of my interest in photography and movies, my friends Sreejith Paul – a great artist and filmmaker – introduced me to Biju.M, also a great artist, photographer and filmmaker.
Biju.M helped me in many aspects to learn photography and basic film techniques. But I was a bad student and my low impulse control, rigidity in thinking, and difficulties in making decisions and act in the moment, again had hidden dyspraxia blocking me from giving good outputs in photography even though my visual perception had improved.
Biju. M might had gotten fed up with my bad performance. Instead, he told me “Practice painting. It is very important to improve your photography. It will improve your frame composition and color sense.” We started with drawing. He tried all the conventional methods to teach me drawing techniques. I remember fondly the days myself and Jimmy George practiced straight lines and rounds/circles under his guidance.
Jimmy was a better student than me; he picked up the lessons fast. I wasn’t able to draw straight lines and rounds the way he could. Finally, I stopped that practice. My practice with brushes and paints was also horrible. I was always making a mess on paper with paint and brush.
Still, I used to sit with Biju.M when he was painting. One thing I realized at the time was certain types of strokes and color patterns calmed me down. When he was doing expressionist and impressionist paintings, I felt more calmness. He used to ask my feedbacks after he finished each painting. I always selected certain paintings which were calming me down as his good paintings.
In his Biju.M’s studio was a big collection of printed paintings of great artists in the world. I remember, I used to sit in his studio for hours looking at the paintings of Renoir and Claude Monet. Watching the strokes and color patterns of impressionist style were calming me down more than any other style. In contrast, the paintings of Salvador Dali were always disturbing me. If I looked into a Dali painting for more than 5 minutes I felt unwanted anxiety and a headache.
I drew the above “dark” image (untitled) when I was not in a good state of mind.
When I was 28 years old I experienced severe anxiety. There were several issues in my personal life that also contributed to my overall state of mind. During that period, I think I might have hurt Biju.M emotionally, I think. But he is great man with unlimited compassion, so he was ready to help me. When I stopped excessive usage of drugs, my situation became very much worse. Withdrawal symptoms were horrible.
Being a person with autism, I find generally that there is a gap between my mind and body, and that time there was no connection between my body and mind. Then, he introduced me to copying comic books. It was very difficult for me in the beginning. But I’ve had a great fascination for comic books from childhood, I like to read comics more than anything in the world.
That interest towards comics started to motivate me to copy comic characters and stories. Slowly I started to enjoy it, especially coloring the characters and my connection between my mind and body started to come back to the previous stage. That practice helped me a lot to reduce my anxiety. There were so many practices that he helped me to do but copying and coloring the comic characters and stories made a great difference as a therapy for me that time.
My Tips for Practicing Art to Help Heal Ourselves
I believe that practicing art may help individuals with autism to improve:
- Connection between mind and body
- Eye-hand coordination
- Impulse control
- Fine motor skills
- Communication skills
- Sitting tolerance
- Visual perception
Practicing Art May Help Autistic Individuals to reduce:
- Everyday stress
- Emotion pain of the past
Sounds & Hallucinations
Still I am not able to draw and paint properly. But I practice art consistently as a therapy. I would like to create some characters and color it. From childhood I have been going through different types of hallucinations. Most of the time I see some unreal people in front of me. So nowadays I am trying to recreate those characters on paper. For that I need to fight with pencil and eraser to create the characters. When I transfer those hallucinations on to paper, I feel calm, so I am trying to overcome my dyspraxia which is blocking me to draw. In hallucinations along with the unreal people I have felt some strange sounds too.
In fact, the unreal people are colorless in my hallucinations. When I draw I am trying convert those strange sounds in to colors of those people, their dresses and surroundings. I feel each unreal sound in different way and I feel each color in different way. So, I try to connect feeling of each sound with the color which matches with that feeling.
So, I practice art as a therapy than an art form. It’s healing me. I would like to say thanks for Biju .M who gave his precious time to help me to practice art, along with my friend Sreejith Paul who introduced me to Biju.M.
Linish Balan resides in India and works with people on the autism spectrum. He is 36 years old and was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age 33. He is an artist.