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Painting, Collecting and Happiness

by Diane Weintraub on 8/26/2011 10:05:08 AM

This post is by guest author, Diane Weintraub.  This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.  We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community.  If you want your blog posts listed in theFineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 15,000+ subscribers,consider blogging withFASO Artist Websites.  This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.


Painting makes me happy. When I’m doing it, I feel good. Sure, it doesn’t go well all the time but mostly I’m really having fun when I’m painting.


I’ve often wondered about that and if the act of creating art is somehow good for the body, as well as the mind, in real and tangible ways. I’m no scientist but I taught art on the college level for about 10 years and saw how a deeper relationship with art making or art viewing can have positive outcomes. Kids from disadvantaged backgrounds got a whole lot of self esteem from making art or escaping to a museum. This likely isn’t something you don’t already know.


Money and the Brain

A while back I was watching CNN and their doctor reporter Sanjay Gupta, MD explained the rewards system in the brain that fires off neurotransmitters to create positive emotion when we do “retail therapy.” The buying impulse releases dopamine and you get a rush of positive emotions.


Money managers in the financial market experience this same dopamine rush when trading in positive territory. For some. losing money is, strangely, more of a rush because they want to get it back and recover their losses.


Buyer’s remorse, he said, is really the dopamine drop that gives us a “let down” feeling after a big purchase. It’s easy to see that a person could become addicted to this cycle: buying releases dopamine, then the let down, therefore, the buyer seeks more dopamine by buying again.


Dr. Gupta emphasized that these impulses are real so he offered a Plan for Happiness that channels dopamine reward. His plan involved building events that give you pleasure into your schedule, enjoying the anticipation of them as well as the event itself. Know too that the let down afterwards is part of the process.


Remember the let down after your show opening? It’s just the dopamine going away.


The Brain and Art

Watching Dr Gupta’s report on CNN got me thinking about how dopamine and art making or collection might work together. I anticipate my painting session and get joy from thinking about it. I get pleasure from painting as well. Afterwards, I look at the work and take pleasure from the passages that went well and I make mental notes about how to turn less successful passages into better ones. That feels good too.


As a minor league art collector, I get pleasure from that in the same way Dr Gupta outlines. I feel that dopamine in my collector’s brain as I select the new addition for my home. Sure, there’s always the thought later wondering if I made the right purchase but once the dust settles I continue to feel good about that art on my wall.


I think that the pure pleasure we enjoy via dopamine in the brain is good for us. Stress is not good for us, I think we’d all agree, and there’s a lot of stress in our lives right now in general. If you Google Interleukin 6 you can see the interplay between stress, inflamation and the body. One has to believe that anything you can do to increase enjoyment, and thereby relieve stress, is going to have positive results long term in the aging process. Besides, fun is just a way better thing to have than stress.


Think, if you will, how good it feels to be in the moment of making your art. Or how great you feel in a gallery or artist’s studio selecting a wonderfully appealing work of art for your home or office. Feel, if you can, that rush of dopamine and enjoy it to the max! It’s good for you!


For more on this topic check out:
Why Stress Kills ( February 11, 2009)





Editor's Note:  You can view Diane's original post here.


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Topics: art appreciation | art collectors | art history | art marketing | creativity | FineArtViews | Guest Posts | inspiration | painting 

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Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors
Been going through some really tough times at home, and painting has taken a back seat for the near future.
I have found that even if I am not painting a masterpiece, if I can drag myself away from the crisis, it does make me feel good to sit down, get the brushes wet and mess around. Thank you for your very nice post.

Luann Udell
It's nice to have an explanation and advance warning about the dopamine drain. :^)

I've also read that some people tend to put their purchases aside when they get home, hoping to extend their enjoyment, but the opposite is true. The sooner you can open/enjoy your purchases, the longer the dopamine effect lasts, and it's stronger, too.

So....we could think about ways to encourage our collectors to unwrap our artwork sooner rather than later.

And remind them that the remorse is a temporary thing, too, while the enjoyment they receive from our art will recur day after day, for years to come.

That's why I love it when satisfied customers come back to my booth to share their joy--especially when more customers can overhear them! :^D

Esther J. Williams
I was just packing my easel to go paint where I know I will get high and saw this article. At least it is a natural high from dopamine. It is no wonder in mental hospitals they have art therapy for the patients. To make them feel good about themselves.
I will remind my onlookers if they want to add one of my artworks to their home, it will give them a natural high too. For life. Clinch a sale that way.
Off I go to paint in nature now!

jack white

A master painter and dear friend lived to be 99. He told me when I started back in 1970, "Jack God gives artists a special dispensation. Time spent at the easel doesn't count against us." Seemed to work for him. I'm hoping I get the same dispensation. That's why I used to paint 14 to 16 hours a day. (smile)

Great topic and well written. jack

George De Chiara
Hi Diane,
That dopamine rush from painting is something else, isn't it? It makes time stand still and keeps us painting for hours on end. Like Jack's friend saying about the time at our easels not counting against us - how can it when it goes by so fast!

Native Americans are advanced over the rest of us in that creativity thru many artistic means is encouraged for every single member of tribes to maintain balance in their lives and mindsets. Beadwork, painting, pottery, designs on tents, clothing and even war paint provided artistic avenues to be creative for each member. Besides the visual arts there has been composition of poetry, prayer, music and dance.

In my youth, boys were not encouraged to create. True, once practiced, young men who bucked the trend made careers in artistic fields, but women didn't have 'careers' then.

Casey Craig

I think you've also hit on what keeps artists setting bigger and better goals. Once we achieve a major goal, we bask in the glory for awhile then our feet come back down and touch the ground and we set a new goal.

Nice post, thanks!

Carol Schmauder
Thanks for a wonderful post, Diane. I love everything about making art and the whole process brings me joy, from the planning to the framing. I also design and make jewelry so since I retired I have a lot more time to keep the dopamine levels high. Too much fun!

Geri deGruy
In the book "Flow" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author says of his research that "The best moments (in life) usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we MAKE happen...optimal experiences add up to a sense of mastery--or perhaps better, a sense of PARTICIPATION in determining the content of life."

I'm certain there are biochemical elements in this, but what I love is that the sense of flow and happiness have to do with our own work and mastery.

Virginia Giordano
I enjoy the complete engagement I experience when creating art, every part of me focussed there and not scattered around. Thanks for this uplifting post!

Jo Allebach
Very interesting post. I sure get the dopamine flowing when I paint and it sure feels good. It is good to understand the science of it now.

Diane Weintraub
Thanks all who commented on my blog post. Casey, I think you're on to the reason we keep on going with our goals:) Jo, George and Virginia: let's go paint! Geri, I have to check out that book, "Flow". My friend recommended it but now it's a must read. Thanks. Bonnie: good post... wish Dr. Gupta would inform us about other cultures and flow. Mimi, here's a hug. Hugs are simple things but they raise hemoglobin!

Carol McIntyre
I found your article fascinating and enlightening. It helps explain why I escape from my computer tasks to my easel and why I can paint into the night. Thank you!

Catherine Meyers
Thank you for posting your article which speaks a resounding and vital truth.

As as creative person I know how there are so many fulfilling rewards and pleasures to be gained and experienced from creating and collecting art. I have worked many years with troubled kids and seen first hand how it can contribute to happiness and healing.

Creativity and art making is play and a natural and necessary act like breathing that we are born with. Like Picasso said, we are all born artists, the trick is to remain this way. Creating and collecting helps me to continue to stay an artist and I hope I will never cease to do so.


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