If you are meeting Amy Smith for the first time and she is talking about MHC’s Mending Art program, it’s quite possible that she will mention the word “sketchbooks” at a minimum of 13 times during your conversation.

Sketchbooks are essential to many artists. Like a guitar pic for guitarists or measuring tape for a woodworker. But, as a thing to talk about, they’re pretty boring. Why talk about them so much?

Lula E.

Lula E.

Amy, as Mending Art’s founder and coordinator, has seen hundreds of sketchbooks over the years. Her excitement is not about seeing some paper attached to spiral wire. It comes from what the sketchbook can do. Sketchbooks are the start of something – for the artist and for those around them.

“When I first sit down with someone who has no connection to art, who will tell me that they are ‘not an artist,’ but who wants so badly to create things, despite also being terrified of it, we just put lines down on paper. And, that’s it. The next day, we draw a few more lines. Maybe on day 3, a few more. Next thing you know, 4 months have gone by and they are showing their work to everyone around them and it’s work that they have spent hours on. These artists are proud and excited to talk about why they love art and what they want the world to see through their eyes.”

Amy believes that when artists show their work to others what they are doing more than sharing their stories is sharing themselves. “It’s as if their art becomes a “prop,” letting them to continue the conversation because they feel safe. The art is the vehicle to the story that they might not have felt safe enough to share otherwise,” said Amy.

Mending Art

Amy Smith (seated, lower left) poses with Mending Art artists and their friends at Waterbury Boys and Girls Cub.

Arriving at a point where the confidence and comfort exists to share a personal creation (and one that is most often rooted in a personal story of trauma or hope or courage, or all three and much more), can seem like miles away from a blank page in a sketch book. But, as Amy has discovered, it’s in the art of the start.

Just doing something on paper – or some other medium like taking that first photo or messing around with clay – is enough to conquer the fear. As kids we told ourselves, or others have told us, that we are either “creative” or “not creative.”

Amy believes art is for everyone. Not just art students, designers, or people who make a living as artists.

So, how about you? Where do you start?

As part of MHC’s 31 Days of Wellness, today is “color a MAX” day. If you love using coloring as a stress reliever or you have been thinking of starting to bring art into your life, now’s your chance!

Color a MAX and share it with us so we can see it! Use the hashtag #31DaysofWellness and tag us at @mentalhealthCT on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.