Therapeutic Art: Grounding by Drawing | Christine Nishiyama | Skillshare
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Therapeutic Art: Grounding by Drawing

teacher avatar Christine Nishiyama, Artist at Might Could Studios

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Class Trailer

      2:22

    • 2.

      An Overview of Grounding

      3:07

    • 3.

      Notice Your Thoughts

      1:06

    • 4.

      Connect to Your Body

      1:24

    • 5.

      Focus on the Present

      3:58

    • 6.

      Engage in Your Life

      0:50

    • 7.

      Project Assignment

      1:10

    • 8.

      Audio Walkthrough

      4:58

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7

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About This Class

CLASS OVERVIEW

We all feel troubled by life and full of stress from time to time. But sometimes that stress can snowball into what the psychologist Russ Harris calls an Emotion Storm, when we get totally swept away by our negative thoughts and unwanted memories.

These emotion storms disrupt our lives and make it impossible to focus on our relationships, jobs, and daily life. We become completely overwhelmed and unable to get away from the repetitive looping thoughts.

Luckily, there are strategies to hold steady during the storm, called grounding techniques. Grounding techniques are tools to help us self-regulate and reconnect with the present moment. They help ground us in the here and now. There are many common grounding techniques, but as an artist, the act of drawing is what grounds me best.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN

In this class, I’ll be sharing my own grounding technique I call Grounding by Drawing.

Grounding by Drawing has four steps:

  1. Notice Your Thoughts
  2. Connect to Your Body
  3. Focus on the Present
  4. Engage in Your Life

As you go through the four steps of Grounding by Drawing, you’ll be creating a drawing that will help you move past an emotion storm to notice and reenter the world around you.

WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE THIS CLASS

It’s important to note that coping skills and grounding techniques do not make emotions or thoughts go away—that is not our goal. Emotions and thoughts are like the weather—they come and go. Sometimes we have sunny days and sometimes we have stormy days. But fighting or cursing the weather doesn’t make it change. The only thing we can really do is make room for both sunny days and stormy days.

And that’s what Grounding by Drawing helps us do: it allows us to accept that stormy days happen and gives us a way to take shelter while the storm passes. Under that reprieve from the emotion storm, we are able to think more clearly and act in a way that aligns with our values—a way that helps us move back towards living the life we want to live.

WHO THIS CLASS IS FOR

This class is for artists, creatives, and visual thinkers who are looking for a way to use their art to deal with stress, regulate their emotions, and be more present in their lives.

You do not have to be in an emotion storm right now to do take this class or do the project assignment. In fact, it’s best if you practice techniques like this before an intense storm comes—any coping strategy is easier to do when thoughts and feelings are mild.

Grounding by Drawing allows me to stay steady during emotion storms, and I hope that through this class, maybe drawing can help you do that too.

TOOLS + MATERIALS

The drawings in this class can all done in a sketchbook or piece of paper with whatever drawing tool you feel most comfortable with.

RESOURCES + REFERENCES

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WANT MORE?

Check out my other Skillshare classes here!

You can also see more about me and my work on my website: might-could.com.

And you can sign up for my email list for weekly essays on creativity and artmaking!

Thanks so much! <3

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Christine Nishiyama

Artist at Might Could Studios

Top Teacher

Hallo! I'm Christine Nishiyama, artist + founder of Might Could Studios.

I make books and comics, and I draw a whoooole lot. I teach aspiring and established artists, helping them explore their art, gain more confidence, and discover their unique artistic styles.

My core belief is that art is good and we should all make more of it. 

Instagram: Yeewhoo, I quit all social media! 

Books: Check out my books here, including a graphic novel series with Scholastic!

Subscribe to my Substack newsletter: Join over 10,000 artists and get my weekly essays on creativity and artmaking, weekly art prompts, and behind-the-scenes process work of my current picture book. Subscribe here!

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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Transcripts

1. Class Trailer: [MUSIC] Hi. I'm Christine Nishiyama, artist and founder of Might Could Studios. I'm an illustrator, writer, and sketchbooker, and I'm also a human. As such, there are times, many times, that I feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious. We all feel troubled by life from time to time. Our stress stems from personal issues, workplace issues, existential worries, and daily responsibilities. But sometimes, that stress can snowball into what the psychologist, Russ Harris, calls an emotion storm. When we get totally swept away by our negative thoughts and unwanted memories, these emotion storms disrupt our lives and make it impossible to focus on our relationships, jobs, and daily life. We become completely overwhelmed and unable to get away from the repetitive looping thoughts. Luckily, there are strategies to stay steady during the storm called grounding techniques. Grounding techniques are tools to help us self-regulate and reconnect with the present moment. There are many common grounding techniques, such as deep breathing, counting, or stretching. But as an artist and someone who processes things visually, the act of drawing is what grounds me best. Over the years, I've developed many art-based coping skills, and in this class, I'll be sharing my own grounding technique I call grounding by drawing. It's important to note that coping skills and grounding techniques do not make our emotions and thoughts go away, that is not our goal. Emotions and thoughts are like the weather, they come and go. Sometimes we have sunny days, and sometimes we have stormy days, but fighting or cursing the weather doesn't make it change. The only thing we can really do is make room for both the sunny days and the stormy days. That's what grounding by drawing helps us do. It allows us to accept that stormy days happen, and it gives us a way to take shelter until the storm passes. Grounding by drawing helps me stay steady during an emotion storm, and I hope that through this class, maybe drawing can help you do that too. Thank you so much. I hope to see you in the class. 2. An Overview of Grounding: The purpose of grounding by drawing. The process of grounding by drawing has four steps, which I'll take you through over the next four videos. One, notice your thoughts. Two, connect to your body. Three, focus on the present. Four, rejoin your life. The first two steps are very simple and quick and serve as preparation for the third step where the drawing takes place. Then the fourth step is mostly an inherent result that naturally occurs after grounding has taken place. To go through this process, all you need is a drawing tool and a piece of paper. I like to just draw on the next blank page of my sketchbook with whatever pen is laying on my desk. Usually, I'll grab a brush pen as the thick line and varying brushstroke feels conducive to big bold marks and big bold emotions. But you should choose whatever tool you prefer. Before we begin, I want to reiterate that this process is not intended to make your emotions go away. Grounding is a way of holding steady and taking shelter until the emotion storm passes. We can't make the storm go away, but we can use techniques like grounding by drawing to hold steady until the storm passes. We can use the things around us, things we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell to gently pull us back down and ground us to where we are and what we're doing in the present moment. We do this through first becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings, then becoming aware of our body, and then becoming aware of the physical space around us. When we practice grounding by drawing, we're also not trying to avoid or distract ourselves from our emotions. Our goal is to hold awareness of our difficult thoughts and feelings while at the same time, reconnecting to our body and expanding our focus to the world around us. Instead of avoiding or distracting, grounding by drawing allows us to make space for difficult feelings in our body. Ultimately, what we're practicing is mindfulness, turning to the present moment and whatever is here right now. We are not running away from difficult feelings. We are turning towards them, accepting that they are here right now and making space for them in this moment. We are expanding our awareness of what is here, both inside and around us right now. One final note before we dive into the four steps. I am not a mental health professional. Any advice or suggestions given here are based on my own personal experience and research. You can see a list of references and extra resources under the class description page. If you are really struggling, please remember that talking to a mental health professional can be helpful. A therapist can work directly with you in a safe, non-judgmental space to explore more coping strategies and find the ones that might work best for you. With that in mind, let's jump in. The next four videos will explain the four steps, and then if you'd like to practice the process, the final video includes the audio-only walkthrough to take you through it in real time. 3. Notice Your Thoughts: Notice your thoughts. First, before you begin the drawing by grounding process, try to find a calm, quiet environment. Perhaps go into your bedroom, the backyard, porch, or wherever else you might be able to have a few minutes to go through this process mindfully. Be sure to take your drawing tool and sketchbook or paper with you. Expanding awareness to your thoughts. Open your sketchbook up to a blank page and lay it flat on your desk, table, or lap. Place your hands palms down on the sketchbook pages and close your eyes. The first step in grounding by drawing is to notice how you're feeling and what you are thinking. As you sit quietly, acknowledge what is showing up in your mind in this moment. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What memories are coming up? What worries are appearing? Observe everything that is passing through your mind with a non-judgmental, curious mindset. With your eyes still closed move on to Step 2. 4. Connect to Your Body: Connect to your body. The second step in grounding by drawing is to reconnect to our body. It can be helpful to slow down our breathing. This automatically brings our awareness back to our body. Breathe naturally and evenly at a nice even pace. Focus on how your stomach and chest rise and fall with each breath. Breathe slow and even for five breaths. Now press your feet flat to the ground. Take a moment to feel the weight of your feet on the floor. Sit upright in your chair and straighten your shoulders and back. Feel the palms of your hands on the paper. Perhaps shrug and relax your shoulders or gently roll your neck in a slow circle. Do whatever small slow movements feel good to you in this moment. 5. Focus on the Present: Focus on the present. The third step of grounding by drawing is to re-focus on the present moment, where we are and what we're doing right now. This is where we begin drawing. If you've heard of it, this is my variation on the common 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding technique. Let's begin. Open your eyes and pick up your drawing tool. Look around you and notice one thing you can see. This could be a book beside you, something out the window, or a pet somewhere nearby. Jot this down in a small note in the corner of your sketchbook page. Now look around and notice one thing close by that you could reach out and touch. This could be a hard glass, a fluffy blanket, or a smooth wooden table. Jot this down in the corner of your sketchbook page. Now listen quietly and notice one thing you can hear around you. This could be a dog gently snoring, a lawn mower outside, or muffled music from another room. Jot this down in the corner of the page. Now use your nose and notice one thing you can smell. This could be something cooking, a cup of coffee, or fresh-cut flowers. Jot this down in the corner of the page. Finally, notice one thing you can taste. This could be a cup of tea, toothpaste, or perhaps you don't taste much of anything in this moment. Jot this down in the corner of the page. Now look at your list of five things you have noticed with your senses. Choose one that stands out to you and draw it in the center of the page. Try to stay as non-judgmental as possible while you are drawing. Imagine you are a curious scientist studying this thing and recording it down in your sketchbook. You're not trying to make a brilliant piece of artwork. You are merely making marks on the page and drawing for the process of drawing. There is no good or bad, right or wrong. There is just drawing. Notice that your painful feelings or memories are still here with you, but at the same time, you are also able to notice your body and use that body to draw, bringing the mind and body together and gently nudging both back into the present moment. This moment where you are drawing in your sketch book. Draw like this for as little or as long as you need. Draw just one thing or draw all five. It's up to you. 6. Engage in Your Life: Engage in your life. After you've finished drawing, take a moment to reflect. Do you notice any difference in your feelings or thoughts? Do you feel less swept away by the emotion storm? Is it easier for you to see and think and be present to what is around you? Do you feel more in control of your body and your actions? The grounding by drawing process ends by returning to whatever you were doing before you stepped away to draw. Returned to that space or activity and give your full attention to what you were doing, engaging with your life again. Come back to yourself and your life. 7. Project Assignment: Your project assignment. For the project assignment, listen to the audio-only walkthrough and go through the four steps yourself. Remember, you do not need to be in an emotion storm to do the grounding by drawing process. In fact, it's very helpful to practice this or any other grounding technique when you're not in the midst of an intense emotion. Try it now so that when an emotion storm does strike, you'll be a little bit more prepared. The next video contains the audio-only walkthrough, and you can also download the audio file under the Project Resources page, so you can have it on your computer or phone for future use when you don't have access to this course. Upload your drawing and share whatever of your experience you would like in your project gallery. You can see my project there as an example, and I would love to see what you create too. Feel free to just share the drawing you made and keep the specifics of your thoughts and emotions private if that's what you feel most comfortable doing. Thank you so much for taking this class, and I hope it helps you hold steady the next time an emotion storm strikes. See you next time. 8. Audio Walkthrough: Right now it seems like you're struggling with something painful and difficult. I would like to help you hold steady through this emotion storm until it passes. First, place your hands on top of your open sketchbook and close your eyes. Acknowledge the pain you're feeling, notice what you are feeling, perhaps saying inwardly to yourself, I'm feeling angry, sad, or whatever emotion you are feeling in this moment. If you're thinking of a specific memory, acknowledge that too. Perhaps saying, here is that painful memory of when- Notice that these difficult feelings are here and also notice that you are inhabiting a human body. Outside of your mind, you have hands, arms, a torso, legs, and feet. Press your feet into the ground and feel the pressure. Roll your shoulders up and down. Roll your head and neck gently and slowly in circles in one direction and then the other direction. Feel your palms touching the smooth paper of the sketchbook, maybe rubbing your fingertips a bit on the page. Notice that these difficult feelings are here and your body is here. Also notice that you are in this physical space. Open your eyes and slowly look at the space around you. Take another look and notice one thing you can see. Write this down in a small note in the corner of your sketchbook page. Now look around and notice one thing close by that you could reach out and touch. Make a note of this in the corner of the page. Now listen quietly and notice one thing you can hear. Make a note in the corner of the page. Now use your nose and notice one thing you can smell. Make a note in the corner of the page. Finally, notice one thing you can taste. Make a note in the corner of the page. Now look at the list of five things you have noticed with your senses. Choose one that stands out to you and begin drawing it in the center of this page. As you draw, remain as nonjudgmental as possible. You're not trying to make a brilliant piece of art work. You're merely making marks on the page and drawing for the process of drawing. There is no good or bad, right or wrong. There is just drawing. As you continue drawing, notice that your painful feelings or memories are still here with you, and at the same time, you are also able to notice your body and what you're doing with that body. You are bringing the mind and body together and gently nudging both back into the present moment, this moment where you are drawing marks in your sketchbook. Continue drawing this way for as little or as long as you need. Choose to draw just one of the things you noticed or draw all five. When you feel ready, close your sketchbook and focus your awareness one more time. Notice the difficult feelings inside you and also notice your physical body and also notice the space around you. Now come back to what you were doing and give that task or those people your full attention and awareness.