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How to Let Go of Challenging Emotions with Paint

"To let go is to release the images and emotions, the grudges and fears, the clingings and disappointments of the past that bind our spirit."

Jack Kornfield

Sometimes you just have to let it all go.

You have to let go of stress. You have to let go of overwhelming emotions. You have to let go of all the drama in the world. And sometimes you just have to let go of those difficult people that prevent you from living your life to the fullest. One of the best ways that I have found to truly let go of of all of those things is something called splatter painting. It's been used amongst artists and art therapists for years, and it's a wonderful way to express yourself through exaggerated movements, messy fun, and lots and lots of paint.

Here's how start letting go of some of those difficult emotions.

Materials you will need:

  • Large butcher block paper or white canvas tarp (you can also use an old white sheet, large stretched canvas, or poster board)

  • Water-based (acrylic) paints of your choice (oil based are difficult to clean)

  • Plastic containers to hold paintLarge paint brushes (one for each each color)

  • Paint brushes, large (cheap ones work great)

  • Water

  • Journal

You can either get a large sheet of butcher block paper or a tarp from your local Home Maintenance store. Purchase small cans of paint colors that are vibrant, and speak to the emotions you're trying to express and simultaneously let go.

Preferably lay out all of your materials outside. You’re most likely going to make a huge mess, so if you do explore this fun form of expression, make sure it’s in a place that can get messy. You can lay plastic tarp down on the ground to keep the splatters at a minimum, but let it be known that I have had paint end up not only in my hair after such a fun session of letting loose, but also on the ceiling and adjoining walls. Make sure the space you are doing this in is a place that welcomes paint splatters.

Fill plastic containers with paint and add about 1:4 ratio of water to paint. For example for every 3/4 cup of paint, add 1/4 cup of water. Make sure to stir well.

Place large brushes next to each watered down, paint filled container.

Spread out your “canvas” either on the ground or hang it up between two poles or trees. If laying on the ground, make sure to weigh down your canvas with heavy objects like bricks or stones so the wind doesn’t blow your canvas away or make for a surprise folding over of your canvas onto itself or the ground. The last thing you want is for your creation to get ruined from a bug gust of wind. Alternatively, if hanging your canvas, make sure it’s clipped firmly to its devised stand.

Make an intention before beginning. What emotions have been challenging you? Which feelings have been blocking you from moving forward in life. What emotions have been weighing you down? Name the emotions that you want to let go of, and focus your energy onto the canvas. Choose a color to represent each emotion.

Now’s the time to have some fun!

Dip a brush into a paint container and then let it drip paint onto your canvas.

Dip your bush back into the paint container and flick your wrist to splash paint across your canvas.

Continue letting loose with different techniques of splashing, dripping, dribbling, flicking and splattering paint onto your canvas.

As you explore the many variations of movement, allow the emotions that you chose to let go of release themselves onto the canvas. Feel each emotion leave your body and watch it transfer its energy onto your painting, giving it a separate place to rest than within yourself.

Let the emotions go.

When you are done painting and before leaving the piece you just created, take a moment to reflect on your experience. Use your journal to process how you felt preparing for, exploring and finishing the letting go of your emotions. How did you feel when you started? How did you feel while painting? How do you feel now? What changes did you notice in your body? What changes in thought did you experience?

Now give your piece a title. What best encapsulates your “letting go” experience? Write your title in your journal.

Allow your painting to dry. Dry times may vary based on the amount of paint and canvas material used, anywhere between a couple hours to a couple days (especially if you used oil based paints).

Hang your creation in a place that best meets your needs. If you want to have a daily reminder of the need to let go of challenging emotions, place it in a place that you can view often. You can also take a picture of it and keep it on your phone for an on-the-go view of inspiration. If your creation is too big to hang, you can also print the picture and frame it in its tinier version. It then can be placed on your desk at work, on the fridge or in your journal.

Remember to take care of yourself as you progress through these experiences. If at any time your emotions feel too overwhelming, share this with a licensed therapist in order for them to support you further.

Here's to your mental health!

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health disorder, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness website for valuable resources to find help and support, or call the toll-free helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).


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