Three artful self-care exercises to get your creativity flowing

Editor’s Note: We’re happy to welcome Cassia Cogger to the Dear Handmade Life blog. We love Cassia’s philosophy that art happens anywhere! Below she shares three artful self-care exercises to help you connect with yourself and relax through art. The instructions are loose and are meant to be a jumping off point. Take the pressure off yourself and give yourself permission to just create without thinking about where it will end up or what anyone else will think. If you’re looking for more ways to explore your life through art, be sure to check out our online workshop Sketchbook Adventures.  Also: See details at the end of post for how to enter to win a copy of Cassia’s book Creating Personal Mandalas: Story Circle Techniques in Watercolor and Mixed Media. -Nicole S.

Three artful self-care exercises to get your creativity flowing from Dear Handmade Life

From Cassia:

What comes to mind when you hear the term self-care? Some visualize long yoga classesor bubble baths, others a quick face wash or simply brushing their teeth each morning. I picture paints and pens + paper and palettes. I dream of messy hands and a full heart. The greatest form of self-care I can personally practice is living a creative life and engaging in the process of creative-expression in as many ways that call to me.

Time and time again the process of engaging in some form of creative expression relaxes my spirit. It reunites me with my authentic voice. Expressing ourselves creatively can guide us to find the beautiful and sacred within. It is one of the most powerful forms of self-care one can practice.

If bubble baths and face masks aren’t your thing (or even if they are and you want to expand and experiment with your self-care rituals), here are some of my favorite artsy self-care exercises:

1. Create a Personal Mandala:

Keep it simple. Grab some nearby paper and something to make a mark with. Draw a circle. Take a moment to relax your shoulders and release your jaw. Fill in the circle in with whatever way feels good. Words may want to fill the space or it might be images. Take a moment to breathe as you make your marks within the sacred circle. Your creative soul is always waiting for an opportunity to be heard. Give the words and/or images a moment and permission to arrive then start making your marks. Consider how creating the simple circle as a frame work on the page allows for this part of you to emerge. Consider how offering yourself a simple framework in other aspects of life might allow the same to occur. If you want a deeper dive into personal mandalas check out my book Creating Personal Mandalas.

Three artful self-care exercises to get your creativity flowing from Dear Handmade LifeThree artful self-care exercises to get your creativity flowing from Dear Handmade Life

2. Mixed Media Mail:

Write a letter that you would never send on a canvas or panel. I like to use oil pastels or water soluble crayons. Write things that are hard to say but still need to be acknowledged. Smear the words, erase the words, alter the words. Paint over the words using only your fingers, let it be a tactile experience. The bigger the piece you work on the better, let the whole body get involved. Write and paint, layer and alter. Notice how the feelings in the original letter might wane or intensify.
Keep with it and marvel at how your painting changes and notice how the stories you tell yourself about situations or things can evolve through this process.

Three artful self-care exercises to get your creativity flowing from Dear Handmade LifeThree artful self-care exercises to get your creativity flowing from Dear Handmade Life

3. From Observation to Abstraction:

Sit down and focus on something physical around you. Really tune in then begin to document it. You can draw anything; a salt shaker on your dining room table or a cup from which you are sipping. How tall is it? What color is it? Tell us something about the texture through your drawing. Drill in and down as specifically as possible. Zoom back and document it again in a more simplified way. What about the object is most important to you? What is the most important part of it’s story to tell? The shape, the color, the texture. Focus on distilling the experience of observing down to a single detail and share only that. Love what you love about the object and let the other parts fade away. Consider applying this practice to other areas as well. People, places, things. Focus on what you appreciate and notice how what you find less appealing becomes less important.

Three artful self-care exercises to get your creativity flowing from Dear Handmade Life

Creative expression in any form is a powerful form of self-care. It relaxes our spirits and reunites us with our authentic voice allowing us to find the beautiful and sacred within.


If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Cassia’s book Creating Personal Mandalas: Story Circle Techniques in Watercolor and Mixed Media, leave a comment in the section below telling us about your favorite self-care practice, by June 30, and we will pick a winner and ship you your new book!

Three artful self-care exercises to get your creativity flowing from Dear Handmade Life


  1. Art is usually my self-care. And has been since childhood. However, daily life with fibromyalgia takes all my mental/emotional/physical energy. I have been in a creative slump for at least two decades now. I need to free myself! Even my other self-care thing of being out in nature doesn’t help. 😢

    1. Awww, Annette, I completely understand. I have lupus and related arthritis pain…it’s very hard to do these things during a flare up. Have you tried watching a nature show like Planet Earth? Something you can really get involved in with looking at all the different animals and the lives that are out there and so different from ours. Good luck : )

  2. I love to take out my art supplies, eg. My beads and surround myself with all my supplies in a semi circle around me, have a cup of tea and snack ready and just start creating something beautiful. It’s a creative mess, but oh so fun.
    Then I think of someone I love who needs a lift and what they love, their favourite colours, etc and create them a personalised gift!

  3. I live to collage. Especially with lots of unusual pieces of paper.. I read a magazine then go thru it and tear pieces and words that call me.. this process brings me joy and lifts my spirit of creativity.. as I begin the process of gluing pieces to experience more of my peace I transform my emotions to a positive expression.. the collage process truly provides me with an open window to my soul🧘🏿‍♂️⚜️💚and for this I Am Grateful💚

  4. The greatest gift I have given myself is to recognize myself as an artist. I received many negative messages about claiming creativity for myself so I am always fighting artistic expression both consciously and unconsciously.
    I like your suggestions and plan to do at least one today.
    Thank you 🤗

  5. I feel that a mandala is a sacred expression of the soul; i would very much appreciate the guidance and support i believe this book would offer, to support me on my journey. I would also then wish to pass on the gift to disabled people in art classes. Thank you.

  6. My sketchbooks and pens have provided me with many hours of calmness. Even looking back through them relaxes me. Now although the arthritis and carpel tunnel pain reduces the time I spend, I try to keep doing what I can.

  7. I love to just doodle and loose watercolor. Color has always been a part of my daily practices ever since I picked up my first crayon. I get lost in my paint and pencils and forget my worries for awhile.

  8. I have been a graphic designer for over 20 years. Now I am on company leave and i feel somewhat lost and the need to be creative and learn new things is needed now more than ever. I’ve had depression my whole life, but with no job is causing tremendous anxiety. I am scared. I do love everything creative and this could help. Thank you

  9. doing portraits, and my usual mediums are colored pencils. Lately, with the quarantine, I should be enjoying resting…but, with my illnesses, hypothyroidism and type 2 diabetes, I have brain fog. I have difficulty using my brain, and my creativity. I have discovered I like doing coloring book pages, and I now do them to get me through.

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