The term “art therapy” was first introduced in 1942 by British artist Adrian Keith Graham Hill (1895 – 1977) after realizing the drawings he had done to pass time while convalescing from tuberculosis at a UK long-term care facility had been helpful in his recovery, suggesting other patients could be similarly benefited from both the creation and appreciation of art.  The idea caught on.

Adrian Hill later taught drawing and painting at hospitals, and wrote that art therapy seemed to release the creative energy of patients and relieve mental stress by “completely engrossing the mind” and diverting attention from illness and injury.  [Adrian Hill’s books on art therapy include Art Versus Illness: A story of art therapy (1945) and Painting Out Illness (1951)]  He also believed the practice of art “in sickness and in health” was essential to the well being of all society, and continued throughout his life to write art instructional books (including Drawing and Painting Trees (1936, 2008), still in print*), and promote the use of art therapy in public health services.

Today, art therapy as a curative technique varies in definition, process, application and approach, but the primary purpose is restorative healing by means of any type of visual art, including drawing, painting, sculpting, photography and digital art.  The benefits, however, are more far-reaching as the act of creating an artwork seems to calm the body’s nervous system and provides a means of self-expression that can be enjoyed by anyone searching for a relaxing, enlivening pastime.

Listed below are a few artwork ideas to get the creative juices flowing (no training, experience or special talent required!).  You’ll also find creative inspiration from On2In2™ video selections on the Art Works and Creative Perspectives channels and more arts and crafts project ideas in the posted article, “Artisan”.

ο  Go outside and sketch or photograph something you find beautiful or interesting

ο  Build a sandcastle or draw in the sand

ο  Cut and paste clippings, images or whatever you find to create a paper collage or sculptural object

ο  Finger paint or make scribble drawings

ο  Create a unique greeting card

ο  Experiment with digital art by using a paint/sketch app

ο  Get a coloring book for adults, some gel pens, markers & pencils, and start coloring



Previously considered child’s play, coloring “inside the lines” is actually fun for everybody and has become a popular hobby for adults.  (An estimated 12 million coloring books were sold in 2015/US, Nielsen Bookscan)  It’s a do ‘anywhere, anytime’ creative process of design and color that appeals to so many because it doesn’t require a big investment in art supplies, training or work space and can be enjoyed solo or with friends in social ‘coloring’ groups.  The best part— there are no rules.  Make it fun. Color in a way that makes you happy (inside, outside & between the lines).  Your work of art can be displayed, given as gifts, used in other arts & craft projects, or saved and collected as part of a personal journal.

The variation of coloring book creations is endless, and colorists love to share their inspiration and works of art.  Take a look at a few beautiful examples in this slide show.


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There’s a wide selection of coloring books available in bookstores, hobby shops, and online via ebooks and digital apps (for purchase & free of charge) that are filled with pages of line drawings designed uniquely for adult creative colorings.  Illustrator, Johanna Basford, has published a number of best-sellers, including Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest and Lost Ocean.  *Learn more and shop online here for all  → Johanna Basford Coloring Books,  and browse the multitude of other coloring books available in a variety of styles for colorful creations  → Coloring Book Selections    


My first attempt at using coloring book app "Colorfy"

Seashells in digital color by Zola Zeester

Most coloring apps are free to download on phone, iPad or tablet via App store, Google Play, etc., but pay attention to the basic v. premium offerings as there are often in-app purchases required for select designs, colors and brushes. [Editor’s Note: After downloading “Colorfy” (by Fun Games for Free) on an iPad, took it for a short test drive, and created the simple seashell design you see here in about 10 minutes (could make a nice greeting card?).  It worked ok and was fun to play with, but quickly discovered there are very few coloring options and tools available for free (which is not fun).  There’s convenience and novelty in using these cool creative digital tools, and Colorfy was easy enough to navigate.  Really like the feature that allows uploading of personal, original drawings and sketches for coloring.  However, using old school paper and pen coloring books as a means of escaping phones and screens for a couple of hours is likely more appealing to many of us.


Coloring Tips for the Beginner

3 hrs of coloring in 2 min (Thomas Johnson, Randolph Smith/The Washington Post)

Use color pencils, markers and/or gel pens. Experiment with different kinds, but test them out for ink bleeding through the paper before starting.

Place a piece of paper under the color book page you’re coloring to protect the other pages in the book from indentions and ink bleeds.

Color from the outside ⇒ in.

Build up layers for more depth of color rather than pressing too hard.

Keep pencils sharp and caps on pens and markers.

It takes practice. Slow down and enjoy every moment.



We love freebies, and free coloring books make it fast & easy to begin a coloring art project.  The NYBG 12-page “Color Our Collections” coloring book (a favorite) is provided absolutely free to print courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden and the LuEsther T. Mertz Library  [To download/print from this page: Click/Tap the arrow within the small square located top right corner (the “pop-out” box) of the NYBG coloring book below.  It redirects you to a separate page.  Print and/or download the coloring book pages from there.]  Now, just gather up some pens and pencils and start coloring your one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

Find more free to print coloring books from the On2In2™ resource page here ⇒ “Free Coloring Books“.   During the first week of February, special collections libraries, museums and archives promote coloring using copies of historical drawings and sketches, making it a good time to search social media for one-of-a-kind (and free!) coloring books using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections.



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Wikipedia:  Art Therapy, Adrian Hill
“Why Adult Coloring Books are the Latest Trend”, The Washington Post (May 2, 2016)

*Zeester Media LLC may receive a small commission for a purchase you make via the links to Amazon within this page. This in no way affects the price you pay for the purchase.

Feature photo of art paint mess is courtesy of Unsplash, CC0

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Posted by Zola Zeester

Zola is a vagabond playmaker, the On2In2™ recreation guru and primary source of inspiration for this article. Currently resides at Zeester Media HQ.


  1. Thank you for the post – the sunflower reminds me of France! Will give “art therapy” a try!

    1. So nice to hear. I know you’ll create a wonderful work of art with that sunflower. Enjoy, and don’t forget to share your artwork with On2In2™.

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