Simple, Stress-Relieving Art in 5 Minutes or Less

Here are 5 examples of art journaling pages you can do in 5-minute increments, when you want to do *something* creative but don't have enough time, energy, or mental focus for a more-involved project. I find 5-minute art escapes akin to mindfulness meditation - sure it's great if you can take a multi-day retreat to just immerse yourself in meditation (/art) nonstop, but it's also extremely beneficial to center yourself periodically throughout the day. And those 5-minute boosts help me stay happy, centered, and energized, even if they don't involve time to process anything deeply or get into a real flow with the art. Sometimes I’m working out an idea I have in my head that is on its way to a future painting, but I mostly try to separate my “warm up” creative minutes from any requirement of “usefulness later on” - they’re already useful just in themsleves, for helping get creative juices warmed up and providing a brief oasis of calm and joy.

1. Just use pens - doodling with marker is so much easier & less messy than pulling out paints, watercolors, or even paper + glue. Maybe you later cover it with more layers or collage on top, but maybe it's just some relaxing color + pattern play - and THAT'S OK. In these examples I was playing with the brush & fine point tips of some Tombow dual-brush markers to experiment with different line weights and patterns.

markerbackground.JPG
patternplay.jpg

2. Scrape leftover paint - I like to use old hotel key cards, or a plastic palette knife. These pages emerged from less than 2 minutes effort, just using up extra paint from a canvas I was working on. Black gesso makes a particularly dramatic scraped background effect.

paintscrapes.JPG
blackpaintscrape.jpg

3. When in doubt, make color swatches of your supplies - soothing, simple shapes + calming brushstrokes + the satisfaction of seeing allll the colors in one place (+ bonus organization benefit of having a reference of what colors you already own, so that you maybe don't buy a fifth set of shimmery watercolors... just saying....)

Swatches of my Jane Davenport  mermaid markers

Swatches of my Jane Davenport mermaid markers

so many yummy colors of Winsor & Newton  gouache

so many yummy colors of Winsor & Newton gouache

4. Make new backgrounds every time you need to "clean your brush" - partly this habit developed because I hated to waste paint when I was done making a swatch (see project 3). I let these dry and may return later and add a hand-lettered quote on top, but mostly I just like to look at all the pretty colors together :) 

background from cleaning off waterbrush intPrima  watercolor confections

background from cleaning off waterbrush intPrima watercolor confections

From the same Winsor & Newton  gouache  swatch project above; when I learned a liiiiiitle gouache on a brush goes a loooon way. :)

From the same Winsor & Newton gouache swatch project above; when I learned a liiiiiitle gouache on a brush goes a loooon way. :)

5. Add marks on top - go back to one of your (now dry) backgrounds from a previous 5-minute burst and add some marks on top. Simple circles or + signs are my go-to marks right now, but you will find your own preferred most-soothing/least-thinking mark to make (pattern play like #1 can help reveal this!). My favorite supplies for making marks on top of dried paint are Jane Davenport's paint over pens or sharpies. If what I'm adding includes journaling, I usually go for my trusty fudeball black pen, that seems to write smoothly on basically any surface I can come up with.

marksonpaint.JPG
circlemarks.jpg

My favorite times to sneak a few minutes are first thing in the morning (sets me up well with a boost of creative energy for the day) or any time I'm about to lose my temper with the kids because I'm feeling way too frazzled (ducking away for a few minutes helps diffuse the tension and refills my well to prepare me to go back and handle the toddler tantrums with more poise and balance).

What can you make in 5 minutes? Remember, it doesn't have to be a complete page or project - just take a little "time out" to do something creative for yourself with a few moments out of your day. If 5 minutes seems too long, try 1 minute! 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I only link to products I use and love, that I bought myself and have not been paid to promote.