Disclosure: I received a free paint by numbers kit from Winnie’s Picks, but all opinions are my own.
I probably hadn’t done any kind of painting since elementary school. I’m not visually artistic at all; all of my creativity comes out in words. But when Winnie’s Picks reached out to me, I thought it sounded pretty interesting. I like that they frame it as a mindfulness activity, which matches up well with my own preference to practice mindfulness of sensory input from the external environment rather than an inward focus.
They have a wide selection of different kits, or they can do custom kits from photos. I went with the Abstract and Modern Colorful Cat. It’s one of their beginner kits, and since my brother is cat-obsessed, I thought it would be a nice gift for his baby daughter.
The kit came in the tube shown above. It included the canvas, a paper version for reference, little pots of number-coded paints, and 4 different size brushes.
It arrived at a time when my thinking was really mushy, and I just didn’t have the mental processing power to do much of anything. I normally spend a lot of time each day reading and, to a lesser extent, writing. When those things aren’t so accessible, it can be hard to figure out what to do besides just being dazed and confused.
Anyway, the timing was perfect . Painting was a good way to narrow focus onto something without having to draw on cognitive resources. In that sense, it’s a very low spoon-requirement activity. I did find, though, that my disrupted cognitive processing meant it wasn’t until had done several days of painting that I was able to see the forest (i.e. them overall picture) rather than just the trees (i.e. the paint by numbers details).
Anyway, I just sat down, put on some music, and painted for an hour or two. I mentioned in a recent post about music and mood that I don’t typically listen to music except when I’m driving, as I find it distracting. Interestingly, though, with painting it was fine. That may be something worth exploring further. I know that reading and writing don’t work well with music for me, but maybe there are some other things that do.
It took me a week of painting every day to be finished. I’m slow in general right now, plus I did a lot of retouching of parts I’d already painted, so I’m not sure what the average length of time would be to complete it.
Ever since I’ve been on lithium, I’ve had an intention tremor, which shows up with deliberate movement rather than at rest. It also throws off my coordination. When I’m tired or when I’m particularly slow, the tremor gets worse.
That means that fine motor control is definitely not my strong point… and yet, I could do this. I can say pretty confidently that if I can do this without making a mess, so can most people. I’m actually surprised how well I managed given the tremor. The finished painting is below. Close up, the effects of my tremor are visible, especially in the whiskers. Overall, though, I’m quite content with how it turned out.
I happen to have a frame that’s the same size, so I’ll frame it and give it to my brother for my niece’s room. I think he’ll be happy, especially since he knows I’ve been struggling more than usual lately. Even though my emotional response to my niece is blunted by depression, I do still like getting things for her. I’ve already picked out her Christmas gift. At 6 1/2 months now, she’s substantially larger now than the hairless guinea pig she was when she was first born.
Do you have any artistic activities that act as creative outlets or support mindfulness?
Check out Winnie’s Picks paint by numbers for custom and ready-made kit options.
The Coping Toolkit page has a broad collection of resources to support mental health and well-being.