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Mental Health

How Bad Art Saved My Mental Health

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Sometime in the mid-to-late ’50s, my grandmother (I call her Tita) attended art school. After she graduated, she quickly got married to a doctor and began her life as your classic, beloved, stay-at-home mom. She raised three amazing children, a college math teacher, an Emergency Room doctor, and a business owner. Those three children raised wonderful families that grew and moved away from the nest to start their own lives. The second youngest of the five grandchildren (moi) had just moved out to her first year of university!

Everything was amazing. I was making friends that I was sure would last me a lifetime, and I had moved across the province, so I had parental freedom that I had never experienced before—this included a lot of eating refined sugars, watching movies past midnight, and eating take-out once a week. I was really living my best first-year life, my friends came over every day, and for the first time in my life I was becoming something of a social butterfly.

Before I knew it, I was on a flight back to my small hometown in southwestern Ontario where I had no friends and no prospects. The life that I had built for myself was slowly being forgotten in Ottawa. At that point we thought that lockdown would be a four-month ordeal; we thought that we would be back to our lives come next semester. We were obviously all wrong.

My older brother and sister moved back a week after I did. We’re all immunocompromised, so it was important to my parents that we were all safe under the same roof.

We all went a little stir-crazy under the same roof for the first time in six years. My brother stopped wearing pants and started playing a lot of RPGs on his computer. My sister decided that she needed to detox her armpits, which included a whole summer of her rubbing coconut oil on her armpits and then exercising outside and calling it a day (p.s. this benefited absolutely no one, especially the people around her, and she now wears aluminium free deodorant). I started reading a lot of fan-fictions online (which I still stand by), started listening to an immense amount of sea chanties, and truly started my journey with intuitive eating. But that’s a story for another article.

My Tita, the matriarch of our family, saw her eldest son struggling through being a front-line worker, her other son out of work because his school only hired back full-time professors, and her daughter endlessly working to keep a house full of adults happy and fed (a much larger feat than one might think when everyone is depressed and had various dietary restrictions). My Tita created a group chat on WhatsApp with her children and grandchildren and decided that she was going to put her long-forgotten art degree to work.

From that day on, every Saturday morning at 11, we all join on Zoom for a one-hour art class taught by my grandmother. None of us had ever painted before⁠—not seriously, at least. Tita got to see her whole family once a week. Ever since my parents were young, my Tita would host a lunch every Sunday. Art class replaced that when we were all stuck at home.

And just like that, I had weekend plans again. I got together with my cousins, aunts, and uncles, and we were all making really bad art. Tita discovered that she never really lost her talent for painting. As an 85-year-old widow, my Tita rekindled an old passion. Her art, even two years later, always looks better (and way more refined) than ours. None of us care⁠—bad art is still art.

A lot of us have phased out of the class. Both of my uncles got too busy with work to join, and their families followed suit. It was just my mother, Tita, my sister, and me for a while. We have since expanded our class to our extended family members who live overseas and it has become more about connecting and less about the art.

Every week, my roommate is excited to see whatever wonky iteration of my Tita’s beautiful art that I’ve pumped out. To date, I have not let her down. Our apartment is slowly getting covered in poor renditions of fruit, and even worse renditions of people. Now whenever I’m feeling low, I turn to art.

My Tita always tells us “so long as it puts a smile on someone’s face, you’ve created something good.”

Eve Chamely

U Ottawa '23

I'm from a small town in southern Ontario, I love Romantic poetry and sustainability, a strange combination but trust me... it works. :)
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