Draw Out Your Stress

Using the creative process to find inner peace

I stared at her face. She stared at mine. Our eyes were still but our hands were moving. Black-rimmed glasses, a little nose, eyes that sparkled, hair neatly tied back. Her gaze was strong but loose. Mine was direct and weak. She couldn’t handle it. It was too much for her so she just laughed out loud. It was a laugh filled with pure joy, and so contagious that almost everyone in the room started to laugh along. It took her almost a minute to regain her composure. She said it had been a long time since she had had this much fun.

oi-magazine-march2016-art-class-NF-7 (OiVietNam-3N)

This was one of several activities we had at Ve Thu Gian (“Art for Relaxation”; VND350,000 for a 2.5-hour class), a workshop at Toa Tau (“The Train”). People came to the workshop with different purposes. Some seek to calm their mind while others come to have fun.

After playing games to warm up, we sat on the floor and tools were brought out: paper, crayons, pens and black ink. “First, draw some lines to divide the page into four,” instructs Do Huu Chi, artist, Fulbright scholar and co-founder of Toa Tau. “Anyone know what’s the most difficult when it comes to seeing and drawing?” Someone said “portrait” and before I knew it, we were sitting in pairs, facing a stranger, and trying to draw their face. It was stressful. I had always been terrible at drawing. I couldn’t even draw a simple flower properly. I did my best not to insult her with my sketch. “Ok, now that you’re done with the portraits,” says Chi. “Let’s do that again, but this time with your other hand.”

oi-magazine-march2016-art-class-NF-15 (OiVietNam-3N)

I started to loosen up because, since it was with my left hand, of course the portrait would come out looking bad. He then told us to redraw our partner for the third time, but this time we were not allowed to look down at the paper, instead keeping our eyes focused on each other. My partner just moved her pen randomly on the paper, which she found was more enjoyable, and started to laugh. At that moment, I felt a connection with her even though we were strangers.

“Now close your eyes,” Chi continues. “And draw your partner’s portrait once again.”

oi-magazine-march2016-art-class-NF-10 (OiVietNam-3N)

As I closed my eyes, I envisioned her face. I could see it so clearly and started to draw with ease now. However, when I opened my eyes and looked down, on the paper were tangled lines and scribbles, nothing resembling her face… Well, it was fun.

Chi explains, “Doing these activities was to show you that by lessening your own expectations to draw something beautiful, you will truly be able to let go and enjoy the moment.”

oi-magazine-march2016-art-class-NF-12 (OiVietNam-3N)

We were then provided with paints and non-traditional painting tools such as straws and toothbrushes to use. I recalled what Chi had told us at the beginning of the class: “This workshop is not about how to draw, but about how you feel.” And staying true to that, he played songs from La Vie En Rose to What Makes You Beautiful and asked us to paint the emotions the songs evoked. There were no longer chains of expectation. I was completely sucked into the moment, my mind was blank, all I could see were colors and lines, and I was filled with the joy of being able to express myself without being judged.

oi-magazine-march2016-art-class-NF-11 (OiVietNam-3N)

Finally he tells us to lie down, close our eyes and imagine a place where we’re completely free to be who we are, to exist in that particular place, to truly feel peace. For our last activity, we had to draw that scene. I started to draw simple lines then added a bit of color. I could gradually see it. There it was. That place, my place, the place where I could truly be free.

oi-magazine-march2016-art-class-NF-9 (OiVietNam-3N)

oi-magazine-march2016-art-class-NF-16 (OiVietNam-3N)

IMAGES BY NEIL FEATHERSTONE

Share this story, choose your platform!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on tumblr
Share on google
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on vk
Share on email
About the author:

Leave a Comment

The Quarantined Couple

The day after Jake* went to Buddha Bar on March 14 with his girlfriend Amy*, he remembered he felt sick, a sore throat and mild fever. It was similar to his girlfriend’s day-long fever and aches. Nothing too serious for either. Something more severe may have triggered alarm in him. Their visit happened as Vietnam

Read More »

Customer Satisfaction

Learn the differences between customer service versus customer experience, and how they work together to boost lifelong loyalty Pop quiz, corporate business leaders: Which team or department is responsible for customer experience? Here’s a hint: Think beyond department borders. Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, Logistics, IT, etc. Delivering incredible customer experiences in today’s agile economy is

Read More »

An All-Rounder

Paving the road for cricket’s growth in Vietnam If you ask most locals about cricket they might tell you that a chorus of chirping from this insect is a pleasant part of the soundscape of summertime, but that’s not the type of cricket that Jeremy Stein is interested in as the president of Vietnam Cricket

Read More »

A Complete Guide to Go Camping in Vietnam

Vietnam is a beautiful country with a lot to offer to campers. Most of us imagine Vietnam as a purely tropical country. But, it does have parts that fall into the temperate zone. Apart from a handful of places, it doesn’t get terribly cold, but several locations have cool weather. Visiting the country and seeing

Read More »

#Photojournalism

From climate change protests to democratic uprisings against biased and violent authorities, it is clear that 2019 has been a pivotal year for citizens all over the world. It’s in this context that mobile app Agora launched its first#Photojournalism photo competition, with the objective to give photographers a way to shed light on specific issues. 

Read More »

Disc Jockeys

It is a frantic, fast-paced frisbee free-for-all and it is catching on in Saigon Saigon Monsoon typically plays on the open soccer fields of RMIT, but school closures since the beginning of the year have pushed practices instead to the astroturf of Tao Dan Stadium in the heart of District 3, behind the Independence Palace.

Read More »