Art Activity

Shared Art

Friendships and human connections add meaning to our life. As a child, I loved getting a letter in the mail from my pen pal; a little gift opened with great anticipation. I had equal joy writing a letter in reply as I thought of her delight in receiving it. I learned at an early age that writing can build relationships as a beautiful means of communication, plus I loved to get personal mail. Art-making is another way we can express ourselves and I’ve discovered it, too, can enhance my friendships and it’s still fun to get personal mail.   

The idea to communicate this way with a friend came when I went to the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis ( and saw a gallery show featuring a display of several Japanese-fold sketchbooks (website) completely opened. Artists made art in the first spread, then sent their books to other artists all over the world. The beauty of the Japanese-fold album is, when you lay the book open, it becomes one continuous piece seamlessly flowing from one person’s creation to the next. The amazing variety of artistic styles was inspiring.

Collaborative or shared art intrigued me, so I asked an art therapist friend of mine to do one with me. We each bought a Moleskine Japanese album and met with our new sketch books, paper and art supplies at a central location. We chatted, as friends do, while making art on the same piece of paper; turning the paper every now and then so we could add to each other’s work.  

We pondered various methods of distributing our shared art piece and decided on ripping it to give the sections a natural deckled edge. As we said goodbye we alternately selected pieces to take home with us. The Moleskine Japanese Albums have little pockets in the back where we tucked our new collage ephemera pieces for inclusion in future artwork in our new books.


Once home, we each created to our hearts content on a two-page spread, adding a little detail on the next spread as an invitation to the other person, enticing them to respond. 

I encourage you to start a visual conversation with a friend. You can start how we did  or choose a theme for the first spread and decide when you’d like to send your books back and forth. We tried once a month and that worked for a while, but later settled on once every other month. You get to choose, make it your own.

This visual conversation contributes to the Adlerian concept of social interest by connecting with others in a unique way. Often both people will be thinking of the other as they make art on the pages. Friendships are enriched with the personal and intimate nature of the small shared book, responding to each other’s art-making. The book becomes precious and holds a sacred space for non-verbal communication. 

It also gives us the opportunity to see things from a completely new perspective, helping us to see our life with a new lens. Usually both friends show their book to others, encouraging them to start a visual conversation of their own. 

This shared art experience helps with both anxiety and depression because it is calming and soothing to create art, and it encourages you to take action by getting the book, responding to the other’s work, and then sending the books back and forth in the mail. It’s an active process.

It enhances neural plasticity by encouraging both parties to think of novel ways to create based on the other person’s inviting images. The act of looking at the book when it comes in the mail, seeing their response to your art, their invitation to you, and the process of thinking how you are going to respond creates new neural pathways. Then, as you act on those thoughts and make the art, you are strengthening that pathway and enhancing neural plasticity, thus changing your brain. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks.

This project has the same excitement of the old-fashioned pen-pal letter in the mail, with a creative twist. It’s a great way to connect non-verbally with someone who lives far away or in the next town. It can be a great way to get unstuck and to feel inspired. Plus, it’s just plain fun!

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Art Activity: Mosaic Collage

I don’t know about you, but during this stressful time I struggle to focus and my mind seems to wander more easily. To manage this, I’ve been using the art-making process of creating a mosaic collage out of old magazines, calendar pages, and advertisements.

This art project involves ripping or cutting colorful paper into small pieces and gluing them onto a canvas, board, or thick paper to create a mosaic collage of a pleasing image.

The physical action of ripping or cutting paper can help us release stress, but we don’t stop there. When composing a pleasing image, we need to slow down as we make selections from our various pieces of paper. We make design decisions which help us to focus. It soothes and calms us as we apply glue to the back of each piece and build our collage design, one piece at a time.

This activity also helps us make a shift in how we view the things around us. We now might look at a magazine page or advertisement as art materials and not junk mail, for instance. Learning to shift our view through the art-making process can make it easier for us to look at our lives from a fresh perspective as well.

Your mosaic collage design can be whatever you want: a landscape, flower, abstract image, or even a portrait made from various images of eyes, lips and hair. This is also a good art project for students. You can use it to practice color theory, compare patterns, and learn shapes.

Here are some basic directions:

Gather materials:

  • Old magazines, advertisements, calendars and even old artwork
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Glue stick or bottled glue
  • Canvas, board, or paper (paper bags also work well)
  • Muffin tin or containers for sorting (optional)
  • Damp rag or paper towel for wiping fingers


  1. Look at the collected items for color and pattern. Use what you see to help you decide on your design.
  2. Tear or cut pages into approximately 1” size pieces. You decide if you want the pieces to be bigger or smaller, and they can be whatever shape you want. I find that squares are the easiest to cut out quickly.
  3. Sort the pieces by color, pattern, and maybe words. A muffin tin works well for this. For instance, place separate colors, leaf patterns, and flowers in different sections. This will make it easier to select your pieces when you are creating your design.
  4. Place your sheet of paper on the table in front of you. Set out your glue and a damp rag for wiping your fingers next to it. Place the muffin tin so you can easily see all the pieces.
  5. Decide what image you want to create. Do you want to make a self-portrait, or a landscape scene, or a bright colorful flower? You could even choose a famous art piece and recreate it with your mosaic pieces. It can be silly and wacky or soothing and calm. You get to decide what you want this to be.
  6. Start by laying out a few pieces and arrange them until you are satisfied. Take time to play with your layout. Have fun!
  7. Glue these pieces down before adding more.
  8. Keep adding pieces and gluing them down. You get to say when your piece is finished!
  9. Set your new artwork aside to dry.
  10. Don’t forget to clean up!
  11. Share your picture with family and friends and invite them to make one of their own!

Congratulations! You turned trash into treasure. Well done.

Keep following us for more fun ideas and interesting articles. Thank you.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Art Activity: Found Objects Mandala

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We need to move! It’s important for our mental and emotional well-being to get up and move around when we’re confined to our homes. Step outside, smell the fresh air and explore the world around you. Movement or exercise breaks up the monotony of being isolated indoors.

Need a little incentive? Challenge yourself to create art in the form of a mandala using the natural elements you find as you observe and explore your surroundings. It will get you moving and stimulate your brain. 

A mandala is basically a design inside of a circle. Think of it as a flower or a circular pattern that you make with layers. We often see them in adult coloring books with intricate patterns.

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Nature Mandala Instructions 

Found-objects in nature

  1. Pick a location for your nature mandala. Maybe your yard near the sidewalk, a road,  or in your favorite park along a walking path. Place it so others can see your creation because it’ll brighten their spirits and they may be inspired to add to it! 
  2. Place a rock in the middle of the area you’ve selected. 
  3. Surround it with other rocks in alternating colors or textures. 
  4. Possibly add sticks or pine cones. (It’s best to use things that won’t blow away in the wind.)
  5. Take pictures to share with friends and challenge them to create their own nature mandala. 

The basic idea is to get outside, make art with nature, and hopefully involve others. Plus, it looks cool!

Tree Mandala

If you can’t get outdoors, create a mandala at home using objects found around the house.

Home Mandala Instructions

Found-objects in house

  1. Pick a location for your mandala such as in the middle of the table or on the floor. 
  2. Decide on a theme. Maybe things that make you happy, are colorful, or are found only in your kitchen, for example.
  3. Look for an object to use for the center of the design.
  4. For the next layer, look around your home for interesting items that all have the same color or shape, for instance.
  5. Place those items around the center object.
  6. Now keep adding layers that extend from the center.

Creating your own mandala from objects found in nature or around the house is a wonderful way to see items around us with a new creative perspective. We can invite friends to do the same thing and potentially build a creative community!

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Creative Break

Our schedules are disrupted and our senses are either over- or under-stimulated because the normal things we hear, see, and touch in our daily routines have changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your emotions are real and valid. We all need ways to express strong emotions in productive ways that don’t diminish their value.

Take a creative break. Making art can be a soothing activity to engage and manage our senses. Here is a simple watercolor painting project you can try at home. If you trust the process, it can take you from perceived chaos to a sense of calm while discovering unexpected beauty.

The key is to intentionally observe how wet pigment moves, swirls, and interacts on wet paper while being safely contained on the page. This process helps us acknowledge the chaos around us while at the same time, regain a sense of control. Have the courage to shift from feelings of anxiety to peaceful acceptance and curiosity. 

This step-by-step process is one way to use color and creative self expression to soothe and ground yourself during times of stress. 

Gather basic tools:

          • Water in a cup
          • Paintbrush
          • Sketchbook, mixed media, or watercolor paper
          • Watercolor paints


  1. Set up a painting station with your paper in the middle
    2. Place your paint, water cup and brush on the right side if you are right handed, left side if you are left handed.
    3. With your wet brush, add a drop or two of clean water into each color in your paint pallet to activate the pigment.4. Dip a clean brush into your water and paint a small to medium sized shape onto the paper, adding more water if necessary to keep it wet.5. Dip your wet brush into a color of your choice, then gently touch the tip of your brush onto the wet paper in 2 or 3 spots.6. Watch what happens as the color spreads, swirls, and moves in random shapes.
    7. Clean your brush and repeat the process with another color of your choice. Tip: Add small drops of water to the paper as needed so the colors can flow naturally.8. Give yourself permission to move slowly and observe the pigments interacting.
    9. Add a few more colors if you wish.10. Allow it to dry and marvel at the finished product.11. Great, you’ve done it! Now explore more. Try another shape with new colors.

Now, pause and check in with yourself. How do you feel? How did this help? If this has made a difference for you, please share this with friends and family to stay creatively connected with them.

Take a Creative Break.

Give yourself permission to try other materials and methods.

Make art.

– Lisa Lounsbury, MA, LMFT, ATR-BC, Executive Director of Art Lab Rx, LLC

Art Lab Rx, LLC
10225 Yellow Circle Drive
Minnetonka, MN 55343

Phone: 612-226-5472

Art Lab Rx, LLC was created in 2015 by Lisa M. Lounsbury. Art Lab Rx is a registered trademark. © 2018 Art Lab Rx. All rights reserved.