Home decor has been transformed from a fashion symbol to a reflection of ourselves. Where before we had to adhere to the strict rules of decorating, the world has now shifted to accept almost all types of expression, giving us the room and freedom to figuratively (and sometimes literally) just breathe. It has now become our safe space, our bubble of calm, or our nook of escape. And this is why what we hang on the walls is as important as what we put on the floors. Specifically, our paintings of choice.
They can be picked up at thrift stores, alleyway art galleries, or at a small stall while on vacation, but we often hang items to our walls that we find peculiar, pretty, or endearing. Surprisingly, what we hang up there has a tremendous impact on our day-to-day life, specifically our moods.
The good and the bad of viewing art
We all know the benefits of creating art. Any creative endeavour will inevitably have a positive effect on the brain, but what fewer people realise is that simply viewing art has benefits in itself.
When viewing art, blood flow to the brain increases by around 10%, meaning our higher cognitive functions are far more active.
Art can also give you a dopamine boost. When looking at particularly beautiful or enticing art, our brain releases a form of dopamine, and some believe the chemical reaction, mixed with our own emotional responses can give the same effect as falling in love!
For homes that are dull and dreary, art can easily spruce them up, but the effects go further than that. In a home filled with art, inspiration is closer than ever. By hanging art on your walls, you can easily find yourself inspired to try something for yourself – and we all know the benefits of exploring our own creativity.
It can also alleviate stress, and help with your mental well-being. Even depression can be alleviated for a little while by staring at a painting if you’ve chosen the correct piece.
But therein lies the key; ‘picking the correct piece’. The only way to truly find benefit from art is to choose something that not only evokes emotion but evokes the correct emotion.
Researchers at UC Irvine made a study into the impact of bombings. Essentially they exposed people to an array of images, all depicting bombings. They found that by staring at disturbing images we can develop a form of PTSD – or at least you were more likely to cite PTSD as the problem. Disturbing images have a profound effect on the brain.
What is even more interesting is that certain images can encourage action, an emotional and moral black and white reaction to the subject matter. So, if we were to hang such a painting in our bedroom or living room, we might find ourselves often trying to solve the problem in the subject matter, and it might cause some distress over time.
Because of this, we need to be careful when picking our art, lest we end up picking something that upsets us in the long run.
So how do you choose the correct art for your home?
By browsing. It’s pretty simple, but the more you look at art the more you will realise what sparks that wonderful connection. Try and ask yourself; “What emotion am I feeling right now?” Anything that is calming or happy or contented is good. These types of paintings are excellent for the home and will help you bring that sense of beauty and calm you’re striving for.
Anything that is confusing, shocking, or uncomfortable should be given a pass. As stated above, pictures have a profound effect on our minds, and some art pieces are meant to create uncertainty and discomfort – but these are not necessarily meant for the home.
But if you’re desperate to hang Goya’s “Saturn devours his children” in your home, a good idea would be to put it somewhere where you won’t see it every day, or where such emotion will not be unwelcome. In your home gym perhaps, or even in your art studio – somewhere where this type of panting will enhance and not disturb. Certain ‘unwanted’ emotions can be very welcome in the correct setting.
Choosing the correct art for your home comes down to what you want to feel every time you look at it.
Buying any old thing to stick to the wall is not always the best course of action. Art is extremely personal, and it must be something that evokes the right type of emotion for you.
Considering the effects of colours
The colour of your painting will have a profound impact on not only the feel of the room but also on your emotions.
We often forget that colours in of themselves have an intense effect on our psyche, which is why red is used for warning signs and soft blue for a baby shower. At the same time, pastels are often used in living rooms as they are calming, and brighter colours can be found in kitchens or children’s playrooms to excite energy.
Although very few empirical studies have been made into colour psychology, what can be said is that colours have an effect on us, and part of that effect goes hand in hand with our own experiences. The colour orange might evoke a feeling of bravery and vibrance for some, while for others it could evoke instead nausea or aggression.
But with or without empirical studies, colours do have an effect. Red, for instance, tends to get people to react faster – which is why it is used so often in advertisements. It encourages a call to action. Passion, both on spectrums of love and anger, can be found in the colour red.
Blue in turn can suggest stability and safety, calmness and healing. Different shades will, of course, create different effects. But the core essence of the colour should remain stable.
What all this means is that your painting might be evoking certain emotions not due to the subject matter, but because of the colours. Some people are more susceptible to the influence of colour than others, so if you find a print you like, perhaps try and find out if you can change it to a lighter or darker tone for your bedroom.
In the end, our decisions for art are indicative of our own experiences, our own stories, sensitivities, and our current emotional state. Whatever you pick, be sure that when you look at it – whatever it evokes – it does not exacerbate those darker places in our minds we often tend to dwell in.