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Art can make you happy

On my early morning walks around my neighbourhood, I find beauty in everything from birds, trees and creeks to utility boxes, street signs and manhole covers, writes Marshall Ward.

As an artist, I've worked in a variety of media including acrylic paints, graphite and paper, bronze sculpture, documentary filmmaking, and podcasting.

At least once a year I revisit the book How Art Can Make You Happy by Bridget Watson Payne that I picked up five years ago from my favourite bookstore, Words Worth Books in uptown Waterloo.

The chapter "The Reality of the World" especially resonated with me, and opens with a quote from Andy Warhol: “You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”

Payne writes: “The world around you is spectacular. And not just the big things, the oceans and the sunsets and the Eiffel Tower and whatnot. Like Andy said, if you let yourself, you can see just as much wonder in the little stuff. The Campbell’s soup can, the autumn sun on bricks, the eyelashes of a giraffe. Tuning in to the magnificence of reality, both natural and man-made, can increase your daily happiness quotient.”

On my early morning walks around my neighbourhood, I find beauty in everything from birds, trees and creeks to utility boxes, street signs and manhole covers. I’m intrigued by their shape and form and the shadows they cast, or the way the sun reflects off these objects at different times of the day.

I see art in all these things around me and it brings me tremendous joy.

“Great thinkers — from poets to psychiatrists, philosophers to scientists — have known this to be true,” writes Payne. “One of the best treatments for ailments from vague malaise to serious depression and everything in between — isolation, grief, boredom, creative block, the blues — is to step outside the front door.”

Reading the chapter "How to Look at Art Without Leaving Your House," I’m reminded how privileged I am to be surrounded by art on the walls of my home, much of which was created by my kids.


Working with Bristol board, construction paper, gel pens and modelling putty, they created with the help of their aunt their own Undertale-themed Monopoly board game. It is highly detailed, exquisite and magical — and it is the kind of thing Payne recommends appreciating in all its beauty.


“And when you look at that thing, the magic is twofold (actually it’s about a millionfold, but we’re talking about the first two folds for now) — you see both the beauty this person has made, in front of you, and you also see through it, into the wider world that inspired it.” writes Payne. “The world that is still out there right now.”


At a time when people's attention is increasingly focused on screens, it seems more important than ever to take the time to appreciate the wonders of the real world, not digital representations of it.


It's amazing how much you can see out there — the art of everyday life — when you just allow yourself the opportunity to really look.


Check out Bonn Park's latest episode with urban sketch artist Megan Skelton as she chats with us about her whimsical pen and watercolour scenes. She's also our neighbour!


Listen: bonnpark.com


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