How I’m Using My Love of Art to Promote Body Positivity

amanda sun art coloring book

Amanda J. Sun

Ask people what they see in an abstract piece of art, and chances are they won’t say the same thing. Every individual shape is a unique interpretation, and this different experience for every viewer is a communication channel between the artist’s ideas and the viewer’s thoughts.

I draw parallels between this integral aspect of art and the “ideal” body type – bodies look different to everyone’s eyes. Different cultures have different ideas about beauty. Although some art pieces are famous, I think it’s the differing mediums, styles, and colors that make art great. Similarly, upholding one ideal body type undermines the inherent uniqueness and beauty that is the human body. An art piece.

As a high schooler in the pressure-cooker Silicon Valley bubble, I saw a need to promote body positivity among my peers. Social media and online shopping make it so easy to get lost swiping through a maze of photoshopped models. Additionally, I wanted to combat the stress-related health problems students faced. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew I wanted to help my community.

I visited a nutrition hospital, where I saw psychiatrists using art therapy to combat stress and promote self-reflection. They handed out sheets of white paper, with simple instructions or themes. Then the patients began to color.

And as the patients scrawled and blended with the rainbow pencils, I saw anxious faces soften and calm like water. It wasn’t just the act of coloring that relieved stress. It was listening to the fluttery scratch-scratch on cheap, rough paper. It was the room’s quietness, filled with deep breathing and honey-like movements. In that silence, speech became a visual medium.

Art spoke volumes about the unspeakable. It was a catalyst for conversation, and could surprisingly make patients open up to thoughts they would otherwise not say out loud. In those fluorescently-lighted aseptic rooms, art grew organically, bloomed on blank printer pages and tugged smiles on gaunt faces.

Half a year later, that memory resurfaced on a jog, and I was inspired to create a body positivity coloring book that would combat stress and promote body positivity.

Through abstract renditions of body parts and phrases with translations of the word ‘love’ such as “love your hair” and “aime your ears,” my book provides a message for body acceptance and helps de-stress those who color. After months of meticulous outlining, redrawing, and submitting to Amazon’s self-publishing service Createspace, my book Love was published early last fall.

I didn’t expect the reception and amount of people my book would impact: Love is currently used for art therapy and teen eating disorder programs by seven institutions. And I hosted an author presentation at my high school, afterward leaving out boxes of colored pencils for the attendees to use on their newly purchased books. 

I was inspired to see students color in pages and incorporate aspects of themselves into their designs, and humbled by the students who came up to me after the presentation and shared their admiration for my work. One girl expressed her heartfelt thanks, telling me she was inspired to create a coloring book herself and how amazing my work was for promoting body positivity, an issue rarely tackled by teenagers ourselves.

I held a coloring session at the local library, and more sessions are on the way. I’m still reaching out, hoping to touch more circles to help people de-stress, feel good, and have fun. 

Amanda is a Bay Area high school senior who finds purpose in motivating others to pursue their passions. Become a stronger, happier you with Amanda’s book Love and tips from her advice and food blog