Exploring the beauty of the mind through art therapy | Sunday Observer

Exploring the beauty of the mind through art therapy

25 April, 2021
Erandathie Damunupola
Erandathie Damunupola

Erandathie Damunupola is an artist who dabbles in many creative fields including drawing, painting, poetry, writing and illustrating children’s stories.

By profession, Erandathie is a lecturer in English (attached to the DELT) at the University of Colombo. She is a mother of three and always looks for ways to inspire children to be more creative.

Erandathie had a keen interest in drawing since childhood, and she learnt her basics in life drawing and painting from Mrs. Nadine David, when she was a teenager. The confidence she gained from David led her to hold her first solo exhibition at the University of Colombo as an undergraduate.

In 2019, she held an art exhibition - Urban Greens, at the Lionel Wendt with the aim of increasing awareness among urban dwellers to protect the trees in their surroundings.

During the pandemic and the lockdown she found herself doodling and drawing anything that inspired her, but nothing to the standard of exhibitable paintings. She began thinking of taking her art in an affordable, useful form to the public and then she realised that a colouring book was the best medium to get others to engage directly with her art. And indeed it was a timely need due to the chaos created in the ‘new normal’ world.

“For me art is a refreshing place of escape from reality. Especially when the reality is unbearable and suffocating. It is engaging, rewarding and also a way of connecting with others,” said Erandathie.

First of its kind

‘Liyapatha’ is a first of its kind, adult colouring book with traditional Sri Lankan motifs designed by Damunupola. The book is ideal for any age group. “It was quite a joy to know that there were children from eight years and up to teens colouring the motifs in the book,” Erandathie said.

Erandathie used to do art and craft projects with her children, aged eight, 11 and 14. She opted for colouring books when they got bored or restless and she observed that it really helped them to calm down and focus.

“Colouring improves concentration. The mind will stay focused for a long time when colouring. Children will be mindful of what they are doing. They get hooked on it. Restless children become calm. I thought of using our traditional designs in a colouring book so that children get the opportunity to see their rich heritage and learn about traditional designs while experiencing the pleasure of colouring,” she said.

Art therapy has been there for some time, although only a few people took it seriously. Adult colouring books are popular in Western countries and are used to improve the mental health of people fighting addiction, anxiety, attention disorders, dementia, depression, and physical illnesses such as cancer. Last year was a challenging year for everyone in many ways. People are still trying to adapt to the ‘new normal’ world, dealing with the changes caused by months of lockdown and economic hardship.

It is a proven fact that colouring is therapeutic and is a recommended activity for depression and stress relief. Therefore, Erandathie identifies the ‘Liyapatha’ colouring book as a great stress buster for all ages because it provides the much needed break from the chaotic reality and electronic screens.

“According to the experts in the field of art therapy they have identified that colouring can be beneficial for adults because of its de-stressing effect. The act of colouring needs repetition and attention to detail, so you focus on the activity, rather than your worries,” she said.


Realising how much technology is immersed in our day-to-day lives makes it clear that we need to invest in hobbies that help us unplug and detox our minds. Colouring does exactly that.

Outlining what sort of emotions and experiences that art therapy makes one undergo, Erandathie stressed that colouring accessed the mind and the body to promote healing. When you create something beautiful you feel content, happy and productive. You start believing in yourself. You can shut out the rest of the world for a few minutes and immerse yourself in the act of colouring. Choosing the colours, focusing on the shapes and fine lines, and finally seeing a completed picture is very rewarding, she said.

“There is satisfaction, a sense of achievement. It can build confidence in children and adults. Colouring books also encourage creativity. You have to create your own colour theme and select matching colours. There is much room for experimentation and exploration of strokes and materials. You can even extend the printed image by drawing alongside it,” Erandathie said.

The Liyapatha colouring book has been well received by its users and the feedback has been overwhelming and encouraging. “One of the users recently told me that she not only coloured the designs, but ended up sewing and embroidering the designs on pillowcases,” she said.

The book is available at leading bookshops and Erandathie invites all art lovers to experience the joy of colouring and she emphasises the fact that colouring is not only for children but it is a therapeutic, mind relaxing exercise for all ages.

“So pick a pencil and start colouring, it’s just the beginning. Adults might doubt their skills in drawing, and be conscious of what they produce, but colouring, anyone can do. Colouring is a user-friendly habit and ideal for the stressful lives we all lead, confined to our homes, screens and also loneliness,” Erandathie said.