The internet, as they say, has no chill. It is a stress-inducing place, filled with scrubs and eggs and actuallys, and there’s almost no escape.
Enter paint-mixing: the cheapest form of digital therapy you never knew you needed. The concept is simple and the videos are short. Artists film their pallettes as they combine different hues with painter’s knives. That’s it. It’s amazing. The effect is both calming, enthralling, and is the closest I’ve ever gotten to understanding why people are fascinated with lava lamps. (Oh right, drugs.)
The videos have been around on Instagram for some time now, often under the hashtag #paintmixing, and are also a hit the internet’s home for all things rainbow, strange, and still living at home: Tumblr. To find out more, I reached out to two artists, Kirsten Hatfield and Sára J. Molčan, who, in addition to their, you know, “real” art, have made names for themselves as paint mixers. (Which is an art in and of itself, really.)
Hatfield and Molčan are both Vancouver-based artists. (They are also friends, something I didn’t know before I reached out to them. Apparently, the Canadian paint-mixing community is tightly knit. Or painted, as it were.) Molčan’s work includes “colorful abstracted psychological portraits,” while Hatfield is focused on “large-scale abstract paintings.” Both have cultivated decent Instagram followings for both their paintings and their pallette work. (Hatfied has 6,000 followers, but says she only recently started posting paint-mixing clips, after she was inspired by Molčan. Molčan has over 50,000.)
Molčan describes her paint-mix-video style as “up close and personal” and says the videos “took off” this spring and have only grown from there. “My videos became fairly popular right away, and soon many were being reposted by other Instagram accounts and other social-media platforms,” Hatfield echoed.
Unlike standard comments on the net, “most of the feedback I have gotten on the videos has been positive. I have had viewers say it helps them calm down when they have anxiety, or that it looks delicious,” Hatfield says. “Many people comment that when they first saw the thumbnail they thought it was food.” (If you think brightly colored paint looks like food, please stop reading listicles and eat something green. Not Day-Glo green. Just green.) “There are also people who enjoy it from a therapeutic standpoint, to ease anxiety or uplift them from depression,” Molčan told me. “Of course, there’s also some questionable and uncomfortable sexual comments from time to time. I find those ones bewildering.”
“Some people say it’s satisfying to watch the paint mix together,” Molčan also explains. “Others are transfixed by the calming reaction they feel. There’s also a lot of commentary regarding autonomous sensory meridian response.” (In case you’re not familiar, ASMR is a phenomenon where the body produces a physical reaction, like shivers or tingles, after watching or hearing a video, like someone speaking in a hushed tone or a mesmerizing video of paint.)
“The only negative feedback I have gotten is from people assuming I’m wasting paint,” Hatfield says. Which is just wrong, because the two women film their mixing videos before using the paint for larger projects. Think of it as a two-for-one art deal, with the added bonus of some extra mental chill.