A mom of four from Indiana went from giving drawing prompts to her daughters to thousands of strangers online, inadvertently creating a community of what she describes as "amazing people" who have turned to art for a mental health break amid the pandemic.
In March 2020, Angie Carel's job came to a standstill as the coronavirus pandemic upended her life.
"My business was shut down due to COVID and that's when my daughter came home from college. My other daughters were doing remote learning, so everybody was in my house and that's when we started drawing," Carel, a marketing agency owner, told "Good Morning America." "It started with just myself and my daughters doing the drawings. And then we were sharing our drawings on social media and then that built up into a following on social media."
- 2October 28, 2021
- 3September 3, 2021
Two years later, Simple Daily Drawing now boasts more than 30,000 followers and Carel has posted over 625 daily drawing prompts since April 2020. About 8,000 members worldwide also post their creations in a separate, private group every day, sharing stories to go along with their illustrations.
"It organically grew into what it is," Carel said. "I wasn't going to continue drawing past the COVID shutdown. It was something that I was just doing while we were shut down to disconnect, get out of my own head, get my daughters out of their own heads.
"But then, so many people started joining and posting why they were drawing and how it was helping them and so that's why I continued to do it. And now, almost every single day, somebody posts how much the daily drawings are helping them," Carel said.
Carel and her family weren't the only ones who saw a change in their mental health during the pandemic. From March through September 2020, about 53% of people in the U.S. reported their mental health declined due to worry and stress, according to one poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In the beginning, Carel asked her children to draw amusing, lighthearted sketches – a smiling turtle, a sunbathing hippo, and a thirsty camel.
"We were just drawing to have fun," the 43-year-old mom said, adding that her husband and three-year-old son also joined in on the drawing sessions.
The daily drawing prompts have grown more diverse, with abstract suggestions and ideas open for interpretation. Recent prompts have ranged from "Perspective: From Above" to "Nostalgia," and one of Carel's latest favorites includes a close-up drawing of a green eye.
Carel said she's heard from all sorts of members who find their way to the drawing group and commented on how it has made a difference in their lives.
However, she's also encountered unexpected stories from members as well about how art has helped them work through trauma.
"I get emotional about it because it's like, I'm just giving you something to draw, but these stories that come out of it with mental health, in particular, are shocking and amazing," said Carel. "And people, they're vulnerable in the group and they share the stories with others. "
Carel, who has a graphic design background, added that she feels motivated to keep the drawing group going.
"I started drawing because of the way it helped me cope with COVID, but that translates into so many people's lives for so many other reasons. And they started posting these stories and then I was like, I can't just shut this group down."