UM student creates art to cope with anxiety

Collin Rivera
Oxford Stories

Gabrielle Dispenza is a University of Mississippi freshman, who is taking her second semester of classes and pursuing a nursing major. Like most majors, she has a favorite hobby. She creates sophisticated drawings in her notebook whenever she has free time, and her artwork helps her cope with anxiety.


One of Dispenza’s freshly painted Canvases.

“My favorite type of drawings are patterned,” she said. “Because I like to draw the tiny details in different thicknesses. This adds a lot of dimension to my drawings, and it makes them more appealing to the eye.” Dispenza creates a variety of drawing, from elephants to peace symbols.


A recent drawing that Dispenza had been working on.

“If I had my own art studio,” she pondered, “I would sell my canvases for low end prices, probably for $20 to $50, depending on the size and detail of the canvas.”

As she looked through drawings in her notebook, she reflected on some of the work that she’s made in the past. “It’s tough to choose,” she said, as she looked through her drawings. “But if I had to pick, I’d say my favorite drawing is the canvas I made for a friend’s birthday. It incorporates a patterned flower, and a Hindu symbol that my friend always drew on her hands and papers.”

She didn’t just pick up her drawing talents like some gifted artists did. She practiced it.

“I’ve always loved doodling,” she smiled. “I’d doodle in all my notebooks at school, but I only started making canvases and other advanced drawings my senior year of high school.” She has created more than 10 canvases ranging from small to medium.


A finish product of Dispenza’s artistic skills.

Her friend, Jenna Keleman, who is also a freshman, described her thoughts Dispenza’s drawings. “I love them,” she said. “I’ve always thought Gabby has a special talent in these drawings whenever I first saw them. I even asked her to make me one, and now I’m just in awe with how much detail is in it.”

When asked about whether Keleman could do the work she does, she laughed and said, “There’s no way I could do the work that she does. She’s definitely more arts and crafty than me. I just give her a lot of credit for being able to create such detailed drawings while keeping up with all of her schoolwork. That takes a lot of focus and patience.”

Dispenza uses her hobby to cope with anxiety.

“Drawing helps me with my anxiety,” she said. “It helps me focus my mind on a single thing, which helps calm my racing thoughts. My art takes both time and precision. This is why it sometimes takes me multiple sessions over multiple days to finish my pieces. So the long periods of time help me with my anxiety over those stretch of days.”

Unlike some artists, she’s not trying to impress others with her art.

“It doesn’t have to make others happy,” she said. ‘It doesn’t have to be sold. If it makes you happy, and is a creative outlet for you, then keep doing it.” Her favorite material is painting on canvases. “I love painting on canvases because of the textures of the canvas and the colors of the paint,” she said.


A painted canvas Dispenza created for a friend’s birthday.

Like every artist, Dispenza believes in the art of mastering the skill through practice. “I plan on making more canvases to decorate my room, and  for friends to put up on their walls as well. The right mindset is to not get upset if you mess up on the minor details. Those can always be fixed on your next canvas.”

She then reflected on her anxiety, giving advice to those who have it and struggle with their artistic skills. “I would start with drawing simple things,” she said “like flowers or other things from nature, and if you can’t focus, then write down all of your thoughts and come back to drawing afterwards.”

Dispense said she will continue working to improve her art.

“I have tried to paint a beach setting at a painting class before, and I wasn’t too pleased with how mine turned out, but it was still a cool experience,” she said. “I think maybe if I practiced a little more, I may become better at it and find that I like it, but until then, I will stick to patterned drawings. It’ll just have to take more practice. I believe that I get better each time I make a new piece.”

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