The past year has been an incredible journey, but it has also been a personally challenging  and difficult time. Training as a therapist means noticing and thinking about my own psychological defences, as well as thinking about clinical theory in relation to others. Being in my own personal therapy which can be uncomfortable and frustrating as well as helpful in the long run.  Training and continuing my work at the hospital was exhausting, I was so tired that the summer break was about resting and healing. I hoped to do some making over the summer but truthfully I felt uninspired, I allowed myself this time. Speaking to a friend I said that I felt I needed to withdraw for a while. In the last few months I have moved house and changed job, but now things feel more settled I hope to start making again.

In the moving process I decided to let go of some of my old sketchbooks, many of them were full of memories of studying my first degree. All of the fun we had and the passion I felt for art. I realised however that in order to make something new, I needed to downsize my sketchbook collection. I felt that keeping all of them was like keeping older parts of myself, it was time to renew and let go. A scary but exciting thought.

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I managed to fit the sketchbooks that I am keeping in this box.

I also went through the art work that I made in the experiential group as part of the course and photographed it. The group was important to me and helped me to think about difficult issues over the year.

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Untitled

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Being an Island

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Feeling Fragmented

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War and Racism

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Feeling Ill

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Fluid Boundaries- Feeling Overwhelmed

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Therapist Trying to Reach Their Client

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Therapists Touching on Depression

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Heart

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Tiara of Qualified Therapist

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The End of an Era

April 29, 2016

Yesterday I finished my last day at the psychiatric hospital, I decided a few months ago that I needed to find more of a work life balance, and that I wanted some space to think about everything I’m learning on the course. While I know that it was the right decision, it didn’t make it an easy one. Working as part of a team has been an amazing experience, I have been privileged to be part of so many people’s recoveries in the last 2 years and 9 months. I am excited for the future and for the moment I’m still embracing the experience of training and becoming an art psychotherapist. I intend to be posting more of what I’m up to now as I will have a little more time over the summer.

I’m excited to introduce my artist website, and also to let people know that I will be exhibiting some of my work in Bethnal Green next month. Watch this space! Here are some images of doodles that I did in the hospital art room, and a picture of me with a past group project.

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Community Art Projects

September 6, 2015

I have volunteered the last 2 Saturdays with a local mental health charity, last week I led a workshop that involved decorating masks, but this week I was able to take more of a back seat and make some of my own art along with others who use the services. The Art Psychotherapist that ran this week’s group got us to focus on the theme of Aboriginal Art. Indigenous Australian art or Australian Aboriginal art is art made by the Indigenous peoples of Australia and in collaborations between Indigenous Australians and others. It includes works in a wide range of media including painting on leaves, wood carving, rock carving, sculpting, ceremonial clothing and sand painting. We used cotton buds to create our own dot paintings, I enjoyed building up layers with dots and using both bright and earthy colours together.

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Here are some masks that I made to bring to last week’s session as an example. I used both fabrics, wires and paper mâché to give the masks more interesting shape and movement.

   
   

I love going the Saatchi gallery every so often as you never really know what to expect. I have been before with many different people and their reactions at the work have been between utter disgust, surprise and awe. Some people walk into the gallery momentarily, only to exclaim ‘That’s not art!!’. I enjoy the fact that the works generally elicit some sort of reaction in the viewers. I am admittedly more of a fan of painting so I found a lot of inspiration in the many different styles on show, looking at these images again I really need to get into making some more of my own work again. Here are some pictures of my favourite paintings, sculptures and drawings there at the moment some of them are a bit shocking but at the same time interesting:

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Hospital Mural Paintings

July 29, 2015

Last year I was asked by one of our acute ward managers to run our first Ward Mural Project. The sessions ran each Thursday morning with help from Ward staff, therapy staff and people that use our services. The project aimed to create a peaceful and relaxing environment through making a piece of art work that could be enjoyed by everyone on the ward. At the beginning of the project I met with the patients and asked them for ideas of what they would like to see in the mural, I used one of Edvard Munch’s landscapes ‘The Sun’ as inspiration and as a starting point, I drew the basic outline and several patients gave suggestions or helped to draw animals and plants into the landscape using oil pastels. I felt that this tranquil and hopeful image was very relevant to our project, as Norweigen artist Edvard Munch greatly suffered through his own episodes of mental illness.

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Edvard Munch, The Sun, 1911

It was agreed before beginning the project that the mural would have to be aesthetically pleasing and calming. As many patients are admitted to hospital with psychosis, any imagery that could have been deemed threatening or upsetting had to be considered and at times changed or edited through paint.

Psychosis is a mental health problem that causes people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. This might involve hallucinations or delusions, the combination of which can often severely disrupt perception, thinking, emotion and behaviour.

The project taking place in the ward environment meant that mental health patients who were on section, or who were too unwell to attend more structured therapies, were able to take part as much or as little as possible and at their own pace. Sometimes the painting allowed them to find some inner calm, or to distract themselves from difficulties, even for just a few minutes. There was something amazing about watching people embrace or discover their creativity, especially when they did not paint or draw in their everyday lives before the project. Many were able to get lost in painting, their imagery contributing to the overall picture. Service users commented that it was liberating to paint directly onto the wall, as this is something that would usually feel like a taboo.

As the weeks and months went by the mural progressed and changed, things were added and taken away and details were added. Staff and patients in and out of the ward saw the imagery evolving and enjoyed the transformation; while using the computer, or while watching others actively taking part in the mural.

Weeks on the project differed in the numbers of participants and difficulties that service users were experiencing in their everyday experience of mental health issues. Many who took part were worried that they were not ‘good enough at art’, with encouragement however, they were able to find something that they could contribute and commented that they enjoyed the experience of painting and being part of the project.DSCN0745DSCN0747

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The first mural was completed over 10 months between April and December 2014, since then we have started working on another mural in a shared therapy room. The new mural (in the image below) is progressing quickly as the space is easily accessible in art groups; I’m excited to see how the art grows and evolves.DSCN2004

Paper Weaving

July 21, 2015

In my job working with psychiatric patients I am always on the look out for new ideas and arts and crafts projects. After experimenting with paper weaving at work last year, I did my own paper weaving at home using old envelopes, magazines and wrapping papers. I later added paint and collaged onto the surfaces before cutting the paper into thin strips. The effect is quite interesting, and the possibilities of combining weaving with mixed media are vast and exciting. I will have to try some more of this soon.

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Art Therapy Groups

July 10, 2015

As part of my job as an occupational therapy assistant with psychiatric inpatients, I help to run  Art Therapy groups every Monday with an art psychotherapist. While patients in the group are encouraged to use art to think about themselves or their current feelings, I also make art work to model to others in the group and to encourage others to try different art materials. Many of the adults that we work with may not have engaged in any art making since school, or even in any art making at all. At the end of the art making time patients are invited to share how it felt to make the art, and to discuss it as much as they feel comfortable to. I however, use the art making time to doodle and to think about group dynamics. My own work is not usually shared with the group, but if I am asked to share it, I discuss my enjoyment of using different art materials as well as their therapeutic and mindful qualities. I made these doodles in art therapy groups over the last two years but only recently thought of sharing them, some of my doodles are probably still at work somewhere, while others may have been thrown away. I like that they were made in a short amount of time, and that making ‘good’ art work was not a priority.

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