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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.