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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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

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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I’m still attending my weekly life class and absolutely loving it! I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made, drawing from life really makes a difference and has definitely helped to improve my drawing ability. This week we used inks, sticks and dry paint brushes to experiment with mark making. This appealed to my interest in linear forms. Much of the class again involved quick studies, many of them between 2 and 15 minutes. Towards the end of the class we did 2 half an hour poses and layered up with both grey and black inks. I found that there was not enough time for each drawing, but this forced me to work quickly. The permanence of the ink made me want to build up these drawings in the grey ink first, you can see how I’ve tried to plot out parts of the body several times to get the foreshortening right (not sure that i achieved this but it was a good learning exercise). I saw one of my peers making some lovely background marks with a dry brush and black ink, so I tried to recreate this in my last drawing. The drawings were made on sheets of A1 cartridge paper.

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A lot of these drawings were done in quite a short amount of time in the class, which gives them a much greater sense of immediacy and movement. I’m still exploring the use of charcoal and I have been trying to focus more on tone in some of the drawings, as I have a habit of making drawings in a purely linear way.

Dreamlike States

May 31, 2015

Being off work this week has left me with a lot of extra time on my hands! Hence my increased productivity! I did some ink and water colour experiments a few months ago (working from my imagination rather than from life) after visiting the recent Marlene Dumas exhibition, these new drawings are a kind of continuation on a larger scale. I also found an older mixed media piece which I have added more collage and drawing to.

The images are partly abstract, partly figurative and include figures as I have tried to convey human dreamlike experience and altered states of consciousness. The figures are surrounded by flowing shapes and are without detail to create a sense of ambiguity.

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In last night’s life class we were asked to avoid using line and to focus on tone on the figure through squinting and using charcoal. I found this challenging as the way that I usually draw is very linear, I was inspired by the way that some of my class mates were using the material and tried to use different approaches in this drawing. I remember once being told by one of my university tutors that charcoal is the closest drawing material that you can get to paint. At the time I remember scorning my charcoal, I had never been a fan – mostly due to my lack of confidence and practice with it. A few years later and I am happy with my progress, I still have a lot to learn but I’m finding it quite exciting!

Today I finally went to see the Richard Diebenkorn exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts. I have always loved Diebenkorn’s amazing use of colour, layering, and blurring between figurative and abstract forms. I made the most of my time at the exhibition and did a few colour studies in oil pastels. I could not find my yellow oil pastel however, so I later added some watercolour and acrylic to my studies (as Diebenkorn without yellow is impossible). 

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Berkeley 57, 1955 Oil on Canvas