Saturday Art Workshop

September 21, 2015

On Saturday I helped to run  (and took part in) another art group with my local mental health charity, my co-facilitator had recently been on a meditation retreat and used this to inspire our project. For 10 minutes we listened to a track of meditative music and tried to visualise a scene or journey. The process was difficult to begin with and it was difficult to see anything, after a few minutes however the images came more easily to me. Towards the end of the meditation I could just see colours and shapes and this was quite vivid. Other people in the group also had a similar experience in seeing colours, the sound of birds chirping made us think of nature and of exotic landscapes. We were then encouraged to make a sculpture using clay and painted the art work there and then. Each of the sculptures were vastly different and gave a short glimpse into the imagination and personal journey of each creator. Below are some images of the piece I made.

   
    
    
 

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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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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