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

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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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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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