Art and Creative Writing – “When It’s OK to Go Mad” by Karen Robinson

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Karen Robinson at her Solo Exhibition titled ...When words are hard to find - 6th May 2015 at Gee Lee-Wik Doleen Gallery - Craigieburn. Photo graphed by Angie Basdekis for Hume Leader Newspaper getimage.aspx.jpg

Karen Robinson at her Solo Exhibition titled …When words are hard to find – 6th May 2015 at Gee Lee-Wik Doleen Gallery – Craigieburn. Photo graphed by Angie Basdekis for Hume Leader Newspaper Getimage.aspx. Karen standing beside her Painting No. 43 titled:  ‘Life’s A Washing Machine’ Acrylic on Canvas Feb 2010.  NB:  All images are protected by copyright laws. jpg

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Whilst watching this ingenious YouTube produced by ‘The School of Life’ in collaboration with Artrake Studio – view below, I found myself relating to its content in such a way that it almost felt like, someone had secretly documented my life and forwarded onto this organisation, to use for research to make this ‘The School of Life’ YouTube. I’m being nonsensical of course – but so much of what is portrayed I found to be true. Yes, we can find ourselves on a treadmill where life is full of things we image that we have to achieve and determined by childhood learning’s, adult desires and society perceptions.  We image expectations for ourselves and for others and it is not until something tragic happens and/or when we ‘hit rock bottom’ that we can find ourselves asking why?

 

 

ESSENTIAL NORMALITY OF A LITTLE MADNESS YOUTUBE

 

This above YouTube titled ‘The Sanity of Madness’ is produced by ‘The School of Life’ in collaboration with Artrake Studio and published on 18 January 2016.  They state that ‘there’s so much pressure on us to be always rational, calm and sensible:  it’s time also to say a word about the essential normality of a little madness’.

 

CRAZY MOMENTS IN AN ORDINARY LIFE

It is true for me that there have been times in my life were due to circumstances, I either created for myself or circumstances for which I found myself being a part of, have led me to – just not being able to function like a normal well-balanced human being. Therefore presenting occasions where pushing forward just seemed impossible. Like the examples given within this ‘The School of Life’ YouTube, I too found myself just wanting to stop, just stop and get off the treadmill and just rethink about what’s my purpose on this blue planet.

A wonderful statement I really enjoyed hearing in this ‘The School of Life’ YouTube was this: “No good life can or should go by without a few quiet open incidents of complete breakdown”.  Wow…this was so good to hear, as it can be hard to forgive oneself when you find yourself doing just that breaking down, feeling like your failing miserably at life, letting yourself down, your family down and ‘the whole world down’ well perhaps not quiet the whole world. According to this ‘The School of Life’ YouTube, a complete breakdown really needs to be accepted as normality and not as something that is seen as a form of perhaps ‘madness’. That we actually need ‘crazy moments’ to be able to work through our lives and think of these moments as just “part of ordinary life“. I do love this statement  “just part of ordinary life” and how true it is and a much kinder, productive way of accepting that we are human, fallible and vulnerable.

 

 

PAINTING NO. 43 – TITLE:  ‘LIFE’S A WASHING MACHINE’

There have been many times in my life where I have been just that, a true human being – fallible and vulnerable and at my ‘wits‘ end.  Below here is an example of one of my abstract paintings which I had painted during a time where there was much turmoil in my life.  A time were I was grieving for the loss of my son and caring for my husband during his recovery from chemotherapy treatment.

 

Painting No. 43 - Title 'Life's a Washing Machine' Feb 2010 Acrylic on Canvas 122cms Length x 122cms Wide x 3cms Deep. Abstract Artist Karen Robinson NB All images are protected by copyright laws!

Painting No. 43 – Title:   ‘Life’s a Washing Machine’ Feb 2010 Acrylic on Canvas 122cms Length x 122cms Wide x 3cms Deep by Abstract Artist – Karen Robinson.  NB:  All images are protected by copyright laws!

 

  • Acrylic on Canvas
  • 122cms Length x 122cms Wide x 3cms Deep
  • Feb 2010

 

 

PAINTING STORY

This painting was inspired by how life at times feels like loads of washing tumbling around in a washing machine. Getting pulled this way and that way. Contorted, reshaped, dirtied up, washed out and then hang out to dry – only to start all over again the very next day! A whole mixture of life experiences tumbling into a single life which is shared with family, friends and work colleagues.  It is at times enough to drive you mad…

Karen Robinson © February 2010

 

CONCLUSION:  THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD MENTAL BREAKDOWN

But as it stresses within this ‘The School of Life’ YouTube, it’s important to have a ‘good mental breakdown’! A good one “is where we reconnect with the valuable truths that we have lost sight of” and where we also reconnect with “emotions and insights that ordinary life has prevented us investigating“. I feel this is just what I have been engaging in for the last 7 years. I have ‘”returned from the land of madness” and landed “in the fields of apparent sanity“; and through my painting, photo-taking, story-telling, creative writing and volunteer speaking I have been able to regain a good sense of well-being. Its enabled me to push forward and into a pathway that has led me towards a better, most positively fulfilling life…with some ‘healthy crazy moments‘…

 

Karen Robinson © January  2016

Whilst you are here – please check out my home page!  My Art Therapy JourneyA window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytellingby Karen Robinson

Group Exhibition – Titled “Reflections: Exploring Our Identities” – Karen Robinson Abstract Artist

While you are here – please check out my home page!

 

 

Photo featuring Karen Robinson - one of the carer group participants standing by her art work titled 'Heart of Treasured Memories'. Acrylic, Ink, Embroidered Flowers & Butterflies and Heart Sequins on Canvas. Event with the MIND Australia Organisation - Carer Group Exhibition, Northcote Townhall, Melbourne Australia 18th November 2015 NB: All images are protected by copyright laws!

Photo featuring Karen Robinson – one of the carer group participants standing by her art work titled ‘Heart of Treasured Memories’.  Acrylic, Ink, Embroidered Flowers & Butterflies and Heart Sequins on Canvas. Event with the MIND Australia Organisation – Carer Group Exhibition, Northcote Townhall, Melbourne Australia 18th November 2015 NB: All images are protected by copyright laws!

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Art exhibitions have taught me, that art can be a very powerful way to engage with others; a way to captivate an audience’s attention and convey a story about my inner most personal thoughts and emotions.  For myself especially – exhibiting my paintings has been about being able to communicate a soulful message, to highlight important issues; and to give the viewer something to mull over, well after viewing the art work itself.  Hence exhibiting paintings from my Abstract Art Portfolio, has been an important part of my art for therapy journey.

 

 

MY 2015 ART THERAPY & CREATIVE WRITING JOURNEY WITH MIND

Another important part of my art for therapy journey has been about taking part, in art therapy and creative writing sessions, with the MIND Australia Organisation throughout 2015.  These weekly art therapy and creative writing sessions, had enable us to have a space especially for oneself, and away from the daily grind of carer duties and responsibilities. During our sessions, with some amazing people whom were/are carers of loved ones experiencing mental health issues, we were able to bare our souls in a safe and secure environment, with the support of our peers and support from experienced facilitators.  At times, we found ourselves confronting and exploring dark thoughts, traumatic past experiences and/or distressing emotions/situations of the day, which became evident via our art therapy and creative writing sharing processes.  Sure – not every week was a joy, the carer role for some was heart wrenching and at times soul-destroying, but improvements could be seen in our abilities to bounce back, better than earlier on, in that same year. Throughout the 2015’s participation and especially towards the end of that year, I found myself, mentally and emotionally in a far better place – my sense of well-being had truly improved.  I witnessed this also, with others whom I had shared this journey; you could recognise the improvements in their voices, by the smiles on their faces, within their greetings with one another, and in their general composure from week to week.  Towards the end of the year,  I really got a sense that this process was most worthy and important – it makes people better able to deal with ones daily doings.

 

 

Featuring Karen Robinson during a MIND art therapy session writing her painting story titled 'Heart of Treasured Memories' for the 'Reflections Carer Group Exhibition' 2015

Featuring Karen Robinson during a MIND art therapy session writing her painting story titled ‘Heart of Treasured Memories’ for the ‘Reflections Carer Group Exhibition’ 2015  NB:  All images are protected by copyright laws!

 

 

GROUP PROJECT – ‘EXPLORING OUR IDENTITIES’ 

As time past – within the year of 2015, it was decided we would embark on a single painting project each.   We each painted a painting, that reflected our carer roles and how that played out within our lives; and how that made us view ourselves as people.  I asked, if I could take some photographs in each session of my progress which prompted the MIND Facilitator to ask me to take photographs of all the participants at each session, and with their consent, and I did do just that!  NB:  Due to privacy concerns, only photographs of myself as a participant are shown within this weblog page – I hope you will understand.

 

 

 

 

CARER GROUP EXHIBITION:  ‘REFLECTIONS’

As time progressed further, a decision was made that we would take up an opportunity to exhibit our works of art and our creative writing stories.  MIND Australia graciously agreed to having such an event titled ‘Reflections – Exploring Our Identities’ which took place at the Northcote Townhall, Northcote, Melbourne, Australia.  It was a one day event where family, friends and MIND Australia members of staff attended, along side of the exhibiting participants and our MIND Australia Facilitator Gillian Scaduto, Art Therapist Facilitator Vicky Nickolls and Creative Writing Facilitator Judy Bird.

 

 

 

 

 

MY PAINTING THAT I EXHIBITED TITLED: ‘HEART OF TREASURED MEMORIES’

Each of us as participants exhibited our painting along with its painting story at the ‘Reflections’ Carer Group Exhibition 2015.  Following below is the painting I exhibited along with its painting story:

 

Painting No. 63 - Title "Heart of Treasured Memories" Oct/Nov/Dec 2015 - by Abstract Artist: Karen Robinson All images are protected by copyright laws!

Painting No. 63 – Title “Heart of Treasured Memories” Oct/Nov/Dec 2015 – by Abstract Artist: Karen Robinson All images are protected by copyright laws!

 

 

  • Acrylic/Ink/Sequins/Embroidered Flowers & Butterflies on Canvas
  • 2015
  • 79cms Length x 74cms Wide x 0cms Deep NB: Not framed just bare edged canvas backed onto strip of timber for hanging

 

‘HEART OF TREASURED MEMORIES’ PAINTING STORY

 

My art therapy artwork was inspired by words I had spoken some years ago during an interview with TAC about my use of art as therapy in dealing with grief and despair which I had been experiencing since the loss of my son Ben, in a single vehicle car crash on 5 November 2009. These words that I had said were “I need to hold the best of Ben in my heart”. So it was these words that inspired me to firstly create a large pink heart that heart would not just hold the memories of my son Ben, but it should also hold the best of memories of those dearest to me being my husband, my daughter and my sister as well. I surrounded my heart of memories in a beautiful warm tangerine colour. At the top of the canvas are small blackish shadows which are representative of dark clouds and the tiny blue heart sequins are tears of love which have fallen from the clouds. I placed a bright blue line above the heart which is like a catchment of these tears, but still there are some that fall upon the heart of memories. On the base of the canvas, I placed a dark green line being a place of growth, a pretty flower garden of joy and peace featuring delightful green butterflies of hope, floating up in and around my heart of memories. Within my heart of treasured memories are beautiful flowers and sparkling green glittered stems. Surrounding my heart, I have written words about my loved ones and I wrote them especially small so that the viewer of my artwork would need to come up close to read my precious words and these are those words: “Try to build in my heart the best of those I love, my darling dear husband whom I treasure, who has been so good to me throughout all the years of our marriage; my sweet, loving, caring daughter who is strong and gentle to her parents at the same time, my sister whom I have shared many troubles with – we are still talking; and my son gone but never forgotten – we miss you forever”.

© Karen Robinson, December 2015

 

 

REFLECTIONS BOOKLET & PHOTO-STORY MOVIE

Over the course of 2015’s art therapy and creative writing sessions, where I had been asked to take photographs of us as participants, I was able to ‘photo-story’ document our journey.  Some of these photos were used by MIND Australia to produce a booklet for our Carer Group Exhibition ‘Reflections – Exploring Our Identities’ 2015.  It was after reviewing all the photos for this project, that I became inspired to see if I could make a ‘Photo-Story Movie’ which I did do – see below especially edited version.  Prior to showing the movie at the Exhibition Opening Event, participants had the opportunity of viewing it beforehand, to ensure that they would be happy with it being publicly shown at the exhibition.  The response both from the participants and from all at the opening event was very moving – they all got it!  It was a photo-story of the lives of these people whom had shared deeply personal stories, over the year, including me and we could all appreciate that we had come a long way in our journeys.  It was there to be seen in the ‘Photo-Story Movie’ (Full Version) – a precious memento, a gift to them from me.  I found it to be a very touching and humbling experience.  It was an outcome I would have never expected, but so grateful for having had, and thanks to these people for sharing their precious stories via their paintings and creative writing.  Due to respecting the privacy of each participant, the following ‘Photo-Story Movie’ below is an edited version, and only features myself and my photo-story journey.  MIND Australia has asked if they could use the full version, which I have enthusiastically approved of and handed across recently for their use. They have indicated that it should be available on their website sometime during 2016.

 

 

NB:  Please click on link to view the ‘Reflections Exhibition’ booklet PDF – FINAL Mind_Reflections_ExhibitionBooklet_final

 

MY CREATIVE WRITING PIECES INCLUDED IN THE BOOKLET AND EXHIBITED

There were three creative writing pieces that were accepted to be exhibited that I had written during my creative writing sessions. These were included in the MIND Australia ‘Reflections Exhibition – Exploring Our Identities’ booklet as well. These creative writing pieces I especially chose to exhibit, because of the feelings and emotions they had evoked when I wrote them, and they are as following:

 

No. 1 – Title: “The Happy Box”

 

My greatest life-long challenge has been to become an expert at being a fully-functional human being. I have learned to treasure the smallest of delights and recall them in my melancholy moments; to use them to uplift my spirits, when day-to-day life has failed to do so. To help me gain this sense of expertise in being a fully-functional human being, I just recently developed a system for myself, and I called it the ‘happy box’! I ask myself each day, is what I am going to be doing this day, going to tick the ‘happy box’? And if the answer is yes, then it is included within my daily doings, and if the answer is no, I take the time out to ask myself, why do it at all in that case? My mental well-being has greatly benefited from this approach – this fully-functional human being challenge – feeling good about life. Thank you ‘happy box’…”
© Karen Robinson,2015

 

 

No. 2 – Title: “How Precious Time Is…”

 

Just sit here while I walk across here to get your script.” My husband dutifully sat, looking pale, weak and sickly. I was afraid he would not live through those terrible chemotherapy treatments. This experience that I shared with him has left me understanding how precious our time together has been, and is still today!”
© Karen Robinson, 2015

 

 

No. 3 – Title: “Support”

 

Support me please! I need your support, don’t turn away and leave me standing here alone and destitute, I need you. I know, I know, I am a pain and I know I ask for too much, but don’t leave me – I will not make it without you – come back – don’t go. It’s OK, I can be strong, I will be strong, I will support me, I can do it – yes I have done it – thank self…”
© Karen Robinson, 2015

 

 

Creative Writing Pieces written by the group 2015 and displayed at the 'Reflections Carer Group Exhibition - Exploring Our Identities' at Northcote Townhall, Melbourne, Australia 18.11. 2015 Copyright protected.jpg

Creative Writing Pieces written by the group 2015 and displayed at the ‘Reflections Carer Group Exhibition – Exploring Our Identities’ at Northcote Townhall, Melbourne, Australia 18.11. 2015 NB:  All images are protected by copyright laws!JPEG

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

The process of painting, painting story writing, creative writing and photo-taking has offered me a way of expressing thoughts and emotions which can be difficult to say out loud. I also came to understanding that painting and creative writing can be a very powerful way of communicating with others. Therapy via these processes have given me a voice and my art and creative writing therapy journey has become an important part of my life in recent years and still will be an important part of my life in years to come.

I am hoping that by sharing my art and creative writing therapy journey, will inspire others, to take up art and creative writing therapy to find their voice – in order to be able to move forward in most difficult of times. These therapies have brought me now to a much better place where I find myself being able to seek joy in every day. As an ongoing process, I will be blogging about my art and creative writing therapy journey “moving forward” and expand on how others have used/are using art therapy to assist physical and emotional well-being. I hope you will join me!

 

© Karen Robinson, October 2015

Whilst you are here – please check out my home page! My Art Therapy JourneyA window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytellingby Karen Robinson