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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.
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:
- Acrylic/Ink/Sequins/Embroidered Flowers & Butterflies on Canvas
- 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
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 Journey – A window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytelling…by Karen Robinson
Thank you for liking my post on Albury Old Church. One of the most interesting in the county, although there are other very old ones nearby, and I feature these in paintings from time to time. Wonderful work that you are doing. I am a great believer in art for healing, and have tried with mixed success over the years to interest local hospitals in putting on art exhibitions. I am exhibiting at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in June, which is a regular venue for me. It is a great experience listening to the comments from patients, visitors and staff when we are hanging, and the pleasure it brings. Very uplifting for all of us. Sales are good there too, but that’s another story
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Thank you David for commenting on my blog and it is great to hear how art for the therapy has been a benefit in your life and within the lives of those you share it with! ART FOR THERAPY at its best I feel…sincerely Karen
Your story is inspiring! I love the heart of treasured memories you created and think it is a wonderful tribute to your son. I’m happy to see you are helping others in their journeys.
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Hi Christine…thank you for taking time out to read this blog and it means a lot to me your words about my painting ‘Heart of Treasured Memories’. It has been a wonderful journey I have had the opportunity to be involved with and have met some amazing people which makes it easy to share and most rewarding…warm regards Karen