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More on the correlation between Art and mental health from the tutor's point of view

A DfE Community Learning | Mental Health Research site 2015-17

The recent Foresight report on 'Mental Capital and Wellbeing' found that to ‘Keep Learning’ is one of the cornerstones of maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing. This and the other four steps: ‘Connect with the people around you’, ‘Be physically active’, ‘Take notice of the world around you’ and ‘Give to others’ are all very strongly linked to participation in the arts and crafts.

There is a growing body of evidence indicating the profound effect engagement in the arts and creativity can have on health and wellbeing. The arts make us feel alive, nourish our curiosity, help us learn …, and they give us the courage to face our own frailties and strengths. (from London Arts for Health Website, 2017)

Here’s the take on the CLMHP Art courses from the perspective of Debra Collis, an experienced and enthusiastic tutor, who delivered a range of Art courses as part of the Ealing CLMHP, ‘Hope and Wellbeing’:

“I have worked with a variety of learners who began this course with the goal of improving their wellbeing. Some learners were tentative to start with, unsure of what was or what wasn’t expected of them. Although it wasn's an art therapy course, the learners explored their inner fears or deepest feelings through colours and shapes. These sessions offered the learners an opportunity to use the resources and themes suggested each week, and explore the new techniques and media made available.

Themes included the ‘tree of life’ (inspired by Gustav Klimt) and what images that might evoke – with one participant it was a coin filled sky raining down on the tree.

 An imagined landscape between the end of winter and the beginning of Spring showing the change in colours demonstrated how colours can influence our mood. (Bright colours are known to have a pleasing and mood- enhancing effect in relation to the darker tones of Winter.) Sunset images and colourful skies with wispy clouds were popular.

We also looked at each other and drew what we saw – without judgement or worry about technical ability – rather giving each other an opportunity to be observed, and a chance to observe.  It was suggested that the background be filled with patterns to express movement (inspired by Van Gogh’s portrait backgrounds).

We also explored collage materials to make unusual connections, or to express our interests through choices of shapes or images that evoked our present feelings. Silhouettes of figures in various active poses were also provided and a variety of compositions were made – a circle of figures, figures overlapping, figures showing energy and vitality, a composition as if in a park.

The regular meetings and variety of personalities kept the momentum of the group going. I felt a kind of calm and quiet descend in the space once everyone had taken part in creating something without fear, judgement, or expectation – a personal exploration, adapting to different materials from watercolour, oil pastel, collage, colour pencils and acrylic paint and to stimulus that was interpreted individually and freely.”


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