For me the need to create and make art has always been linked closely to my own mental health. I need to create. If I had a purpose in life this would be it. I have to feel it to create it, and can’t force myself into producing a piece of art if I don’t feel it. I make because it is part of who I am, it is part of my soul and my well being.
Since leaving university in 2013 my art process has developed to a much smaller scale, but my aims and focuses remain as true as ever. Central to my practice is the use of text and language, focusing on words as objects rather than their meaning or definitions. My aim is that my end result is playful with a child-like naivety and innocence to it. Combining every day words with visual forms of lists, quotes, phrases and song lyrics familiar to everyday norms. The underlying seriousness is there to see in plain form if the viewer chooses to see it, as I open myself up through thoughts, ideas and opinions. I worked to produce both work for my pre-degree show, as well as my final degree show in 3013. See the link attached to view my pre-degree show. https://graysartschoolaberdeen.com/2013/07/23/painting-2013-degree-show/
The small intimate pieces I now make go mainly to loved ones as gifts, my way expressing my love towards them and telling people just how important they are to me.
“I AM”- Oil and Mixed Media on Canvas, 2012.
“Social Media”- Oil on Canvas, 2012- 5 foot by 6 foot.
“Depression- in four parts”- Oil on canvas. 2012.
“Study”- 2014- Oil on Canvas
This artistic practice fed my dissertation, and my dissertation fed my art. “Art as Therapy, Therapy as Art” was a topic that revealed itself to me in am almost “light bulb switching on” moment. It was just so clear that this is what I needed to study. My focus was on questioning the link between the Arts and Mental Health, and looking at the historical link between those creative people in the past and their mental health and how they suffered for their art. This process in a way became a cathartic experience for me, in a way almost healing. Writing and discussing analytically about my art process and what drives me as an artist, I came to discover I wasn’t alone. Other people felt how I felt, and were experiencing the same emotions as I was. In my fourth year class of twenty graduating painters, there was eleven of us who were seeing a therapist or counsellor. Could this just be co-incidence, or was it something else? I had to know.
Just like every journey, my desire to return to university to complete my masters has started with an idea and just the right amount of bravery to take the first step. This well needed “shove” is a combination of my experiences throughout university, and what I have experienced since leaving university and starting my working career. I have a need to help people. At heart I am a people person. I love being around people and listening to their stories, finding out who they are, their history, what drives them and what’s next for them.
My first experience in working with volunteers came when I started as a volunteer myself at Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland. I quickly gained the vital responsibilities and skills that made me an ideal candidate for a managers position. While running my store and all the daily responsibilities that came alongside this, I was also responsible for the training of two assistant managers and a group of 20 volunteers. From advertising, volunteer recruitment campaigns, the interview process, their training and then their continued development I was there for each of step along the way. I got to know each volunteer, their like and dislikes, their capabilities, what drove them to volunteer, what they hoped to achieve through volunteering and how to adapt my own approach to each of them as individuals. This role wasn’t just a store managers role, I was also a source of guidance, advice and friendship for a lot of these individuals. With the older volunteers I had to remember our age difference when asking them to complete tasks for me within the shop. There had to be a sensitivity on gentleness on my part when I was with them, so as not to create any tension or upset. My relationship with the volunteers my own age and the younger volunteers who were still at school had a much more authoritative dynamic, combining genuine friendship, with their desire to work hard and take on takes and responsibilities in the shop to develop their own skills. I enjoyed and learnt a great deal from both age groups, but I did prefer and felt more comfortable with those who were of similar age to me. It was a massive learning curve for me, throwing a few unexpected challenges at me along the way. My own skills in care giving, listening, supporting, offering advice and being discrete and professional all improved, so did my ability to make a great cup of tea.
Unlike other roles that I have had in the past, working alongside volunteers is so much more rewarding than working with other paid staff. You always have to remember that these people are giving up their spare time to help, they work unbelievably hard, and if they felt that they weren’t being supported and enjoying their experiences then they can leave at any moment. If it wasn’t for volunteers the third sector wouldn’t exist. My time with Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland was shaped positively by the relationships I established with my volunteers and gave me the desire to move into the health sector to further develop my skills in helping people.
For the past year I have worked within the Women’s and Children’s department of NHS Lothian as a management assistant. My role involves delivering an up to date, well run service to support the medical staff who work within the community. I am there to support, help and advise the staff when it is needed. I manage all incoming calls into the office, and have to be prepared for anything the staff may be experiencing while out at work, this includes their own personal life situations, reasons for absences, long term sickness, mistakes and human errors that they may happen at work and also severe issues that include; infant mortality, wrong dosage of medication to infants and distressed patients (parents and infants). Although I don’t work directly with the 260 members of staff, I am required to stay calm and positive over the phone. I have a good working relationship with these staff members. In the past year I have developed my professional secretarial and office management skills. I feel confidant in my ability to work in a medical environment, and be able to stay calm, professional and discrete, while at the same time able to work hard to deadlines, stay self motivated and ensure that all my own daily work is up to date completed in a accurate way.
I have a caring an mothering nature, it makes me feel good about mysefl to know that I am doing something positive, and can make even a small postivie change into a persons life. It may sound selfish, and in a way it it, as this drive stems from my need to feel good about myself. As a person has had depression and anxiety from adolencence, and has bounced on and off antidepressants, I have not always felt good about who I am. It will be a continued lifelong joureny for me to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. I now know my triggers and how to stave off such spirals where I may end up having an anxiety attack. My own journey through mental health and seeking professional help will always be a part of who I am, this has shaped me and my outlook on life.
I am also the oldest of four children’s I have always been relied upon to care for my siblings. There is nine years between myself and my youngest brother, meaning by the time I was a teenager things like the school run, homework and helping make the dinner were all my jobs in the house. I have worked with children as an Au pair abroad and as party hostess throughout university and have a lot of experience in looking after young children and being responsible for daily care giving, having fun with them, playing games and being active.
To be given the chance to combine both my art practice and my desire to work alongside and care for people is an opportunity I feel is right for me at this moment in life. As a confidant women I feel ready to re-enter the world of study and go back to university to complete my masters as a mature student who has learnt so much since my time as an undergraduate. I could not have done this earlier in life as I needed the experiences I have had to shape me as a future mature student. I needed the life skills that I have only had since working for the past three and a half years that will make me a successful and sought after student. I want to make a difference in someone life in the same way that the counsellors though out my studies managed to help me. This will in turn help me to fulfil my dream of one day being an art therapist, something that has always been in the forefront of my mind in my career decisions. The passion to become an art therapist is the only career that I have ever imagined having, it will give me the opportunity to combine both my artistic skills and knowledge as well as my invaluable skills from working withing the third sector and the NHS. I know I can make a success out of this career, all I need is the opportunity to do so.