Bryan Woods tells us about how Art helped him in his recovery


Art In Mind.

It was while I was in a psychiatric hospital that I started to draw again.   I had drawn nothing since leaving school many years before.  Therefore my adult efforts were not very good!   However, I was determined to get better at drawing and sketching.   So I learnt about line, tone, composition and perspective.   I also practiced a lot.

Later I took up painting and tried other media too.   This process has helped me immensely in my ongoing recovery from mental ill health.

Fortunately, my local Mental Health Team also put me in touch with a charity named Artscape.   This was set up to help people who are isolated for various reasons, including mental ill health.   Through Artscape, I learnt to enjoy the process of making art.   I stopped worrying that every picture or artwork had to be perfect.   It is the journey not the destination in art that is important.   I was also given the opportunity to try different media, including soapstone carving, etching, and collage.

Thanks to Artscape I also did a course in which I learnt how to run art workshops.   Completing the course successfully really helped to boost my self-confidence.   I have also been able to use my knowledge to run art workshops for Artscape, Wessex Heritage Trust, and Havant and East Hants Mind.

Some of my artworks were also included in Artscape exhibitions.   Seeing my pictures in a gallery really increased my self-confidence.   This in its turn helped to improve my mental health.

I eventually found the media that I most enjoy working in.   Today I like to do watercolour painting, pen and ink drawing, encaustic art (melted wax painting), and Zentangle.   The latter involves making repetitive patterns on card or paper using a fine technical pen.   These patterns combine to make striking finished artworks.   They can also be mixed with other media such as watercolours.   Zentangle is a very mindful way of drawing and is therefore particularly good for one’s mental health.

The practice of art can help to reduce anxiety and stress.   It is an absorbing hobby that focuses the mind.   I like nothing better than to be outdoors drawing or sketching.   Becoming totally engrossed in capturing on paper what is in front of me.

However, art does not need to be just a solitary pastime.   I have been involved with a number of community-based art projects over the past ten years.   It has been a great joy to join with other people to create artworks.   I also help to run a weekly art group for Havant and East Hants Mind.   This has allowed me to show people that art can help to maintain their mental health.

A charity that offers art therapy is Coda Music and Arts Trust (hArt).   This is based just over the Hampshire border, in Christchurch, Dorset. Coda works with people of all ages and abilities in group programmes and workshops.   One-to-one work with fully qualified Art Therapists is also available.   Coda also offer Music Therapy and Music for Health & Well-being.

A number of online resources are also available.   Details of these can be found on Eventbrite.   One that I have found very helpful is Emily’s Notebook.   This is particularly encouraging to beginners.

I have sometimes heard people say, “I wish I could draw.    This is nonsense.   We can ALL draw.   All you need is a few basic materials and a willingness to learn.   The rest will surely follow.