How art-making helps: Meet Karen

Art makes connections 

She arrived with two others plus their support staff.  
Head down, hunched demeanour, no vibrancy.  

I was invited to run these art workshops as part of a local community project - over three weeks. The goal was to offer a free-expression, low pressure space for the more isolated or excluded members of our community. 

They said she generally didn't communicate or respond much.  I invited her by gently extending my hand, to come look at the array of art materials I'd set out on the trestle tables under the open barn.  They began to apologise on her behalf presuming her refusal, but she accepted.  
We wandered, and looked, touched and chose various things.  She found a random balsa wood letter K and I found an A; we smiled and connected.

We sat side by side at the garden table away from the others some, in the sunshine.  I sensed them all watching with intrigue.  She began, we began, to explore the materials and I took her lead.  Not to take over nor ignore.  To respond to her by acknowledging her interests, her style, her ways, her smallest idiosyncrasies with the materials.  

She began to bloom.  She energised, quickened.  She straightened and strengthened.  She engaged and sought engagement.  She was prolific and one minded in her aims.  She came each week.  We could see how she loved to arrive, quickening her step and uprighting her posture.  

Lunchtime would come and she complied, back to her hunched quiet way again, until given permission to return to her work.  She would begin cautiously...were the rules changed? No, great, I'll get on.  

I could feel the silent exuberance of creative wish - I invited her toward a very large found board, painted red, discarded on site.  

She jumped in.  

We all then watched and witnessed her artist-self.  Totally engaged, IN her work, her thoughts, her feelings.  The reverie of creation.  Make, think, look, stand back, add, alter, contemplate, work, connected by an umbilical of paint to the canvas on the easel in front. Connected to herself. Her life-force. Her joy.  

Twenty years on in my career and these moments still stun and inspire me. 

(NB As a public/community art project Karen chose not to be anonymous and to share/exhibit this work beyond the sessions. Usual Art Therapy confidentiality does not apply).

The life energy of painting: use of pre & added colour, the marks & style of application, the birds, sun, horizon, the boat and its colour, the prominence of the name

The life energy of painting: use of pre & added colour, the marks & style of application, the birds, sun, horizon, the boat and its colour, the prominence of the name