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Art has been a healing tool

Wednesday, 20 October 2021 Katie

Artist Katie blogs about how their work and passion helps mend the mind one shape at a time.

Art has always held a special place in my life. For me, there hasn’t been one, defining “aha!” moment of appreciation, but rather small moments I’ve connected over time. I recognise how lucky I am to have been able to carry this appreciation and support for art into my adulthood. That said, art as a healing tool has always been there from the beginning for me — from a young age, art was a space for me to be myself and to learn. I think regardless of whether you’ve been able to practice creativity throughout your life, that space can and should be available to anyone.

“Art is a tool in the toolset to manage some of the challenges of life’s changing circumstances.”

I also grew up understanding the importance of mental health and the need for support. Art is a tool that helps me manage some of the challenges created by life’s changing circumstances. Making things is such a beautiful gift, even if it cannot entirely solve every issue, it can soothe and help me process things – and it can hopefully rejuvenate some of your energy and ground you in the present.

Mental health is a complicated landscape, we all have our mountains and valleys. My challenges include the very well-known power duo anxiety and depression, as well as being a highly sensitive person with some neurodivergent traits.

These things are part of my inner world, of course, but I think it’s important to note their relation to the outer world and other circumstances. Various systems we interact with daily impact our sense of self and identity – for example eco-anxiety about our climate and future, feelings around oppressive systems that affect different communities I am either a part of or witnessing others' trauma. And the layers don’t stop there; it can be quite overwhelming.

Soothing my nervous system

I’m privileged enough to have art feature in my life in many forms, but where I find the most joy is in making simple marks and basic shapes that are familiar. Creating in this way helps soothe my nervous system and gather my attention, even if just for a moment. My sketchbook is my safe space. While I love all forms of making, there is something very grounding about that space. It is often portable, private, and depending on the paper can handle all sorts of mediums. I typically like to use some pencils, pens, paints and coloured pencils. Whatever you may have to make marks, and however much or little experience you have, the key is to start.

“Get lost in some intentional play, and find some clarity and calm along the way.”

Curiosity is a great way to help get the conversation going with your creativity. I like to think of my personal practice as an ongoing relationship with my curiosity, allowing me to both explore and to express. There is a balance of feeling in control with what you decide to do next after your first mark, while also allowing some surprises and mess to be made — great wisdom for handling changes in life.

No matter the outcome, it’s beautiful to have made something and to reclaim your time to make. Get lost in some intentional play, and find some clarity and calm along the way. What a special activity we can do in a world that can be so challenging and often cruel — calming the mind one shape at a time.

Katie Chandler is an illustrator who has designed the 2021 packaging for TEMPLESPA’s Repose campaign in aid of Mind as part of their Wellness Month. For each full-sized Repose (£40) purchased in October, TEMPLESPA is donating £6 to Mind and gifting you a limited-edition Repose for free. TEMPLESPA have been supporting Mind since 2018 and have raised over £300,000 so far.

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Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.

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