The workshops ran over an eight week period, one workshop a week within the CRU during an established ‘Art Club’ and one a week in the waiting room of Outpatients- engaging with patients waiting for their appointments.
I offered art activities where all participants could gain a level of satisfaction in the processes and a sense of achievement in the end result. The techniques took into consideration physical disabilities and different ability levels but also could be able to be taken to a more accomplished end by the more able. These included watercolour tasks, mono-printing, Brusho techniques, ink and Quink ink and negative space painting. The imagery and research material I offered as stimulus all related to my inspirations as an artist; plants, nature, natural structures and also the research I had started on brain cell structure and the drawings of Ramón Cajal were used.
Within the Outpatients workshops there was a wide range of ages and abilities. Ranging from children who were there waiting with parents to accomplished artists. It seemed beneficial in different ways- to take patients minds off their appointment and relax them, to entertaining the children of patients in an otherwise stressful and un-child friendly environment and inspiring some patients to take their love of Art forward. The other part of the waiting room was very quiet with patients all seated forwards and nobody really interacting. The session provided a friendly, chatty and warm atmosphere and many of those seated at our table seemed to feel able to disclose their fears, talk about their illnesses, or just the discuss the art we were creating. There was laughter and tears and some brilliant art created.
The CRU workshops were different because we often had the same patients week after week. This allowed us to build on relationships and skills, some patients worked on one piece of art for several weeks for example. Again there was a wide range of abilities. The challenge was to make sure everyone enjoyed the sessions and were satisfied with their pieces. Patients said they really enjoyed the sessions, they seemed hugely proud of the work they created. Some patients noted the improvement of their art skills over the course of the sessions. With others it highlighted the improvement of their physical problems- being able to hold a pencil better week to week, learning to draw with their left hand better. Within the Art Club at the CRU we also created handpainted fused glass tiles for display within the internal courtyard garden. This idea was initiated by some of the patients and was very successful in its outcome. Words and images were used on the tiles to communicate messages of hope and positivity to new patients who came into the unit. We also installed a display board for the work within the area of the CRU where the workshops took place, overlooking the garden and where the patients ate their meals. This was warmly received. The patients, staff and families loved to see the work and felt proud and inspired by the display.
The sense of a supportive, open, caring community within the unit was very apparent during the sessions. It gave a fun and interesting activity to concentrate on which relaxed patients with much talking, sharing and also laughter.
Staff from the CRU regularly took part as did patients family members who were visiting. This added to the sense of community. The sessions seemed to create a place where everyone was equal, taking part in the same activity, talking together. It seemed to break down barriers and unite people.
The art which was created ranged from gestural quick mono print sketches to accomplished watercolour paintings and hand painted fused glass tiles. I wanted to make the process the most important aspect, sharing new techniques which inspired and enabled expression and creativity. I offered imagery to be inspired by and a new technique in each session but also wanted the art to be participant led- so materials were always available to re visit a previous technique or simply to draw with a pencil or even just to sit, watch and talk.
Feedback from staff and patients…
“We learnt a lot about different techniques which we wouldn’t usually have chance to try”.
“It made sessions more varied and we got to use materials- like the glass-that we wouldn’t usually”.
“It was good to work with someone external to the unit, for the patients to work with new people”.
“ Verity brought the ideas and made them happen.”
“ Between them, Verity and the therapists were very good at making sure everyone was doing something.”
“Everyone could join in- even if they needed more help than others.”
“Even if you went and just watched, it was a nice relaxed atmosphere.”
It helps with patients’ cognitive rehabilitation. Planning, sequencing and initiation skills are all important when doing art.”
“It’s good from a cognitive perspective.”
“It was nice for their families to see them engaging in a meaningful task and socialising”.
“Doing art in this group environment gives people a sense of purpose and productivity which might have been taken away or reduced by their illness or injury.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you are good at art of not. Everyone could take part and feel a sense of achievement.”
“It’s a really good activity for working on hand dexterity.”