Art is definitely something I believed I was ever good at. My mom was an amazing artist and while she never did end up going to art college, I grew up admiring her talent. Her joint handwriting with the swirls and the loops, a beautiful canvas created for me as a child with all the Disney characters attending a picnic. Heck even her two-minute doodles while she was busy on the phone was inspirational. But that wasn’t me. I was not good at art and I never would be any good. I clearly just didn’t inherit that gift and to be fair if I drew you a stick man you probably wouldn’t be able to make it out, just a mess and a few crooked lines. I first was introduced to art therapy when I was fourteen and in hospital getting treatment for my mental health. I loved my art therapy class, now I wasn’t any good at it but that wasn’t the point. I was able to express the fuzz in my head on the page and while I might have to awkwardly point out what my picture *was* supposed to be; it was enough. I had a safe place where I could speak out about the mental turmoil my scattered brain was trying to process without having to actually sit down in a room and have a formal chat with the kind of man in the suit, we called our psychiatrist. Our art therapist was completely non-judgmental, and she heard us out with ease and compassion in her eyes and it was this alone that made art therapy so powerful for me.

It took away the pressure and formality of having the 1:1 chat with the older psychiatrist and having to explain the brain in my head that even I couldn’t understand. Let alone try guide someone else to understand. It took away the fear I felt with speaking my truth. I didn’t want to speak my truth if it was only going to be wrote on reports and discussed at the team meetings with every tom dick and harry. It’s fair to say that is definitely an exaggeration but to me it was every tom dick and harry. Psychiatrists, psychologists, managers, occupational therapists, key workers, social workers, doctor from home and the list goes on. Honestly, it is so damn difficult to sit in these meetings knowing you are the only “CHILD” or person under the age of 18 in the room. You can feel like a right gobshite altogether. Anyway, back to the subject. I spoke in my group sessions with the art therapist. It wasn’t just me. In fact, it was the complete opposite to the multi-disciplinary meetings. She was the only person in the room over the age of 18. No intimidation. No fear. No holding back. So, I didn’t hold back and even though the poor charcoal pastels definitely suffered in the hands of a *I don’t have a clue what I’m doing 14-year-old* I got the anguish out. I let the pain inside me escape on to the page or clay I was working with and I let the art therapist do the rest. I came out of the sessions feeling the weight lifted and it’s definitely something I would recommend trying especially if you know you need a little bit of help and support but your unsure of what road to go down.

Me and my partner recently moved to a new house and in our new house we have more space than we have items. I think one room is just filled with Dylan’s artwork and art equipment. When Dylan took up painting a few months ago neither of us knew of the joy it would bring him. Taking his mind off the struggles of life for awhile to paint on a canvas has opened a number of doors in both our lives. With each painting he advances, and it brings such joy to my face seeing him content and in his own world working on his latest projects.

I asked Dylan over lunch today for a quote on what art therapy meant to him. His response

“I don’t know how one would define art therapy, art being as abstract as it is but for me art is therapeutic because it engages my full attention and into put that’s attention into doing something productive while producing some form of expression. A form of expression where words don’t need to be used.”

That’s the thing art is so abstract and it’s not something easily defined by skills or talent. You could be the most talented painter but crap at drawing and vice versa. Art cannot be measured on a scale of 1 being bad and 10 being good. It’s not about what looks good because what might look good to you might look like a pile of scribbles to me. Art is a form of expression, its an activity you don’t need to go to college to do and it doesn’t hold the pressure other forms of expression hold. E.g. Leaving Certificate Poetry.

As children we begin to learn ways of expression and creation and while the education system loves doing things by the textbook not everything in life is like that.

As someone who left school at 14 with no grades or certifications, I have had to learn to live life working on a different system. Communication, thinking patterns, self-awareness, reflection, growth. I joke on my LinkedIn that I graduated at the school of life and my own journey has always had one main dominator. Communication. You can communicate in so many ways and communication is vital for surviving life on earth.  

Art is a form of communication. The Mona Lisa capturing the eyes of millions of people all around the world. The art in the architecture of the most beautiful buildings around the world. The art in the way the sounds vibrate off the strings in the guitar of the local busker you meet every time you walk down the street.

Art doesn’t have to be talent but it sure as hell can be therapeutic. You don’t have to be Picasso. Just know that Art will always be there if ever you need to unwind or take a pause when life gets stressful. All you need is paper and a pen, or pencil. Which ever you prefer. And just take it from there. I know for me it was something I had to do repetitively for about two weeks before I felt accomplished enough to reap the effects of it but it did help me and you will never know if it’s going to be something you enjoy or benefit from if you never try. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Just know it will always be there waiting for you to begin.

Happy Reading Guys.

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