I have always been terrible at art. I wish I was born with Picasso hands, but instead I was born with a dramatic soul, hence why I always did well in drama. I usually am an individual that faces a challenge straight in the face until I conquer it. However, I have never been able to conquer ART. It has been over twelve years since I went to an art class.
One foggy Thursday morning, I was walking to the doctors office after having been to the wards. I decided to take a new route through the hospital and I stumbled across a quiet corridor. I had never seen this corridor before. There were paintings all over the walls of different shapes and colours. I soon became hypnotised in studying each painting. I then came to a door, and on the door wrote the words: Art Therapy Room.
I never knew this hospital had an art therapy room. I had assumed an art therapist came onto the ward rather than bring patients to an actual art room.
I looked around. It appeared the entire floor was dedicated to the art department. I was very curious and knocked on the door. A young gentleman came out who was wearing jeans and a T-shirt with paint splattered on.
‘Hello, can I help you?’, this man said to me. I explained who I was and soon found out that this man was the head of the art department. I started to get quite excited as he offered to show me around the department. There were oil paintings on large canvasses, there were incredible life size cast iron work and metal made people around the room. All the work was made by the patients in the hospital. I was amazed. I was informed that some of the paintings by one particular patient was at such an excellent standard that they were being sold to a gallery. This patient produced the artwork at times he was relapsing in his mental health and expressed himself with his work. When stable, this patient would then be amazed at the work he had produced when unwell. The stories behind each piece of his work was superb.
I was very keen to see the process of the art work being produced. I was invited to join some of the art classes over a period of time of my being at this hospital. I couldn't be more excited. I made sure every week the workload for the patients on the ward was completed, so that I would be able to attend the classes. I had a change of outfit in case I spilt any paint on them. Art therapy class soon became one of my favourite activities in the week. In the class there were a range of patients from different wards, most of which were not under my care but other doctors. We all soon became a unique art class family. We would take turns to bring biscuits and make each other tea/coffee.
Initially, the patients were skeptical of my being in the class. I suppose that was understandable. It was a class for them to express themselves and having no doctor in a sense allows the group to feel more free than having doctor in the class. Having a psychiatrist in the class initially made the group feel as though they were being assessed. However, gradually over the first few classes, they were able to understand that I was just like them, wanting to express myself through art, and there was an underlying acceptance of having me in the class. It was an honour for them to allow me to paint with them and watch the creativity in the group unfold. I laughed with them, we talked about politics and films we loved. It was as though the group were my friends. It was a very different relationship to the one I am normally was used to as formal doctor-patient, but we now were a different kind of person-person relationship.
I was very sad when my time in the group came to an end. It was a bizarre moment saying goodbye to my group, I had become part of the class and produced three individual pieces of work that I was actually proud of considering I am not the greatest artist.
To thank the class, I left my favourite piece of work I had spent the most time on made from clay and wrote a personal message to the group expressing my gratitude in sharing this time together. I will never forget my art group and my time in the class with them. I needed it as much as they did.