Calm­ing through paint

Art ther­apy helps to clear minds

Central Queensland News - - NEWS - Kris­ten Booth Kris­

ARTISTS are en­cour­ag­ing young peo­ple in re­gional and ru­ral areas to delve into their cre­ative sides to bat­tle men­tal health is­sues.

Ac­cord­ing to the Queens­land gov­ern­ment, peo­ple who live and work in these areas can ex­pe­ri­ence ad­di­tional pres­sures such as so­cial iso­la­tion and lack of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

These are all risks that can cause dam­ag­ing ef­fects on both par­ents and the chil­dren, in­clud­ing men­tal health is­sues and de­pres­sion.

Sandy McLean is a full-time Cen­tral Queens­land artist, based in Rock­hamp­ton, best known for her por­traits of Australian peo­ple and an­i­mals, us­ing bright and bold colour to bring her sub­jects alive and help tell the story.

Known as the Out­back Artist, Ms McLean started the Art House in 2015 to en­cour­age peo­ple to de-stress nat­u­rally and to be cre­ative.

Through the Art House, and in part­ner­ship with the Black Dog Ball Com­mit­tee, Ms McLean created a pro­gram for kids who had be­come dis­en­gaged, suf­fered anx­i­ety, and just needed an out­let.

“Work­ing with the Black Dog kids, I would en­cour­age them to paint out their feel­ings and put it on the can­vas,” she said.

“The first few would be very dark and I would be try­ing to get them to lighten up. Once they use colour, their whole mood has changed.

Ms McLean said she started the pro­gram be­cause there was nowhere that kids could go and just do art at their own pace.

“There is no pres­sure. I got them started and left them alone to have fun,” she said.

“Art is so suc­cess­ful for kids with prob­lems. They can just do what they like and it’s just fun – if they want to paint some­thing strange, they can.

“Kids were com­ing that were off the radar, they didn’t like sport, they weren’t good at it, it just wasn’t their thing, but be­ing cre­ative was.

“A lot of kids who were autis­tic would just thrive. They would put on the can­vas how they saw the world. Kids with anx­i­ety, they would start to paint and draw and their fo­cus wasn’t on what was around them but on what they were do­ing.

“I think there should be some­where in ev­ery com­mu­nity they can go and be cre­ative away from school and that en­vi­ron­ment.

“These kids seem to be want­ing and need­ing some­thing away from the pres­sures to have fun and cre­ate.”

Glenda Henry, from Emer­ald Art Gal­leries, said the role of images in health­care was not about pro­duc­ing art but about en­gag­ing with pro­cesses of cre­at­ing images to ex­plore and con­nect to our­selves and com­mu­ni­cate with the world around us.

Art ther­apy is as­so­ci­ated with a range of health ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing im­proved cog­ni­tive func­tion and con­cen­tra­tion, re­lief and dis­trac­tion from men­tal and phys­i­cal pain, and im­proved self-es­teem and well be­ing.

Emer­ald Art Gallery also en­cour­ages and wel­comes vol­un­teers to be­come in­volved with pro­mot­ing so­cial in­ter­ac­tion for our com­mu­nity in a safe and in­spir­ing space. We would love to hear about your ben­e­fi­cial ex­pe­ri­ences with art. Send your sto­ries to


CRE­ATIVE MINDS: Sandy McLean work­ing with one of her stu­dents.

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