The Art of Wellbeing

by samh

Emotional Wheel (2022) Samantha Humphreys

Some while back now I started facilitating daily drawing challenges as a way of both doing something useful in lockdown and providing people with an activity while being indoors. I had to make these sessions appropriate for doing at home with limited resources without the need to buy any special equipment. I posted these sessions on @writtleart on Facebook and wrote about them on this blog.

Two years on, I want to examine what impact art and creativity has on mental health and wellbeing, particularly post pandemic when we have all had a chance to reflect on why nurturing and exercising the mind is as beneficial as watching what we eat and burning fat. After also working with the charity Blesma early in the pandemic running online drawing sessions for their members, I was keen to continue to engage those that don't usually consider themselves 'artists' with art. As a result of this I have started running art and wellbeing sessions at the University College where I work for staff and students. This is currently embedded in an undergraduate cross disciplinary module but will exist on its own from the summer. During the first workshop, we had to create an emotion wheel. This could be made in any way, but it had to show a variety of real emotions for the creator. Participants were encouraged to look up examples, however, creativity soon began resulting in some interesting outcomes with descriptive visuals and others that were more abstract. While most of us used different colours, the creator of Fig 1 took a more abstract and less personal approach using emojis to demonstrate how they were feeling which I think makes a powerful piece of work nonetheless. My own approach, which is a work in progress, a 'revolving' wheel I could call it in fact, was to begin with the main emotions that we expect to feel and around those, add in 'micro-emotions'. I had some feedback asking why the word 'sceptical' is on the 'bad' side of the wheel because surely it's good to be questioning. Maybe my word there should be 'mistrustful' then? I will revisit my wheel soon. Fig 2 is beautifully heavy in bold colours, is very clear on the use of colour association with moods and emotions. This artist also started with the most prominent emotions/feelings and then scratched into the oil pastel rays around the edge demonstrating the outpouring of emotions that radiate from those inner feelings. We will have another session on emotion wheels in April for a longer period as I think its an activity that will develop more naturally if given the time. On Wednesday this week, our session will be What can we learn about ourselves by drawing a tree? Trees feature often in contemporary art, Tacita Dean's Majesty (2006)focuses our attention to the importance of the tree in the landscape by painting out the background. With the devastating deforestation of our planet, artists will no doubt be commenting on how we need to protect trees more than ever. But that's for another day.
Fig 1
Fig 2