Art as a cathartic process

Trigger Warning
Please note that I refer to and talk about depression throughout this blog post. I do not go into specific detail but the post does make mention of negative feeling and emotion. I've tried to keep it as non triggering as I can whilst still talking about the subject matter and how Art helps me through. I completely understand should you wish to stop at this point. If this blog post helps you in any way then I'm glad to have posted it x.

You always get a sense about how an artist is feeling when you look at their work, be it happiness, frustration, anger or sadness. For many like myself art has an incredibly powerful influence over the mind, emotion and wellbeing. It allows thoughts to be voiced and expressed when words alone cannot suffice. A safe and intuitive forum to let go and process the internal dialogue.

It was studying Art at school that really killed the creativity for me, that may sound strange as for many Art at school was a form of development, a freedom building and manifesting in colour and texture. For me I felt stifled, confined and empty of thought. I painted a piece for our mock GCSCEs and was told it was 'too dark' and I'd not used the canvas artwork didn't 'fill the page'. It wouldn't have been fitting to paint it the way they wanted me to and it became a reoccurring story throughout the two year period. My creativity was slowly being eroded till I was left with nothing but silence and blank imagery.

I all but abandoned my creativity – save a couple of pursuits – from the time I left school until around four of five years ago. I can't really remember what piqued my interest in art again, funny that seeing as now it has become so integral to my everyday routine. I think it was moving out to live with J and having more time, opportunity and space. I loved living with my parents, but moving back home after uni I was effectively having to downsize from an entire house to a single room. Space became a premium, and one that I couldn't afford either physically or mentally. The therapeutic nature of working with my hands using paints, pastels, or pencils was a noticed absence and my mental health and ability to process emotion began to decline.

I ummed and ahhed about whether I should share this page with you all and the reason is two fold I guess. Firstly it is quite a dark image and the Dream, Create, Journal space, for me at least, is meant to be a place of positivity, creativity and support. It feels a bit at odds with what I think when I look back at it. Secondly it is a raw and exposing thing to share an image you've created in a time of struggle. I am opening up myself to people I've never met and do not know (although I hope this changes over time!), when I've failed to be open and honest with loved ones and with myself.

There is a distinct lack of colour, care or attention in it. It is worked solely in charcoals. There was no thought involved when I made it, I just sat down and knew I needed to do something, and this was the result. The pressure in my head had eased slightly, and my feelings had somewhat abated.

The addition of colour in the second piece is an important one. Some feel for them that depression is a black dog that follows behind them wherever they go just watching and waiting. For me the black curtain, as I refer to it, can be absent for long periods of time, it is lifted away from my vision allowing the colours of life to mix and merge. Then suddenly the curtain starts to fall, it can be sudden and it can be a slow gradual drop, eating away at the vibrancy and light. Much of the artwork I create during this time is either purely black and grey or full of colour marred and obscured by black. Cliche portrayals perhaps but for me it is the most effective and intuitive way of gauging how I'm feeling.

I created the textured paint splodges by applying the acrylics directly onto the paper by squeezing the paint from the tubes – had I found my palette knife and modelling paste I'd have used them but I couldn't be bothered to look – so I just used the paint and my brush. Not quite as effective but it still works.

Next I added black acrylic paint over the top. Working to ensure that it was properly worked over the texture I'd built in the base colour layer. Darkness coating all the edges, the drips and spills gently but surely blocking out the colour beneath. I watered down the acrylic greatly, and tested the consistency on a spare piece of paper, checking the ability for it to run down the page. I then began blobbing it at the top of the page, lifting the book slightly and letting it fall wherever it chose.

I'm not sure about the character or where she came from or why she has bandages across her face. It just felt appropriate at the time. Her hair turned out quite well considering she came together at the last minute. That's something I'm still trying to master, the texture of hair is tricky. I jump back and forth from realism to cartoonish, I've not found my rhythm with it yet!

I can't say I had a lot of fun painting this because I don't think 'fun' is the right word. Cathartic is perhaps more appropriate in this instance. It took me a long while to realise that creating artwork or journalling doesn't always have to come from something or someplace happy. It can be used as a tool to process and expel the unwanted negativity from within and open up the path for greater and more positive things as hippy dippy as that sounds.

I hope that if you made it to the end of my post that you'll think more about the art or journal pieces you create and the ways in which it helps you to achieve the things you desire, whether it is for pleasure, practice or work.

Till next time guys :)



  1. Brilliant and very helpful post! This is why I journal!!!! It's a safe outlet for my feelings. It's not a bad thing, in fact it shows that we are helping ourselves to a good place. I think this is one of the best posts on the subject!!!

    1. Thankyou so much, I'm glad you've found it helpful! I was so nervous about posting it and whether it is what people are wanting to read.
      It is quite amazing how actually being able to 'see' how you feel on paper helps you process it, isn't it?

  2. Thank you for sharing. It takes a lot of courage to share such raw feelings, and I admire you for that.


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