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THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF JOURNALING

By | Art, Lifestyle

Earlier this year, Art Mania ran some workshops on journaling. They were: journaling for creativity, journaling for organisation and journaling for welbeing. They were held at the Hunter Wetlands Centre and were a huge amount of fun. They also left us all with some incredibly useful skills and tools.

These workshops were also so popular, that we started a journaling club. We meet every second Saturday at the Wallsend studio and have continued to grow in numbers.

One of Sam’s journal spreads.

Why am I telling you about this now? Firstly because we have a creative journaling workshop running soon in August.

Secondly, because journaling offers a huge benefit to our mental health.

You don’t have to be super creative. It’s a journal just for you. A place, that if you chose, you can just dump all those silly, negative thoughts that are cluttering up your head and stopping you from getting anything done. It can be a place where you just play. This is one of my favourite things to do. I have a journal that is dedicated to play and nothing else. For me, it’s about just enjoying the process and not caring about the results. It’s a great way for me to be present. To stop worrying about what’s happened that day, or what might happen tomorrow.

Thinking about ourselves in a positive way.

You can also use it as a way to keep track of things. Money, dreams, steps walked or run, hours spent doing something nice for yourself. It can be anything. This is great if you feel calmer by feeling in control. This isn’t a way of controlling as such, but it is a way of tricking your mind to think it’s in control.

A collage of things that uplift you.

Journaling is a wonderful way to keep sane. Especially important in these times. So why not give it a try? All you need is a notebook. Or if you want a nice little starter pack, Art Mania has journal packs for sale. They are a brilliant way of getting started and can give you ideas too.

So if you’re feeling off balance by the world, or you aren’t getting that creative fix you need. Try journaling. Once you start, you won’t want to stop!

-Sam Olgilvie

Staff Spotlight: Ashlee

By | Art, Lifestyle

MEET OUR ART MANIA FAMILY: ASHLEE

We decided it was past time to introduce our staff to you all. Many you may know, but there are several others, quietly working behind the scenes that are crucial to keeping Art Mania on track and able to run all the fantastic classes, workshops and taster days. So here is our first staff spotlight profile!

I’d like to introduce you all to Ashlee. Ashlee wears several hats here at Art Mania. Originally, around a year or so ago, she was hired as a new teacher to our team. She began by teaching our kids and teens classes. Soon after her joining our family, she became our very own Art as therapy teacher, something we all could do with, with all the crazy changes our world has gone through in the last year or so.

How did you come to be at Art Mania Studios?

Ashlee: “I was at a point in my life where change needed to be made, so I made the break and followed my intuition to where my passion lies.”

Another role that Ashlee fills, is support worker to our NDIA students. A mentor to those of us in Art Mania’s business development support program. It’s thanks to Ashlee’s hard work and contacts, that last month’s exhibition at the wetlands came about. She’s also been working hard to find us new venues and opportunities for more exhibitions.

How do you see yourself fitting in to Art Mania’s vision?

Ashlee: “I think the whole philosophy behind AMS is a beautiful thing! It is very much needed in the community.

I’m able to observe firsthand how important this safe creative space is, in the lives of many people from all walks of life.

I see the studio as an authentic space for creative flow. I also like the eclecticism in every aspect.”

One of Ashlee’s artworks.

As if this isn’t enough, Ash is also an artist in her own right with a large body of work and a diploma in fine arts. She is responsible for several murals around Newcastle, including at the Hunter Wetlands Centre.

Ashlee: “I love encouraging and helping people connect to their creative instincts.”

Look out for more staff spotlights to come!

 

Jumping into 2021

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

JUMPING INTO 2021

Welcome to 2021 and a brand new exciting year at Art Mania. Now that the year has started, it’s time to work out where each of us want to be by the end of the year. I know the tradition is to make new years resolutions, the majority of which are abandoned by mid February.

I am not a new years resolution girl. Instead, for all of my adult life, I’ve spent a portion of the last day of each year, writing goals for the coming year. I don’t always finish everything on the list, and I do make alterations and edits throughout the year. I have usually managed to complete at least half of the goals on my list by the end of the year.

This New Year’s, I did things slightly differently to my old ritual. Before I sat down to write my goals for 2021, I sat down and made a list of achievements for 2020 and things that meant a lot to me. The things I’m grateful for.

I thought I’d kick off this year’s series of posts by sharing a few things from each list with you and hope they inspire you all. So let’s get started.

What I’ve achieved and am grateful for:

1. My job at Art Mania and getting to share my journey with you all.

I don’t think any of us will remember 2020 as a great year. Covid has been a major blow from left field, but I think we should be proud that we have survived. I think we should all, as I do, be so incredibly grateful to Fee and the Art Mania team for keeping the studio open and offering a safe haven to create in and catch up with friends. I know that this had a huge impact on me and kept my mental health on the positive side.

Sam is dressed in a white top with pink embroidery. She is standing on the walkway to the Wetlands Centre. A slim, brown-scaled snake is twined around her wrist.

2. Art Mania’s teaming up with the Wetlands Centre.

This year Art Mania started running sessions for our NDIS clients and those who identify as having a disability. We had a room for two days a week for our little group and it was magical. Firstly seeing how some of our newer clients slowly come out of themselves and try different things.

We even got to meet some of the reptiles, a children’s python named Kenny, blue-tongue lizards named Russel and Nudge and a pygmy bearded water dragon. That’s right a baby version of our own Jimmy. And for me, personally, Kenny had the biggest impact upon me. I would never have believed you if you told me I would touch a snake, but I have and it’s been so empowering to overcome a fear.

3. Participating in my first ever exhibition.

Thanks to Castle Personnel’s social media person, Zoe, Art Mania had the chance to showcase the work of our students with disabilities for International Day of Disability. There were five of us and again it was an empowering moment. I knew I could create, but it still gave me that huge boost knowing that people were coming to see my work. I also sold my first piece of art. I don’t know who it was who brought my painting, but if you’re reading this, thank you so very much.

Sam, dressed in an orange top and navy jacket, standing in front of her painting at the exhibition. It is a large canvas, the background is a mix of green, yellow and blue, with large white circles over the top, with yellow and orange circles inside it.

These are my top three and I promise to expand on at least one of these in the next weeks (but you’ll have to keep reading posts to find out which it will be.). So on to the goals for this year.

My Top Three Goals for 2021

1. To become a mentor to other students with a disability who join the Art Mania team.

We have been working on setting up a program for NDIS clients that enables them to come and join the Art Mania family and create art. On top of this, for those who are interested, we are offering a business support program, so we can learn how to set ourselves up and sell our art. And part of all of this, is giving the more established students the chance to support the new ones. I’m so excited and could rave about this program for pages, but I will save that for a future post.

2. To participate in my second exhibition.

In two months, well probably more like six/seven weeks, I am having my work exhibited at the wetlands. This has been one of the great things about the sessions at the wetlands. I love nature and this is the perfect excuse to submerge myself in the natural world and be inspired by it and all the incredible creatures that live there.

3. My third goal is to get out into the world, particularly the natural world with my beautiful girl Aimee.

I know this will give me back the confidence I lost when I lost my boy Roscoe. I also know it will be more inspiration for my art. And I really hope you will all follow my journey and keep reading my posts.

This brings me to one last item I’m grateful for, and that’s all of you who read my posts. It really means a lot to me that you do, and I’m so grateful for all of your support. Please keep reading.

 

 

 

ART AS VOICE

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

I am naturally an introvert and have a tendency to be shy. At high school I was bullied by the other students and made to feel that it was dangerous to excel at anything or to speak up, especially not to speak up for myself. I was an easy target. We all know that teenagers will focus their intimidation and humiliation on those they perceive as different and/or weak.

As a teenager with a vision impairment, I was a perfect target.

At school, I developed ways to be small and silent and unnoticed. When it came to choosing electives, I made sure to stay out of the classes my primary tormenter took. The one class I took that didn’t follow these rules was art. Several of the girls who liked to make my life hell were in my art class.

In year eight, my art teacher didn’t even want me in her class. She believed that someone who was blind could not do art.

I spent most of the first half of the school year turning up for class and sitting, being ignored by the teacher, being made to feel invisible.

That teacher left and I stayed in the class with a new teacher. Mrs Kaminsky made sure I could participate in the class. She introduced me to oil pastels and showed me how to shade and blend and create pictures where others painted. She helped me hone and build on the sculpting skills I’d started developing in primary school. She gave me a way to have a voice. It was this class that kept me sane throughout school.

Mrs Kaminsky encouraged and nurtured my artistic voice by believing in me and encouraging me. 

Years later, coming back to art has given me back the voice I thought I’d lost forever.

When I can’t untangle my thoughts, I paint out the knots and snarls.

It is a physical thing, the movement of my hand, arm and body loosens the threads. The threads then have room and space to weave themselves into order.

When I paint out these tangles I feel my breath changes, my thoughts, that started the session as a pile of scattered and like leaves before a storm. These thoughts start to slow, to shift and eventually make sense again. I can paint out the problem and give me back my voice.

My paintings and sketches tell the stories I can’t get out in words. The stories that frighten me. That are too full of emotion that I’m afraid if I start speaking, they will explode and drown me.

I can be brave in my art, when I can’t be in the rest of my life. When I create, I am centred and present. Most importantly, I’ve got the strength and confidence to give voice to my experiences. The knowledge that my work is never going to be perfect, but will be uniquely mine, has quietened the perfectionist inside me. By taking away that fear of not being perfect, I can speak and share what’s inside me.

Art is my meditation and my voice.

-Sam Ogilvie

NATURE’S SERENADE

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

One of the major themes in my art is the natural world. I’ve used leaves and trees in lino carving that I then printed onto different hand-made papers. Some still feel like the stringy fibres of the trees that they originated from. In my glass work I’ve been using the natural elements of earth, fire, water and air to create pictures using powdered glass. I’m building up quite a collection of clay animals as well.

When I found out I would be having an exhibition of my own, I was of course, very excited. Learning that it would happen at the wetlands was even better. I’d never been there, but I did know about it and everything I heard was positive.

A couple of days ago, I finally got a chance to visit the wetlands for myself. It was the perfect day, sunny but not too hot.

My first impression was one of peace and of the world slowing and taking time to breathe. I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin. The various birds sang, intermingling and creating a symphony of joy and life.

As we slowly walked along the paths, the gravel crunched beneath our feet and I could feel the texture through my shoes.

I stopped to feel one of the totem poles scattered around the wetlands. It felt worn smooth over time. Criss-crossed by carvings that read like road signs in a tactile language akin to the braille I read. I could feel my thoughts slowing and images and words drifted through me. They slipped in and out in a meditative manner, not necessary to be held onto or analysed.

I learnt of a bird known as a magpie goose and arrived in time to witness their daily meal. They gathered in a group on the bank where their food had been left. They ate and a couple in particular kept up a gentle honking conversation. As each bird took to the water again, their entry sounded like a gentle wave washing over the shore of a harbour.

Their black and white colouring made them a good contrast with the earth they fed on and so I was able to make them out. They were bouncing balls of contrast to my eyes.

We ended up sitting by another pond along the sensory trail. The seat we sat upon was in the sun, while in front of us, the ground was dappled with sun and shade. As we sat quietly sketching and writing, magpies strutted back and forward in the space before us. The only thing making it possible to make their existence out, was their movement. The shifting of something before me.

I found myself sketching the trunk of an old tree. It had pieces of bark, some as large as my sketch pad peeling away from the trunk. Peeling away like old skin, making room for the new, clean and green regrowth to come through.

Those couple of hours were exactly the nourishment I needed. To be able to touch nature with my hands, my feet. To be serenaded by bird song, snapping twigs and gently shifting water. The sound of the light breeze in the trees. I found myself writing poetry as well as sketching.

I’ve come away feeling revived and my creative flow running smooth and thick with ideas. It was definitely an experience I will make sure I have again.

If you are feeling smothered, stale, just over the world, especially now with Covid- take a walk in nature. Nothing will revive you as well as the natural world. And you don’t have to worry about social distancing from trees.

– Sam Ogilvie

UPDATE: SAM AND HER GUIDE DOG AIMEE

By | Art, Lifestyle

This past week has been all about Aimee and I getting to know each other. It’s been both emotional and exhausting. It’s been all about highs and lows. I’d forgotten the details of how it is to train with a new guide dog, but I love it.

We did our first proper walk together on Wednesday afternoon. It was a couple of laps of Lambton Park. She was fantastic, I lost count of the number of dogs in the vicinity, but Aimee just dismissed them all as unimportant.

The highlight came when we were coming to the end of our first lap and we came on a guide dog puppy preschool session in progress. Aimee’s response can be described best as one of a rockstar accepting the adoration of her fans.

I’ve been telling her ever since that all those guide dog puppies will be dreaming of growing up to be her.

One of the most important things to develop with a new guide dog, is trust. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always tried to have a gap between my dogs, it makes it easier to bond with the new dog and results, for me at least, less comparison between the old and new. It’s this bonding process that makes it so important for others to keep their distance and not interact with her while we are getting to know one another.

This week is the first time we’ve been in to Art Mania for regular classes. It was mosaics and pottery today and Aimee lay comfortably on her bed under my table in the pottery area. Out of the way, but able to observe what was going on. She wouldn’t have been able to fit last term, but the renovations out the back have created more space and a more practical layout. If you haven’t been out to see it, you really should.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone, students and staff for your understanding and support for myself and Aimee.

I know many of you read my last post and took the message on board. There have also been others, particularly new people who have asked me what’s right and wrong in regards to a guide dog. You all have no idea just how much I appreciate all of you. One of the hardest things to deal with when you have a guide dog and are out in the public, is when people reach out and pat the dog without asking. Worse are the ones who say “oh I know I’m not supposed to ….” So thank you all so very much.

Not being able to talk to Aimee, doesn’t mean you can’t talk to me. So, please, feel free to say hi and ask any questions you might have about the journey Aimee and I are on, or anything else you have been curious about, but didn’t feel comfortable asking me.

-Sam Ogilvie

THE COVID BLUES

By | Art, Lifestyle

Lately, it feels like we were just getting a toehold and were starting to dig ourselves out of this deep dark hole known as COVID19, only to have the earth shift and crumble beneath us. Nobody can say for sure where we go from here and it seems that the one thing we can be sure of, is that this pandemic is far from over.

In stressful times, not everyone has a place or an activity or even a safe mental balance to help them through the darkness. And when under stress, how do we keep ourselves together and moving forward?

For me, I think the last few weeks have been harder than the isolation of lockdown. Even though I’ve had somewhere to go, things to do to occupy my hands and mind, I’ve been wandering around in a fog. Creating, but not feeling especially present in my work.

I’d come to the conclusion that it was and is my art that would get me through. That by creating I was expressing and letting go of all the unnecessary stuff. It’s only been in the last few days that I’ve realised I’ve been moving around like a zombie. There is nothing wrong with the material I’ve been producing and don’t get me wrong, it has helped. But I’ve still been walking dangerously close to the cliff edge.

It was only when I sat down to try and write this piece that I realised, I’d forgotten about my writing.

I realised that my painting or sculpting feed one part of me, but it’s through words that I can truly unscramble and reshuffle. That I can untangle the myriad of thoughts, feelings and ideas and make sense of them. And it’s only once all this is done, that I can give myself fully to my art.

If you can relate to any of this, I strongly suggest that you try sitting down and writing out how you feel. Don’t worry about it being grammatically correct. Don’t worry if at first it doesn’t make sense. Just write, down allow your hand to stop moving. Just set a certain amount of time, say ten minutes, and simply write. You’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself. You might even come up with some new creative project you hadn’t thought of before. Or even work out a solution to an artistic block.

Don’t forget your friends. It’s so important that we be there for one another. I really hope that this post has helped in some way to get you back on track after being lost for too long. I know it’s brought me home to myself, more than anything else I’ve done in a while.

Stay safe. Stay happy and keep creating in what ever form you choose.

– Sam Ogilvie

ART AND MUSIC WITH SAM

By | Art, Lifestyle

Let me introduce you to Sam, part of our team and also a member of Art Mania Studio’s Business Development Program.
Before we went into lockdown, we were supporting Sam at our studio in her art and personal development studies.  

Sam participated in an art session in February that combined the creative powers of paint and music.
Sam worked with art teacher Ashlee, who chose the music for the session and provides support for Sam’s visual impairment.

“It’s about being in the zone,” Ashlee explained. “Painting the movement of the music and what emotions might come up in connection to the music.”

“Painting to the music reminds me of meditation,” Sam says.
“When I’m painting, I’m not thinking about things. I’m connected to the music and I just paint what feels right.”


“Yes, it’s not about technique, or thinking about what colours to use,” Ashlee added. “It’s very freeing.”


As I watch Sam paint, I can see how she likens the process to meditation. There is mindfulness in the way she paints.
Dipping her brush in colours without hesitation, the instrumental music connects to her paintbrush to create lines and shapes.
There is an instinctive feel to this process, an emotional experience that flows from sound and the stillness of being. 


Painting is only one of the mediums Sam creates with at Art Mania Studio. She also works in clay, resin and mosaic mediums.

One of the challenges Sam faces now is how to continue her art now that she is in lockdown at home.
She is currently participating in online art sessions via Zoom, and we have invited Sam to share her thoughts with you through blog updates.

Stay tuned for some personal posts from Sam!

CREATE YOUR HOME ART STUDIO

By | Art

Having a space to create and keep yourself or others in the house entertained during this lock down time is super important.

If your home allows, having a dedicated area for creativity is a great way to ensure you invest time into things that keep your brain active and your nervous system calm.

 

We throw away so many things that could be used for creating.
Make it a habit from now to wash out any plastic food containers and keep all those empty toilet rolls, bottles and bottle lids

 

Here is an idea to fill an afternoon or two:

  • Set up a table in your home that can become your dedicated creative zone.
  • Use ice-cream, mushroom, yoghurt or other larger containers to store craft supplies in. Having everything in containers allows you to grab them out when you want to use something and keeps everything neat and contained.
  • Use smaller containers as brush and pen holders or for water for brush cleaning when painting.
  • Get creative and create a castle using these different sized containers and toilet rolls standing up on their end. Glue all together using PVA glue or hot glue and create a multi-level storage castle that can fit on one end of your creative work space. This allows everything you need to be easily accessible. 
  • You could paint the castle and label the different areas accordingly to make the structure visually stunning and user friendly. 

 

Send us a pic of your creative space!

Email to hello@artmaniastudio.com.au or tag us on your socials #artmaniastudio

 

Stay tuned as Art Mania Studio will keep bringing you ideas on how to stay creative whilst at home. 

 

HOW TO USE ART TO CALM YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM

By | Art, Lifestyle

Firstly, I’d like to invite you to take a deep breath.
Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4 and slowly exhale to the count of 4, do this 4 times.

Wonderful, now enjoy some nurturing information to help you during this strange time.

The left hand side of our brains are extremely active during times of stress as we cognitively try to find solutions to the problem we face.
When there is no solution, our mind can loop and the body continually produces cortisol and hormones that ignite our fight, flight or freeze response.
Not a good way to live!

So, how do we move out of that and into a more relaxed space by doing things that stimulate the right hand side of the brain – let’s get creative!

Your left hand brain controls:

  • Analytic thought
  • Logic
  • Language
  • Reasoning
  • Science and math
  • Written
  • Numbers and skills
  • Right-hand control

Your right hand brain controls:

  • Art awareness
  • Creativity
  • Imagination
  • Intuition
  • Insight
  • Holistic thought
  • Music awareness
  • 3D forms
  • Left-hand control

Art Awareness & Creativity

Draw, doodle, paint, make sculptures out of recycled things, plant something in the garden, make a nature mandala – be creative with what’s around you.

Imagination & Intuition

Tell stories and make them as elaborate as possible. Improve your intuition using practises like meditation, journaling or automatic writing. Ask a question and see what comes. Trust your feeling sense and follow it to do something that your being needs in order to relax the nervous system.

Play music, dance, sing, make shadow puppets or play dress ups.

We have a unique opportunity to shift our focus to our internal world and the private space of our home. What’s something you never had time for? What hobby could you start or study you can partake in that will nourish you and feed your heart and mind?

Talk to friends and family, stay connected and be creative.

Art Mania Studio wishes everyone a safe and healthy time at home.

We will be offering DIY art project kits and video tutorials very soon. These can be posted out and done at home to keep you having a creative outlet that feeds your soul.