was successfully added to your cart.

Cart

Tag

mental health

Fear and Empowerment

By | Art, Disability, Lifestyle

Ask any of my family or friends, and they will tell you that I have been petrified of snakes all my life. I’ve suffered with nightmares about snakes since I was around four.

A few months ago, Art Mania started a regular group art session at the Hunter Wetlands. I am a regular member of this group, and on learning that among the other wild-life, they have snakes, made me start to consider the possibility that I could overcome my fear, if I just touched a snake. A snake who is used to being man handled, and woman and child handled. The more I thought of the idea, the more I came to believe that it could help. All of these thoughts were just that, thoughts. An exercise in positive thought and creative possibilities. I don’t believe I actually intended to touch a snake. Rather, I did not at any stage believe that I would go through with the event if it ever occurred.

So given all of the above, imagine my own surprise when, around ten days before Christmas, I found myself touching a snake. I had to get pictures, because I knew nobody would believe me without them. This is what happened and how that encounter changed my life.

I’d arrived at the wetlands one morning and found a woman standing out the front of the entrance holding a snake. As I approached where she was standing, she asked if I would like to touch him. I’d always believed that if and when this moment arrived I would run screaming in the opposite direction. What I actually found myself doing was walking up to them and saying yes. His name is Kenny and he is a Children’s python. This does not mean he prefers to dine on children, but that the scientist who discovered his breed, was named Children. Kenny is eighteen months old and is a metre and a half long and around the circumference of a twenty cent coin.

I knew the belief that snakes are slimy is a myth, but I didn’t expect him to feel so soft. I stroked him with a couple of fingers at first and he allowed me to touch his head. My fear was gone, I was completely in the moment, totally focused on Kenny. His tongue on my skin was like butterfly wings. His skin like satin. Even to the point that on first contact, he felt cold like satin, but soon warmed to the heat of my skin. He moved across my hand and wrapped himself around my wrist a couple of times, just like a bracelet. At one point he was about my wrist with around thirty centimetres hanging upside-down and checking out Aimee. Aimee who stood calmly while Kenny investigated.

I could have stayed there with him forever. The touch of him was like falling into a deep pool of clear and calm water. My heart actually slowed, rather than increasing from fear. Even after he’d been taken away to impress other visitors, I could still feel him around my wrist, feel him gliding along my arm. The most amazing thing was that he broke something open in me. Some blockage I wasn’t even aware of, to my creativity. I knew I had to sculpt him and put that piece into my exhibition at the wetlands in March.

I’ve met him once since that first day. He was brought down to the room where we all create our art, so I could remind myself of what he looked and felt like. This time he slid across my arms, across my shoulders. At one point, his head and upper body was snuggled along my arm, where it formed a hollow against my ribs. He was snuggling, enjoying the warmth of my body.

Kenny the Childrens python lives behind the first viewing window, when you first walk into the entrance of the Wetlands. He’s not easy to find however, because he is nocturnal, but if you’re lucky, he’ll poke his little head out to check out who you are and to make sure he doesn’t miss anything.

Meeting Kenny has been one of the most magical experiences of my life.

I still wouldn’t want to encounter a snake out in the wild, but he has most definitely changed my attitude. Even more incredible, I’ve been told that any time I want to work on my sculpture, one of the snake handlers can bring him down for me. He apparently loves to pose for photos, so will be quite happy being immortalised in art.

I want to say thank you to everyone at the Wetlands Centre for their support. For making it possible for myself and other students to get to know and be up and close with the wildlife.

Being able to create in such a beautiful, positive environment is nourishing my soul and my creativity.

Having the chance to exhibit the resulting work, is something special and I feel honoured to be given this chance.

 

-Sam Ogilvie

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

LIFE IN LOCKDOWN: SAM’S STORY

By | Art, Lifestyle

Hi, my name is Sam. I am an artist with a visual impairment.

I have been in lockdown for what feels like forever. Unable to complete many daily activities myself, because they require setting foot out in the world. A world that I don’t recognise, other than a place of science fiction and dystopian literature.

Sam before lockdown, taking part in one of Art Mania Studio’s resin workshops.

My art is keeping me positive and sane. Thanks to Fee and Art Mania Studio, I have already received care packs full of art supplies. One of the things in my first care pack was a mannequin, the torso of a woman. For the last few Tuesdays I’ve been connecting with Ashlee, one of our fantastic new teachers, via facetime. In these sessions I’ve been working on my mannequin.

This is a torso similar to Sam’s. This one has been painted by our teacher Ashlee.

The aim of the process is to use a multitude of textures such as fabric, paper, feathers, shells, to convey what this shattered, surreal world is making me feel.

At first, what drew my focus was the simple act of getting to work with my hands. Letting my hands tell me what to place where. After all, my hands are my eyes. And trusting my hands, especially in my art, makes me very present in the moment. It doesn’t allow my brain time to question the process.

For someone prone to anxiety and panic attacks, along with a tendency toward depression, my art grounds me. Grounds me, like nothing else can in this new world of unfamiliarity.

It’s also great for me to unpack my feelings, fears, expectations through the artistic process. It makes it possible to confront and deal with any negativity before it has a chance to manifest into a bigger, more unmanageable problem.

So this has become my world. Each morning I get up, have my very necessary and important morning coffee. Once this is done and emails are checked. I turn to my art. Often listening to an audio book while I work.

I don’t know what I would do without this process to keep me on a positive path. Nor do I know what I’d do without Fee and Dana and my weekly catchup with Ashlee. I strongly encourage you to give it a try.

Life is more than Black & White – Art & Wellbeing.

By | Art, Lifestyle

A moving testimonial from one of our students at Art Mania Studio. This is Your Happy Place because art is a pathway to living life with wellbeing.

“I learned the basics of charcoals early 2018.

I was in hospital at the time. My mental health was at crisis point. I was trapped in my head and it wasn’t a nice place to be trapped.

Fee took the time one Saturday to sit with me and take me through how to use the charcoal, smudging, getting light and dark tones. I was instantly swallowed up into this world of black and white, and everywhere I looked I saw potential subjects to interpret with my charcoals.

Charcoals became a filter through which I started to see the world. It sounds odd but learning how to use this medium helped me so much with beginning to interact a little more. It’s almost like because I was looking at things to see if I could draw them, it became a less stressful to go outside and to engage with people. It was kind of like engaging not as myself – but as a curious visitor who was seeing the world for the first time.

Learning charcoals played a key part in my ongoing recovery, because it’s helped me to interact and engage again. It helped set me free from being trapped in my mind. And being in that charcoal world of black and white and the shades in between reduces the visual clutter that triggers my anxiety. Charcoals helped simplify my interpretation of the world, and encouraged me to look at smaller details rather than being overwhelmed by the bigger picture.

What I particularly like about using charcoals is that it’s so tactile. I love getting my hands dirty, and being able to manipulate the charcoals with my fingers creates more of a connection between myself and what I am drawing.

Since learning those basics with Fee, I’ve done a charcoals workshop at Art Mania, which I loved. I’m looking forward to collecting more skills through Art Mania, because working with charcoals is something that I really want to pursue, so that it can be a resource when I’m struggling with my mental health, and an outlet when sailing is smoother.”

This student wishes to remain anonymous, we are thankful they chose to express what participating in one of our workshops has done for them. 
Art Mania Studio is a community hub that offers a range of art workshops, classes & block courses, plus a lot of love.
Come in & find out for yourself today what a little bit of art & love could do for your world.