Special Guest Lecturers

Outing to the MAC


An exhibition actively confronting the issue of mental health through the work of multiple artists and a series of public events. Taking the dual form of an art exhibition and an open civic forum, The Fragmented Mind examines perceptions and experiences of mental illness and the current state of mental health provision in Northern Ireland.

Exhibition talk about fragmented minds based on mental health and schizophrenia through this the use of the gallery to bring groups in connect with people. The gallery had an installation of video and sound that was a very powerful piece that gave people an insight of how it is like to live with Schizophrenia. Along with this was Art Brut.


Things the Mac had to consider that content of the art was about mental health and maybe alarming to some people so all staff where trained with mental health 1st aid so that the would know what to do if a person needed help or disclosed something to them. They linked up with and Worked in close partnership with other organisations, service providers and users, The Fragmented Mind presents a safe and open arena for discussion, creativity and community-forming through a series of ongoing programmed activity. The gallery will become a hub for learning, engagement, training and support, with artworks and programmed activity providing a means to address the stigma of mental illness and discuss the challenges we all face in regards to our mental well being.

The public programming and civic forum element of this project is delivered in collaboration with Paula Larkin, University of Atypical (formerly Arts & Disability Forum).


Spoke about how they got people involved they had a art making area where grouped came and made art:-

  • Biscuits and tea.
  • Social.
  • Engaging.
  • Informative.
  • Mental health 1st aid.
  • Welcoming space.
  • Openness.
  • Making people aware of what they will experience.
  • Inviting space.
  • Books to read.
  • Safe space.



Outsider Art


Outsider art is used to describe art that has a naive quality, often produced by people who have not trained as artists or worked within the conventional structures of art production.

Art De Brut


It is self-taught creators who produce Art Brut, people on the fringes of society who harbor a spirit of rebellion and tend to be impervious to collective standards and values. They create in total disregard of public acclaim or other people’s opinions. They seek neither recognition by others nor public acclaim: any universe that they create is meant exclusively for themselves. Using generally unprecedented means and materials, they are in no way obligated to any artistic traditions, preferring to avail themselves of highly singular figurative means.

Also went to another gallery Belfast exposed looked at the use of photos in therapy cutting the memories you remember out and collage them together getting rid of the memories that you don’t remember building up an image from fragment memories into the one you know. The dedication of the artist to follow a community to document a family the link between remembered and the forgotten the passed and the present.


IMG_937227th Oct 2018

Ester Tommy workshop & lecture


We entered our studio to an array of art materials Ester introduced the session as a space to make a piece of our own art. I was a busy space but also quite calm a hub of activity everyone was creative and doing there thing but there was a feeling of being together.

My artwork I could not choose what to take there was so much choice:-

  • Old art work
  •  paint
  • Oil pastel
  • Chalk
  • Sewing needles
  • Fabric
  • Hand made papers
  • Old books
  • etc etc etc it was a playground!

Eventually i settled for the bits of handmade papers in so many different textures sizes colours. I decided to glue them on to a bigger white shiny finish paper. I wore the hand made papers up i really got a great satisfaction of tearing them each made a different sound each needed different strength to tear them. I stuck them randomly where i felt looked right for them.

I added 2 photos that called out from me in a magazine one of stones piled up on a beach and the other snow on a branch that then looked like a wave my favorite place to be is outside and especially to be at the beach so maybe that is why i choose them.

I went on to add oil pastel it was an interesting experience as it zoomed over some papers and got stuck on others where you really had to concentrate and force it on at times i enjoyed the freedom of the less textured papers to make a mark but found out that rubbing the pastel over the more textured paper added to its texture which I liked.

20181027_165525I made a tree and added words to the branches

  • Play as i feel i need to play more when i get stuck in the theory and paper work and just need to let my mind wonder and create and give it a break from thinking and a chance to process.
  • Adventure as I love going on adventures and discovering new places on the way it’s usually in nature while hiking and sea kayaking but this course i am on is an new adventure and i need to enjoy the experience of being on it and the ideas and knowledge that i am being given.
  • Sight of the shore this is about letting go just because i’m not on the land does not mean i am lost i’m close somewhere and i don’t need to be on target all the time go have an adventure you have the tools to make your own map.
  • Artist I am an artist and i need to remember that people don’t need to like my art i do it for me.
  • Courage to keep going courage to make mistakes courage to do what feels right courage to follow that gut instinct. Courage to follow your passion.

After this i felt a little stuck so decided to sew into a piece of paper something i have not done it years it was very meditative and enjoyed just free stitching and adding bits of paper not following a pattern why have i not done this in so long under the stitch piece says “you can” which is me telling myself you can do all those other words and I can do art work without having to plan it with having a photo i know i can do it with weaving so i can do it in other aspects of my artwork. stitching paint filling sponges was fun as each looks different like random flowers. 

The swirls just happened and so did the paint i just picked it up and used it looking back at it kind of looks like ferns that i have been Eco printing with recently and watching them on my walks curl up and die again.


Do i like this art piece as a whole no it’s messy cluttered the colours don’t really go it’s very random. But i enjoyed each process of each step I was not thinking about a picture i just made it using the materials i had the two things i enjoyed most was tearing the paper and sewing into the paper and punching holes in the paper.


Ester background is she was a teacher for art and math and always felt there was more to offer she volunteered for some mental health charities and had a taster session of art therapy which is when she had he light bulb moment and decided to pursue a career in art therapy and some time after that started her training in QUB.

Esters background of working as an art therapist was for projects in inner city Dublin see a few article from that area:-




So Ester has worked with kids that have been affected in many different ways through the impact of their family situation and the environment around them. The have experienced trauma and neglect in many different ways.

Ester shared with us a few different case studies

  • 7 year old girl who acted very loud loved acting theaters but was very anxious and nervous in the therapy room and used to paint in the corner away from people. Ester had to build trust with her and gently move her slowly from that space she felt safe in to feeling safe in the whole space she usual made her art using paint and it was a theater show through the session the little girl developed in confidence her body language opened at the end of the sessions she had grown in so much confidence that she joined a dance class.


  • 5 year old boy always said he was sick but had a big personality he was bright and had a good sense of humor but he was afraid of sudden noises would become nervous cover his ears and was terrified Ester witnessed this when the fire alarm went off. He fully engaged in art making with any material offered one day he asked to paint stood over the paper and splashed paint on and said it was a Jackson Pollock.


  • A 12 year old boy lives in homeless accommodation and his baby sister died 7 months before coming to art therapy he was not good at attending school was very streetwise  very intelligent but feral in how he lived. He was very scattered and not really showing up at the start of the sessions but as time went on started to attend regularly. He moved around the room like a butterfly moving from one thing to the next always scanning the room to see what he could get.  One day he asked if he could make something for his sisters grave they worked together and choose wood and acrylic paint as it would be outside he painted her name on it while singing what sounded like sounds you would hear at a funeral it was very moving piece of work. In later sessions said that he new the person that had killed someone on the news one day he asked to do a painting he mixed all his paints, painted onto a canvas saying i’m an artist then he stabbed the canvas with the brush and gave it to ester as a gift he never came back after that.


  • An 8 year old boy ADHA was like a hurricane had a very short attention span his parents used to meet on the banks of the canal they were both alcoholics they had 2 children and now lived in a basement flat with no windows if the children were not at school they were kept locked in flat. Supports in place to help parents manage their addiction. The room was in chaos at the start it took a long time to settle him so that art could even be made but eventually as the session went by he settled a little he started to paint he done everything with his hand mixed huge amounts of paint he started to enjoy coming he was given freedom but still maintain boundaries when he was settled asked to draw  the space was safe for him when he drew he made images of his family in the form of creatures there was a strong link that could be seen with his family make up and his work. When he played it was very aggressive when using hand puppets would throw them across the room. One day Ester took a chance and let him do woodwork like he had seen other boys do this worked very well as he felt like one of the lads out of the woodwork one day he made a tombstone with his name on it with RIP on it Ester did not jump on him to find out the meaning as he had just expressed himself and did not want to scare him off. What do you do there you could interpret this in many different ways is he having suicidal thoughts, does he want to die, was he told he would be killed. One day he asked if he could be taught how to knit when he start the tension in his hands could be felt there was a lot of knots and tangles  a lot of frustration and eventually one day he done a few stitches by himself he started to make scarfs for his puppy. This was an achievement for him he succeed in something this gave him confidence and pleasure. at the end of his sessions knitting needles and yarn where given to his mother this was a small development but was a huge step for the boy and a lovely end to the sessions.

Each person in the case studies found a way to express themselves. what you do in the therapy room will be carried in memories that will stay with that person for the rest of their lives you are starting something that they could carry on.

Things i need to remember in my placement “TRUST THE PROCESS” and that making art can carry you through.

Creating a safe space is about;-

  • Being reliable.
  • Not to have distributions during the session.
  • Building trust.
  • Maintain boundaries.
  • Behaving responsibly.
  • Trusting relationship.


  • Different normal for people.
  • Different culture.
  • May not speak English.
  • Religion.
  • Sexuality.
  • Age.

When you get a client please remember its need to know basis you just need the keep thing and ask yourself why do they need art therapy?

Things that came up attachment and loss

Starting and endings.

How do you settle a person.

How do you make and safe space and maintain boundaries.

What do you do it something alarming is said or done?

What do you do in these situations?

  • Where is a risk you need to report it to you supervisor.
  • You need to reflect on how you dealt with it as if you show body language of a sigh rolled eyes sudden moving backwards puts people off.
  • You need to bring it you your supervision?
  • You need to bring it to your personal therapist if it affects you?
  • How vulnerable are they?

Observation is also keep how is the person breathing what are they doing what is there body language saying.

What is in common all the case studies where different but the all found a way through art to express themselves.

Always work in a trauma informed way we are only beginning and are not expected to delve deep into people emotions.

Carol said “Art therapy is like swimming you can snorkel at the top and look down or you can dive down into the dept of art therapy you need to learn where that is you may think you are at the bottom with someone and it’s just a ledge if we are down deep we need to bring the person back up to the top without giving them the bends.”

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