Surviving the Pandemic with Art Therapy

The Art Therapy Agency presents an online exhibition of artworks by therapists and clients. Here we share some of their reflections on the pandemic and thoughts about how making art has helped them to get through this difficult time.

01. How to Know about the Virus

Saveria Cristofari and Indira 

Mixed media (pages from a book)

This is the testimonial of a 6yr old child who lives in Singapore. It’s the time of Covid. She questions what is this virus and starts to draw. Her mother is intrigued. They investigate and get caught up in the fun of telling stories. It is a narrative created by mother and child who face uncertainty; it is a therapeutic response to cope with something we can’t control, it is a child’s world. 

Saveria Cristofari is the mother of the child, and a psychotherapist and artist. She believes that if we are able to be creative and playful, we can cope with a lot more than we think. This book is a genuine invitation to inspire adults and children to be creative and to express their feelings. To order a copy of the book contact: saveriacristo@yahoo.com

02. Floral Tribute

In Memory of Corinne Templer

Mixed media with dried flowers

I lost my mum last year after she caught Covid whilst in hospital. Due to lockdown only a few people were allowed to come to the funeral. It was especially hard not being able to invite all her family and friends to come together to grieve and celebrate her life. After the funeral I kept the flowers and pressed and dried them. An art therapist suggested I use these flowers in an artwork. This is the picture I created in memory of my Mum.

03. Don’t look

Katherine Heritage

Collage. Black and white photocopies on paper

As we view the trauma of the pandemic in real time, it’s hard not to see the wealth divisions in society that are widening. Perhaps for some it’s just too hard to bear thinking about those who have risked their lives for the minimum wage or less.

04. Those Damned Bird Feeders

Anon

Poster paint on paper

As a therapist during lockdown I was coping with my own anxiety and frustrations as well as those of my clients. Working from home, seeing only a few people, I felt trapped. I started to resent the noises coming from my next door neighbours. Even small things like their garden bird feeder became a huge irritation. I could see that this was irrational and that I was projecting all of my anger and frustration towards them.  

This image depicts my neighbours being attacked and taken away by the birds they were feeding. The image is like a ‘scapegoat’  for my unpalatable feelings. It felt cathartic to express my anger. Afterwards I destroyed the image… an important part of the process, enabling the feelings to be released. 

05. ‘Realigning the landscape’

Marion Major

Inks and thread on handmade paper

Looking down on the landscape and feelings of being up in the air, Covid divides us.

The (lack of) realigning in the image was both frustrating and beautiful at the same time – like scars on our body, even when wounds are healed, it shows where we have been.

06. Sketching nature (1 of 3)

Carol Ross

Pastels on paper

During lockdown, the only place I wanted to be was somewhere green and I spent as much time as I could at Hampstead Heath or Waterlow Park in North London. During that time, I did a number of pastel sketches most of which were of trees and plants from photos I took there. Being in nature and sketching kept me sane.

07. Sketching nature (2 of 3)

Carol Ross

Pastels on paper

 

08. Sketching nature (3 of 3)

Carol Ross

Pastels on paper

 

09. Connections

Anne Stegmann

Mixed media – Woodys, inks, pencil, oil pastel, black felt tip, thread and wool

The pandemic overwhelmed me when life came to a standstill. Anxiety followed, then acceptance.  Art Therapy provided an outlet for my emotions. ‘Connections’ resembles a patchwork; some pieces firmly bonded, some detached, reflective of my life. I feel stronger, enriched and grateful for the nourishing connections that sustain me.

10. Peak

Anon

Mixed Media Collage

During the lockdown I felt so trapped and frustrated. I could not go to college or see my friends and I was stuck at home with my family.

Art therapy gave me an outlet to show my emotions. Just being able to get what was in my head out on paper made me feel a bit better.

11. Solitary

Anon 

Mixed Media Collage

This image expresses the loneliness I felt during lockdown. I took solace from walking in nature, especially by sea. The artwork is made out fragments of torn paper which seem to reflect the chaotic and disorganised nature of life having been ripped apart…

It feels as if I am trying to find a way to piece it all together again.

12. Inside I’m screaming

Anon

Mixed Media Collage

The lockdown was long and challenging. The things I took for granted were no longer available to me, which made me feel frustrated, angry and oppressed.

This image shows the part of me that felt helpless and fearful. Just being able to see the strength of my feelings made me realise how important self care was during this time. Acknowledging this helped to instigate some positive changes that made the lockdown more bearable

 

13. Letting go

Anon

Poster paints

I am a very organised and busy person. The lockdown brought some very unique challenges and I felt out of control at times which was stressful. Taking time to make art was a new thing to me. I really enjoyed being free to make this image, there was no rules and there was no judgement. It allowed me to let go of some control and just be in the moment.

14. AM/PM 2020 (6 of 89)

Vicky Lysons

Watercolour on paper

During first 8 months of the pandemic I used quick, automatic mark making, in the mornings and evenings, to externalise and capture feelings of flux and uncertainty, and to establish an emotionally grounding practice. In the vibrant colours and shapes that poured onto the paper I found respite, vitality, and flow.

15. No time to grieve

Anon

Mixed Media Collage

I was sad during the lockdown. I had lost a work colleague  to COVID and there seemed to be no time to reflect and grieve. There was a sense of just having to get on with life, despite losing people. This picture reflects the pain of grief. 

16. Spread your wings wide (portrait)

Hanna Leipold

Pen and Watercolours on Paper

17. Moved Stillness (abstract painting)

Hanna Leipold

Oil and Acrylics on Canvas

 18. Lockdown Dog

James Lenton

Pen & Ink, Photoshop

I am a visual artist and arts facilitator based in South London. I volunteer for the charity ARTBOX in my spare time. During the pandemic I founded a community arts’ initiative called ‘Draw Yourself’. By focusing on self portrait (hence the project’s name) we aim to look at how we can learn more about ourselves through mark making. This is a drawing from my sketchbook in pen & ink which I have then manipulated in Photoshop… creating a ‘blurred’ self portrait.

19. Eyes down

James Lenton

Pen & Ink, Photoshop

This is a drawing from my sketchbook which I have overlaid and recoloured… it’s open to interpretation. 

20. Sea Creatures

Anon

Clay and Poster Paint

The sea can be a dark and mysterious place. Sometimes it is dangerous and unpredictable. Yet beneath the surface you can find curious and wonderous things, although this often requires bravery, persistence and risk. The sea is a useful metaphor for my unconscious and the sea creatures represent the insight and self discoveries that lurk beneath the conscious mind.  I had no idea how this artwork would turn out, I just allowed myself the freedom to play and be curious about what bubbled up to the surface. 

21. Weathering the Storm

Anon

Poster Paint on paper

In the first few days of lockdown when we didn’t know what we were dealing with… everything felt terrifying. My anxiety levels went through the roof. This image seems to express some of the feelings I was going through. It was a confusing and stressful time. Making art was a release and helped me feel calmer.

22. ‘Lost’, ‘Layers’ and ‘Shells’
Anon
Digitally edited drawings and paintings

During the first Lockdown, I regularly made art with another person over Zoom. This helped me to feel connected and less socially isolated.  I also digitally edited art works I had created in the past and thought about how they resonated on an emotional level with my experiences during the Pandemic. Here are three of the artworks I created… Lost, Layers and Shells.

23. Animation

Anon

Paper, paint, tissue paper, paintbox and brush

Making art helped me through the pandemic, as it always has helped in difficult times. Engaging with the familiar essence of the materials helped to keep anxiety at bay and stay grounded. The colourful round objects in my short animation were inspired by media representations of the virus cells.