To sum it all up

Art, Art Therapy, Communication, Design, Edvard Munch, Expressionism, Grayson Perry, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Van Gogh, Vincent Van Gogh, Visual Culture

Having finished writing my dissertation I wanted to bring it altogether in my last blog.

Starting with Grayson Perry, he is a very flamboyant character who is not only known for his art but for being a transvestite. He actually discovered women’s clothing before he discovered art, which he now sometimes combines the two. Perry’s work is very cleverly thought out and he always researches in depth. When I visited his exhibition, THE MOST POPULAR ART EXHIBITION EVER! there were a few pieces that really struck me and I felt the emotion stream through. One of these pieces being Death of a Working Hero. From enduring neglect throughout his childhood from both his father and mother at various times Perry has suffered psychologically,  on the contrary this has not affected Perrys’ creativity, one quote that I really like of Perry’s is a metaphor for therapy, he says that it is like a tool-shed where someone has come along and tidied the tools up, in other words saying that the issues are still there however a therapist has helped you sort them out.

Unlike Edvard Munch who relied on his poor mental health as he believed it enhanced the creativity of his art therefore refused to have help with his psychological problems. Munch was always exposed to madness, sickness and death, having seen his mother die from tuberculosis when he was just five years old then his favourite sister nine years later of the same illness, it was no wander why Munch suffered with mental health issues. However he did live to eighty and during his life became a famous artist, in fact he was one of the first impressionist artists. Munch’s art seemed very daring during the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century and I can see why, looking at one of his most famous pieces, The Scream, really was ‘out there’ back then, its definitely something a lot of people can relate to.

Then Vincent Van Gogh, as I was researching this artist I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him? He had to live up to his deceased older brothers name which must have been hard, especially as a young child to see understand. Then to fail at almost every job you were given, even Van Gogh’s parents gave him a hard time. Vincent found it hard to fit in no matter where he was, however his younger brother Theo Van Gogh believed in him and supported him financially throughout his adult life. Van Gogh lived a short life, tragically ending when he was thirty seven years old, after supposedly shooting himself. He was never famous for his art until after his death, although people knew of him because of his strange behaviour for example when he cut of one of his own ears and handed it to a prostitute as though it were a gift. He was known to have psychological issues, often admitting himself to hospitals in hope of recovery. Although Van Gogh was never famous during his life, he painted all day every day, producing over 2000 artworks from sketches to oil paintings some of which now sell for millions of pounds.

I included art therapy as I wanted to talk about the healing side of art and if the previous artists used art as a form of self therapy. Explaining how general art is different to that in a therapeutic setting, I came to the conclusion that expressing creativity is good for well-being, however it may not be a cure it can reduce illnesses such as depression and anxiety. I do believe that many artists including Perry, Van Gogh and Munch used their creative skills to escape from their realities at some point if not all their lives.

Hope you enjoyed it!


An introduction to Vincent Van Gogh

Art, Art Culture, Communication, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Van Gogh, Vincent Van Gogh, Visual Culture

Vincent Van Gogh was an unknown painter throughout his life, financially supported by his younger brother Theo Van Gogh. Born March 30 1853, exactly a year after his older brother who was stillborn also named Vincent. Born in the Netherlands Van Gogh travelled to France where he pursued his painting career in which only made him famous after his tragic death, which is thought to have been suicide having shot himself. He produced over 2,100 pieces of artwork over the ten years of his painting life, which includes around 860 oil paintings and a further 1,300 sketches, watercolours and drawings, some of which are now within the worlds most expensive artworks.

Throughout Van Gogh’s life it is evident he suffered with a psychological illness, as we all know he was famous for cutting off his own ear and giving it to a prostitute telling her to look after it carefully. You may have seen his self portrait with a bandage wrapped round his head, ‘Self Portrait with a Bandaged Ear’.



This is quite a chilling painting, it really captures Van Gogh’s suffering, with the sharpness of his eyes and the thick coat implies agony and the pain he is enduring both physically and psychologically.

Art helped Van Gogh deal with his problems and illnesses however, sometimes life got a bit all too much for him, he found himself bickering with other artists and often rejected by women, he felt guilty for being his brothers burden and frequently felt worthless, art seemed to keep him busy and his mind occupied, emotionally stable you could say.

Although when it all got too much Van Gogh retreated to an asylum to get better, In 1890 Dr Gachet took Van Gogh as one of his patients, he believed art would help Vincents recovery however July that year Van Gogh tragically died in his bed at the Inn.

In order to broaden my research I watched ‘Loving Vincent’, It is an animated film based on a year after the death of Vincent Van Gogh, and the entire film was hand painted by a team of over 100 artists, it is cleverly done and really interesting as the storyline is of Van Gogh’s postman’s son, Armand, who is sent to deliver a letter from Vincent to his Brother Theo, along the way, Armand tries to unveil the truth of Vincents death. I think it is a great movie to watch, however I am unsure how reliable the facts are within the story, therefore I will reference carefully if ever I use a quote from ‘Loving Vincent’.

Biography (2017) Vincent Van Gogh Biography. Available at: (Accessed: 6 February 2018).
Vincent Van Gogh (1889) Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear [Oil on canvas]. Available at: (Accessed: 6 February 2018).
Loving Vincent (2018) Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman [Film] UK, Altitude film distribution

Chapter one

Art, Art Culture, Art Therapy, Communication, Design, Expressionism, Grayson Perry, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Symbolism, Visual Culture

I am starting to write my dissertation in which I’m not starting from the beginning but at chapter one, it is all about Grayson Perry and his artwork, talking mostly about the emotions of the pieces I have researched. I am still researching so for now I plan on just writing up everything I found out then once I have all my research I will then edit the dissertation.

So far in chapter one I have covered Grayson Perrys childhood and how he used Alan Measles internal world as a form of escapism from the harsh reality he endured as a child. Perry still refers to Alan Measles in his artwork today which is a constant reminder of that little boy who felt trapped its almost like a comfort blanket, its familiar for Grayson with such an unsettled childhood, Alan Measles seemed to be the only stable thing Grayson had?

I have written about some of his artwork he made during the documentary series he made call All Man. The series was about the mental health of men and how the pressures of being masculine had on the various men within Grayson research. The first one I have touched upon is Death of a Working Hero, this piece is a tapestry which I felt was packed with emotion.

Pre-press GP584_Death of a Working Hero_2016 - Email.jpg


A lot of men feel the need to provide and protect so in order for this they must be tough, however the tapestry shows a small boy clutching a teddy bear which could represent the child in every man who is afraid of appearing sensitive and weak. That little boy is afraid of being ridiculed and told to act a certain way in order to be accepted in society.

The other piece I have been looking at is Shadow Boxing, a vase that conveys the brutality of mental health in men and the silent suffering they endure just to appear masculine.


(Own photo, taken from the book: the most popular art exhibition ever Grayson Perry)

It has a stereotypical take on the laddish culture of men and the expectations expected of them. I feel as though this one is a metaphor of the way depression can be described, dark ghostly figure/ shadow like.


More on Grayson Perry

Art, Art Culture, Art Therapy, Communication, Design, Expressionism, Grayson Perry, Mental Health, Symbolism, Visual Culture

So as I’ve been researching the artist, Grayson Perry, I watched many of his documentaries such as All Man and Who are you, Both series have been very interesting to see how Perry collects research and how he interprets what he finds into artwork. From watching these programmes Emotions have been at the base of each one in which Grayson Perry captures those emotions and reflects them back from his artwork.

However I have also been reading the book his friend Wendy Jones wrote: Grayson Perry Portrait of the artist as a young girl, this book is packed with so much emotion and stories of the artists life. It reveals the story of Alan Measles and why he is so important to Perrys life and his artwork. The detail of Perrys imagination is so interesting. This book has given me a true insight to the Artist and has enabled me to make connections between his childhood and the art he creates today. Reading the book has given me a much richer quality of research and understanding of Grayson Perry himself and his Art I will be looking at throughout my dissertation.

The mental health side of this book I think niggles down to the amount of neglect I discovered Grayson Perry went through as a child, constant set backs and battles to be accepted for being himself have all had an affect on him psychologically in which he had therapy for. His detailed imagination as a child was a form of escapism from the reality he had to face every day, I believe Perry uses art these days to share his imagination with other people and make people understand what he went through and to prove that no one should be treated differently for being who they are.

I am finding Grayson Perry very interesting, he is a very clever man with a great deal of knowledge and understanding of his topics which I think reflects from his artwork, the great depth and symbols he includes to make an impact on the people looking at his art. Grayson ensures every piece he creates means something and will have an impact on people whether its a positive or negative impact, the emotional connections will always show through Perrys work.

A brief Introduction to Grayson Perry

Art, Art Culture, Art Therapy, Communication, Expressionism, Grayson Perry, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Symbolism, Uncategorized, Visual Culture

So after visiting Grayson Perry’s art exhibition – THE MOST POPULAR ART EXHIBITION EVER! Back in November I decided I wanted to include Perry and some of the artwork that stood out to me at the exhibition in my dissertation, after all Perry is very emotionally connected to his artwork, he only produces work that relates to something he feels passionate about.

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I have chosen to use the Reclining Artist print and Animal Spirit as these had made an impact on my when I saw them up close, whether it was the process/techniques Perry used to produce them and the boldness of the lines that drew me in, I felt they both had a strong message/story to tell. Grayson Perry uses many symbols within all his artwork that relate to the goings on in the world around him, provoking discussions about each part of his artworks.

So who is Grayson Perry you ask?

Grayson Perry is a contemporary artist born in Chelmsford, Essex in 1960, usually described with words such as Provocative, Oddity, Contemporary and Flamboyant just to name a few. Perry is very open about his Transvestite persona, Claire. Perry tends to dress as Claire and incorporates her into his artwork he started cross-dressing at the age of 12. Covering gender topics in his artwork is something obviously close to Perry’s heart, I feel this through looking at Perrys’ Reclining Artist piece. Grayson Perry has used pottery, tapestries, print and sculpture to express himself through art and since the early 1980’s he has been exhibiting his work around the world.

Perry had a traumatic childhood with an abusive stepfather, which he has portrayed in some of his work. Could this be the reason behind Claire? throughout my research I intend to answer this question and link it to the emotion behind his work and if it is art itself. Perry also features ‘Alan Measles’, his childhood teddy bear in his artwork as well which is another link to the emotion he feels/felt after making the teddy his father figure – You can definitely tell Perry had an imagination.

In an online article, Grayson Perry: ‘I felt I might fail as a parent if I didn’t get help’ written by Michael Odell, Perry explains how he feared failing as a parent to his only daughter Florence. He didn’t want to repeat his childhood, nor did he want it to affect his relationship with his daughter so he knew he needed therapy to be the best father he could.


Art Therapy

Art, Art Therapy, Communication, Essay Writing, Expressionism, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Symbolism, Visual Culture

‘Art as Therapy: An Introduction To The Use Of  Art As A Therapeutic Technique’

So after reading up on Art Therapy I would like to share what I have found. As I was reading the introduction of the book, Art as therapy: An Introduction To The Use Of  Art As A Therapeutic Technique (edited by Tessa Dalley) I found out things I didn’t really think about before. I simply thought that Art Therapy was a patient of trauma or mental illness creating art as a form of healing while a therapist analysed their work. In a way I guess my assumption is correct however I didn’t realise how in-depth it went and how relatively new it is to the UK, as the term ‘Art Therapy’ was only introduced to Britain  in the 1940s, states Peter Fuller (1984).




Art has been around for just as long as us humans, it has been used in many forms such as expression, protest, political, historical and social contexts it is made with meaning in some way or another. In other words the artist behind the work is communicating through the use of imagery or symbols, there is a purpose to the art. In art the Art is important, however, it can be relaxing, therapeutic or satisfying to the artist no matter what the subject may be.


The purpose of therapy is healing, to change/correct or treat the disorder. Therefore Art therapy isn’t to produce a “good painting” like you would for art alone,  the person and the process are most important to art therapy, as the work being produced is a solid communicator of valuable information of how the patient is feeling. The activity of art provides the therapist with a tangible source to analyse and monitor over time to see the progression of the patients wellbeing if any.

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Art is a form of communication it conveys a story or a meaning, however in therapy, art is used to communicate feelings, a form of personal expression. For those who cannot verbally communicate their thoughts or feelings, art is used using colour and/or symbols. For example a comment from a patient within the book said about painting black silhouettes to avoid acknowledging the despair and anger they felt in themselves, they also stated they use only three colours of which represent worthlessness, anger and sometimes hope. These are just some indicators and symbols therapists analyse to gain an understanding of patients, paintings can be used as records to evaluate the progress of a patients wellbeing as they are monitored over time. For example this quote from Tessa Dalley (1984) “Symbolising feelings and experiences in images can be a more powerful means of expression and communication than verbal description.” This is suggesting that art can be more effective as a communicator than that of words, as they say a “picture says a thousand words” this is true for many psychological cases.


Tessa Dalley. (1984) Art as Therapy: An Introduction to the use of Art as A therapeutic Technique. Tavistock: Tavistock Publications.
Hannah Whitman. (2008) I can’t. Available at: (Accessed: 13 January 2018)
Sara Roizen. (2010) Woman in Yellow. Available at: (Accessed: 13 January 2018)

How is mental health expressed through art?

Art, Design, Mental Health, Visual Culture

I’d like to gather research on how mental illnesses can be expressed through art and how it helps with mental illness.

As someone who has used art/painting in the past to express my illness and to find that not only was I creating art that could potentially help other people understand how I was feeling or thinking I found every brush stroke therapeutic.

Ive been looking at various artists work about expressing mental illnesses and come across a range of interpretations, its interesting to see how people express their illnesses in so many different ways, and the time in which the artwork was created.


This artwork (The Scream, 1893) by Edvard Munch, is a symbol of his abnormal state of mind. Expressing distortion and depersonalisation which suggests terror and possible suffering if this piece is thought to be an autobiography piece.

In comparison to a much more modern piece by Sebastian Eriksson.

What Depression Looks Like in Art - Digital Art Mix


This piece obviously being of a similar subject, however I find this piece to be more direct and not just a symbol but it convey the struggles of mental illness a lot more than Munch’s, Scream, maybe this is because the awareness of mental health these days is much more than back in Munch’s day?

If art had helped you with your illness please leave a comment as this will help me with my research greatly.