Gill South: Art for heart's sake

By Gill South

Gill South finds reasons to be cheerful after an afternoon spent getting to the art of things.

Gill South's artistic endeavours during teen years saw her trying to draw Thelwell ponies (as above), 'with limited success'. Photo / Supplied
Gill South's artistic endeavours during teen years saw her trying to draw Thelwell ponies (as above), 'with limited success'. Photo / Supplied

I've given up this Sunday afternoon to participate in a Creativity for Well-Being Workshop with art therapist Janet McLeod, held at the Railway Street Studios in Newmarket.

And on this blowy, rainy afternoon, we are all cosy in the upstairs room with space for about 12 of us around a big cluster of tables.

Janet knows how to create a warm, inviting atmosphere, she puts sweeties into bowls - the jubes are right in front of me - and we make steaming hot cups of tea in the gallery's kitchen with a wonderful array of pottery mugs to choose from. Janet has brought home made fruit muffins for afternoon tea. Heaven.

Our theme for this session is gratitude - Janet wants us to think about things we might be grateful for. Janet's research shows that developing an attitude of gratitude can help to increase well being, promotes positive reminiscence, improves sleep and coping strategies.

Not sure how grateful I'm feeling. I've put our house on the market rather suddenly and gratitude is not really in my head.

It's more about keeping my house tidy with two boys doing their darndest to undo my efforts.

The therapist asks us to draw a picture based on an experience we have had at any time in our life when we felt particularly grateful. My tragic drawing is inspired by my mother's recent birthday, a gorgeous reunion of her friends and our family, a fab evening.

I notice that my fellow participants are pretty hot stuff on the art front. I, in my early teens, toiled for hours to draw Thelwell ponies with limited success.

I was okay at the heads but the hind quarters and the necks were never quite right.

Of the women in my group, there are quite a few who were very artistic in their youth but who took sensible jobs, and they are obviously LOVING this opportunity to wallow in art.

Our next task is to write a card or a letter or scroll to ourselves. We have to reflect on someone we would like to thank, anyone who has had a positive influence on us.

I decide that no one will thank me for one of my artistic efforts, so I make a card for myself. Janet has a plethora of scrolls, paints, pens, stamps, crayons, to help with the task. I decide to assemble. This includes some funky black circles on a white background cut out from a magazine, a lovely wee art card made by Janet with the words, Embrace, Wholehearted, Life, on it.

Inside my card I put cut outs of words which say: I am: humour, optimistic, whole-hearted, (a great made up word) "enoughness" , persistence, new way, (No) patience, (never) ordinary, proactive, strength, (unlikely to be) calm, vision, uplifting, hopeful, explore and resilience.

I love my card, I think I could hand it to someone who hadn't met me before and they would have a fair flavour of me. My feelings of gratitude have grown by the end of the session, and it's the little things that do it. I decide to walk home, a good 4km or so, but am so crippled with blisters halfway there and chilled, I am extremely grateful for the bus that appears to save me.

Then when I get home to my cosy house with gas central heating, I warm up some homemade soup. Bliss. Don't know why I was thinking of selling my house.

Next week:

I speak to omega-3 fatty acids expert Dr Alex Richardson about my fish-eating habits and she puts me right on all manner of things.

- NZ Herald

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