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Creativity, young people and mental health

As a teacher of creativity it was really disheartening this week to hear in the news that humanities degrees in Australia are set to double in cost over the next few years. The (total nonsense) logic is that it will encourage young people to consider more vocational subjects. But of course it will only disadvantage those that can’t afford to pay for more expensive courses and so the arts, society and the country will be utterly deprived of some of the most brilliant minds available. The education system has started recognising that teaching children through creative thinking develops the laterally thinking strategies that are desperately needed in a world that is changing so rapidly. If you’ve never had the treat of listening to Ken Robinson talking about schools and creativity check it out here.

Nurturing creativity

Here in Australia we’re getting used to the idea of going back to school and work. During lockdown we’ve been at home with three teenagers. I can’t tell you how much painting, drawing and sewing has been going on around here. The kids have grown up around drawing and painting like its as natural as breathing and it has helped enormously during this time. But I don’t want to paint a false picture (excuse the pun) of some Brady Bunch family here. We argue as much as the next family and believe me we’ve been through our share of difficulties with regard to mental health. And although creative activity may seem trivial and silly to some people it’s like a backbone sometimes. It can been an escape or mendative, for pure enjoyment or for professional fulfillment. We certainly can’t do without it.

Mental Health

Whether it’s music, sewing, drawing and painting or dramatic arts I really believe that creative activity is valuable to our mental health, but particularly for young people. I’ve taught art in many ways for many years and seeing the satisfaction and sense of pride that young people get out of creativity is beautiful. Depriving young people the opportunity to pursue what they love because the course is too expensive is appalling and so wrong.

Here are a couple of really excellent resources for young people with regard to mental health.

Headspace (Australia)

The Black Dog Institute (Australia)

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Happy Easter

Stay home, stay safe

This time next year

With any luck I’ll be able to look at this picture and remember this crazy time as a distant memory. A time when life was really odd but it’s ok again now. It’s not really looking likely at this stage though. But it is Easter! There’s chocolate and we’re all together and healthy.

Looking back

Having us all together all the time does make me look back on a time when I was at home with the kids a lot. My mum told me when I had my first baby to make sure I didn’t give up on my creativity. She might say I took that a bit too seriously. But the really great thing now is that all my children draw and paint to get through it all. I found these two drawings from 12 years ago when the kids were 2, 4 and 7. I’m not sure who drew them but they say a lot. I kept this ‘I’m sorry’ one on the fridge for ages to remind me not to shame the kids and make them feel this way. I wish I was a perfect mother, but let’s face it, who is? Someone who’s not telling the truth. This other drawing shows me on the phone. The blobby shape is a speech bubble. From my persepctive it shows I’m desperately trying contact the outside world but the little child hanging onto me would have a different perspective.

Easter Bunnies

Looking back on old pictures makes me realise there’s been a lot of projects featuring rabbits over the years. I’d forgotten all about this gorgeous quilted rabbit. I think it went to Hong Kong with a quilt for a new baby.

Creative Kids

A few weeks ago I put together a list of really great sites with a wealth of ideas and activities for kids. Check it out here.

New book on the way

This week I’ve been working on Naomi Hunter‘s new book. If you know her first picture book you’ll know that she doesn’t shy away from tackling the big issues. This one is about parenting and depression. Which sounds very sad, but it’s a book full of hope. It’s beautifully written and I really hope the pictures do it justice.

Depression and mental health are uncomfortable issues to discuss in relation to parenting. My oldest is nearly 15, so I’ve been to many playgroup sessions week after week and school mothers nights out. Predictably there’s always a lot of talk about mile-stones and achievements. The one thing you can count on not hearing is ‘Do you know what? I’m not having such a great time of things’. Parents can’t talk about not coping. It would be like admitting failure. And when you live in a gorgeous suburb by the sea, with a nice house, good jobs and healthy children….well failing to be anything but joyful and grateful is frankly not on!

Picture books often tackle the big issues. Here are some of my favourites:

Refugees and migration:

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Memory loss and Altzeimers disease:

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas

War:

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood

Grief and Loss:

Badgers Parting Gifts by Susan Varley

Anxiety in children:

Go Away Worry Thoughts by Nicky Johnson

Did I mention I’m enjoying doing these pop-ups?

Still keeping on track with these pop-ups for the 52 Week Illustration Challenge. So far I haven’t managed to scalpel into any of my fingers. Anyone who knows me well will know that that’s pretty good going!

This one is ‘Portrait’ I used to do a lot of portraiture and sold quite a few of pastel paintings of my eldest daughter. She gets fairly bored with sitting for me.

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Here’s the first painting I ever did of her. Wow, that was a long time ago!where-does-she-go-01

Book on the Telly!!

Last year I illustrated a book named ‘A Secret Safe to Tell’. I must admit it was a confronting a difficult book to illustrate but it felt like the right thing to do. Since the book was published earlier this year I have had the pleasure of getting to know …