Hot on the heels of Mental Health Awareness Week comes Creativity and Wellbeing Week. Alex Day, Youth Engagement Officer for Norfolk Museums Service, has designed an activity booklet to accompany the week and explains how art and creativity can put us on the right path to wellbeing
How do you find peace of mind? Near my house is a Victorian cemetery that is wild with flora and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see a muntjac deer nibbling discreetly under a canopy of leaves. For a quick shot of endorphins, I wander in and let scarpering squirrels lift my spirits. I’m not the only one who’s hooked on a good stroll. A recent study by the Mental Health Foundation has found the primary coping strategy for stress, anxiety and poor mental health is taking a walk. The second most popular strategy is visiting a green space.
Since April 2020, the acts of walking and paying attention to the pageantry of nature have proved reliable sources of good feeling. International flights may be restricted, a festival may be postponed, and your favourite boozer may close its doors but (for now) birds, bees and somewhere to walk are never too far away. David Hockney, a man no stranger to observation, has noticed this too and titled his new book: Spring Cannot Be Cancelled.
This month is host to two national campaigns, Mental Health Awareness Week and now Creativity and Wellbeing Week (May 17-23, 2021), that identify different ways to keep ourselves content and our heads happy. Mental Health Awareness Week, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, took ‘nature’ as its theme and invited you to find peace and quiet in a green or blue space, pay it some attention and hopefully, sense your mental health prosper. The week reminded us to embrace that dependable companions of walks and nature.Hot on its heels is Creativity and Wellbeing Week, a national festival that promotes art and creativity as a path to wellbeing. Norfolk County Council has supported the celebrations with a diverse programme of events ranging from ‘mindful collage’ to choral singing; from museum exhibitions to a show from a puppet theatre. We are reminded that as well as a leafy walk and tending to house plants, creativity and culture has a role to play in supporting our health and wellbeing.
For Creativity and Wellbeing Week, Norfolk Museums Service and ‘Kick the Dust’, a National Lottery Heritage Fund-supported programme, have printed and distributed an activity booklet for target groups around the county, including young carers. The activity is called ‘Explore and Draw!’ and invites you to ‘take it on a walk and draw what you discover’. There are 16 pages which include prompts such as ‘find and draw something yellow’; ‘draw a statue on the plinth’ and ‘draw whatever you like and gift it to someone’.
People sometimes tell me ‘I can’t draw’ and, thinking back to the pain-staking renderings I undertook and endured during secondary school art lessons, I can see how this thought might emerge. One art lesson we were tasked with drawing a sphere. It had a point of light near the top and heavy shadow behind it and I spent the lesson carefully layering a gradient of greys with the side of a HB pencil until, eventually, I ended up with a convincing replica.
Drawing doesn’t have to be so technical and often it is more fun to draw however you like, mindlessly and with a sense of freedom. ‘Explore and Draw!’ doesn’t require you to make a realistic drawing, only to take inspiration from what you see. There is no right or wrong way to draw, and drawings can be made quickly or slowly and with whatever materials you have to hand (a biro does the job just fine). You don’t need to have any experience to make a drawing. Drawing is for everyone.
Next time you take a stroll, take some plain paper and something to draw with and choose one of many unfurling wonders on display as your subject. You will notice things like light, shade and shape – things not usually important so we don’t think about them. In walking, observing our ever-changing green spaces and getting stuck into a creative pursuit, we’ll be welling up with wellbeing and engaged with (reliable) things that can make us happy.
For more information on Kick the Dust projects, please email email@example.com