‘Slopping paint about or bashing clay can be very cathartic’

Cork-based artist and art therapist Richard Day shares advice with MARY ROSE McCARTHY on how how we can navigate these strange times
‘Slopping paint about or bashing clay can be very cathartic’
Richard Day, Art Therapist.

RICHARD Day, who now lives near Bandon, grew up in England. He studied fine art at university and after graduating, worked with community groups making art.

This involved, among other things, projects in special needs schools. Often his work collaborated with other artist such as a dancers.

At this time, he did a lot of multimedia projects, developing educational materials for special needs about raising awareness of HIV/Aids. This led to work with disability organisations developing arts programmes. An example being bringing young disabled adults on supper programmes.

He developed out-of-school learning programmes for people with a variety of learning needs.

Richard’s wife is from County Mayo. When their daughter reached secondary school age they made the decision to move to West Cork. Having been involved in charitable work Richard felt that art therapy merged the art side at the social support role. He had always been aware of art therapy and this felt a natural progression of what he had been doing.

Richard said: “The next logical step was to return to college and attain a Masters in Art Therapy which I undertook in Cork.”

He got opportunities of working with Community Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), in schools, in community hospitals with older people, and worked at the Mercy Hospital Psychiatric Unit.

“During this time, I began building up a private practice,” he said.

Work by Richard Day, Art Therapist.
Work by Richard Day, Art Therapist.

In the summer of 2018, Richard approached Grey Heron Gallery in Bandon who have a large upstairs space. This increased space allowed him the opportunity to bring all his works over from London.

Richard practises as an artist and sells his work through his website and online. Recent exhibitions include Doswell Gallery in Rosscarbery and Chalk & Easel in Ballinspittle, before Covid-19 hit.

Richard said: “It is a difficult time living with this Covid-19 crisis. There are many triggers to create anxiety wondering, what will be the next unpredictable event. It’s important to strive for some kind of balance in life on a daily basis.”

He says there are three things we can aim for every day: “Something that brings you pleasure. Something that gives you a sense of achievement. Something that helps maintain a sense of closeness and connection. This is especially important for those who now find themselves working remotely and miss the interaction of colleagues.”

He adds: “It is very easy to be overwhelmed by bad news. Try to set limits on the kind of consumption of news, aim to stay informed from reliable sources, but step back at other times and take a break from social media. Stay healthy to avoid contracting any illness — a good diet, exercise, sleep, and meditation also helps.

“If you’re anxious by nature, try to be self-compassionate and meditation can be helpful in achieving that. The pandemic is making us take a step back from the pressure to achieve. It allows us time to reflect, but avoid completely internalising.

“There is an opportunity here to think about what really matters, what’s really important.

“Creativity can be a pleasurable activity.”

Work by Richard Day.
Work by Richard Day.

Richard stresses that you don’t need to be an artist to come to art therapy. It is not about the quality of the work made, it is about having a sense of achievement.

The making of art is a process that helps to communicate. An image can carry many meanings at the same time. Art can give something a different slant that comes out in talking about the art. He says: “Slopping paint about or bashing clay can be very cathartic.”

Children’s drawings develop in different ways, beginning with scribbles, and then the scribbles begin to represent something.

From the age of eight or nine, children attempt to represent the world they see, by teenage years they begin to concentrate on the skills required to create art. All of these have opportunities for the therapist to work with.

Richard says: “With young children, I often use sand trays and storytelling. I sometimes work with children as young as four and attend at Barnados children’s bereavement services at Mahon.

“Art is great for young children to communicate their feelings and what’s going on for them. For young children who find it difficult to verbalise, art helps them work things out, especially when combined with play.”

Richard works with all ages. He says all people can get stuck in their lives and art can help put them back in touch with creative flow. This flow helps ride the changes in the world. Often, people are stuck in negative patterns of behaviours, art can help find a way out of that.

People come to Richard with a wide range of issues, among them bereavement, disability, health conditions and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. He says: “I work closely with people on the autistic spectrum who may have additional needs and the associated anxiety that comes with that.”

Richard works in different ways. Art brings a third element to the therapeutic relationship and also helps to build the relationship.

Working with art and images can also reduce the pressure of ‘having to talk’. A discussion can ensue about what an image brings up for a client. Sometimes a client chooses an image to work with, others prefer that Richard suggest a theme to get them started.

Covid-19 influences how we all work, including art therapists.

Richard says: “During this crisis, I will offer online video support for clients and I also want to offer online voluntary support sessions for HSE workers affected by the pandemic. Zoom is the recommended platform for therapists.”

You can contact Richard at wwwricharddayarttherapist.com or 087 6933236.

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