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Art and Wellbeing

How art and wellbeing are related: one of the 5 steps to wellbeing is to 'Take Notice' of the sights, smells, textures and sounds of things around you.  This can be purposefully looking at things you find beautiful and that give you a feeling of awe, paying extra special attention to things that you might normally brush by or take for granted as 'a whole thing' but when you take the time to look in detail you find new things of interest and appreciate the parts that make it up e.g. things in nature and art. 

We are very lucky to have artist Ruth O'Hagan writing about paying attention to paintings, as you will read in her latest piece for us:

What I learned from painting "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte"' by Georges Seurat

"A Sunday on La Grande Jatte"' by Georges Seurat
Ruth O'Hagan's own version of 'A Sunday on La Grande Jatte'Ruth O'Hagan's own version of 'A Sunday on La Grande Jatte'

Firstly I started off by researching. I searched around and then I picked two famous paintings that I felt I could realistically replicate. I posted the two paintings on a poll on my Facebook page and my followers voted over 7 days as to which one I should paint next. In this instance I chose a painting by Georges Seurat and one by Frida Kahlo. When the poll ended I started the painting.

The Creative Process & Reflections

I get all my materials together and set my canvas on the easel.

I begin by doing a quick light line drawing on the canvas. It’s to map out where everything will go and next I plan the colours.

I start off by noting what primary colours I will need first and place a generous amount on my pallet. These colours can later be mixed if necessary. This painting for instance, is made up of mostly green shades, and hints of red, blue, yellow and flesh tones for the people.

I will add very slight portions of red, blue, yellow and flesh tones to my palette and start to paint.

As there is so much green, I thought this would the best place to start. I start off with quick smooth brush strokes over the grass of the park. The majority of the grass is a light green colour, similar in tone to the trees. The trees in the scene cast a large shadow along the bottom of the painting so that needs a darker shade of green.

I am just plotting the colours for the moment. I add smooth blue strokes for the water.

Next, I plot the people in the scene using flesh tones. I paint quick suggestions of body shapes using flesh colours and I will add more detail later on. The colours are added one by one to the people. A little red is added, then some blue, then some black.

There is a lot of detail in this painting so it takes time to build the scene.

Each person in the painting tells a certain story, they’re own story. They tell their story through their clothes, their gestures and the direction they are looking. Many are sitting alone, some are in a couple, some are strolling with a friend, or a parent. I focus on one person at a time. I take a coffee break and return to these characters with fresh eyes to add more detail.

After I've paid attention to the characters, I add texture to the trees and grass. I use a dry brush for this, I lightly dab darker tones of green over the already painted trees. I do the same with lighter tones to suggest leaves on the tree. I do the same on the ground to the suggest strands of grass in the park. A dry brush dabbed quickly onto the canvas.

The main protagonists in the painting are the man and women to the right. The viewer’s eye is directed to them immediately. They are the main element of the painting so I decided to focus on them last. They seem to be the most important people in the scene.

It’s interesting, they are the viewers of the park and we are viewers of the painting. They are viewing the people in the park and are viewing them and our eyes are drawn to what they are seeing.

This is a painting about being spectators and reflecting on what we see.

It is quite a joyful painting because of the beauty of the sea side scene, the people and the fresh summer colours.

There is a certain atmosphere to the painting that feels contagious.

Art and Wellbeing

"A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" is a painting about being spectators and reflecting on what we see.

It is quite a joyful painting because of the beauty of the sea side scene, the people and the fresh summer colours.

There is a certain atmosphere to the painting that feels contagious.

How Art and Wellbeing Interact for Me

When I replicate paintings, my aim is to get lost on the moment. I want to focus on the painting and nothing else. I want to forget about my anxiety, depression and just escape mentally for a little while. When I get lost in painting, it feels like paradise and I feel like my true authentic self.

The painting above is a work in progress but you can keep up to date on my work on my Facebook page.

More 'What I Learned From' Paintings

Ruth has done a few of these 'What I Learned From' paintings, such as this gorgeous copy of The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh and Still Life by Pablo Picasso.  We are honoured that she painted and wrote about "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" especially for our blog - we think these studies are a fabulous idea that clearly shows how art and wellbeing can go hand in hand, helping you to perhaps connect with the artist even in a small way and take notice in detail, of famous paintings you might not have looked at in such detail before - I know I feel that way when I see The Starry Night up close.

Ready Made "Art and Wellbeing" Supplies

If you're not quite ready to take the plunge and paint your own replica of a great masters painting but want to have a go at what Ruth has describes, try some ready made products?


Over to You

What famous painting would you like to try replicating?  Have you already done it and want to share your experience and photo?  Got any thoughts on art and wellbeing you'd like to share, things you find useful etc? Please leave your comments or questions below...

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