Artists' minds

Graeme Turner
I spoke to two artists. Warwick is a writer who has mental health issues. He says writing is a way for him to calm his mind. He has done a writing piece about the many social workers he has met. They all gave him a different view on how he can change his life. Warwick likes sharing his work with other people. Adam is a writer and painter who has a mental illness. He often goes back to a painting to repaint it after many years. He does not think having a mental illness helps creativity.
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Graeme Turner on 22/10/2012
close up of hand painting with paintbrush
close up of hand painting with paintbrush

Adam uses pencil and paint.

I meet up with Warwick in a café to have a chat with him. The café's music pulses as we order coffees. Warwick is a writer who has mental health issues.

About 12 years ago Warwick was feeling quite isolated in a public housing flat when he was encouraged to attend a local writing group. The group named Roomers was established to offer creative support and encouragement for those with housing issues and other challenges.

Warwick has been writing since that time and says writing is a way to calm his mind. His latest offering to Roomers magazine details, in a survival manual style of writing, how a person with psychological issues might deal with the pressure of life. This is sometimes delivered in a light-hearted manner.

Want – a wash, a glass, a drink of water can help.

As our coffees arrive steaming and fragrant, he shares another writing piece drawn from his personal experience. He launches a dig at the way in which psychiatrists talk about the range of chemicals that might induce mental health issues. Warwick displays some awareness of his situation.

Last time I didn't go out of my brain, because there's nothing inside to go out with.

Warwick also offers insight into a writing piece inspired by a succession of social workers who each offered him a different view on how he could change his life. One social worker tells him to honour the ordinary, another to be your true self, another offers Hindi wisdom, while another he describes as a sergeant major encourages him to write.

I'm interested to find out what motivates his writing. He says his writing hopefully offers an opportunity to share something of worth with other people.

When he first started his writing endeavours, Warwick was a little concerned how others might judge his work. Now, he has moved towards a far more confident position. It feels a privilege he says to write.

From the palate

Visual artist and poet Adam happens to also live through the challenge of mental illness. His work is built up in layers of pencil and paint. Sometimes he revisits and enhances paintings years later. Adam is doubtful about the role mental health plays in enhancing art. I really don't think being mentally ill or whatever you want to call it really helps creativity in any way at all.

While painting might be his first love, Adam sometimes turns to poetry if the visual art inspiration is blocked.

At the moment he is considering plans to explore images of World War I. He's also looking at the depiction of the Prophet Mohammad within Islamic culture.


As the coffees are cleared, Warwick tells me how being creative is a valuable way of connecting. What you try to find is someone who understands you. Maybe his words then are a way to channel thinking and emotion into an expression that is worthwhile.

Have you come across artists with mental health issues?

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