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Art for Mental Health at Plas Dolerw, Newtown.

The class and its history:

The classes originated out of provision with partner Pont Hafren Association, a community drop -in centre in Newtown for those affected by mental health issues or social isolation. The class has also become an amalgam of historic community classes run by artist and teacher, Esther Thorpe. Our leaners are currently working towards an exhibition of work.

[Lighthouse, collagraph print by Mary B.]

The class offers a range of art media skills and processes, including drawing, watercolour and acrylic painting, pen & wash, printmaking techniques, mixed media, papier-mache sculpture and creative textiles. The class welcomes students who want to learn and have fun and feel the therapeutic benefit of making art. Absolute beginners or more experienced artists – all are welcomed.

Our learners work:

Papier Mache bird made by Dena.
[Above Elly working on a watercolour painting of a Goldfinch.
Above left: Heron lino print made by Elly P.]

Elly, who is currently exploring watercolour technique to create paintings of birds or landscape, says it’s a “Fun course where you are allowed to learn what you are interested in and, equally, learn from what others are doing”. EP

[Different approaches to still life composition by Sue J.]

Sue, a retiree, who has attended classes off and on since 2015, is developing techniques in drawing and watercolour, translating her photography of landscape and still life using traditional and more experimental approaches.  “I have learnt… how important connecting with others, with broadly shared interest, is to combating feelings of isolation that caregiving imposes on you. The sessions have been so important to my mental and emotional health. “ She values classes as “An escape, the opportunity to concentrate on my favourite thing – making art!” SJ

[Above left, Dena and right, Dena’s geli-print collage landscape.]

Dena, an ex-dental technician, who has worked with a variety of media such as painting, college, textiles and printmaking, remarked “We are taught a lot, supervised and given tuition as needed and I feel its a happy safe place to be creative. She continues, “I’m very grateful to have the class available to me. It’s been a positive focal point and encourages me to keep learning and relax more. Esther is a very knowledgeable and talented teacher and, like a magician, she somehow manages to keep us all progressing in our work as individuals.” MM

[Above: Watercolour landscape by Ann G. Right: Ann G at the class.]

Ann, ex teacher, who joined the class last year and had never tried watercolour, remarks that the key thing she has learn is “To look at my surroundings more clearly with a view to recreating in my artwork” AG

[Above left, Annie’s abstract landscape, exploring repeated motifs, stencilling, and layering. Right: Annie at work.]

Annie working with acrylic painting techniques to explore abstract landscape and the expressive power of colour and motif.  “I enjoy trying new things and always feel uplifted when I go home from the positive atmosphere in the class…. The class is an important part of my week where I can let go and be myself in a non-judgmental environment. “ AH

[Brenda and Chris]

[Above left: Compositional studies in paper sculpture, drawing, watercolour and collagraph by Chris B. Middle: Brenda and Chris. Above right. Watercolour portrait by Brenda J ]

Chris, an ex-nurse, describes the class as having a “relaxed, sociable atmosphere. Excellent teacher who uses different techniques to support learners of different ages, ability and focus. CB

Retiree Brenda who has been a regular member since 2016 is learning watercolour technique – painting landscapes, portraits, described it as “A very friendly class – smashing teacher” BJ              

Ralph, a class regular since 2017, has been working on a series of illustrations for a children’s book, featuring the Welsh Highland railway. Ralph remarks that the class is ‘free from pressure’, which is why it’s good for mental health. Ralph has found technical aspects, like learning perspective, particularly useful for his illustrations.

Pat, above left, an experienced painter remarks that the classes offer an opportunity for “Improvement in my art and enjoyment in other class members’ projects.” PH

John, above right, a retiree, is working on watercolour and pen & wash techniques to render landscapes and townscapes, “The tuition that we receive from Esther is brilliant and the sociability of the group makes every session very enjoyable. JG

[Mexican Sun God, mixed media, by Bethan C.]

Bethan has attended the art class since before lockdown. Bethan draws on a range of visual inspiration, currently working an a ocean scene, combining painting and mixed media, o create a vibrant collage. She writes that she likes “making things to show people how we should look after our world.” She adds “even if I’m autistic, nothing can stop me showing what I can do.”

Janet’s lockdown-inspired embroidery piece was selected for the Turner Contemporary Open.

Janet, an art graduate describes the class as having a “Friendly, relaxed atmosphere where you can be experimental with ideas, materials, and techniques, or if the art muse is missing, then have a coffee, chat and a laugh! … She adds “ I submitted a piece of artwork, produced in Esther’s class, to the Turner Contemporary Open in Margate. It was accepted and was shown alongside well-known artists like Tracey Emin!” JF

Sam, a care professional, has been working on a Reduction lino-printing process, selecting images of animals to create stunning designs. “I enjoy the diversity of the work we can do and produce as we all have differing media that we enjoy working with.” SW

Zia, a part-time student, beautician, and mother of two, describes the class as “Fun, enjoyable. I love this class. It doesn’t matter what mood I come into class with, I always leave feeling better! … I am making a papier-mâché plant pot based on the shape of a badger’s head. I am so happy that I found this course, with lovely students and a great teacher. ZC

We’d like to congratulate all of our learners on their fabulous work! If you would like to find out more about our courses, please click here: Community courses | Adult Learning Wales

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