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Art: "Joy is something we all need" The story behind Sweet Joy

Words by Dee Manning..

In 2020 my job role changed and I went from doing outreach work as a community networker to being part of the support network on a befriending team, something I was neither prepared or trained for and it had a truly devastating effect on my mental health through the lockdown period. I spoke to and listened to many callers who were going through some horrifically challenging times, with some battling mental health issues, housing and debt problems and others experiencing food poverty and worse. For some they found themselves alone and were glad to have someone at the other end of the phone to talk to.

I listened patiently and directed them to the relevant services that could support them with their specific needs staying in the loop to ensure things were being done. Assisting them in filling out the relevant forms to ensure they received a food parcels and along side this I was offering support to another team with ensuring people or organisations who put in a request for clothing received them, or telephoning people to check the clothes sizes were correct.

When ever I felt I was making headway to help people with what they needed, I would have a new wave of calls and as the weeks became months in the lockdown, for many things got even worse, with more pouring out their heart with issues of isolation, depression, lack of support from public services and family problems.

The full days of phone calls took their toll effecting me emotionally and mentally, in order to keep my own mental health together I had to take a step back and take time off work to rest from the demands being placed on my mind. The world was in chaos and it felt as if everyone was taking from me, expecting too much, wanting me to solve all their problems. I wanted to support them and help as many as I could, giving them hope trying to help them towards that light at the end of the tunnel and felt extremely guilty when I couldn’t. Your brain only has the capacity to deal with so much, especially when you are dealing with other peoples challenging issues which is not your specialised field. On my first week off sick I spent my time falling in and out of sleep and cried for all of those people I had spoken to, some of their stories haunted me and I had to seek counselling. The weight of it all tipped me towards anxiety, which had a domino affect on my physical health, which caused flared ups with my fibromyalgia making my symptoms more extreme and painful, it also agitated me neuropathic pain and made my day to day life even more unbearable.

After reaching such a low point I pulled myself back to paint, I picked up some paper and a pencil beginning to pour out what was in my mind onto paper, working on ideas for new additions to my collection Out of My Pain Came Beauty. I needed an uplifting and positive image to radiate happiness, positivity and joy. I used the piece as a way to distract myself from the trauma of the stories I had listened to from the callers. It was time to dig deep into my soul and heal from the inside, by creating and spending time on this painting was part of that process. The relaxing part began with the colour selection, I always enjoy mixing the paint to achieve the various brown tones, you’d be amazed that you can make over twenty colours of brown from only five colours. I’m getting more confident with how I use acrylic paints thinning them with mediums and improvers to achieve the consistency to achieve the look I want when painting on paper or canvas board. Applying the paint to the canvas is so soothing and therapeutic, fully immersing myself with concentration as I paint inside of each panel I have drawn to form the structure of the face. As the painting took shape it made me smile, I felt the warmth from inside of me explode out externally. The colours I created are beautiful, the contours and shape of the face are so expressive and it just sings to me. A stunning contemporary painting of a Black woman and her name is Sweet Joy!

limited edition prints will be available from Thursday


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