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For more information on MHAW 2020 and the Mental Health Foundation visit their website.

Mental Health Awareness Week - Art as and Escape


A friend of ours went missing, leaving his watch and phone at home. A wonderfully dependable, intelligent friend, much loved inour community. No one knew where he was. Time passed and fear mounted. The police eventually found this wonderful man and he was returned home to safety. A long period followed where he received constant care professionally and from those close to him. To see someone you love change so dramatically with no warning signs hits your heart and makes you aware that this can happen to anyone. It could happen to you or me. When it does, it not only changes your life but the lives of everyone around you. It hurts. It hurts even more for the person who is in a very dark place and can’t find a way of escape or a way of telling anyone what is wrong. We don’t have the power or ability to look at others and see what struggles they are facing. Unlike most illnesses, mental illness isn’t visible, so we often haven’t got an insight into the minds of those we think we know well. However, we do have the power to be kind to everyone around us, to be understanding, patient and compassionate.

To my friend, everything seemed dark and negative. He couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how much everyone told him how lucky he was and how much he had to be thankful for, at that time in his illness he couldn’t see anything but dark clouds.

For this feature, I forced myself to paint with dark colours. In fact, I only allowed myself to paint with black initially, in monochrome artwork. I tried to find a beauty in this darkness, and I likened it to how it must feel to have a dark cloud dampening my spirit, hanging on my shoulders, and affecting my daily life. The darkness was overpowering and depressing, and I understood for the first time, I really understood, what my friend was going through, and I felt emotional. I felt like breaking down and crying because I hadn’t been able to understand fully before.


To open your eyes to positive thinking, I recommend painting with just one black shade and trying to get as many patterns as you can with that black colour. You will be amazed at the effects you can achieve and at how the dark affects you, especially when you next paint with bright colour, which will seem far brighter, like sunshine after a storm.

In the image below, I have used white gouache and placed it on top of Lamp Black pigment. The gouache broke up the black, added light and created fascinating patterns. However, my focus wasn’t on the black now, my focus was on the white, on the positive energy, on the light. And this is an important point. We need to focus on the positive energy in life. We need to make sure that we spread our positive thoughts, positive outlook on life and our positive energy around the world so that our friends, family and everyone we love feel this positive force, which can act like ripples on a pond. Spreading positivity makes everybody feel better and more cheerful. We have the power to do this.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Brightening up

The problem for many suffering with depression is being unable to climb out of the dark place which keeps pulling them down. While teaching over the years I have met many artists on my workshops who have been dealing with overwhelming problems. They have found that painting has eased their pain, grief and lifted them out of their depression gradually. Healing does take time. In my books Paint Yourself Calm and Paint Yourself Positive, I share many painting exercises that are simple to follow and easy to paint. Even a beginner can pick up a brush and enjoy painting them. It is worth noting that even if you are tired and exhausted, the simple actions of moving a brush and watching colour flow can really lift your mood and help you escape to a far healthier state of mind. This can do so much for our inner soul and mental well-being. In the examples below, you can see I am very influenced by bright colours and outdoor spaces.

Painting with a bright colour
Bright colour cheers us up!

After you have painted with just black shades, take a fresh piece of paper, and cover it with vibrant colour. You don’t have to paint any particular subject, just let colour be your guide. This exercise will lift your spirits. Choose your favourite colours, oranges, reds, or yellows. Select beautiful, bright colours and watch them play and dance on the paper.

Escape with simple landscapes
If you are feeling more adventurous, how about painting a simple landscape? In my book Paint Yourself Calm, I give three examples of how to paint beautiful landscapes. I like long narrow pieces of paper, where I can paint beautiful blue skies at the top and an interesting foreground below. Your landscape could be anything you want it to be. It could be a favourite memory of yours. It could be something you’ve always wanted to see but never have. It could be anything, as long as it makes you happy when you are painting.

In the examples below, there is the simple landscape that you will see in my book Paint Yourself Calm. There is a gorgeous poppy field. Painting the lovely red flowers made me feel energized and it gave me that zest for life that makes me want to go out and see something for real. A lovely positive feeling! And then there is a simple sea landscape. I haven’t been to the beach for ages and I would love to take my shoes off and walk along the shore. I can’t because we are living in lockdown now. But we can paint wherever we want to go and here I painted a sandy shoreline. To create the sea texture effects, I just lay some plastic food wrap over still wet watercolour and removed it once the colour was absolutely dry. It is very simple to do and so relaxing to paint these pieces. You can paint anything you wish to paint. I love moving colour as it always lifts my spirits and makes me feel fantastic.


What I’m asking you to do in this feature is to think about others and maybe do something with your art to cheer somebody up, even if you don’t think they need cheering up. Make cards and send them. Give a painting away. Or ask somebody to paint with you. You can share online. Do anything you can to raise the profile of Mental Awareness Week. Make yourself feel good knowing you’ve done something positive to help others. Be kind.

Let’s not just have an awareness week, let’s have an awareness year! I will close with my favourite saying:

Be your best self.

Happy painting,

Teddy, my dog, enjoying nature!

Please enjoy this free tutorial by heading to and signing up as a free member. Once you are a free member you will then be able to access this tutorial.

Should you want to upgrade your membership to access all the tutorials, as a special offer for the search press readers I am offering a 15% discount. By becoming a member, you will have online tuition from myself with a brand-new tutorial added every two weeks with unlimited 24/7 access. Tutorials are for all levels of ability from beginner all the way to more advanced skills. I would love to welcome you as a member and have you join my friendly online community, for you to share your artwork and celebrate all things watercolour!

Simply head to the checkout and enter the code MHAW15 for 15% off annual membership or MHAW15-M for 15% off monthly membership. 


Prize-winning and inspirational watercolourist Jean Haines is well-known for her love of her chosen medium and the ability to instil enthusiasm and motivation in all around her. Having lived and travelled in many countries, this popular international artist and teacher has developed her skills while under the influence of masters from many countries, including Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The magical free flow of water and colour straight on to a blank working surface creates amazing results, often leaving her sell-out audiences breathless with delight.

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