CREATIVE MINDS: Sandy McLean working with one of her students.
CREATIVE MINDS: Sandy McLean working with one of her students. Contributed

Calming through paint

ARTISTS are encouraging young people in regional and rural areas to delve into their creative sides to battle mental health issues.

According to the Queensland government, people who live and work in these areas can experience additional pressures such as social isolation and lack of employment opportunities.

These are all risks that can cause damaging effects on both parents and the children, including mental health issues and depression.

Sandy McLean is a full-time Central Queensland artist, based in Rockhampton, best known for her portraits of Australian people and animals, using bright and bold colour to bring her subjects alive and help tell the story.

Known as the Outback Artist, Ms McLean started the Art House in 2015 to encourage people to de-stress naturally and to be creative.

Through the Art House, and in partnership with the Black Dog Ball Committee, Ms McLean created a program for kids who had become disengaged, suffered anxiety, and just needed an outlet.

"Working with the Black Dog kids, I would encourage them to paint out their feelings and put it on the canvas,” she said.

"The first few would be very dark and I would be trying to get them to lighten up. Once they use colour, their whole mood has changed.

Ms McLean said she started the program because there was nowhere that kids could go and just do art at their own pace.

"There is no pressure. I got them started and left them alone to have fun,” she said.

"Art is so successful for kids with problems. They can just do what they like and it's just fun - if they want to paint something strange, they can.

"Kids were coming that were off the radar, they didn't like sport, they weren't good at it, it just wasn't their thing, but being creative was.

"A lot of kids who were autistic would just thrive. They would put on the canvas how they saw the world. Kids with anxiety, they would start to paint and draw and their focus wasn't on what was around them but on what they were doing.

"I think there should be somewhere in every community they can go and be creative away from school and that environment.

"These kids seem to be wanting and needing something away from the pressures to have fun and create.”

Glenda Henry, from Emerald Art Galleries, said the role of images in healthcare was not about producing art but about engaging with processes of creating images to explore and connect to ourselves and communicate with the world around us.

Art therapy is associated with a range of health benefits, including improved cognitive function and concentration, relief and distraction from mental and physical pain, and improved self-esteem and well being.

Emerald Art Gallery also encourages and welcomes volunteers to become involved with promoting social interaction for our community in a safe and inspiring space.

We would love to hear about your beneficial experiences with art. Send your stories to