Hospital art - an insight into the process

Hospital art - an insight into the process

Commissioning an artwork can take many forms. Usually I ask that those using the space are involved in a creative consultation before I create the work. The session are invaluable! 

You might be wondering what on earth a creative consultation is. In this case it was simply about using creative methods to unlock conversations to understand the needs, wants and hopes for the space.

It's quite daunting for participants to be faced with a creative challenge when they don't see themselves as creative. So I always start off the session with simple annotations on images and discussions relevant to the project.

Here I talk you through the consultation I did for Gloucester Hospitals Mental Health in Crisis project. For this one we looked at the current space, how it feels, how it’s used, how long patients are in there, what’s on the walls, what’s the lighting like, furniture. We spoke about what wouldn’t work, what colours might be triggers.


However, I don't just ask the negatives, I ask if there is anything they do like, is there something that works well. In this case the size of the room was important.

We also focused on the changed space. What they wanted it to do, what they wanted it to feel like. We spoke about themes, colours, textures, shapes. Slowly things emerged...

“to feel there is hope”
“A special place”
“to feel held, i’ve got you”
“a pause”
“being looked after”
“a safe space in the chaos”


For the main creative element they weren’t expected to create the artwork. This was met with some relief by the participants! Instead I tasked them with creating a mood board of colours, patterns and shapes that they find soothing. They had a collection of paints, pencils and imagery. They could add text or simply create collages of colours. For one group this task made them fall silent as they carefully selected items, examining and annotating what they found. For the other group there was non stop conversations about the space.

They were all given the same varied ranges of colours to pick from. A rainbow of colours from deep dark tones to muted neutrals- most had the same pictures cut into sections. Their final boards were different but also very similar themes and styles. Blues, lighter minimal areas, calming colours, areas of simplicity and areas to focus on a natural themes but leaning towards the sea rather than tree's.

I rounded it off with a simple evaluation exercise.. another slightly creative one as no one likes questionnaires. Everyone had to pick an object they felt drawn to and using that object answer today i feel the session made me...

“feel like i am contributing to an important process”
“think! pause reflect and feel hopeful”

The words, the collages and all the input from staff and patients shows how important the consultation process is. By asking staff and experts by experience to create work that makes them feel relaxed- it helps shape and inform the work that I will make. Yes I will be painting it but their input is what will make that space special.

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