Sophie Wagstaff on Colour, Creativity and Counselling

Sophie originally trained in Visual Arts at Goldsmiths but is now counsellor at St Michael's Hospice, Hereford. She explains how the art, colour and connection to human expression drew her to her role.

Colour can be extremely powerful in navigating and identifying certain feelings with a client.

Cypress Tree Montecastelli (2004) by Craigie AitchisonPaintings in Hospitals

More than a colour

Colour has always had a huge impact on the way I see things and very often how I experience things. Different tones almost always present me with an emotional or mental response, and sometimes even create an added dimension to whatever it is I am looking at.

As an example, across Herefordshire at certain times of year, the yellow rapeseed fields start to come through. When I see this almost chemical colour, I taste a kind of sulphur in the back of my throat. (And no, I’m not talking about hayfever!)

Yellow Bird (1989) by Craigie AitchisonPaintings in Hospitals

As another example, I have a visual diary in my head, meaning that I can see a list of the different months of the year all assigned with their own colour.

It is the same with the days of the week - red Monday, blue Tuesday, yellow Wednesday, purple Thursday, green Friday, golden Saturday and grey Sunday. It helps me to organise and recognise what I have going on.

The Story Stick by Jill RockPaintings in Hospitals

Linking art and counselling

I completed my first degree in Visual Arts from Goldsmiths back in 2005 and knew with a certainty that I wanted to carry my creative outlook into working with people. 

I retrained in counselling and therapy more recently. During that time I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia, so my visual approach suddenly became clear to me. I use coloured overlays to help with eye strain and have used creative interventions in my counselling practice.

Untitled (2006) by Edward DutkiewiczPaintings in Hospitals

These almost always draw on the use of colour and its many associations. Often using coloured buttons, and occasionally drawing mandalas, I find to be extremely powerful in navigating, and often identifying certain feelings with a client. 

One of the things that drew me to St Michael’s Hospice was the connection to the arts this wonderful place has, as well as my passion for human expression. 

Canal Holidays (1975) by Julian TrevelyanPaintings in Hospitals

We are in the process of setting up some video call groups for people as a kind of aftercare platform in the counselling department. The group I will be running will be a creative one, and I am so looking forward to bringing these two elements together - art for wellbeing.

The Story Stick by Jill RockPaintings in Hospitals

The Story Stick

The artworks you have seen here are all from the Paintings in Hospitals collection currently on display at St Michael's Hospice. One of these is 'The Story Stick' by Jill Rock.

The Story Stick by Jill RockPaintings in Hospitals

Jill is fascinated by colour and studied ‘colour therapy’, which is the practice of using colour to help people feel better. She often experiments with colour and natural found objects. This painted birch branch is a typical of her approach.

A hospice patient taking part in a Paintings in Hospitals art workshop (2019) by Paintings in HospitalsPaintings in Hospitals

Paintings in Hospitals worked with St Michael's Hospice to design and host an activity for their residents to create their very own story sticks. The activity was designed to help stimulate confidence and memory, and improve hand-eye coordination.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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