Top Tips by Lu Mason

Lu Mason a York based artist who uses diverse mediums in her art practice from paper, Perspex, mobiles, to rag rugging and print.

She worked as an Occupational Therapist for 23 years a job which she loved, this meant part of her work involved providing therapeutic activities for patients. 

“Some people (not everyone!) loved that opportunity to get creative, … my job included finding an activity that was do-able for a patient who might not have had full mobility or didn’t have much energy. 

It’s really important not to give someone a task that they won’t be able to achieve. Having music on in the background was great for some patients, and helped them lose themselves in an activity.  There often wasn’t much time and space for creative activities at work – so adapting activities to what we had was important.  For some people the opportunity to be creative meant having a go at writing, and reminiscing; getting involved with music. It’s all creative. 

Some of the “just do it” approach to creative activities as an OT (i.e. use what you’ve got even if it isn’t perfect) has definitely crossed over to my own practice at home and in my studio”

Here are Lu’s Top Tips for getting and feeling more creative:

1. Keep a little notebook (doesn’t have to be a sketchbook) to write down any thoughts/ideas that might come to you at odd moments.  It can remind you of a flash of an idea that might have come to you on the bath or on waking up etc.

2. Buy a pad of inexpensive large paper, maybe A3 size. You want to be able to be free with sketches/getting initial ideas down, without having to worry that you’re “wasting expensive materials”. Only once you’re ready to move on to the next stage, invest in good quality paper – it really makes your work look so much better.  Also sharpie pens are a great and exciting way of getting going with colour. 

3. Don’t wait to have a “studio” or a proper art space – make a start at being creative on your kitchen table – you don’t want to wait too long.

4. If you’ve got something down, but aren’t sure about it, walk away from it. Make a cup of tea etc. or leave it till the next day.  You’ll probably be able to see more clearly if it’s “right” when you’ve had some distance from it.

5. Spend some time looking at art books in the library.  Get a feel for what you like, for which artists/art movements./historical eras inspire you. Don’t go for the artists you already know – try some artists you’ve never  heard of.

6. If you’ve painted/drawn/felt tip penned some images but don’t like bits of them, cut out the bits you do like and use them in a collage.

7. Save clippings of images from papers & mags … could be a colour scheme or a pattern that’s caught your eye.  Could be useful when putting your own ideas down.

8. If you want to get into that day-dreamy zone of making art, make a felt tip pen squiggle picture on a piece of paper, with lots of overlapping lines.  Fill in the gaps with coloured felt tip pens.  This is not only therapeutic, but it really helps to unlock any blocks with mark making.

9. Cut lots of snaky curly shapes out of white paper in a really haphazard way. Drop them on the floor and see if any patterns come forward.  Take photos for inspiration.

10. Take photos of anything that catches your eye re. shapes and colours. it’s like keeping a sketch book but much quicker.

11. It’s really important not to set yourself a task that you won’t be able to achieve … if it’s not do-able, then don’t do it.

12. Be true to yourself, not what other people expect of you. It takes time to find your own individual “style”, but actually every single thing you do will have your identity all over it.   

Three years ago the Arts Team asked Lu to create an art installation for the 3D space at York Hospital to celebrate 70 years of the NHS being founded.

The art piece was called ‘The Circus’ and showed the extraordinary feats of human beings; the risks we take and the acrobatic juggling acts. Lu related this back to the people who make the NHS work and the knowledge we all have that the system can pick us up when we fall. This feels like an even more relevant theme since the COVID pandemic.

Lu explained at the time “For the past 70 years we’ve had confidence and reassurance, knowing the NHS is behind us.  Helping us through the unexpected, the accidental, and the inevitable twists and turns of life.

“We can’t even begin to measure the contribution that the NHS has made to our willingness to give things a go, and live life to the full.”

One thought on “Top Tips by Lu Mason

  1. Lu: I like the inspirational art installation which you created for the 3D space at York Hospital.
    It is direct, cheerful yet thought provoking to consider the 70 years of service by the NHS.
    All of your “tips” give useful advice for consideration of our achievable talents based on our spontaneous ideas. I enjoyed reading them and I shall use them with enthusiastic impulse.

    Liked by 1 person

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