Manchester Art Gallery

Art meets medicine

Annie Lowe, a fourth year medical student completed her 6 week degree placement with the health and wellbeing team. Here she shares her experience Mindful marks.

This week I volunteered at the Mindful marks workshop, I left feeling truly inspired. Based on the concept of mindfulness, this session uses music and mark-making to help people to de-stress and relax. This month it took place in the Boris Nzebo’s Urban Style exhibition. His vibrant paintings use strong lines and vivid colours to show the urban landscapes and the people of Cameroon.

The day began by transforming the gallery floor into a giant blank canvas which awaited people’s marks. Bean bags and cushions were scattered and Cameroonian music, selected by Boris Nzebo, was played. The space became a relaxing haven amidst the hustle and bustle of the gallery.

Music and marks

The sound of saxophones and African beats started the session and enticed people to the workshop. Whilst the music was upbeat and energised I felt it had soothing elements which connected the music to the the paintings and the people. At first I felt apprehensive at the thought of drawing in front of an audience. However, Naomi (the lead artist) reassured me that nerves are normal and, even after years of practise, she felt the same at the start of a session. With this in mind, I began.

With an oil pastel in each hand we settle into the session. Naomi advised everyone to close their eyes and focus on the music, letting the rhythm carry your hands across the paper leaving marks in their trail. This helped me to really listen to the music, engage in the present moment and relax. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist so this did not come naturally at first, but once I’d settled into the session it felt as though my hand had a life of its own!

Unwind with scribbles

From the cushions on the floor I watched the workshop unfold… one lady who, like me, looked uneasy about putting pen to paper, gradually became more confident in her ability to unwind with scribbles. It was wonderful to see the positive impact of the session. Some people chose to lie back on the bean bags, close their eyes and let the music wash over them, whilst others sat and drew on colourful clipboards. Someone commented that even though the gallery space was alive with people, the atmosphere was tranquil and they were able to switch off from the outside world.

So what did I learn? Mindfulness doesn’t mean sitting cross legged on the floor, it is about engaging in the present, listening to our senses and appreciating the here and now. I felt invigorated, relaxed, inspired and animated. I have learnt that art can have a great impact on mood and wellbeing and I am determined to make time for this in the future. And others agreed with me, describing the session as ‘inspiring,’ ‘relaxing,’ ‘insightful and calming to the mind’ and as an ‘extremely beautiful moment.’


Mindful marks: de-stress and draw for adults

Second Tuesday of every month


Free, no need to book.

2 responses to “Art meets medicine”

  1. c says:

    HI, is Mindful marks still running? Thanks

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