Letter: drawing helps Steve overcome depression

Steve writes: “When I came to prison it felt as if I had lost everything. After a period of undiagnosed depression, self medicated with copious amounts of alcohol, I irrationally set fire to my own flat. So when I say I’d lost everything, I literally mean everything!

More than material things, I’d lost my self-confidence, I’d lost all self-belief and particularly any hope of returning to my previous role as a ‘jobbing artist’, painting murals, meeting client briefs, facilitating art projects and producing my own artworks. It had all gone.

Shortly after I’d settled in, as much as one can settle in prison, I got the opportunity to attend an art class during the day. I started tentatively, working through a short course, struggling to meet my own standards. Although difficult and frustrating, I felt a spark of my creative fire and I was eager to do my own thing.

I was told Prisoners’ Education Trust may be able to fund some basic materials for me. These would help with the course but more than that allow me to practice my art in my cell.

I was granted the funds and obtained some quality pencils. When they arrived it was an absolute delight and in no time I was producing art to my standards, I was feeling more confident and with that my depression was lifting.

The breakthrough came when I drew a portrait of Albert Einstein for no other reason than to prove I could still do it. I have since won awards from the Koestler Trust and had work exhibited at the Royal Festival Hall in London. I have also had work included in various local art projects and completed pieces for the prison.

I owe my gratitude to PET because those few materials really allowed me the opportunity to express myself creatively and as a consequence my depression and self-belief has gone from dark to light and colourful. I also owe a great deal to the prison art department and my tutor for the chance to turn a very negative frame of mind into a positive, brighter one.

When I’m released I plan to have my own online gallery. I have so many pictures queuing up in my mind waiting to be painted so the materials you funded will be getting well used over the coming months. Once again many thanks – art is so underestimated in helping someone’s mental health.”