Sarah Kingwell describes herself as an abstract self-expressionist, although she doesn’t really call herself an ‘Artist’, but instead she is “just a unique human being like everyone else who finds passion in self-expression.” For her, art has always been a way to express what she cannot say in words. Her dream is to share her passion and support others through recovery using different forms of artistic expression, “creating something beautiful even when it’s hard to see the beauty.”

This project is titled the ‘Self’ project, it began during lockdown and it is a work in progress. I am sure that feelings of uncertainty and anxiety resonate with a lot of people, as like many others I knew my mental health during this time was worsening. I was unable to see my counsellor and thus I emerged myself into my art work. This current project is a response to the work I am doing in counselling, exploring myself’ and diving deeper into my unconscious limiting beliefs, whilst I am on the journey of positive sobriety. During lockdown, even though I lost all control of my life, I somehow still manage to create multiple paintings, using colours and brushstrokes to silence the thoughts.

Throughout this year I have identified a negative relationship with alcohol, that I had perhaps been ignoring for a long time, and this has influenced my latest work. In the morning I paint unreadable words onto the canvas; this is a way for me to express my struggles with sobriety, the loud basic self, wanting to drink. And by listening to the rational self and emotional self, I can justify why I can drink. But by forcing myself to explore my higher self I can regain control. I feel proud of myself for not having a drink for over a month, I have awareness of the chance of relapse, and I am focusing on being kind to myself on this journey.

This process evolved through online counselling sessions, and with my artwork, I was able to develop a broader therapy toolbox. With the use of my morning pages, I began to express my inner thoughts on to my self-expression paintings in unreadable words. This process allowed me to not only attempt to block the thoughts out but I was now able to release them whilst doing what I loved most ‘creating’

So the ‘Self’ project is my journey of recovery from mental health issues and alcoholism. The colours express different aspects of myself, the black is the basic self, the green rational and logical self, red is the emotional self and then the yellow is the colour I symbolised as the higher self. The unreadable words that are expressed on the canvas, written first thing in the morning, allow me to express my inner voice of struggles with sobriety and really dive deeper into understanding the different aspects of ‘self’ and find ways in which I can listen to my higher self in times of difficulty.

I think the Making Effect is that art can give someone freedom to release inner emotions. Sometimes we ignore how we feel, we hide it, we push it down, but when we have the freedom to create to express our emotions using colour, brushstrokes, or even dance, we can almost let it out without using words, but by using our body, by using movement.

When I engage in creating, I usually go with the mindset of trusting in the process and with no actual plan, but more of a paint how I feel approach and then the base painting is complete ready for the unreadable scribbles to give me more space to write what I am thinking and feeling with the confidence that I am almost releasing it from my own physiology rather than holding it all in. I don’t ever feel that I complete a canvas, I mean it can always be added to, altered and completely changed, all of which reflects on how I feel about a ‘finished’ project and what I feel like doing next. I guess I would like others to feel that they can also express themselves using colour, I would hope for people to think about themselves and how they can relate their basic, emotional, rational and higher self to their own journey through life.

Sarah Kingwell

Art has always been a way in which I have coped so to speak, coped with life, and coped with my own mental health struggles and with my own personal belief of the power of art and recovery and in therapy, my dream is to support others on their journey of self and recovery by applying Art as a method in their tool box. I hope to inspire change around the stigma attached to mental health, and create a safe space for people to come and create something whilst feeling supported and empowered to make their own decisions on their journey of recovery, promoting hope in recovery by sharing my own story and my own passion for self-expression art.

More of Sarah’s work can be found at

Images supplied by the artist.  Curation by Dr Linden Wilkinson.
Feature Image: ‘Self’ (2020), water colour on paper.