Prison Blog

landscape painting by prisoner

Yes, I’ve been mistaken for a prisoner more than once in the last few weeks. Was it my stubbly chin, my Dunnes Stores jumper or my “rugged good looks” I wonder (!). Whatever it was, I’m beginning to feel quite at home in the prison these days – but I reckon that it must be to do with the art.

They say that art can have a profound effect in areas of health associated with loneliness, mental health, ageing and long-term conditions. I was reading an article by Nicola Slawson in The Guardian the other day about Arts and Minds, a leading arts and mental health charity in England, and it confirmed a lot of what I’ve been noticing myself.

painting by prisoner

Arts and Minds organise regular art workshops and, in a recent evaluation, they revealed a 73% fall in depression in their clients. 76% of participants said their feelings of wellbeing had increased and 69% felt more socially included. One participant wrote: “I feel so much better having had the time and space to do some art. It makes such a difference.”

Art helps people to develop a narrative of their lives and to relate to their own experience in a new way. One of my students started a painting of his family home from long ago. It was fascinating to see him work. He started with a painting of the old fireplace, then he added pictures on the wall and tiles on the floor. Then he continued with the other walls with the windows and doors etc. but when I came back the next day, I got a big surprise.


“Why are you painting the back of the canvas?”, I asked. “I’m painting the outside walls”, he says and sure enough, he had the windows, the galvanised roof, the daffodils blooming in the front and even a stack of turf against the gable end, all on the back of the canvas board. And he was clearly delighted with it.

Sorry you can’t see it in the photo but I couldn’t show inside and outside at the same time. But he reminded me of the artist James Dixon, one of the Tory Island painters. That fella didn’t bother with conventions or rules or perspective either, when he was painting. Here’s one of his paintings below and you can see many more of them here

james dixon Tory Island painter

Wouldn’t you agree that just looking at these paintings would increase your feelings of wellbeing?  Your comments are always welcome, See below…

Arts and Minds, UK

Nicola Slawson article





  1. Lovely piece, Eoin, and great pictures – I was thinking about the Tory Island painters just two days ago when I saw Alfed Wallis’s paintings in Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge. Makes you ponder issues of the ‘ownership’ of art, how exclusive the art world can be etc etc… as well as mental health, prisons, creativity and so on! Keep the blogs coming!


Leave a Reply, I'd like to hear your viewpoint.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s