‘Skin’ and Pigment: a glance back at the nature and use of the oil pastel

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Barrie Damarell


Intriguingly, I find myself recalling the birth of ATOL, of which I was a part, happening in a church or church rooms, although I think this unlikely. But, this miss remembering, if it is, carries an interestingly symbolic resonance in so far as the depth of belief that was felt at the time. A belief that art therapy and its representation(s) needed to be as broad and as creative as possible.

 Over the ensuing decade this was a guiding light and I feel proud to have been part of the nurturing process that enabled authors to develop their work and to publish freely to anyone who had access to the internet.

 I retired from practice over six years ago and stepped back from ATOL in the last two. When I received an invitation to contribute to this tenth anniversary edition I was both flattered and, to be completely honest, a little daunted feeling that my distance from practice starved me of relevant material. After a period of mild paralysis I recalled a piece I had written for an exhibition on art therapy curated by Dave Edwards and held in Sheffield in 2018. It describes my recollections of people’s use of the oil pastel in a learning disability context. The piece was structured in an attempt to make my thoughts and memories as accessible as possible.

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