Changing the material

I started the book by using coloured pencils however, it was taking a long time to complete each page. The pencils also were quite dull and didn’t have much brightness to them. I made the decision to change the method of completing the book because I knew I wouldn’t finish it in time for the deadline.

I started using acrylic paint which made it a lot easier to create and a lot quicker. I was able to cover a lot more ground this way. The paint also gave a lovely texture across the paper I use water to blend the colours together and also to change the density and intensity of the colours. The water made the paint almost look as though it is watercolour.


PTSD is an acronym for Post Traumatic Stress disorder. It is becoming an increasingly worrying issue in today’s society. It can be caused by a number of different distressing events:

  • war
  • combat
  • abuse
  • traffic accidents
  • terrorist attacks
  • natural disasters – earthquake, hurricane
  • sexual assault
  • witnessing a violent death

PTSD can occur immediately after the event or it can occur weeks, months or years after. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people who experience a traumatic event are affected from PTSD. The reasons for the occurrence of PTSD is still unknown however, I think PTSD is developed because the experience cases memories which dominant the mind and therefore take over our control of the imagination.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD is a form of the disorder which is caused by a repeatedly occurring experience of a traumatic event. It is similar to PTSD however, it may not develop until later in life to the time of the event. The disorder is caused by more severe traumas including:

  • those experienced in early life which can affect child development
  • caused by a parent or carer
  • experienced over a long period of time
  • the person is alone during the experience
  • the victim is still in contact with the person responsible

PTSD is a difficult disorder because it can take years to recognise, especially when the events happen early in life and symptoms don’t start to show till later. For children this can be a change in behaviour and a low level of self-confidence. In adults, the symptoms are more commonly a lose of trust in other people and a feeling of separation from friends and family.

More broad symptoms of Complex PTSD:

  • shame/guilt
  • being out of controlling of emotions
  • losing attention and concentration
  • physical – headaches, dizziness
  • cutting oneself off from other people
  • self harm, alcohol and drug abuse
  • suicidal thoughts


  • finding friends
  • getting a job
  • regular exercise
  • taking up hobbies

It is important to develop trust when forming relationships. It is very important and helpful to form a testing relationship with a therapist who will be able to show and help you develop these relationships with friends and family.

The treatment comes in 3 stages:


  • speaking with a therapist to learn how to control feelings of distrust and lose the feeling of being “disconnected” from friends and family
  • Grounding techniques
  • Aim to make past seem less frightening and reduce the amount of flashbacks of the traumatic event

Trauma-Focused Therapy 

  • psychotherapy
  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – exploring and changing how you think about your life and to free yourself from unhelpful patterns of behaviour
  • eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EDMR)


  • begin to use skills and techniques to develop better relationships with other people
  • medication i.e. antidepressants may be recommended if psychotherapy isn’t possible or if you fell unsafe

How to treat PTSD

Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms and how soon they occur after the traumatic event. There are a number of recommended treatments which can be used for someone with PTSD. Watchful waiting is where you monitor the symptoms to see whether they improve or get worse without treatment. Antidepressants are commonly used for those with anxiety and high stress levels. Psychotherapists including CBT and EMDR.




Starting to create the book

Starting the book was quite a scary thought which led me to putting it off until the final week of the project. This meant it didn’t give me much time to produce the work but also allowed me to finalise my ideas and the method of how I was going to create the book.

I decided to keep the idea very basic because I want the reader to use their imagination as much as possible when experiencing the book. The reason for this is to influence and move the reader back into their mindful place which is different for everyone. The idea of walking through a woods can be seen as a universal place of calm because it is isolated and quiet where the reader is able to recollect their thoughts and structure themselves into a state of calm.

Started by drawing the basic outline of the wooded area on the first few pages which I then proceeded to colour in using pencils. The areas were very dense with trees which meant very little light could pass through from the sunset in the background. I created a small path on the third page which headed straight forward towards the sunset. This intrigues the reader into the book and possibly makes them start to question where the path leads. I created a few pages in a similar way with the path leading straight forward however, one of the pages produced seemed very dark and intense. The page didn’t give the right vibe I was going for in the work because it could cause the reader to feel stressed. This came from the wrong use of colour as I used too many browns, oranges and blacks in the page. I explained this to my tutor who recommended I glued two pages together to hide this and start again. Luckily it was only one page I needed to hide so I haven’t wastes too much of my time.  My tutor agreed with me because the page gave the wrong vibe for the book. She also recommended that I form the path to across along many of the pages to make the book flow more easily. This also intrigues the reader to continue reading through the book.

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Khoa Le

My knowledge of illustrator’s is rather limited as a Fine Art student so I had to do a bit of research into a few by asking fellow students and exploring the library and internet. Khoa Le is an illustrator I came across on Pinterest. Le is a Vietnamese artist who freelances in art. I was fascinated by their use of colour and way Le draws. The simplicity of her work is what makes it so great. I find the work is very pretty to look at and with the rich use of colour brings the piece to life.

I am inspired by Le’s work because I am interested in the simple line drawing technique and the overlay of paint to produce their work. Although I perceive the work as being simple, it is still extremely intense and rich with the use of colour. I want to bring this into my own work and use acrylic paint in a way which will bring the book to life.

Exploring possible ideas

I looked into the concept of a sensory stories and used Joanna Grace’s website as my main reference because she has a very wide collection of stories as well as guides to creating your own and how to develop them to the audience. I was fascinated by the way to started the projects and what inspired her to do so.

Having looked at at Grace’s work I noticed it is all targeted for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities. I have read a lot of children’s to my young nephew and and also as I grew up so I know a lot of well known ones including the Gruffalo, Cinderella, Three Little Pigs and Red Riding Hood. I thought about taking one of these stories and making it into a sensory story so children with PMLD would also be able to enjoy them. However, I found it would be quite difficult to shorten the stories into 7-10 lines and would mean I’d need to use many physical sensory props for the  book making it more complex than it should be. I also wanted the story to be my own and come from my own imagination.

After making this decision I started to explore my own ideas for a children’s story: A Day at the beach, A day at the park. These seemed like good ideas and would really help children who are unable to experience these small childhood memories due to a range of reasons. Some children may not have been able to because their parents are scared how they may react to the stimulus or the social interaction or the child may not be allowed due to abuse and abandonment.

These ideas seemed great however, I started to think about my career and what I wanted to do in the future. Art therapy is where I want to take my art so I can help people with PTSD and health illness to understand their state of mind and to learn to control it. With this in mind, I decided to create a mindful book which helps those experiencing a panic attack or feeling of instability to calm themselves and return to their state of calm and mindfulness.


Day 3 – Joanna Grace

The first part of the lecture consisting of a recap of the previous week. I found this very beneficial as I had missed the first week of the project. Natasha described the definition of Sensory Stories and outlined the target market and benefits of them. Sensory Stories are most beneficial for those with:

  • Dementia
  • PTSD
  • PMLD
  • Stress
  • Autism
  • a lack of early child development

The seniors stories provide a very visual, interactive environment for the reader because they involve using props, sounds, body movements and facial expressions. The use of these additions allows the reader to experience the story and immerse themselves into it.

Joanna Grace is an artist who specialises in creating sensory satires for young children with PMLD. We watched an 1hr30 video specially created for us where she explained the meaning of sensory stories, the benefits of them and who they are targeting. Grace explained the key points that make up a sensory stories:

  • 7-10 lines
  • concise
  • relevant and rich experience
  • visual
  • narrative is accessible though both the words and the experiences

This final point means that the stories is accessible for those with different disabilities. For example, the reader may be unable to see the experience due to a sight impairment however, they would be able to experience the story through the words, sounds and physical interactions made during the experience.

I found it really fascinating to listen to Jo as she described how she is able to take a simple story and then make it accessible to a range of different people.

Joanna continued to explain our minds are a complex forest which is overgrown and messy. Our experiences helps us to create paths through the forest and the repetition of these experience make the paths more defined. The sensory stories helps those who struggle to create these experiences independently by forming an experience in their imagination. After the video, we were given the chance for a Skype call with Jo where we were able to ask questions about Sensory Stories and how we could create one. This Skype call helped to clear up any issues I had and any problems I had with understanding the concept of Sensory Stories.

joanna grace

Exploring in the woods

Although I missed the first week of the field project due to external activities, I was able to carry out the same exercises the lesson did. All of the lectures and session were held at the Cyncoed campus in the Forest Wood. It was a weird experience at first having my lectures in here because it is a large, well built garden shed. It started to grow on me and allowed me to immerse myself in nature even when I was indoors in a lecture.

I went into the woods behind the Forest School where I was able to immerse myself in the environment and take in the different sensual components. I started by sitting there silently, listening to the birds singing, the trees creaking in the wind and the distant hum of traffic. I found this exercise to be very peaceful and calming as I was able to focus my mind on nature and combine this were my creativity.

I started by using charcoal to create abstract sketches of the tall trees disappearing into the sky. The sketches were very quick and experimental to allow me to form a rough image in my mind. I noticed these drawings were rather dark and eery. The woods was a very peaceful but also eery place which is converted through these sketches. The use of the charcoal has also contributed to this emotion the images are portraying. I am quite pleased with the sketches because they could be similar to a person’s interpretation of PSTD, stress or how they are feeling.

After experimenting with the charcoal, I decided to try watercolour and biro out. I found this worked really well because the two materials contrasted each other. I used colours which I would interrupt as relaxed and gentle i.e. greens, right browns and yellows. I did this to show a very obvious difference between the charcoal sketches and these. The watercolour allowed me to create leaves and start to give the experiments more life. The watercolour alone didn’t give a lot of detail but I was fascinated by the effect it gave and I will be continuing to experiment and develop these ideas.