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First and foremost I want to start this post with an apology for being a little sneaky [Goes to the naughty step and stands on it for a few minutes – although just what the step has done in order for it to be labelled ‘naughty’ I just don’t know.]

Two days ago I posted one of my pen and ink sketches and I asked folk to give me their opinions of it…

I want to thank everyone who commented on it and to confess that actually I posted this picture for a very specific reason which I hope to make clear by the end of this piece.

As an artist I love art and pretty much most forms of art.  I thoroughly enjoy my art and creating pieces that folk enjoy and indeed I do try to convey a message or tell a story through my art.  But as an artist I soon learned something very important.

Which is that all the time a piece of art remains in my mind it – it’s evolution, life, message and interpretation is mine and pretty much mine alone. But the minute I commit it to canvas or to some other medium and share it with others, its life, its evolution, its message and its interpretation is  no longer mine and mine alone.  It has become public property and is therefore subject to their influence.

Let me try to explain.  Although the picture itself is static and finite and nothing within it changes, the external does change and therefore does influence it.  This, I think, can be demonstrated by the comments that I received concerning that first picture – the picture of the unicorn…

“I see a unicorn in trouble and the look in the unicorns eyes has fear in them.”

“The unicorn appears sad to me and I believe it is saying to me “farewell”

“Unicorns are typically depicted as joyful creatures, but this unicorn seems melancholy.”

Each of those statements were made by individual people independent of each other.  Notice the slight differences in interpretation concerning the unicorn in the picture.

Likewise here are three separate statements (again each from a different person) concerning the figure behind…

” I see a protector behind the unicorn.”

“I can’t quite tell what that is crossing daggers with the unicorn’s horn. Is it a skull? A rag with holes? I immediately thought it was a skull, but the shape isn’t right.”

“It looks like a figure the grim reaper of death”

And here are a couple of separate individual comments about the unicorn’s main and tassels…

“The tassels on the unicorn remind me of carousels I have been on when I was younger, where the horses and sometimes unicorns wore decorative bridles, which somehow elevates the sadness in the overall picture.”

“The decorations (not sure if that’s the right word–more like, items that designate military rank) make the unicorn seem distinguished, but it also seems as if they are muzzling (and symbolically silencing) the unicorn. And lastly, the unicorn’s mane is especially lustrous.”

And finally a couple of statements concerning the overall picture…

“I suppose the name I would give it is “Death of a Myth” or something like that.”

“And the whole picture to me says that through death one attains eternal life and spiritual insight.”

I need to make something very clear here.  Whilst there may be differing perceptions or interpretations of the same finite and static picture, the fact it that each and every one of them is as valid as the next.  Indeed the reality is that what I, as the artist, intended in that piece of art in many ways becomes secondary to how others interpret or perceive it.

Additionally and in some ways more importantly, how others interpret or perceive it is more about who they are, what they have been through, and where they are coming from, than it is about who I am, what I have been through or where I am coming from as the artist.  For example note the comment, ‘“The tassels on the unicorn remind me of carousels I have been on when I was younger‘.

Of course we are talking about a simple piece of static and finite art here.  But doesn’t the same thing also apply, in many ways, to how others perceive us and indeed their perception of our mental-health?

And what about perceptions that are instant, incomplete or even mistaken?

As I said at the start of this post, I have been a little sneaky and I really do apologize for this but I really did want to emphasize a point.  As well as the picture I posted two days ago I also posted one yesterday.  Yesterday’s picture on the face  of it was much simpler.  As was the task I asked people to perform…

I published the picture below and I said, “The picture below contains at least one mistake and I wonder if you can readily identify them/it and how long it will take you to do so?”

I then asked folk to look at their clock/watch and then study the picture and find the mistake or mistakes and when they felt they have found it or them to make a note of how long it took them and to then contact me and let me know how long it took and what they felt the mistake or mistakes were.

I want to say that I am truly grateful to everyone who participated.  I also want to say that whilst nearly everyone who participated and then commented did in fact locate the most obvious mistake (the one you were meant to find) not one person found (or at least not one person commented on) the more subtle and yet more important mistake.

So what was the obvious mistake?  Well here is the answer to that.  Check out the last word in the third line and the first word of the fourth line.

The word ‘that’ has been repeated and only one ‘that’ actually belongs in that sentence.  Did you spot it? I am sure you probably did.

But what about that second more subtle and more important mistake?  Well I did say that I had been sneaky didn’t I?  Let me offer you a more correct or more accurate version of that picture…

Now you could easily be forgiven for thinking that actually I have been very sneaky here indeed.  But I think the difference and the point is well worth making.

The first picture stated that this blog is about mental health whilst the second more accurately states that the blog is about the author, his mental health and his life.  Indeed look at the blog’s tagline next to the small title at the top of the page.

The point is this.  Mental health, in my opinion, is never and should never be the focus alone.  Mental health is not about mental health for its own sake but about the person, the individual, the life or the lives impacted by it.  This blog, whilst certainly dealing with mental health, is not just about mental health, it is about the person impacted by that mental health or the lack thereof.

And more importantly this applies to a great many other blogs written by folk who also face challenges in respect of their own mental health.

To focus on the mental health alone would be so very wrong and, I suggest, therefore a mistake.

And let’s not lose sight of those ‘perceptions’ and those ‘interpretations’ in all of this.

In my explanation of the first picture I demonstrated how perceptions and interpretations of that first static, finite, picture – the unicorn picture – were as much about the person making those interpretations, those perceptions, as they were about me the artist or indeed what I intended to convey.

In this second example, the same truths apply.

In my invitation concerning the second picture – the purple one – I deliberately mentioned that there could be more than one mistake in it.  At no point did I suggest there would only be one mistake and at no point did I suggest when to stop looking for mistakes.

True, in the picture I provided a fairly obvious mistake but I never once suggested it was the only one or that anyone should stop looking for others once they had found that one obvious mistake.

And isn’t that sadly representative of life and people?  Isn’t it true that when someone comes across a mistake or something different they make instant decisions or stop looking beyond the mistake or that something different?

Sometime a person’s mental health can affect them, or come to the fore, in such a way that it causes behavior or responses that people automatically latch onto and from which they make instant decisions and ones that shape their relationship or indeed their desire to form or to not form a relationship with that person.

But in so doing, in making instant decisions based on limited or incorrectly presented or incorrectly perceived or interpreted information, we can all to easily lose out on so much more that someone has to offer.

Since starting this blog, some three years ago now, I have been so blessed to get to know of other wonderful and inspiring blogs and wonderful and inspiring bloggers.  Many of the blogs that I read or follow or occasionally visit do indeed deal with mental health and mental health related issues.  In that, those blogs and this one, have things in common, but even more than that, each and every one of them is written but some of the most courageous and inspirational people it has been my honor to come into contact with.

I truly believe that when it comes to mental health, just like so many things, until we all learn to look beyond the condition and to see the person we will continue to miss out on so very much that is available to us.

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