An interview with Dr. Janet Shipton on Art Therapy, August 29, 2023 by George Ackerman, Ph.D, J.D.
Please tell me a little about your background.
I’m a visual artist from Beeston, Notts. UK. I use acrylics, oils, and pastels, and find inspiration in the human form and the environment we inhabit.
I try to bring my emotions and love of color into all my work.
At the age of 47 in 2018 I got a diagnosis of Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (PD).
What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?
My passion for art and its therapeutic benefits has intensified since diagnosis, and I enjoy sharing this through workshops and public speaking. I’m determined to continue painting and raising awareness of how creative practice can help people with PD and other conditions live well.
I started my website to bring awareness and offer.
Here’s a video from a presentation I gave at a mental health awareness event in September 2021, and the video journal for “The Artful Parkies”, the art tour I did with Chris Stanley around Yorkshire in a camper van, connecting, creating, and changing perceptions.
You’ll also find a recent Notts TV interview about winning the World Parkinson’s Coalition song contest, and then the official video of the performance in Barcelona, July 2023.
I think they sum up me and my approach to PD better than written words can.
What type of goals do individuals with Parkinson’s have when working with you?
My website introduces you to you many of the things I’ve been involved with since being diagnosed nearly 5 years ago: www.paintingwithmrp.com
These include cycling from London to Paris, a 24 hour danceathon, a 20-day art retreat, a 12 hour boxing challenge, I formed a theatre group and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, I co-wrote a song that won the World Parkinson’s song competition and performed it in Barcelona in July, and I’ve written and published a book that chronicles my 12 month art road trip I did last year.
What effect can it have on an individual with Parkinson’s?
I believe art can help us express ourselves in a way not always possible. Art can transport us to a different place, lift our mood and increase self-esteem. I witness this in myself and others all the time.
I’m determined to keep going and enjoy my creative practice and continue my work to raise awareness of the condition and what it means to those that have it.
What would you like to see as a future goal for your programs?
I have raised a good deal of money for Parkinson’s UK since diagnosis, but I’m more passionate in raising the profile and understanding of the condition. I have a voice and I feel it’s my duty to use it and represent those that can’t speak out.
What events do you participate in?
I have a filmmaker making a documentary about me that I’m very excited about. I’m starting a collaborative art/ science project with the University of Nottingham, and The Parky Players are starting a new piece of comedy theatre. Lots to keep me busy.
How can someone get in touch? What is your website?
There’s a lot of material on my website – on the homepage there are links to some interviews and presentations I’ve given. There’s also a link to the video of the song I co-wrote and performed. They’ll give you a real sense of me and what I’m about.
If you had one final statement or quote you could leave for the Parkinson’s community, what would it be?
Try not to dwell on what PD is taking away from you, instead try to focus on what new things it brings. I believe we can all cope better if we accept, adapt, and remain ambitious.