Image: Dr Pam with Steven Smith & Denise Welch
Rob Harkavy interviews Dr Pam Spurr following the psychologists’s inaugural, star-studded art exhibition in London for International Women’s Day.
But before we lash on with the interview, here’s a sneak preview of some of Dr Pam’s wonderful and inspiring artwork.
Most people know you as a self-help expert, psychologist and author. Have you always been a secret artist?
In my teens I was always doing some sort of art – drawing, painting, weaving, pottery, embroidery and more. All that artistic experimentation ended when I had my first child unexpectedly at uni.
Throughout my children’s childhood and teenage years, I did all sorts of arts and crafts with them but never anything for myself. Late summer 2019 I could no longer cope with so many images in my head whenever I thought about my work as a psychologist and self-help expert.
It sounds strange but when I speak to someone about their emotional life – like in a coaching session – I ‘see’ their emotions and personal-stories as colours and images. Such images have been percolating in my mind during my 25-year career!
What inspired you to create the work in your exhibition and what’s the reason for aligning with International Women’s Day?
In my work, I speak to so many women who have faced all sorts of challenges and issues. All of my paintings, in some way, portray these issues from damaged self-esteem to surviving breast cancer, to issues around ‘loss’ and unhappy relationships, addictions, and all points in between.
My aim is to portray their courage, anguish and heartache through painting. But also, through colour and texture, I try to capture the sparks of hope and inner strength I see in every woman I’ve worked with or interviewed.
How would you describe your art?
I guess you’d say it’s an ‘Expressionistic’ style, where I try to capture the emotions of women I’ve met and how their emotions have stimulated a powerful emotional response in me. It’s these that I try and express through paint. Some of my paintings are fully abstract but I hope still evocative.
As well as paintbrushes (obviously!) I use feathers, sponges, sandpaper, and other little implements to help create a sense of movement and feeling in the paint.
Can you tell us a little about your process?
I try to narrow down the huge number of colourful images that fill my mind when thinking about a particular woman and her story. With one or two main images in mind I approach the painting with an open mind, knowing things might change. And they do! I often go back to a painting four or five times and build lots of layers to give more texture and feeling.
Putting on your psychologist’s hat for a moment, would you say that creating art has a therapeutic benefit, and why?
Art therapy can be such a positive experience for many different emotional and mental health issues. It allows you to express yourself in a new and different way, sometimes opening up better verbal communication. And it can be quite soothing and liberating, taking you out of yourself. Trying something new is also good for confidence boosting.
I’ve definitely found that painting helps with my own stress levels, it’s quite freeing! In my normal work life I’ve wrestled with perfectionist impulses at times but when it comes to painting I’ve thrown perfectionism to the wind. If a stroke doesn’t come out quite ‘right’ or if I splatter some paint, I leave it as part of the creative process.
I found your work profoundly moving. What has the general reaction been?
Thank you so much Rob, that means a great deal to me. I’ve been surprised by the enthusiasm I’ve been met with. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought people would respond well to my paintings. But many people have said they are evocative of all sorts of feelings and meanings. If it wasn’t for friends and family who encouraged me, I never would have put my paintings out there.
What’s next for Dr Pam?
Although I’m still working as a life coach, self-help expert and psychologist, I’m spending increasing time exploring where painting will take me. We all need to find new directions at times and right now this is my new direction.
Turner or Hockney?
Cheese or chocolate?
Beach holiday or city break?
Don’t make me choose, I love both!
Classical or rock?
Again, I love both classical and all sorts of modern genres from rock to hip-hop. Depends on my mood.
Bus or tube?
To find out more about Pam’s art and for commissions or purchases please email PamSpurrArt@gmail.com