Fenna Berry

We were recently contacted by Fenna Berry. Loving what we saw, we took time to go through her tumblr page. What we found astounded us – not only for the sheer amount of work on show – but for how accomplished the various styles and mediums are. From fine art painting, Manga-influenced comic narratives, design, to traditional and contemporary illustration. We urge you to not only look at our favourite selections here, but also take a look for yourself at Fenna’s tumblr page – she’s a ball of pure creative energy.

“I am Fenna, a conceptual/expressionist/surrealist artist, born in the USA in 1995. I am a self taught artist living with schizophrenia, using art as an outlet for therapy. I consider myself disabled because of my diagnosis, and do not work or go to school.

I make art nearly every day. It is one of the only activities that makes me feel safe and keeps me from panic. I truly cannot use my words to emphasise the importance of this. I’m not the best at saying stuff without specifically being asked questions  on specific things. I do not plan what I make, it just happens. Then I look and say “Wow, look at that” and repeat the process forever.

I currently reside in central Texas. Most of my works are made using surrealist techniques such as automatism. They are created with a highly personal concept in mind.”



Artist: Chris Gray

“Hi, I’m Chris Gray. I’m forty eight years old and have a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia which is largely under control by the correct medication. I grew up in Littlehampton and I’ve lived in Brighton for over twenty years.

Early hand drawn images

I’ve been using computers to create images, animations, interactive pieces and music since the early 1990’s and I have a Professional Development Certificate in interactive multimedia design. One of my animated short movies was shown on regional television in 2002. I also have paid work experience in graphic design, 3D design / animation, video editing, web research and as a PC and audio / visual field technician.

I have recently had several pieces published in ‘The Big Issue’ magazine and one of my pictures has been included in ‘Letting in the Light’, an outdoor light-box exhibition in Stratford, East London.

Early Amiga images

I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting. During my early teens I was a keen model maker (Airfix kits etc.) and later was very interested in painting and modifying role-playing figurines (Citadel miniatures and the like). I like to think of these hobbies as a sort of apprenticeship in form and colour and different types of paint and painting techniques.

I first got into using computers in my artwork writing programs in BASIC to generate geometrical graphics patterns on early 8 bit computers like the Sinclair Spectrum and the Acorn Electron in the 80’s, but more seriously when I got my first Commodore Amiga and Deluxe Paint. Since then I’ve been using a combination of digital and hand drawn techniques in my work.

Early PC images

I’m greatly inspired by surrealists like René Magritte, M.C. Escher and Salvador Dali, abstract artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Jackson Pollock, a lot of ‘pop’ artists including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein and ‘op art’ artists like Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely.

I’m also very interested in ideas surrounding geometry and topology (the juxtaposition of regular and irregular polygonal shapes, symmetry / asymmetry and tessellation) and concepts from fractal maths (endless repetitions of similar but non-identical shapes and patterns etc.).


My other influences come from many disparate sources such as comic books, science fiction and fantasy art (Chris Foss, Rodney Matthews etc.), album covers, tribal art from around the world, body art, graffiti and stained glass windows. I love using a lot of bright, clashing colours in my work.

Hand drawn and digitally enhanced images

My work is mostly about internal states of mind I have experienced, from dreams and nightmares to altered states of perception, euphoria, delirium, isolation, alienation, paranoia and psychosis. I am in no way trying to create photo-realistic images from the real world, but rather to interpret some of the things I have been through in my mind in a visual and hopefully pleasing, although sometimes disturbing, form.


I have also been producing, mixing and recording electronic music for over twenty years. Over this time I’ve used a wide variety of techniques and technologies. I make tunes across a broad spectrum of styles from hip-hop to rock, mellow electronica to hardcore drum and bass, all from a very experimental angle. In addition I’ve made several animated short movies and videos to accompany my tunes.”

You can check out more work by Chris via the links below.

Online portfolio



Order copies of his disks here

Paintings & Words by Sarah Tansey

Sarah Tansey is an artist, writer, burlesque art model and cabaret dancer. She’s also a single mum to an eighteen year old, who found herself in the clutches of paranoid schizophrenia when her son was just nine months old. Waiting until he was an adult to tell her story, Sarah has published a short, cutting, insight into her life at the time.

The book is illustrated with Sarah’s paintings, and she tells me, “The artwork in the book is all mine – I use it as part of my recovery, when I have my ‘blips’. I consider my artwork to be expressionist/abstract. I work in all sorts of mediums, whatever I feel like learning at that time. Learning is such a great thing to do to boost those brain cells! I am currently working on a seascape.”

Image gallery at the end of this post, below book information. Thank you Sarah for sending us your book, and telling us about you.

Book Information:
“By the Light of the Silvery Moon is an open and honest account of developing and living with paranoid schizophrenia.”

“An ordinary girl arrives in London in the 1990s with unclear aspirations but with a determination to enjoy life. Following a turbulent relationship, which includes the heavy use of recreational drugs, the writer develops paranoid schizophrenia. This is her story, told with humour and insight, a story of coping with the disease, and meeting the challenges of raising a son. Told with warmth and insight, By the Light of the Silvery Moon shows that there is hope and a future for those suffering with schizophrenia. The story is interspersed with photographs of the author’s paintings completed as a component of art therapy.”

Available here.

Update from Bethlem Gallery

On the 19th of February, The Bethlem Gallery and Museum will open the doors to a new, state of the art building which will be home to the Bethlem Gallery, Bethlem Museum of the Mind and Bethlem archives.

Below is a summary of the first three exhibitions taking place in the building.

Bethlem Museum of the Mind’s Permanent Collection.

A selection of around 1,000 art works including works by former Bethlem patients such as Jonathan Martin, Richard Dadd and Louis Wain

Bryan Charnley: The Art of Schizophrenia

Bringing together works from the Bethlem collection and many rarely seen works from the Estate of Bryan Charnley, this exhibition looks back at Charnley’s life and work.

Where is the Work in a Work of Art?

What kind of work goes into making a work of art? This exhibition will reveal the processes, structures and systems behind the art of a diverse group of artists who are connected to the Bethlem Gallery. We’ll be asking how does identity play a role in the making and reception of an artwork and how are artists enabled to do what they do?

About Bethlem

Bethlem Royal Hospital was founded in 1247 and was the first institution in the UK to specialise in the care of the mentally ill. The hospital continues to provide in-patient care as part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and is a provider of mental health and substance misuse services for people locally and specialist services for people from across the U.K. For more information on our services please visit: www.slam.nhs.uk

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year. This is the most commonly quoted statistic, and the one which has the most research evidence to support it – www.mind.org.uk

Around 300 people out of 1,000 will experience mental health problems every year in Britain 230 of these will visit a GP 102 of these will be diagnosed as having a mental health problem 24 of these will be referred to a specialist psychiatric service

6 will become inpatients in psychiatric hospitals.

For more information visit: bethlemgallery.com | bethlemmuseumofthemind.org.uk

An essay on art & medication by Karen Sorensen

“I am schizoaffective, badly disabled, and I have devoted my life to making oil paintings.  Two years ago I started lowering my antipsychotic medication for health reasons.  I believe that my art changed.  I believe that I am more creative on lower medication.  Seeing my art change has motivated me to stay on very little medication despite some serious mental discomfort from symptoms of my illness. I feel that I am closer to insanity, yet more creative.  I have shown you work to compare.

“Paradise” was created on a high dose of anti-psychotic medication.  Two anti-psychotic medications in fact.  The planning of this work was difficult.  I struggled to find images. I found the final product slightly unusual, but mostly bland.

‘Paradise’, Karen Sorensen

“Adam, Eve, and the Devil” and “Tea Time” were both created as my medication was cut drastically.  They both are at a point where I have dipped under therapeutic level of only one antipsychotic medication.   They are both twice the size of  “Paradise”.  As I planned these pieces the creative ideas came much more quickly to my mind.  Newness of form, newness of concept, appeared in my mind like magic.  I could “see” images in my imagination with clarity like never before.  I could paint twice as many hours a day.   Probably I like the highly detailed style in these low-dose medication artwork more because I sense a pulse of chaos in them.  I sense energy.  It is the chaos and energy of a mind that has been released to much more of the madness within.

I am now much more fascinated with my creation.  Pleased as an artist, this reinforced in the identity of being an artist and boosted self-esteem.  Freed from the foggy high dose of anti-psychotic medication my whole life, as I lived it day to day, was filled with more energy.  I felt sharper and smarter.  My husband noted that my ability to articulate ideas, and have critical thinking, drastically improved on low dose medication.

Socially I became more withdrawn and isolated as the medication was lowered, slowly, bit by bit.  My emotions became more volatile.  My husband had to adjust to a person who was in his words “less childlike”, who slept less, was more emotionally fragile, and who saw more reasons and causes to be distressed.  I no longer cared about attending social events in my town and there are days at a time that I never leave the apartment.  I lie in bed a lot, unable to stand other than to go to the bathroom.  Family interactions affected me negatively me more than ever and I obsess over emotional hurts in the past and the present.  However, I believe that isolation and obsessiveness are necessary to create works of art that are different and unique from mainstream subject matter.

‘Adam, Eve and The Devil’, Karen Sorensen

Often, in American review of Outsider Art, European schizophrenic artists who lived in insane asylums of the past are held up as examples of purity of vision and masters of creativity.  It has been noted by an New York University professor in a paper that she published on-line for her class, that the schizophrenic masters were not on medication.  Her thesis is that schizophrenic artists today who are on medication are incapable of creating work at the level of quality of past non-medicated schizophrenics.  Some schizophrenic artists who are put on anti-psychotic medication can’t create art at all.

I believe that a lot of American schizophrenics do create art, but I have noticed myself that it is often not with consistency or idiosyncratic vision.  Vision that is bizarre and obsessive don’t happen much to modern day schizophrenic artists.  I believe that they don’t labor long on their creations, their delusions are not fueling the subject matter of the art in a subliminal way. Modern schizophrenics will expend a lot of energy participating in the little happy moments and diversions of mainstream society because of the medication they take.  I believe that more happiness means less top quality art.  This is not true for a normal artist, but it probably is true for a person with a severe mental illness.

When I was young, I lived in a mental institution for two years.  I can testify that the conditions of life in the old style hospitals where humans were warehoused was so boring, that any mind that had the creative impulse would WANT to create, would be MOTIVATED to create, because LIFE WAS MONOTONOUS AND DULL.   What modern day medications give is a normalization of social interactions and connection to reality.  Now, to me as an artist, I find that these medical gifts of drug induced health divert my attention away from art making activities.  So I reject most gifts of medication and exist in a twilight state that parallels in condition, both mental and physical, of what I experienced being institutionalized young.  My life is simple.  It has to be moronically simple in order for me to have the concentration and motivation for what I make.

‘Tea Time’, Karen Sorensen

I don’t make art for fun.  I am not expecting life to be fun.  I make art for the sake of creating beauty.  Life for beauty.  Not life in the pursuit of happiness.  There’s a difference.

I feel I was freed when I drastically lowered my medication and gave up on having any semblance of a normal, well rounded life.  And then I became an artist to the bone and core of my being.  I have embraced that my insanity is both a creative gift and a tormenting burden.  That’s just a fact of my life, like my eyes are brown.  I have an off-kilter mentality and I’m not going to dull it down with medication.  I take just enough medication so that I’m not too tormented and try to kill myself.

Yes, making this choice is serious business.  But my life is my own to do with what I please.”

Flight of Ideas at Bethlem Gallery

A Bethlem Gallery showcasing the innovative arts in health initiatives across Europe, 2 – 25 October 2013
10 October World Mental Health Day

“To celebrate world mental health day 2013 the Bethlem Gallery is staging an exhibition of postcards made by artists staying and working in hospitals across Europe. Flight of Ideas is an international collaboration between innovative arts practice, studio spaces and galleries based within psychiatric healthcare in Croatia, France, Italy and the UK. All four organisations are unique within their own countries. Flight of Ideas celebrates their shared ideals framing them within the context of each nation’s system of mental health care. These differing institutions all facilitate creative activity as part of the recovery process during a person’s time in hospital and support professional development of these artists beyond the hospital setting.

Montfavet_Avignon_France_3Bethlem Royal Hospital_Terence Wilde








(Work from a French contributor, left, and from Terence Wilde, right)

At the heart of the exhibition are the artists themselves. Their extraordinary talent will be presented within the size of a postcard but is broad and varied in the range of style, media and technique employed. Artists working within the hospital environments range from having formal arts training to the self-taught. Their work shows, better than any document, their identity as artists and their right to lay claim to that status.

Flight of Ideas is produced and hosted by the Bethlem Gallery, a well known contemporary gallery space in the grounds of the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world still functioning today. The gallery and museum’s regular exhibitions and events have made it a vital contributor to the UK’s debate on creativity, mental health and art history. It is an important access point for the general public, patients, hospital staff and media to meet and communicate regardless of whether they are within or without the world of mental health care.”

Opening Event: Wednesday 2nd October, 3 – 6pm
Exhibition continues: Thursday 3rd – 25th October
Opening times: Wednesday – Friday 11am – 6pm Gallery and Museum will be open Saturday 12th October 11am – 5pm
Address: The Bethlem Gallery, Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3BX
Nearest British Rail: Eden Park / East Croydon
Website: http://www.bethlemgallery.com | http://www.bethlemheritage.org.uk

Ali Fisher

“I suffer from mental illness myself and am still in the services since 1996. I am now 36 years old and have used art to cope with my illness of schizoaffective disorder.

Here is some of my art done in oil, acrylic and charcoal. This painting is called ‘A soul of entrapment’, hence the fist grasping hold of that fine line of light between reality and unreality, the soul going upwards towards the lighter side, the more positive.

This next picture is done in charcoal. I call that one ‘Judgement’, as the life after death, as you can see the skeleton bowing in front of his judge, whether to accept him as a angel into the next life.

This final one I call ‘Hope’, after suffering from psychosis. It was a dream so I decided to paint that dream, and that is done in oil paint. As you can see the hand reaching for the light, guess you can say the light at the end of the tunnel, as I was trying to block out the voices.

Hope you enjoy.”