“I’ve been very intentional about not apologizing for my work.”

Name: Dena Marie Petersen
Art Materials: Primarily acrylic paint on canvas

Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration typically comes from intrusive thoughts/images that I am plagued with or from dreams. I find that by putting them into a painting I’m able to get them out of my head.

Have you noticed any difference in your mental health since you’ve allowed yourself that freedom to just be creative?
I have definitely noticed an improvement in my mental health. Creativity allows me to explore aspects of my personality that may be upsetting, or even frightening, in a safe and productive manner.

Tell us about your creative process.
I often work on my art during times of high distress. Painting allows me to hyper-focus on something without obsessing over its perfection. I’m able to get away from my cycling thoughts and just focus on mixing colors and laying out lines. I only started about a year ago. I had always been hesitant about pursuing any type of hands-on art because it never turned out how I intended. Then someone told me that I never needed to let people know that the finished product wasn’t exactly what I was going for. Since then I’ve been able to create for the sake of creating, and I’ve been very intentional about not apologizing for my work.

Once you’ve put the thoughts/images onto paper, do you feel like you’re able to understand them a bit better?
Once I have released the images from my mind I find that I am able to look at them with an objectivity that I previously did not possess. I can analyze them without obsessing, and it has greatly improved my self awareness.


What is the story behind your work, if any?
My work has been without a doubt the most helpful thing in my journey toward healing. I have been a part of the mental health system for 15 years, but art is really what motivates me to go on. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and a visual reminder of the progress I am continuing to make.

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