Art therapist helps others live life in full colour

By Janaya Kindma

Kellie Jensen, 36, has an inviting energy that oozes ‘judgement-free zone’. What is also obvious is her over-flowing enthusiasm for art, which is pulled from the depths of her passionately creative core. She is fierce in her artistic expression and has a desire to help others through the power of art.

“What makes good art is not about it being beautiful or making sense, it’s about that essence and that it reflects something in you,” she says.

For Kellie, art has been a leading character in the narrative of her life. Sensitive and a self-confessed outsider, as a child growing up in Kempsey – a small country town on the NSW mid north coast – she garnered the title of “drifter” by her sister for always being elsewhere in her thoughts and her drawings. This often made her the subject of bullying and made her feel less than the intuitively gifted child she was.

A piece of Kellie’s artwork.

“That’s something I found growing up in a small town – that I was this triangle in a circle and I just didn’t fit in,” she says.

However, the one constant in life was her art and the way it made everything feel right. A defining moment in her artistic journey was in high school when she used a palette knife to layer on colour and texture, bringing the image in her mind’s eye to life as she let go and released it to create an acrylic painting that would later proudly display in a glass frame at an exhibition.

“It was a moment where I went ‘I am actually good at something’,” she says.

Kellie cites abstract expressionist Ian Fairweather as an inspiration and draws on the touch and feel of her natural surroundings. She pulls on the skills she learnt in her diploma of fine arts, mixing her learnt artistic skills with a deep connection to the ever-changing world around her.

Kellie manages to create artwork that exudes her most passionate self.

“In a way, I become a part of the artwork, and that is my representation,” she says. “I never want something to be hung, I never want to make the perfect artwork, and for something to be beautiful, what I want to do is become a part of the process.”

Kellie’s hands are a blur of movement as she talks eagerly on her artistic journey, almost as if she is painting the story as she speaks. She sits tall and proud in cool-girl casual attire, sipping on a hot coffee opposite the pristine and calm blue water of Caloundra. Her hair is in an effortless topknot and she dons an easy smile to match; she masters the art of conversation by being interesting yet interested. All the while enthusiastically sharing her newfound knowledge of the human psyche which is something she has embraced and deep-dived into since commencing her Bachelor of Art Therapy three months ago.

As walkers and runners pass by under bright morning sun, the proud “diamond in the rough” (as described by her partner Rhys) ponders how art has been her passion in life and how she came to realise the power art holds to help heal others.

“The art therapy for me is constructing all that deepness into a visual form, and I have always done art, but I never knew of the healing components,” she says.

Through persistent self- reflection and psychological education, Kellie is gaining not only practical skills for her future career but a greater understanding of who she is as a person.

“I feel like the more I’m learning about myself through art therapy the more I think I am aware,” she says. “I think having an awareness of your beliefs and values helps to bring what’s in the subconscious to the conscious.”

It was a memorable moment in her everyday job as a phlebotomist that inspired her to go down this path. A fearful young boy came into have his blood taken and intuitively knowing his struggle, Kellie told him to go for a walk with his dad and find his “bravery”. The boy came back shouting, “I’ve got my bravery! Look how brave I am!” and gladly offered his arm for her to do her job.

“That moment had an impact on me and made me realise I just want to help people with their internal struggle,” she says. “Help them to somehow freeze that moment when they can no longer torture themselves and make them realise that they have another opportunity.”

A passion for helping people and a talent for art is a rare combination. Anyone who encounters Kellie Jensen will no doubt be impressed by the effervescent magnetism bound up in the person that she is.

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