Mentoring Neil Thomas’s Art Trajectory with Jonathan Hayter


Neil Thomas is clearly someone who has experienced many traumatic events in his life, including addiction. Although I am not a professional psychotherapist, it is clear to me that his addictions in his earlier life might have been the result of misdiagnosed severe mental health problems. This point, I think, is important to keep in mind when focusing on Neil’s creative and mental health recovery today.

My observation of much of Neil’s obsessive attention to the practice of his art is that it  follows the addictive pattern of behaviour that once formed part of his former destructive life. However today Neil’s` practise as a painter is now a positive addiction, in my opinion. My understanding of this has helped me to help him nurture a constructive positive approach to painting and help him see that some of his previous behaviour can be a positively realigned when seen in this way.  



The continued ability for Neil to be able to practise his art, in my mind, is essential to facilitate a healthy and well balanced approach and help reassure him he has a good future ahead of him.


My background as a professional art practitioner, working in schools for 25 years as an expressive arts facilitator, and more recently facilitating similar projects with the elderly too, has given me a unique insight into helping others. This has enabled  me to see and focus on what Neil needs to maintain his interest in his art.


When I met Neil, (he originally attended my life class I ran in Krowji),  he was already painting.  Much of his painting up until this time reflected the style and content typical of someone that I would associate with his mental health issues.  For example; much of his work on canvas involved intricate pen work  , with  patterns and intricate decorative details making much of his work  appear  as  what many art  experts might consider to be  `Outsider Art` .


When I ask Neil about the meaning of many of these earlier  images his response is often that they reflect his experience of confinement in mental institutions, hospitals, and prisons over an 18 year period. I can now see how art  has been a powerful transformative  outlet for this trauma, and how important art is in maintaining stable mental health.


But also looking at these earlier images  ,at the time,  it was clear to me that  Neil had the potential to achieve so much more with his painting.


My work since this time with Neil has been to open up more avenues of expression for him in his painting.

The result of my support and encouragement for his creative exploration, is that nearly 3 years later he has developed a channelled outlet for his challenging mental health condition in a new positive and expressive way.



Now his work also reflects his developing interest in the art scene in general giving him confidence in other areas of his life and to speak more confidently about his art too by comparing it to many artists familiar to us all , such as Picasso  and Matisse.

He now paints more freely applying paint directly to the canvas to create images from his imagination and observation .These are often figurative reflecting his attendance for 2 years at life classes where he has been able to explore the significance of the human figure in painting.


My hope is, that with continued support, Neil will continue to remain a more balanced person with the ability to cope with the challenges his mental health presents him with everyday. I feel it is essential for Neil to continue his creative persuits to maintain a healthy approach all areas of his life.


Jonathan Hayter

August 2019-08-04





Neil Thomas Art