It is a pleasure to present this article by John Danks, an artist who devotes time to helping others heal through art. Known as the “Crayon Man” at Philadelphia’s St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, he takes his Art Cart to the children’s hospital and creates artwork with them. To keep his cart fully stocked with supplies, the remarkable artist donates a percentage of all of his commissioned portrait sales ordered through his John Danks “Art Cart” page which you will find here. The artist studied art at The Art Institutes and has been published in Colored Pencil Magazine and his portraits are in numerous private collections.
The Benefits of Art Expression
By John Danks
I lead a life that some may consider simple in my studio apartment. I love to study art history and develop my craft. My full time job is as a Certified Recovery Specialist in the drug and alcohol field. I have the opportunity to facilitate art as meditation and as expression and healing. For me, art has been the next best thing to pure meditation.
My main ministry has been as a volunteer at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. For almost six years I have been rolling my “Art Cart” that I implemented and fund down the halls of the hospital, where I involve the young patients who are enduring lengthy medical treatments. Creating art gives them a sense of accomplishment, self-control, and helps lift their souls in their unsettling situation.
I just love being there and any problems I may have melt away after I leave. Not only does this keep me gratefully balanced but also has a contemplative effect after being with and sharing art as healing with the children.
On these visits I bring my art cart stocked with everything from colored pencils to markers and more. My intention is to act as an “Artist Buddy” to bring kids and their parents some uplifting relief while they are waiting for or receiving treatment. The children’s eyes light up when they see me and the art cart, especially on Mondays in the oncology department where they wait eagerly for my arrival. This is a great opportunity that they allow me to go down there and be a part of their clinics.
When I began doing this, at first the parents were a bit leery. Now, they are excited to see the benefits of art expression and the way it lifts the children’s spirits. And on many occasions, the parents themselves create art which gives them relief from the stresses of seeing their children in a most difficult situation.
I get to know these kids because they are there frequently. A six year old boy was receiving treatment for his Leukemia and we were busy immersed in some art activity. His mother was present and nearby. After a while this young boy with excitement looked at his mother with his pinky finger extended and said “Mom, I promise I am going to try not to look at video games as much and do more art.” He added, “Art makes my head feel better.”
There are some heartbreaks also. Christina, eight years old, had a very serious affliction. I would see her in the hospital and we would play a game of “Cat and Mouse” — she in her wheelchair and me chasing her with my art cart through the halls — laughing and giggling all the while. I remember the day she received her first wig as the chemotheraphy was affecting her body and she lost her hair. She was so excited with her new wig so I painted a portraiture of her with her preference of blue and pink butterflies in the background. It was so heartbreaking when she passed away in December of 2016, but her family now has a special portrait of her with those courageous eyes.
Cate Murray, writer for Bristol pilot states, “Artists appear to be happy people, with light, color and peacekeeping the company to the end of the each day. The only thing artists really need are to be bold and adventurous and John unselfishly, by his example, encourages others to not let a clean piece of white paper deter them. In fact, especially with children, he has found out that youngsters do not let anything deter them.”
The ultimate vision of my art cart endeavor would be to have a few more volunteers to manage the art cart and to have the art cart rolling down the halls of the children’s hospital five days of the week.
Visit John Danks’ website www.johndanksart.com/the-art-cartist.html
Join him on Facebook: facebook.com/john.danks.1293