Art therapy and restorative justice
Presentations, joint discussion and online comic strips workshop with Marian Liebmann (UK)
Marian Liebmann is an art therapist and restorative justice facilitator, member of the restorative city project “Restorative Bristol”. Marian contributed in three ways to REstART:
- She pre-recorded two presentations including pictures of reparation art works done by offenders showing empathy with victims. The two videos below are password protected (for registered participants only).
- On 3 December 2020, Marian delivered a virtual workshop on cartoons as means for storytelling and sharing of emotions; Marian has used these with a variety of offenders of all ages. Scroll down to view an excerpt of the workshop.
- On 1 December 2020, Marian presented her work in a joint talk with Gema Varona (Spain) and Clair Aldington (UK). Scroll down to view the recordings.
Art is known to be a useful communication tool, providing a non-verbal means of communication. ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is often cited. This is particularly important for those young people who have difficulty expressing themselves in words.
The arts generally offer an excellent medium for self expression and self exploration – and can help young offenders develop awareness of feelings they may not have been able to articulate. This can provide a constructive avenue for release of those feelings – angry pictures can be substituted for destructive angry actions, giving enough space to make a better, more thought-out response to difficult situations.
Visual art can also be used to look at current issues and possible futures. Young offenders can look at options they have identified and are displayed in front of them. They can also try out different ways of being, developing their creativity as a new way of living their lives. The fact of active participation makes art a more accessible way of working on specific issues.
‘I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.’
Workshop: Using Comic Strips in Restorative Justice
Many offenders and some victims are unable to verbalise their experiences for a variety of reasons – such as lack of experience with words, difficulty with an unfamiliar language, disability or trauma. It is well known that the use of simple art materials can provide a path for people to communicate through non-verbal means.
The aim of this workshop is to explore the use of comic strips for participants in restorative justice, as an aid to articulating what has happened, evoking the feelings involved, and the development of empathy. There is no need for participants to have any artistic skill.
The workshop will start with a look at some comic strips completed by offenders on probation (young people and adults), and noting how the process has aided discussion of their offending. The practical part of the workshop will involve participants in drawing a comic strip based on their experience of either (1) where they were a victim of crime or harm (2) where they were the person responsible for causing harm, or making a mistake that affected someone else. Participants will be encouraged to use stick figures and do quick sketches rather than detailed drawings.
Sharing in pairs or small groups will focus on drawing out benefits and difficulties in experiencing the process. The workshop will finish with a consideration of the uses of this method, and the situations in which it can best be used.
Practicalities to come prepared to the workshop
1. Materials - Take with you a 5/6 white papers (A4 format) and a black marker (not too thin, not too thick, to show your drawings to other participants via Zoom).
2. Preparation – Think about a story from your past you wish to share, an incident or conflict (not a too traumatic experience), something you regret to have done or an experience that harmed you. This will serve as the basis of your drawing. No specific drawing skills are needed for this workshop, relax!
3. Workshop – The link to Zoom is sent only to registered participants. Do not sit or stand between the source of light and the computer’s camera (e.g. do not sit in front of a window), otherwise your face will be in shadow and your drawings less visible.
Timetable (3 December at 10-12.30h)
10.00 Welcome & technical check
10.10 Introduction round
10.30 Warming up exercise
10.40 Presentation of an offender’s comic strips
11.10 Individual exercise: draw your story in a comic strip (home)
11.40 Little groups exercise: tell your story (breakout rooms)
11.50 Show your drawing and group discussion
12.20 Final round
12.30 End of the workshop
Art can be used as a communication tool and to facilitate reparation beyond words.
Marian Liebmann has worked with victims of crime and with offenders. She was director of Mediation UK, and now works as a restorative justice practitioner and trainer in the UK; she has worked in several African and East European countries. She is involved in helping Bristol to become a restorative city. She has written/ edited 13 books, including Restorative Justice: How It Works. She is also an art therapist and has applied these skills to work in mediation and restorative justice, running workshops on Art Therapy, Anger and Conflict.