M1 Singapore Fringe Festival – Drawing, a recovery tool anywhere and everywhere 

When the urge to pick strikes, I follow it with the urge to draw. Late night, and alone, these are the points where the Skin Picking can easily occur. 

So here in Singapore, it’s not just drawing on the trains. I set up a makeshift studio on newspapers at the foot of my hotel bed.

Look out for me creating free #Compulsivecharcoal drawings for you on public transport over the next 5 days. I’m here 4-15 Jan for M1 Singapore Fringe Festival @m1sff Art & Skin, giving public talks, running workshops in universities and hospitals. #CompulsiveSkinPicking is more common than you may think. As many as 1 in 25 may suffer. Art is my tool to reimagine the disorder. I draw to stop #skinpicking, and I give away up to 60 drawings everyday, that’s close to 10,000 drawings in the last year. Keep a look out on SMRT where I’ll be creating and giving away my free #CompulsiveCharcoal drawings. #M1sff #Singapore #advocacy #mentalhealth #dermatillomania #skin #compulsiveskinpicking #randomactsofkindness #art #Charcoal #1minutedrawing #sketch #publicart #newspaper #creative #commutersketch #instagood, #photooftheday #charcoaldrawing #graffiti #graffitiart #commutersketch #drawingeverywhere #streetart #streetstyle #streetgraffiti

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival – day 6 at Association for Mental Health

On Monday 9 January, a meeting had been arranged by British Council with Creative Hub at the Goodman Arts Centre, this is the Singapore Association for Mental Health. Of course on the way there, I created and gave a way a number of #CompulsiveCharcoal drawings on the SMRT….

Graffiti at Goodman Arts Centre, Singapore

Cherry and Alicia from British Council Singapore had kindly arranged this connection so that I could find out a little more about the Art Therapy offered to communities in Singapore, and I was really excited to meet the team.

Alicia and Cherry with the art materials…

Creative Hub is just one arts organisation on a crazy complex, in what used to be an old school, at Goodman Arts Centre. This is also where Arts Council Singapore is based. It became clear very quickly that lots of useful connections had already been made with the staff at Lasalle too, where Art Therapy links connecting back to my trip were crossing over! I was inspired to hear of the drop in sessions run weekly at Creative Hub for the community access creative activities and workshops with qualified Arts Therapists, but it was also noted that so much more work needed to be done in this area. I am hoping that by making this link, there may be future collaborations or residencies where I might be able to return to work with Creative Hub connected to my own teaching and workshops. An inspiring morning!

I created a 1 minute #CompulsiveCharcoal for Alison, filmed by Alicia Ali!

After the meeting, Cherry and Alicia introduced me to Jonathan Kiat, a musician and DJ who is also Cherry’s husband! We went for some delicious food at Singapore’s Swimming Club, an old colonial hub with a restaurant.

I had chicken and rice to die for, and it was here that the asian pudding known as chendol was introduced to me! Absolutely delicious, and my goodness look at the colours of it!! Shaved ice with coconut milk, glassy palm seeds, and yes… kidney beans! Amazing colour on the top is dyed gelatine. On a hot and humid day, this was just the ticket to refresh and cool down!

After lunch, Cherry and John (Kiat) drove me to the heritage district which was beautiful. He also introduced me to Ink and Clog, a world famous graffiti duo, and I was honoured to be asked to create a 1 minute #CompulsiveCharcoal for them…

At the end of this brilliant day of adventures, I took myself out for dinner and found  grilled seafood bar where I ate amazing prawns in garlic and chilli….




M1 Singapore Fringe Festival day 4 – talks & workshop

We headed back to the fantastic Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for my public talk to more than 60 participants, followed by my workshop.

An exhibition of my artworks had been set up in the foyer for visitors.

Keen audience and lots of warmth from everyone there!! As with all of the other talks, no one had really heard of Compulsive Skin Picking so this has been an opportunity at each stage to give key advocacy information about the disorder as well as show images of my artwork and how I manage it every day.

I gave the audience a little 1 minute #CompulsiveCharcoal demonstration which was enthusiastically observed and filmed!

Here’s the happy recipient of that particular free drawing!!

One of the doctors asked if I’d graffiti one of the large prints in the foyer! I hadn’t ever graffitied my own artwork before so this was somewhat of a meta moment!!

And here I am with the psychologists & staff at Yishun Community Hospital and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital who made me so very welcome! I donated this customised artwork to the hospital where it will now be permanently exhibited.

After these exciting moments, and a short refreshment break, I was to lead my workshop. Reflecting on the theme of Art and Skin, I’d suggested to the festival I’d lead a texture gathering workshop, textures are a repetitious theme in my practice and artwork. I explained to the 35 participants that we’d use the environment to complete a short shared experience. This was a texture gathering photography workshop, using simply mobile phone, to notice and capture the scars, marks and details in the ‘skins’ of the environment. 

Here are some of the images I captured… 

With limitted time on our hands at the end of the workshop, we hopped in a cab to get to Esplanade Theatre on the other side of the country in time for my final talk!

Stuck im traffic, I began drawing for my chaperones and the taxi driver got a drawing too! 


The Esplanade is based on the shape of a durian…

I spoke to at a public event at the Library within the building …warm words from Alvin Tan, Artistic Director of The Necessary Stage..

I had cocktails and dinner with a number of the other artists involved in festival as well as Festival Manager Sean Tobin. The day ended watching a performance  of Fight Palast in the Esplanade studio theatre.

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival adventures day 3 

Friday gave me the opportunity to get into the flow of creating and giving away many more of my 1 minute free #CompulsiveCharcoal drawings on the MRT in Singapore. We had a longer commute than the previous days to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in northern Singapore. 

We were heading to Yishuan Community Hospital/ Khoo Teck Puat Hospital where I was to give a talk on Skin Picking and art to health professionals including psychologists and social workers.

It’s an extraordinary place! Lush green vegetation grows along the outdoor corridors of each ward. More like something out of Jurassic Park than any hospital I’ve ever seen! The hospital is relatively new, only opening last year. The concept is of course to put flora and fauna near to the patients and staff to improve the atmosphere and to connect everyone back to their surroundings for wellbeing and to aid recovery. What a beautiful place.

My morning talk was well received, and the room resembled a storm trooper from Star Wars! 

I was happy a number of the health professionals asked for a free drawing. As soon as I got the charcoal out, I could feel the excitement at the mess and thought they should have a go too… which brilliantly they did!!

In the afternoon we headed home on the MRT, drawing all the while…

In the evening I was speaking at the public event hosted by LASALLE School of the Arts where I was delighted to be able to spend some more time with dear friend Susan Sentler.

Terrific day! 

Day 2 at M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2017

It’s been very busy couple of days taking part in the terrific Art & Skin themed festival here in Singapore. I’ve found some time to write about the adventure so far!

The first full day kicked off meeting journalists from Channel Asia News who accompanied me on my first journeys on the MRT train routes in Singapore.

I began creating the 1 minute #CompulsiveCharcoal drawings on the copies of the free Today paper, as well as The Straits Times, and giving them to passengers in my vicinity. It’s always an interesting moment starting to draw in public for the first time. And although I am very used to reading the body language of passengers engaging and watching me draw, there was definitely a little anxiety of how this would be received in Singapore. There are strict laws on littering here and I would not be able to leave drawings to be discovered or encountered, as I do in London. I had been advised to ensure I was gifting the drawings directly. I was really happy that smiles, eye contact and conversations began to happen, and I was able to successfully give away about 10 drawings. 

I’ve also been distributing the accompanying postcard to people near me, just as I do in London which explains how drawings is a tool to stop my #CompulsiveSkinPicking. It encourages people to share the drawing on social media but thus far no one has joined in! We will see how that goes over the duration of the trip. 

Here are a range of drawings from those initial excursions…

After the interview for Channel Asia, we made our way to Lasalle College of the Arts, an incredible building that looks like something out of Star Wars! Wow!

I was there to give the first of a series of illustrated talks on Compulsive Skin Picking and my art practice. The session was for 30 students on the MA Art Therapy course. 

After a Q&A I also led a 2 hour Body Portrait workshop for the students, inviting them to experience a personal and reflective activity based on their own bodies and skins. These life-size portraits were hugely expressive and powerful and lined the walls and windows of the room…

One of the members of staff from the Art Therapy team emailed me afterwards, saying 

“Thank-you very much for conducting the 3-hr workshop today. We learned heaps and our students have enhanced their learning and understanding on the processes of harnessing the power of of art-making for healing on a deeper level.”

The day ended with the opening reception for the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival at the incredible Esplanade Theatre with a spectacular view across the city.

Sean Tobin, the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival Director warmly welcomed all the artists and sponsors, and I was able to meet and thank the team at the British Council Singapore for supporting my trip.

The drinks reception was followed by some fabulously naughty burlesque with a performance of Sin in Skin which was utterly brilliant! Glad I wore some sequins… here’s a jetlagged selfie at the end of a fantastic first day!

Arrival at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 

Wow! Touchdown in Singapore! Nervous-excited-nervous-excited!

But a great welcome from the lovely M1 Singapore Fringe festival peeps who met me from the airport and just awesome to finally meet brilliant Jezamine Tan! So grateful for all her support to get me out here! 

One of my dear friends now lives and works in Singapore so it was truly wonderful to scoff some ribs and chestnut tea food with dear Susan Sentler.

Returned to the hotel. Unpacked the essentials…

A bundle of publicity for the festival was delivered to my room. Awesome to get my hands on the A4 brochure with Madge of Honor on the cover and my painty face on the back…

And my postcards arrived ready for  me to start giving away my #CompulsiveCharcoal drawings today!

But oh god…Jet lag hideousness. Awake since 2:50am. Doing yoga in the dark in the hotel room by 4:30am to try to calm brain and body! By 7am I was swimming in the hotel roof top pool!

Bring on the Channel Asia National TV interview this morning! I’m then giving a talk at two hour workshop at Lasalle University to Masters in Art Therapy students, before attending the grand opening of the festival tonight! A chance to meet all the other artists!

Let the adventures begin!

#CompulsiveCharcoal #M1sff #Singapore #advocacy #mentalhealth #dermatillomania #skin #compulsiveskinpicking #randomactsofkindness #art #Charcoal #1minutedrawing #sketch #publicart #newspaper #creative #commutersketch #instagood, #photooftheday #charcoaldrawing #graffiti #graffitiart #commutersketch #drawingeverywhere #streetart #streetstyle #streetgraffiti  

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 4-14 Jan 2017

Happy New Year to you all!

I’m excited to be kicking off 2017 with an advocacy adventure to Singapore! Off on my travels tomorrow!!

I’m a participating artist in this year’s M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. The theme is Art & Skin.

The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival is an annual festival of theatre, dance, music, visual arts and mixed media created and presented by Singaporeans and international artists. Themed differently each year, the Festival aims to bring the best of contemporary, cutting-edge and socially engaged works to the Singapore audience.

The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival is set to be a creative centre, with the twin purpose of innovation and discussion, a platform for meaningful and provocative art to engage our increasingly connected and complex world.”

Here is an important insight into the theme of this year’s festival which brings together 14 performances and artists from 9 different countries.

“Who taught you to write in blood on my back? Who taught you to use your hands as branding irons? You have scored your name into my shoulders, referenced me with your mark. The pads of your fingers have become printing blocks, you tap a message on to my skin, tap meaning into my body.”

— Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body

The largest organ of the human’s body is the skin—a vessel for protection, identification, attraction and stimulation.

It sweats, stretches, tears, heals and scars. It defends, dies, shreds and regenerates. It crawls and tingles, calluses and ruptures.

It burns, blisters, blushes, bruises and peels. It chaps and scales, it tingles, inflames and wrinkles.

Each square inch of human skin is home to approximately 30 million bacteria and 20 feet of blood vessels. We renew our skin monthly, shedding approximately 600,000 skin particles a day. It is said that up to half the dust in our homes is made up of our dead skin.

“The finest clothing made is a person’s skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this.”

— Mark Twain

Through the ages, we have whitened and defined our skin, in both Eastern and Western societies, using everything from poisonous copper and lead, to rice powder, egg whites, and various toxic chemicals. The skin whitening market’s value is in the many billions, thriving most enormously in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The skin is a landscape, a playground, a minefield, a map, a text, a canvas. Some of us recoil in naked shame, and others strip and strut with exhibitive celebration.

“It is easy to display a wound, the proud scars of combat. It is hard to show a pimple.”

— Leonard Cohen, The Favourite Game

To toughen up is to grow thick skin. To get under someone’s skin is to know them more intimately. Touch can be abusive, but it can also be healing and even boost our body’s immunity.

Animals, fruit, cigarettes and mobile phones have skins too. Who among us isn’t wearing, housing or carrying an animal skin of one sort or another?

Matters of skin colour and skin covering have a long history of dividing the human race, even fuelling wars. Classes and castes, colour preference, colourism, colonialism, shadism and pigmentocracy remain divisive modern inheritances and realities.

In an age where we are more aware than ever of our image, our identity, and our potential to alter our own appearance, we hope that the theme of Art & Skin will welcome a creative exploration and dialogue into matters of identity, beauty, intimacy, sensitivity, pleasure, pain and shame.

“We live in an atmosphere of shame. We are ashamed of everything that is real about us; ashamed of ourselves, of our relatives, of our incomes, of our accents, of our opinion, of our experience, just as we are ashamed of our naked skins.”

— George Bernard Shaw

What are we keeping out? What are we holding inside? What are we flashing all about?

By the way, did you know that Sunburn Art is a thing? Yes, it is. 😉

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”


Art & Skin.

4 – 15 January 2017.

Get involved.

Sean Tobin

Artistic Director

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival

I’ll be in Singapore, giving a series of public talks on Skin Picking, art and recovery, I’m also running workshops in universities and hospitals & I’ll be creating and giving away my free #CompulsiveCharcoal drawings.

Keep up to date with my trip on this blog, also on my Instagram page, Twitter and Facebook! 

#Singapore #M1sff #Artist #international #advocacy #mentalhealth #recovery #dermatillomania #skin #skinpicking #CSP #compulsiveskinpicking #art&skin #randomactsofkindness #MRT

#Metro #1minutedrawing #sketch #drawing #art #charcoal #visualartist #newspaper #creative #tube #commutersketch #freeart #sketch #publicart #love #instagood #photooftheday #drawingeverywhere #streetart #streetstyle #streetgraffiti #graffitiart #graffiti

10,000 #CompulsiveCharcoals: Free drawings everyday, on every journey 

I started creating #CompulsiveCharcoal drawings on discarded newspapers after I ran out of a sketchbook on a journey from South to North London in Oct 2015. I now create and give away about 60 drawings on average each day.

A year on, that’s close to 10,000 free drawings! 

Drawing is one of my greatest tools for recovery. Wherever I am, a small piece of charcoal in my pocket allows me to refocus my fingers and my mind to stop my Compulsive Skin Picking disorder by channeling the feeling of the disorder into a drawing. The process is fast, each drawing takes about a minute. I give the drawings away to fellow passengers near me in the carriage or a bus, as a simple act of kindness, but also as advocacy for Skin Picking. It’s a common, but rarely talked about disorder. As many as 1 in 25 might suffer, so it’s likely you know someone battling with this illness in private. It dominated my life for more than 2 decades. I’m committed to raising the profile and destigmitising it wherever I am. Each recipient of a drawing receives a postcard explaining the condition and why I’m drawing. 
Recently, The Londonist featured my #CompulsiveCharcoal in a short film, check it out – and please share widely.


#BFRBWeek 1-7 Oct 2016 

I’m a UK based artist and an advocate for a disorder called #CompulsiveSkinPicking which I live with and manage every day. 

It has many names: #Dermatillomania #ExcoriationDisorder #skinpicking #Derma. It is the sister disorder to #Trichotillomania or #HairPulling, also known as #Trich.

I’ve lived with #CompulsiveSkinPicking since I was about 7 years old. The illness is the reason behind my artwork, from my #CompulsiveCharcoal drawings to artworks and photographs. Art has become my greatest tool to manage the illness by redirecting my hands, and transforming my skin. It’s my daily reprieve to keep skin picking at bay.

#SkinPicking and #hairpulling are known as #BodyFocussedRepetitiveBehaviours #BFRB and 1 in 25 might suffer. They cause deep feelings of guilt, shame, sadness and low self-esteem. Many hide their illness from everyone around them, I hid mine for more than 20 years. At times the suffering was unbearable. 

There is no cure yet for BFRBs, but the guilt and shame created by these disorders IS curable through raising awareness and empowering those with BFRBs to find important information, support and community. There are many thousands of people living with these disorders world wide. You are not alone.

Find help and advice via TLC Foundation for BFRBs – leading resource world wide for these disorders. 

#recovery #mentalhealth #awareness #health #wellbeing #destigmitising 

Site-Body-Voice Symposium, 23 Sept at Bethlem Gallery

I’m excited to be speaking about my artwork on Compulsive Skin Picking at a free symposium at Bethlem Gallery on Fri 23 Sept, all welcome.

Bethlem Royal Hospital

Open 16:30 – 20:00



Representations of the body and their associations, the institutionalised body, ease and dis-ease

The body in motion, how the site is ‘performed’

Speaking, being heard


16.30 – 18.00: Movement workshop with Olga Masleinnikova – ‘space in the body’ & ‘body in space’

* This is an open workshop suitable for all abilities. All welcome.

18.30 – 20.00: Panel Discussion

Artists & Presenters:

Liz Atkin

Dinos Aristidou

Simon Darnley

Olga Masleinnikova 

Full details : http://symposium.bethlemgallery.com/event/strand-2-site-body-voice/