Drawing Out The Self

Irene Dewdney (1914-1999)

Irene Dewdney

Linda Nicholas (b.1946)

Linda Nicholas

Irene was a woman of many parts. Mother of four sons (Donner, Kee, Peter and Christopher), supportive grandmother, and a loyal and understanding wife, she was the recognized matriarch in her family. Her active involvement in left wing politics meant that Irene was constantly helping others in difficulties and fighting for their rights. This certainly had an influence on how she approached art therapy and resulted in her belief that self-acceptance played a key role in the recovery of mental health.

Although her presented self was one of great strength, she had her own anxieties and was not a stranger to depression. This gave her great compassion for psychological suffering and she never forgot that even experienced practitioners are sometimes vulnerable to mental illness.

During her life she saw a wide variety of clients including doctors, professors, young children, artists and families. Those who were more seriously disturbed relied on her for long term support, and she gave it generously. Irene continued to see people in her private practice until well into her 80s and never lost her enthusiasm for the productivity of the Objective Approach to Art Therapy. Until the last years of her life she critically examined the way she worked and engaged with young practitioners in discussion.

Without Irene the Ontario Art Therapy Association would not exist, the Post Graduate Diploma in Art Therapy at the University of Western Ontario would not have happened, and the invaluable Psychiatric Art Collection at the Weldon Library would not be available.
She welcomed into her house artists, writers, politicians, therapists, revolutionaries and dreamers. Many have said that she was the key to helping them become successful and productive. Irene is probably best described by the word 'psychopomp' which comes from the Greek and means 'guide of souls'. Jung viewed the psychopomp as the mediator between the conscious and unconscious realms. Irene was certainly this. As mother, grandmother, pioneer of Art Therapy, political activist, gifted therapist and wonderful friend and colleague she is still sadly missed.

drawing of Irene by her husband  


Linda Nicholas (nee Hoile) was born in London, England just after the Second World War. Her young life was fairly rebelious and tried the patience of both family and teachers. Nonetheless, Linda was an enthusiastic reader and after a couple of false starts ended up at Teachers Training College. Three years of organized learning proved enough, and instead of proceeding to teaching her areas, (English and Art) she joined a rock and roll band. Managed by Ronnie Scott's, Linda made two albums, one with her band, Affinity, and the other solo, Pieces of Me, co-written with the composer Karl Jenkins. Both these albums still sell and she has fans around the world.

In 1972 Linda moved to Canada after re-connecting with an old friend, John Nicholas, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario. They married that same year.

During the late 1960's Linda had developed a serious interest in psychiatry and theories of personality. The prevalence of mind-altering drugs and the popularity of alternative approaches to mental illness, particularly the anti-psychiatry movement led by people such as R.D. Laing, had a strong influence. Consequently, she returned to University in 1973 to complete a Psychology degree. Linda worked at the Western Ontario Therapeutic Community (WOTCH) as a therapist for several years following her graduation. It was here that she met and trained with Irene Dewdney, remaining her friend and colleague until Irene's death.

The conjunction of her interests in art, psychiatry, writing and teaching found their union in art therapy, and after leaving WOTCH Linda was able to devote her working life almost exclusively to its practice. Through the years she has worked both privately and in agencies with families and children (including thirteen years in Pediatric Oncology), geriatrics, teenagers and adults. In her later working life she mostly worked with women.

In 1982 she received a Masters degree in Bio-Medical Ethics after creating and running the practicum for this program. She had her daughter, Emily, that same year. Linda was also involved with the inception of the Ontario Art Therapy Association and has twice been President. She helped create and run the University of Western Ontario Art Therapy Graduate Diploma Program, teaching in and coordinating this program for more than a dozen years. She stills sings when she gets a chance, mostly jazz, and has had a couple of re-unions with her old band, Affinity.

Now retired, Linda is planning her second book which will focus on the perception and revelation of the interior of the body.