From Criminal to Creative

Updated: Jul 18, 2018

You won't believe the bloody hands behind some of these stunning works of art...

Painting by Ronnie Kray who drew this countryside scene while imprisoned. The infamous London gangster was sentenced to life in prison for murder.

What a beautiful painting. How nice it could look hanging on your living room wall, whisking you away to countryside vistas. You might imagine the artist set up their palette just under the shade of a tree, ready to emblazon their canvas with the bold colours of the landscape in front of them.

It might come to your surprise then that the artist behind this painting didn’t often get to see the sun, only from behind the bars of Parkhurst Prison. These paint strokes belong to the infamous gangsters and murderers, the Kray twins, painted whilst incarcerated for life for the murder of underworld figure Jack 'The Hat' McVitie. Such peaceful landscapes seem in great contrast to the disturbed and tumultuous mindscapes of the fierce duo.

But this is not the only example of prisoners turning to the painter’s pallete to escape their concrete confines. One of Britains most notorious criminals, Charles Bronson, has become renowned for his surrealist artwork winning multiple Koestler Trust Awards for his art and poetry and even changing his name to Charles Salvador, in respect to the famous surrealist painter Salvador Dali. The prison system is pioneering the use of art therapy as a way to encourage prisoners to lead healthier and less destructive lifestyles.

And there's a lot of evidence to support it:

  • Those who had attended a cultural event/place in the last 12 months were nearly 60% more likely to report good health compared to their counterparts who had not. More can be read about this research here.

  • There is lots of evidence to suggest that the arts help to overcome mental health problems. Arts-on-prescription programmes can promote significant reductions in depression, anxiety and stress. More can be read about this research here.

Painting by Myuran Sukumaran, convicted and sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Bali. Whilst on death row he turned to art to express himself and studied for a Bachelors degree in Fine Art.

Artwork by Charles Bronson (aka Charles Salvador), notorious British criminal who whose convictions include armed robbery, false imprisonment and threatening to kill. He has started multiple riots in prison and protested on Walton prison roof for three days. In 2016, Bronson sold one of his artworks to help raise money for a children's charity.

If you're interested in art within the prison system we recommend checking out these links below for more information:


But you don’t need to be a mass murderer to reap the benefits of creative endeavors. From time to time we all might have that feeling of being trapped, living our lives in a repetitive routine and not allowing our creative minds to flourish. We all spend parts of the day in our own self-constructed cells, staring at computer screens, stuck in the office, or living most of our life online.

Getting creative has never been more important! So why not join us at Social Studio London for an evening of art, wine and food and let your mind escape its confines.


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