Have you checked out Dan Sun’s artwork? No!? Then let us have the pleasure of introducing you to his brilliance. The word brilliance describes more than just his technique and actually dives deeper into his fearless journey into processing his experiences meticulously through the creative process. Dan’s artwork exemplifies the ultimate mastery of self-care in the tireless world of the emergency services. Being a Canadian firefighter and paramedic, Dan realized during an emotional wellness lecture that he was experiencing PTSD symptoms and bravely chose to seek assistance. Being a firefighter takes courage and fearlessness but diving into emotional issues by a first responder defines an element of tenacity that is unrivaled by most. Dan’s journey toward recovery organically evolved into using his love of photography with graphic art to depict real life images from the job that needed a deeper method of processing. Since traumatic images can become  “stuck” in the psyche the creative arts can be used to process through these images since BOTH sides of the brain are being used during this process. Additionally, the creative arts can externalize an image which naturally provides a distance from the situation that can be cognitively processed. Dan processes his internal images and externally recreates it digitally with power, purpose, and symbolism. Brilliant practice of self-care through the creative arts.

Check out these two images…

The juxtaposition of the symbolism is profound. There is a symbolic struggle between the impact that life and death has on a first responder which can also result in the inner struggle between choosing life or death when the emotional impact weighs too heavily on the soul. 

All disciplines of the emergency services profession are effected by the reality of the job. It is critical that we take care of ourselves first in order to remain fit for the job.

Dan’s work is the gift that keeps on giving. It provides a familiarity for fellow responders to feel more connected and bonded through this concrete recreation of a relatable experience as an emergency services professional. It also educates the civilian to the intense impact that the job can have on the first responder which is necessary for a deeper level of understanding and support from the public. In addition to being a brilliant practice of self-care, Dan’s artwork  promotes growth and awareness by anyone who views his pieces. While helping himself to get through the job of helping others, he is helping even more people through his journey. A life well lived…..

Creative Uses of Dan’s Artwork: 
A. Choose one of Dan’s pieces and use it as a tool to promote dialog and processing as an individual or as a group. Can you relate to this experience or a part of this image? Notice your breathing and areas of stress in your body when discussing the image? Breathe into those stressed areas and make sure you are breathing deeply. 
B. Write about one of Dan’s pieces and the feelings evoked. Writing is a creative act that can give some cognitive distance while processing information. 
C. Draw or paint your own experience without judgement on your ability. Just do it! Get it out onto paper then keep it as is or rip the image into strips of paper and create an entirely different piece of art.


  • Kathy Sullivan

    Expressive Arts Consultant, MAAT, R.E.A.C.E.


    Kathy Sullivan, MAAT, REACE, is the managing director of the Ashes2Art program which provides complimentary creative arts services to first responders and their families as part of a preventative wellness initiative. The creative arts are a natural platform to decrease cumulative stress while maintaining a  battle-ready status for the next traumatic shift. It is a monumental honor to engage and interact with such amazing men and women. Blessed.