You see my art as a finished thing but it comes from somewhere. It is part of my story, my past and my journey.
My story with creativity goes back a long way, I’ve always been attracted to being creative, painting, writing stories. But in the past I felt held back, usually by fear of failure or due to a harsh inner critic.
The seed of creativity was there all along, but it wasn’t a straight line to where I am now.
I stumbled upon mixed media in 2008 and really wanted to do it but couldn’t stick with it. I’d make a good effort, but hate the result and then not create for months. I kept buying more and more art supplies thinking they were the key to creativity, but none of them were the magical solution I was looking for. I got stuck.
A few years later I was really struggling with depression (something I have experienced on and off my whole life). Getting help through therapy led me on a journey of self-discovery which wasn’t necessarily about creativity initially.
When I picked up art again around 2014 initially I just wanted to make something pretty. I enjoyed what other people were doing and I wanted to do that too. I followed a lot of art courses and experimented taking on other people’s styles.
At that point in time art & creativity were separate from self-discovery, but then through the therapy slowly art became something natural to reach for as an extension of what therapy was helping me uncover.
Therapy and art started to meet (even if they were separate in terms of place and practice). I realised they were the same, they could serve the same purpose.
The way I grew up there wasn’t much room for my feelings. Showing or experiencing feelings wasn’t modelled. I grew up not knowing or understanding or expressing my feelings. Which then turned into adult me who couldn’t do anything with feelings. But I had an inkling, I realised I was struggling with things and that there was a bigger range of feelings ‘out there’ (or rather ‘in here’).
That is how I came towards using art for self-expression and also for self-discovery. The art started informing me about what I felt. The art allowed me to see what I felt unable to feel to initially create an intellectual understanding, and over time also an emotional understanding.
Now that I’ve been doing art for self-expression for a while and also therapy, it is becoming easier. Both the making of the art but also understanding and feeling my feelings.
I credit both therapy and art with helping me so much with my feelings. They go hand in hand.
I’m still on this journey of self-discovery and I’m not done (I mean, are we ever done?). I feel like I have a relationship with art now which is a mirroring of my relationship with my feelings. I can’t walk away from that, nor would I want to.
Coming from no feelings and being on this journey towards feelings is something that goes into my art. This is why you see a lot of graphic expression in my art and a lot of darkness. They might be current feelings, but I also often say that the art I make now is the art I would’ve made when I was a teenager if I had only known how.
The expressive art I make is not necessarily a conscious action where I ‘sit down to work through a certain feeling’. Rather, I sit down, make art, try to let things flow and then afterwards (sometimes a few days later) I might look at it and try to understand what feelings I expressed in a piece. It gives me an entry point into my feelings and understanding myself that might be completely opaque to me without art.
This is also why I love working in journals. It’s really a personal practice, like diary keeping, but in a visual way rather than with words.
I try to be kind to myself. My work doesn’t always need to have meaning, it can just be. I can close the book and be happy I made something. I don’t need to be some therapy miracle.
Art helps me with my feelings. I do what I do because I want other people who feel they don’t have a voice for what they feel or don’t have understanding of their feelings to know that art and self-expression can be so helpful with that. Especially in this world that seems to shoo away feelings.