I am an abstract painter who is passionate about mental illness awareness. I grew up in rural eastern North Carolina, and moved to Raleigh after attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although I had been suffering from anorexia and depression since 6th grade, it wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I sought treatment. In my further therapy and recovery I have also been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Art therapy has been so effective and important to my recovery and coping with these disorders.
Describe your artistic style.
My artistic style is very impulsive, intuitive, and very colorful! I primarily paint abstracts because I am usually trying to convey an emotion. The intangible nature of emotions allows me to be more free in my execution of a painting. I enjoy bright colors because I treat them like voices – voices that say all of the things that I have kept to myself for so long. When you look at one of my paintings you will feel happy and energized, even if some of the emotions I was feeling when I painted it were mostly negative. I take pride in turning even my worst experiences into a positive and inspiring piece of art that makes people smile!
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I find my inspiration from my own experiences with mental illness. Before beginning to work on a painting, I will usually emerge myself in a memory to trigger the emotional response I need in order to not only make my painting interesting, but also to make it honest and genuine.
When did you first discover your love of painting?
I first discovered my love for painting when I was around 5 years old. My grandmother was a very talented crafter who made quilts, tiny homemade dollhouse furniture, birdhouses, you name it. I learned how to paint by watching her.
On your Instagram you mention that proceeds from your sales go towards helping the AFSP & NEDA. Tell us about your desire to help raise awareness about mental illness.
Although I had been suffering from anorexia and depression since 6th grade, it wasn’t until my junior year in college that I sought treatment. In my further therapy and recovery I discovered that I had Borderline Personality Disorder, which is where most of my mental illness had stemmed from originally. It took me way too long to find help, and when I was in an inpatient treatment facility I met women who were close to 70 years old who had never been treated before. It is scary how many people suffer from mental illness without getting help, whether it’s because they don’t believe it, their parents don’t believe it (like mine at first), or because they simply can’t afford it. I hope that through my artwork I can raise awareness for mental illness and help bring an end to the stigma that prevents so many from coming out alive on the other side like I did. I have chosen to donate proceeds from my sales to AFSP and NEDA for this reason. I chose these organizations because their tools helped me, and they do incredible work.
What are some of your favorite creative activities other than painting?
I love chocolate making. I work at Videri Chocolate Factory in Raleigh, NC. It is a very creative job that allows me to feel like an artist even when I’m not painting! I also love writing poetry, however I am much better at communicating through visual art.
Who are some creative women you look up to?
I look up to many creative women, but here are a few that have been the most influential. I admire Amira Rahim, who is a visual artist based in New Jersey. She also paints very colorful, abstract work. She has been a mentor to me, and is selfless in sharing her own tips to help move along amateur artists like myself. Next, I love Toni Morrison! Her book “Beloved” changed the way I viewed literature, and her relentless work in social justice has helped shape many of my own views. I also look up to several musicians, notably Alicia Keys and Lady Gaga. Alicia Keys’ no makeup movement has been so inspiring and important in our perceptions of what beauty is. Her album, “Here” is on repeat on my iPhone right now. I really love listening to it while I create, actually. Lady Gaga has done incredible work in bringing awareness to the problem of sexual assault in our country. I was raped in college, and her song “Til It Happens to You” makes me cry every time because I know she gets it. All of these women are incredible, and they constantly push me to be better and to keep working on this imperfect world.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists and creatives?
I would like to urge aspiring artists to know and love yourself and what you do. People are going to question you, whether or not they have the authority, and you have to love yourself and your craft enough to ignore them. Honestly, being an artist is a huge exercise in self-love and self-acceptance. I believe that that’s why I’ve had an easier time with the criticism, since I’ve already gone through lots of therapy to combat that negativity. Also, aspiring artists need community! Amira Rahim’s Passion Color Joy community has been so important in my life.
What do you love most about being a creative woman?
What I love about being a creative woman is just that. Being a woman, and being creative. Both are so unappreciated in our society, and I am so proud to be one!