I secretly admire the illustrators who have blogs which manage to merge their illustration work with their personal life so effortlessly. They're always the best blogs to read, the most interesting, with a balance between the life of the illustrator, and the work they create. I've always struggled with this, and tend to keep my blog purely about my illustration work, always assuming that my life is so boring that surely no-one would be interested in reading about it. However, there are days like today when life and illustration crash together to a point where it seems stupid to try and prise them apart.
Today is World Mental Health Day. Mental health problems affect one in four people, and yet there is such stigma attached that I'm sure only a small percentage would be willing to admit that they are part of that 25%. Even as I write this, I am afraid. Afraid that I will be judged negatively, that people's opinion of me will change purely due to what I am about to write. Mental illness affects each person differently. For me, it came in the form of eating disorders and depression - a battle which, even a number of years since it's arrival, I am still fighting every day.
Now (and this is where the art part comes in), I am currently attending an eating disorders unit in Dorset as a day patient, and last month we were invited to take part in an art project facilitated by an artist and a dude called Paul from the Dorset Mental Health Forum. Basically, over the course of four weekly sessions, we were to create artwork which explored our idea of recovery. Today we all attended the private view of the exhibition held in Bournemouth, and it was amazing to see everyone's work all together, everyone's individual interpretation of recovery. It was like all our hope for a better future had been captured in picture frames, displayed on the walls for everyone to see.
For me, this was an interesting experience. As an illustrator, my work is generally created with an end purpose in mind - to fit a brief for a commission or competition. The reason why I'm creating it is clear in my mind. It's got to a point where I very rarely do an illustration just for fun anymore, because it seems like a waste of time. This project gave me the space to do just that, to be experimental and to play around with a much more abstract concept than I am usually used to. Although I immediately retreated into my comfort zone of cutting up tiny bits of paper, my picture started off very experimentally with no visualisation of how the final outcome would look. Unusually for me, this is how I continued to create the whole picture - just going with what felt right and what looked right, and not focussing at all on the end result.
So this is my finished picture (the photos aren't very clear, but the image is entirely collaged using cut up pages from magazines). I found it difficult to find the right words to explain the meaning behind the image, which is part of the reason I liked having he chance to express myself pictorially. Basically, the black in the bottom left hand corner is how I feel now, and the bright pink in the top right is how recovery will feel. The blue part of the image shows the journey of illness to recovery - the circles representing events and situations in my life, my reactions to them, and how they each affect my journey to recovery.
If you're interested, and live in the area, you can check out the exhibition tomorrow (11th October) at 843 Christchurch Road, Pokesdown - there is some really inspirational work there, so it's definitely worth a look. The exhibition is also moving to Dorchester towards the end of the week (more information on the dates and opening times here).
This was an ace project to be part of, one which really made me think about the concept of recovery and what it meant to me. I think it also helped remind us that there IS a possibility of recovery, which is often difficult to remember when you're stuck in darkness. I'm really proud of my Kimmeridge girlies and all their awesome work. ♥ Happy World Mental Health Day. Let's continue to fight the prejudice that surrounds mental illness.