[TW: rape mention] “Art means everything to me. It’s a universal language and it’s one I can speak when words aren’t enough. It’s something that keeps my hands busy when I’m hyperactive; it has rescued me from many of my dark places. ”
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 26 years old and I live in Arizona. I’m a pharmacy tech and I’m in nursing school. My diagnoses are ADHD and PTSD. I suffer from comorbid depression and anxiety additionally. I love art and music (I studied classical piano for 13 years). I also love cats and turtles. I’ve been doing art for as long as I can remember. My parents say as soon as I picked up a pen or brush I began to draw and paint. It took me a long time to find my aesthetic, honestly. When the event that induced my PTSD breakdown occurred, I actually went through a several-years-long period in which I did not create; I couldn’t. It was the only time of my life that I recall experiencing suicidal ideation. I felt like I’d lost a sense, maybe, or forgotten a language. Eventually, I was able to start up again. I was just able to start creating after a long time. It didn’t happen all at once, it was very gradual. It was just like everything else that came with healing…it took forever and was almost imperceptibly gradual. My only advice to somebody else going through it is to keep going. It’s not very nice or fun advice, but you can’t speed up your healing process. If you get the urge to create, use that. Even if it leads nowhere, even if what you create is shit. Just keep using the impulse when it comes and don’t beat yourself up for the long dry spells when it doesn’t. You’ll come back to yourself eventually. I promise.
How does your mental health influence your work?
My work only recently began to, in earnest, incorporate and express how I feel living with a mental illness. I feel like it’s always been in the periphery of my artwork, but it’s now often the thesis. I decided to make my art focus on my health after I had just gone through a breakup, a bad one. I was very, very messed up over it and I had to confront some realities about myself and living with me, that was hard. They were things about me I can’t change, but are hard to live with for both me and the people I love. I felt like taking them out of my head and pinning them to paper, so-to-speak, would help me reconcile living with them. I suffer from a lot of anxiety, and as I’ve mentioned, PTSD doesn’t help that. Living with a behavioral disorder on top of that, that makes it more difficult for me to control my emotions and behavior, and it means that fear is a powerful influence in my life. In an abstract sense, I see monsters around every corner during stressful moments. So when I ask myself, “what does that look like?”, I started drawing the monsters. The ones I see that nobody else does.
Illustrating my feelings and perspective helps quiet the noise, so to speak, in my head. Sometimes I feel like I’m trapping the noise on the paper, like I’m controlling it, rather than it controlling me. The response from others has been intense, surprising, and gratifying knowing that my art reaches others and that it means something to them. That’s been really humbling and healing. I kind of just go for it. I get an idea and I do a lot of preliminary sketching. About 8/10 of my ideas get scrapped and never see the light of day. If a sketch continues to resonate, I ink the lines, and if it’s still feeling ready to go, I re-ink them onto nicer paper. My latest illustrations take 4-8 hours to hammer out. I’ve gotten faster as the series evolves, as I learn more techniques and save myself time.
What can you tell us about your current work?
My most recent work has unfolded as two different series: the first is about mental illness in general, my symptoms, and living with PTSD. It’s primarily inked in black, white, and grey. The second is inked in black, white, grey, and deep red watercolors. The red series is also about PTSD but additionally, it’s about the experience of being raped. These two bodies of work are among the most authentic and expressive art I’ve ever done. They’re honest and brutal, but I’ve never been prouder of any work I’ve produced so far. I spent years feeling incapable of expressing some of this stuff, and finally being able to look at a finished work and go, “this is exactly what I wanted it to be,” is extraordinarily gratifying. I used to primarily work in black and white because as I started to “get better” and gain my artistic ability back, I had been working with India inks and pens a lot, coincidentally. So my first foray into the mental health series was just in black and white. But I had been wanting to explore the addition of color to my pieces. When I began exploring the series regarding my experience with rape, red just made sense to me. I don’t know exactly why. It’s the same color as blood. It’s a living color. A violent color. It just felt right.
Sometimes I just do art to do it, and the act alone keeps me feeling sane, so to speak. But with my recent series and its thesis, I’ve really gotten a lot of dark stuff articulated in ways I hadn’t felt able to before. A lot of the response to this series, in particular, has been personal and touching. Many people have said to me, “this resonated with me,” or “your art says stuff I wish I knew how to say,” and that’s the best thing I could ever hope for.
India ink, oil-based pens and markers, watercolor, and calligraphy inks. I occasionally use oil paints or sculpt but this isn’t the norm for me.
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