“Generally I create either based around my mental climate at that time, or I work as inspiration comes.”
Name: Tara-Jade Dini-Brown
Art Materials: I work in a number of mediums, including acrylic, watercolours, markers, pencil, line art and sculpture.
Where does your inspiration come from?
As a child I enjoyed artistic pursuits and as a teenager my walls were filled with sketches and paintings. As life carried me along I came to forget how inherently good making art felt – knowledge lost to trauma and the adult responsibilities. Art came back in to my life in Dec of 2014, after a long battle with yet another episode of depression and during an acutely suicidal phase in which I was confined to my bedroom whilst awaiting a specialist psychiatric placement. During a time in which continuing to breathe was a daily struggle, I found a cheap set of watercolours and a revelation – painting gave me a sense of direction, of focus, and purpose, and a small sense of wonder that something so beautiful could come from such utter desolation and bleakness. When I was admitted to an interim psychiatric hospital I had my partner pack all of my art supplies, and again they gave me comfort and security in an unfamiliar environment. And then I began to explore my internal climate through my artwork, creating a series called “coloured states” in which I mapped my illness through colour. I found this to be a liberating process which helped me connect to my experience in a nonjudgmental manner. From there I began to paint and create pieces which I paired with explicit and honest writing upon my experience of bipolar disorder and other MI conditions. My aim is to connect with other people, in the visceral way that only art and storytelling can, and contribute to dismantling the stigma and shame surrounding both experience and individuals.
Having a number of chronic mental illnesses, my work is always at least a little flavoured with my bipolar identity. Other pieces are informed by my core values – feminism, body positivity, nature and the awesomeness of comic books and dinosaurs.
Tell us about your creative process.
At times my process is as scattered as my brain chemistry; on stable days I can work slowly and methodically in the groove, during depressive episodes I can struggle to connect to that flow and am overly critical, and hypomania can send me working at a furious frenzied pace in which I try to chase all the ideas that flow through me. Many times anxiety and depression can cloud the lens through which I view my own art, and so I have a guideline that should I suddenly not like a piece, that I must try and wait a week before scrapping for good. Generally I create either based around my mental climate at that time, or I work as inspiration comes.
What is the story behind your artwork, if any?
I came to watercolours in Dec 2014, during a heavy depressive period in which i was acutely suicidal. Awaiting a specialist placement, i spent my days locked in my room painting galaxy-scapes. Those early explorations gave me a sense of purpose and pride during a time in which the simple act of breathing was a difficult labor. And once i had a placement, watercolours soothed the homesickness and gave me a means of exploring my own emotional climates in a safe way
I was acutely suicidal when I created this, and so my appreciation of this increased with time. At this point I was painting to fill in the long hours of living. This piece serves to remind that in even the period of darkness and decay, beauty can still be found. Creating art was a big part of how I made it through, and how i continue to make it through.
“I will not be proclaimed to this”
Fighting bipolar depression is hard, exhaustive work. Finding the courage to keep living during these bleak interludes also takes faith; faith that you can endure this, faith that this will pass and you will not forever be depressed. I had this image in my head when i was in a depressive phase, but was unable to connect to art. I had little sleep which only compounded my depression. Sleeping pills remedied the insomnia but also tipped me in to hypomania – hence the fast outlay of work, among other symptoms. Time spent in between bipolar episodes can be short at times.
It is important for each of us to take the time to replenish our batteries, and it is of vital importance in times of mental illness. My bipolar disorder has meant putting self care to the forefront at times; something which was foreign to me. I still feel guilty for taking time out to draw and create, but i also know that it nourishes the depths of me, and makes me a better mother/partner
Putting ones mind back together after a bipolar episode is hard, overwhelming and exhausting work. Just part of the cycle.
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to be interviewed about your artwork.