Sunday, February 22, 2015

Art and Self-Care

The following is the transcript of a recent email interview I had with Emm Roy, artist and creator of Positive Doodles about art and self-care. She can be found on Facebook as well as on Twitter.

1. What made you interested in art?

I’m excited about how we experience and relate to the universe. I want to know, feel and experience as much as possible, and it makes it difficult to focus. I’ll see something and I’ll think it’s the best thing ever, but then five seconds later I’ll see something else and I’ll fall in love with that too, so it’s hard to pay attention.

It made school difficult for me as a kid. Learning was important to me, but I couldn’t pay attention in class, so I didn’t do well. My dad wanted to help so he researched a few alternate learning methods. We tried several things until we realized that doodling and cartooning worked for me. I can’t learn anything just by sitting still and listening to a teacher, but I can learn by creating and interacting with the information I’m receiving.

I spent my childhood drawing because it was the only way I could focus and learn at my maximum potential, and the habit stuck with me into adulthood. To this day, I can’t sit still. It’s not enough for me to experience life. I also have to create something in response to what I’m experiencing. I get restless when I’m not making art.

2. How did you start Positive Doodles and what are some of its goals, if any?
It was a diary blog that took a positive turn and eventually became a positivity blog. My goal is to share simple positive messages in a cute way. I make all my posts with one specific person in mind (usually myself or one of my friends), but I’m grateful that there are others who enjoy them too. I also have a second goal which is to make art more freely accessible to the general public, but that one is proving to be harder to pull off.

3. How did you come to use art as a form of self-care?

Completely unintentionally. Art helps me cope and express myself, but that’s usually not my goal when I sit down to work. It was different when I started as a kid, but now I sit down with the intention to create, and all the other stuff (self-care, self-expression, stories, discussions, etc.) comes after. It’s a very fluid and natural process.

4. You also keep something of an art diary which is for public viewing. What made you want to keep a personal diary in art form and how do you feel about discussing personal issues on such a public forum?

My family has a history of mental illness. I have family members who don’t talk to each other because of it. Some of my loved ones lost jobs and relationships because of it. Despite all this, it’s not something we talk about. It’s like a secret shame we carry. This isn’t something unique to my family. It’s a consequence of living in a culture that fears and stigmatizes mental illness.

If someone had talked to me when I was younger about mental illness and how it runs in my family, I might have understood what was happening when I started suffering from it. I might have been less scared or felt less alone. Most importantly, I could have gotten treatment. Instead, I was in my twenties when I was finally diagnosed.

My childhood self needed someone to talk to her openly about mental illness. That’s what I do on my diary blog: I talk openly about all the things I wish someone had talked to me when I was younger. I know I can’t go back and help my childhood self, but there are others out there still struggling, and I want to let them know they aren’t alone.

I have no problems with discussing things publicly. I ask friends and family for permission before I mention them in anything, but that’s about the extent to which I censor my blog.

5. Why do you think that many people seem not to use art, in any if its forms, as a way to aid in their well-being? Would you say that self-care is something that is heavily rejected in US society?

Art itself is a form of self-care. Whether you’re making art for fun, to make a statement or to pay the bills, you’re working towards fulfilling a need. I don’t know why some people prefer not to make art. Maybe they don’t enjoy it. Maybe what I get from art, they get from something else like science or sports. Maybe they don’t have the time. Maybe it’s something else entirely. I imagine every person has their own reason(s) that’s personal to them.

I don’t think self-care is heavily rejected. I think the problem is that for many, self-care hasn’t been offered as a possibility. After working, paying the bills, taking care of personal relationships, taking care of your kids if you have them, dealing with problems and doing everything else you have to do, there often isn’t time left. Most mainstream self-care conversations I’ve seen focus on things like “buy yourself something nice” and “take a long bath”, but those things are easier if you have money. A lot of self-care tips are like that; they ignore class differences. Some even ignore health differences. As a result, a lot of people are left out of the self-care movement through no fault of their own.

6. What advice do you have for people who aspire to use art in a radical fashion? How can we support your work?

Here’s my advice: make the art you want to make. If nobody likes it or if it doesn’t make money, at least you’ll have done what you wanted. Don’t worry if it’s weird or ugly. When it comes to art, those things are good. So are mistakes. Work hard. Don’t sell yourself short. It’s okay to share your insecurities about your art, but keep in mind that captioning your work with “This sucks. I don’t even know why I’m sharing it” doesn’t encourage anyone to look at it. If you ever need to take a break, it’s okay to take one.

Anyone who wants to support my work should check out my positivity blog:

Information about how to find me elsewhere is on the blog.

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