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From Anxiety to Art - How creativity calms my chaos

For the longest time I’ve suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and everything in between. My thoughts go at a million miles an hour all the time. The only thing that calms my mind is art.

The minute I sit down at my desk in my beautiful studio I start to calm down.

I feel Colours, they come to me, it’s like the sleep whisperer brings them. I wake up with ideas, mostly it’s a colour that comes to mind, and then it’s an idea and it builds from there.

I started my art career 10 years ago with a box of low-end coloured pencils and an adult colouring book, at the time I obviously didn’t know what would come of it, but I knew then that I had to slow my thoughts, I had to quiet my brain. I was lucky in that I was working in an industry that I loved, teaching Pilates, and for a long time that was all I needed. However it didn’t quiet my mind. So, armed with my box of pencil crayons and my colouring book I went home one day and started to play.

In those moments my brain was quiet, the mere act of choosing colours and watching them blend together to make more colours and watching the black & white lines start to come to life was just bliss. I knew I had found exactly what I was looking for. At the time it was literally a hobby and by no means was it meant to be a career. After all I had not studied art at school, I had no business calling myself an artist, I was “just a hobbyist” or “just a colourist”.

Along with my anxiety and which I now know goes hand in hand with my OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), if I do things I do them good and proper. I thus set out to own all the art supplies and all the colouring books on the market, but most of all to learn everything I could about colours, values, shading, hues and all that there was to learn about the colour wheel.

For a quite some time, around 7 years or so, I was content and the anxiety dissipated.

I then had a traumatic experience in that one morning I woke up and I literally couldn’t create, like the sleep whisperers had left me, and suddenly my anxiety came back. I think coupled with that, and the fact that I wasn’t getting any satisfaction from making art only using other people’s art, I realised that I needed to start creating my own art. The anxiety got worse because after all I was “just a colourist” I couldn’t draw. I couldn’t do anything without the line art done for me!

It was just after lockdown that I hit my lowest point ever in my life. I had been dabbling in painting with acrylics and the abstract art realm. I produced countless canvases, but it wasn’t fulfilling, and my OCD side hated the mess. I felt I couldn’t leave my studio in that state, so i would complete art pieces as quickly as possible just so I could get my space cleaned up… I wasn’t happy, and in 2022 I suffered a mental breakdown and I didn’t know what I was going to do. If I didn’t have art, I couldn’t quiet my mind and I didn’t know who I was without art in my life.

I went on a much needed trip to the African bush and got my thoughts in order through my connection with nature.

When I came back I pulled out my very old dusty Mac book air and equally dusty iPad 11". I bought a few courses from various online platforms, and I started my journey into the realm of Digital art. Gradually things started to change, I found the art possibilities that I didn’t know were possible. Like magic, I could create without the mess. I then went on a new journey, and in one and a half years of studying night & day, I taught myself enough to start producing a new kind of art, making everything I dreamed of doing possible.

This is not to say that my anxiety has left me completely, I still have thoughts racing through my brain, I have days when I get afraid I’ll have no art ideas, days when social media gets to me, or that I’ll reach burnout again.

But these days when I sit down and start a creation, in those precious moments all my anxiety falls away. For in those moments everything has purpose.

It’s a daily exercise to calm my thoughts, I wake up and tell myself everyday:

“You Got This!”

I will never take my gift for granted, I appreciate all I've learned, and the life I am so lucky to have. I get to make art everyday!!