Art + Mental Health
It’s widely agreed that there is a definite link been creativity and mental health. We might not like it or be able to explain it but artists seem to be particularly prone to mental health issues. Having studied at art school for the part 2 years, I can testify to the fact that there is at very least an increased awareness of mental health within the art community. It comes as no surprise then that mental health has also inspired some incredible art. From editorial designs and illustrations to fashion brands and animations, there is an endless list of brilliant creative projects inspired by artist’s relationships with their own minds.
This week in the UK it’s Mental Health Awareness Week so I thought I would share some of my favourite examples of when art and mental health come together. These creatives know just how to harness the power of creativity to better our understanding and awareness of mental health…
I was never really a fan of inspirational quotes on social media until I stumbled upon DOM&INK’s uplifting Instagram feed. Dom’s Instagram feed is flooded with honest, relatable quotes accompanied by gorgeous artworks. He uses his platform to discuss topics including mental health and LGBTQ+ issues and even has a journal all about love and pride coming out very soon. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Body Image, a topic Dom has covered extensively through his creative work. Using beautifully illustrated bodies of all shapes and sizes, Dom reminds us to love and value ourselves on a regular basis. I can guarantee your Instagram feed will be all the happier if you give @domandink a follow. Sometimes Instagram motivation can be a little cringey and cold but you can’t help but feel a whole lot warmer whenever you received one of Dom’s digital hugs.
Social media - especially Instagram - can often prove more of a hinderance than a help to anyone’s mental health. Designer Jessica Walsh is attempting to remedy this however with Let’s Talk About Mental Health. The Insta-project encourages people to share their mental health stories online. Each story is accompanied by a beautifully simplistic illustration by Jessica and shared on both their website and Instagram feed. Seeing an array of different stories from and about brains all over the world is an uplifting reminder that you are not the only one who struggles sometimes.
Jessica’s long-term collaborator Timothy Goodman has embarked on a similar mission with his Instatherapy series. From short statements such as “love is underrated” to longer pieces about heartbreak and humanity, the typographic series adds a touch of real, raw emotion to your instagram feed. This isn’t Timothy’s only mental health related project either. In 2018, Timothy teamed up with creative friends Akilah Hughes and Robyn Kanner for a unique therapy-based project called Friends with Secrets. For the project, all 3 of the friends shared conversations they had during text therapy sessions. Including the good, the bad and the heartbreaking in these accounts, the projects is a uniquely honest reminder of the importance of talking about your thoughts and feelings and that there is nothing wrong with asking for help.
The conversation surrounding mental health has broadened vastly over the past few years with new articles being published on the subject every day. Some of these articles are accompanied by stunning editorial illustrations such as those Keith Negley has created for The New Yorker. Keith has worked with The New Yorker on several occasions. Above is my personal favourite piece he has created for them which was created as a response to Emily Greenhouse’s essay on suicide and art directed by Jordan Arwan. Being able to illustrate an abstract concept like mental health in a sympathetic way is a special skill and one which Keith has refined throughout his career. A sympathetic tones is something which stretches throughout his portfolio from his editorial work to his children books and it’s what makes Keith one of my favourite illustrators.
Another illustration project dealing with mental health in an engaging way is Anja Bartelt’s “Depression” print series. The series shows a group of expressionless characters lost inside an abstract world. It’s impressive how Anja has managed to visualise such an abstract concept as depression in such an understandable way. I think the key with this - as with much of Anja’s work - is simplicity. The basic shapes used hold real weight and give the idea of being crushed, contorted or trapped by your own thoughts excellently. The mostly-monochrome colour palette and rough textures too add to the confusion and darkness of the world these characters have found themselves in.
Hazel Hayes x Mary Goldsbrough
I have actually shared this next video before in a chapter of my Art Schooled series but I loved it so much that I thought I would include it again. I have watched several YouTube videos discussing mental health but by the far the one I have related to most has been Hazel Hayes poetic animation. Simply titled “Anxious”, the short animation is inspired by Hazel’s own experiences. Created in collaboration with animators Mary Gouldsbrough and Neirin Best, the brilliant piece of work is only 5 minutes long and definitely worth a watch.
Of all the illustrators discussing mental health with their work, Gemma Correll is perhaps the most well known and most hilarious. At first scrolling through Gemma’s portfolio you might not notice this serious theme. Her work features an array of adorable pugs and quirky characters. On closer inspection however, the theme of mental health becomes much more clear. Disarming an audience with laughter as Gemma does is the perfect way of introducing the conversation about a serious topic such as mental health as it puts them at ease, making the conversation much more lighthearted and comfortable.
The final project I would like to share today is actually one I discovered in real life. Sophie Morrison is currently studying Illustration in the year above me at DJCAD. Okay Club - Sophie’s new passion project - is a clothing brand which embraces positivity towards mental health. The initial collection of totes and tees uses minimal design to subtly spread the word about this incredibly important subject. Sophie is currently in her final year at DJCAD and will be showcasing old and new designs from Okay Club as well as her entire portfolio of beautiful work at the Degree Show which opens on Friday the 17th of May. I have had a sneak peek already and it is going to be a wonderful exhibition this year so do pop along if you can.
I think one of the best ways to introduce a conversation about mental health is through art. Each of the projects talk about different kinds of mental health issue in very different ways but all of them use good design to add to the conversation surrounding mental health in an engaging way. The most important message that can be taken away from these projects as a collective is that, whatever mental health issue you are struggling with, you are not alone. One of the most difficult things when you reach a low point with your mental health can be the feeling that no one else would understand. Projects like these remind viewers that this is simply not the case in an incredibly aesthetically pleasing way. Being reminded that there is always someone who can relate is so important and it’s often the first step on the road to a much lighter place.