I am an artist who can relate to and understands how mental health issues impact on us all. Having spent many years speaking to large audiences about mental health via homeless and mental health charities; I also participated in and instigated a series of exhibitions called ‘The Art of Recovery’ fusing mental health issues and art.
Art is good therapy, that is widely accepted, however, art can be an essential way for a person to communicate their feelings and experiences if and when they have periodic insanity.
A good friend of mine once remarked that “All the best artists are crazy”. I am all about that link from art to mental health and vice versa. Art is many things; perhaps it’s the transcendentalism of art that keeps us guessing about it.
- Written words
Describe what you do as a creative.
I am a painter.
Tell us briefly about yourself so we understand where you come from. What’s your family background?
There are artists in my family; and I grew up in my Grandfather's house until I was 12, he was a retired art teacher. His son (my uncle) was an artist, my Mum was creative and spent her life facilitating others in her role as an occupational therapist. My Dad lived with us until I turned eighteen when he returned to the place where he was born and grew up: Amsterdam. He was a full time artist and in the 1960's he produced psychedelic artwork and murals. Mum and Dad met in a night club called 'Lucky Star' in Amsterdam, they settled down, had two Dutch children then emigrated to Canada where I was born, the third and last of three sisters. We then moved to England where I grew up and settled ever since.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I never thought about what I wanted to do when I was growing up, I spent time thinking and wondering about spiritual and existential types of conundrums - like why are we here, who was Jesus and so on. I suffered from strong nightmarish visions as a child. When I was seven, my Dad and his friend, called Guy Crump had a tape recorder. (Guy worked for London Weekend Television as a film editor) and they asked me that question recording my answer to the tape recorder. To their dismay I said that I wanted to be a policewoman! When they quizzed me about it I said that it was because I wanted to direct traffic. Other than that as a teenager I thought that I could maybe be a social worker.
How did you begin doing what you do? How did it all start? What’s your story?
My Grandad watched my creative production very closely. He noticed that I was starting to do portraits so he gave me a book about portrait painting that I found helpful when I eventually used it at about sixteen years old about a year after my Grandad had passed away. My eldest sister was also interested in what I might produce in art and she was particularly encouraging when I eventually started to make art. Basically though I was suffering with a severe mental illness and was hospitalised with a nervous breakdown at 25 and that is where it all began. I started to use watercolour pencils while in hospital and I made little figurines in pottery. It never occurred to me to be an artist because I was trying to make a living in conventional ways, by trying to work and get a job. It didn't work out for me and I was ill and hospitalised again and received treatment which meant doing art, craft and pottery. It meant everything to me, those activities were my life, my creative output in ceramics, glass and later art were to me larger, greater than life, art was life, life wasn't life, art was life. Not sure that makes sense.. it may take more explanation.
What turns on your creativity? What triggers your need to create and to make art?
Art is discovery, so if there is something that I feel I need to spend more time thinking about and working on, I will paint, sculpt, design on the subject. In the early days it was often spirituality in various forms or various denominations; explorations into spiritual, religious and moral questions. The unstable moods I still have mean that there are times I am very low which is uncomfortable. Those moods inform my art, and as I start to turn a corner from the depths of despair I paint and it brings me up higher and higher and if I finish a work I am can get ecstatic and hyper, probably manic. And then the cycle goes around again.
What do you like best about your work?
My art work, the finished products are like my children. I don't have any children, my art works are my babies. They came into being through concept, through pain and execution and they have lives independent from me. They give me joy and pleasure and my hope is that they speak and communicate with others too.
When were you most satisfied in your work? What is your golden moment so far?
During lockdown 2020, around March, April and May my practice changed dramatically. A friend of mine likened it to a quantum leap. It all happened so fast, so suddenly. It was as if all my efforts to develop a certain technique fell into place and I was finally able to paint as I had wanted to and imagined myself doing. I produced many works during that time, and I am happy with most of them still.
Describe a memorable response to your work? The way people responded to a piece of your work? What was their reaction? What did they say?
It's very important to me to reach children through my work. When a young child is captured by something I have painted or made in clay or glass then I feel that is a mark of success. Children have delighted me with their comments on a number of occasions, I have written down those times when they occurred in various places; note books, journals and I think there's a description of one of those times in my original blog from 2009/10 called 'word to the Sophie'. They squeal with delight, point at something and you can hear their imagination rising by things they say.
What is the most exciting part of your work at the moment?
I am learning how to paint in oils. I would not have done it before but suddenly after feeling the creamy consistency of oil paint and experiencing the long process it takes, I am very excited to be using them and learning new things once again.
What is your dream project?
My dream is for all people to appreciate art, for all people to own some and enjoy it in their spaces and places. In terms of a project though, they are always around, my dream is that there is a role in society for artists.
Which artists / creative people are your heroes or inspiring figures?
Rembrandt, Van Gogh. They are all just people though, brilliant people of course, but there is that sadness that was part of their lives. I do write up of exhibitions that I go and see. I put the write ups on my website, and on social media. William Blake though, he is my man. However I wish I could have met George Michael when he was alive, he was amazing.
Your idea of happiness?
Happiness to me would be to love and be loved in return, the simple ideas are often the best.
What art/creativity related book should everyone read?
Tell us a lesson life has taught you.
To be humble at all times and to not watch money, or, as it says in the good book; to not worship money.
Gillingham, , Gillingham, Medway, United Kingdom,
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