Self taught, she paints the creepy and cute from our favourite time of year, Halloween, using high quality Acrylic and oil paints. Heather uses her artistry as a kind of therapy.
“I have been living with schizophrenia since a child and this is how i remedy my thoughts by painting.”
With Mental Health Awareness Month, we asked Heather some questions regarding schizophrenia and her art.
When were you diagnosed?
I was originally diagnosed with Schizophrenia when I was a teenager, around 16-17. It was pretty scary as all these strange things starting occurring. At one point i did not sleep for about 5 days and heard people calling my name. One pointIi saw the same person appear here and there. This person would show up at random here and there but not all the time. When i got into my 30’s symptoms changed and i am still dealing with them till this day.
There’s a lot of misinformation around concerning schizophrenia, did you have support from friends and family after the diagnosis?
When I was young I did not really have the support because people did not understand it or they shrugged it off because i was young. Being young and in high school the word gets out quickly that you went into a mental hospital. Kids can be cruel and they were to me when they found out about my hospital stay. I went back to school for a short while then about a couple weeks after my return symptoms did not go away kids were horrible, my mind was going a different route so i dropped out. Never received my diploma. Being young and not understanding yourself and your environment is a very scary thing. This not understanding myself dragged on all through my 20’s with many hospital stays. It sucked!!
Is it difficult to cope with the disease with children? How do you balance things?
For me my children are a balance and keep my mind at ease and somewhat grounded. They are a constant friend that is loving and always there. I am a Huge kid at heart I have three children my oldest Meghan who is 16 has learned at a young age of me being in and out of hospitals and understands the science behind it all. SHe is a good person and is well aware what mental illness can do to others. Having kids at times does stress me out at times but I do have a husband that helps out in every way he can when i get into a funk. I literally am a science project in myself. I study my own habits and thoughts and at times talk aloud to myself to try and figure out what thoughts are real and what ones are not. Being able to handle these thoughts is a great thing. Many people with schizophrenia cannot and my heart hurts just thinking about it. Being so consumed and caught up inside yourself scared is not fun. Its a constant feel of worry, Hurt, and just being scared you can’t help it it just happens.
What is the relationship, if any, between your images and the disease?
Each image I create is crawling out of me wanting to escape. If I do not paint it or sketch it I kinda go crazy get angry until i do . I see shapes and my hands move around until i get whatever it is that wants to come out out lol! In the past i rarely paint when i get angry as those feelings do tend to get caught on canvas. I have painted very dark scenes in which i should not have some of them i threw away some I sold as they were not that bad in terms of leaving negative energy on the canvas. Some pieces i refuse to sell because they have some sort of an attachment to me. I just love them and they are apart of me it’s hard to discuss because i do not know the right words to describe how.
Do the images have any relation to what you see/experience/feel?
There are so many levels to Schizophrenia. I do not see as many things like i used to when i was younger. They are still there but i tend to just look the other way when i do see these things. I have more of a strong hold on it now. I do have auditory and horrible thoughts that i argue with on a daily basis. These I tend to fight off and try to stay positive. My creepy little creatures are just there, not sure if it has to do with my Schizophrenia, I do not think so as they are a more positive vibe in my life and make me feel good. Takes my mind off of crazy thoughts like people are watching me, following me ect. Sometimes the things I see are so scary I do not want to talk about it or I shrug them off, I do not want to remember them or paint them to have to remember them. I do not have a large circle of friends due to my schizophrenia, I do not like to be surrounded by a lot of people. Letting people know this little bit about me freaks me out.
Do you find painting helps ease any symptoms, is your art your therapeutic release?
My art is very much a release. When I do paint I am not thinking about the auditory noise, I am not thinking about what or who may be following me. I focus on my eyes and hands connecting and creating that image which I am seeing through shapes in my head. When I see the shapes I can actually feel it as well when I am painting and moving my hands around. It’s kinda hard to describe that part but it does happen. Some days are very tough and I just cannot shake those horrible feelings off and they just consume me. Then I just end up sitting around thinking and dwelling, pointing fingers and just try to get through the day. I do paint an awful lot, just recently I worked so much that I made myself physically sick. I am on rest for another week or two but then will gradually get back into painting slowly once again.
Its also easy to feed off of others positive vibes. If you have fans or collectors that love what you are doing they are filling your head with positive vibes and you end up wanting to do more and more. Which I was doing from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed. Kinda like a drug. It is rewarding but I have to balance it out and not forget I have a life besides painting and to live it just like everyone else does everyday. It does help a lot but I would say my kids and my husband help me a lot as well.
“My art is not sitting on a gallery wall for a month or two at a time with no one looking at it.”
From time to time Heather also teaches painting classes, which we think sounds like a fantastic opportunity to soak up some inspiration and get some good tips.
“I don’t use an easel to paint. I sit on my couch and get into my work – canvas in my lap, If the canvas is huge, I lie on the floor and get comfortable.”
“I don’t go out much as I am forever in my work. When i say forever the people that do know me know it really is a labor of love and I do need it to survive. If i didn’t have my paint and my trusty brush I don’t know how i would keep sane.”
Heather has also used her art to illustrate a children’s book called The Mysterious Spooky Stories of My Eclectic Mind.
Turn off the lights and get the candles glowing. Spooky stories await. Ghosts and Goblins, Scarecrow’s and Witches are all ready to tell a terrifying tale. Spooky Short Stories and Poems for ALL ages!
Her art is not limited to just canvas, Heather paints on wood too and has applied her artwork to furniture, clocks, t-shirts and more! This telephone pained by Heather is just devine and shows off her talent in an unusual way.