Welcome to our series looking at the relationship between art and mental health, titled Animi, the Latin word for the mind.
As some of you may know, we’re hosting our second ArtBox on the 13th of December, bringing you a not-so-silent art auction in aid of the mental health charity, Manchester Mind. ArtBox involves a range of artists, both underground and professional, both local and based in lands afar. The date also involves live music and a selection of Funraising’s most coveted DJs. Animi comes in preparation for this special event, where Funraising’s most inquisitive writers speak with the artists involved in Artbox 2, unveiling a range of opinions and artistic perceptions of mental health.
Our fourth interview with the imaginative Esmee Balcewicz was conducted by Cachella Smith.
What is your view on the current stigma surrounding mental health?
It’s really good to talk about it. Of course, we can’t talk about it all the time, its not good to have that subject matter on ours mind constantly, but it is definitely good to show to people that they aren’t alone. It’s definitely improved recently but it’s a big task, more can always happen. That’s part of the reason I’m involved with this, I think its really positive.
How do you begin on a project or piece of artwork?
I’m always coming up with ideas for things. For me it is best to focus on one thing at a time, not try and take too many projects on. I find it quite stressful to have a lot of projects, it ends up just being distracting. I find art to be a process.
Drawing from observation is a good way to get things out of your head. That’s something that’s really important. I guess I am quite an anxious person, so being more mindful and noticing things around you can be really helpful. When you’re going over something in your head it’s important to notice that that’s not everything and that there are other things going on. It makes me feel calmer.
I go out and draw from life then take that back home and see what I can do with it. Sometimes I can work in my bedroom, but I don’t think it’s always a very good for me to do that as it’s easy to be distracted. It just depends on my mood and how I’m feeling.
Tell me about the content of your pieces – specifically your relationship with the colour black and using people as subject matter
Using black is not really a conscious decision, it’s more to do with the composition of the image and its aesthetics. Black is an important part of balancing. It’s not really to get a message across, just to do with the way it looks and the impact of the image. It also really depends on the piece.
As for the people in the illustrations. I use myself as a reference a lot. If I need to draw other people, I take photos and videos, but I personally like being in my art. Self-portraits make me feel quite good about myself, as I can appear how I choose.
I always take a sketch book with me wherever I go. I used to go to a lot of gigs, and draw at live events where I managed to get some good things for reference later on. Doing this project, forcing myself out of my head, doing something I’m not exactly comfortable doing would make me nervous. Drawing at those events made me feel like I had a reason to be there.
What about the words on your more recent pieces?
It’s a new thing for me but its something that just happens naturally. If I’m thinking about something, I jot it down and draw around it. Or sometimes it will be a lyric I’m listening to when I’m doing the drawing. If something feels relevant to how I’m feeling at the time, that’s when I’ll write it down. This definitely changes the context of the drawing. Writing seems to make people try and find a link between the drawing and the words. It makes them consider why it’s important and if I’m writing about myself.
You mentioned that words make a piece more personal to you. Do you feel more vulnerable with words on your pieces?
Yeah that is true, I don’t know why that is, but that’s definitely true. If you write a sentence then the meaning is more definitive, whereas you can interpret a drawing in several different ways.
Why do you prefer drawing and illustrations more than other forms of art?
It’s always been drawing from the start. It’s just something I’ve always enjoyed. All sorts of different mediums come into it. I do
paint and do other things on the computer- little bits here and there, but it’s mostly drawing.
This is such a big question- I think it is just that I really enjoy it. I have the most control with those kinds of materials. Pencils and pens are what I’m used to the most. I feel like I can get the effect across that way. Therefore I have more control with getting down what’s in my head, I like painting as well. Sometimes its good to have less control and to experiment a bit more.
Esmee’s art will be available for purchase at Funraising’s silent art auction event, ArtBox, which is raising funds for the charity Manchester Mind. The auction will take place on December 13th, Solomon’s, from 5pm to midnight.
Esmee combines illustration and animation, with a particular focus on colours and patterns. She takes her inspiration from everyday material and finds this to a good method to get herself out of her own head and appreciate the beauty of everyday things. In noticing what surrounds her she reminds herself that there is a whole world outside of the struggles and problems she experiences in the moment. To see more, you can find her on Instagram here.