Welcome to our mental health 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 event 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. To find out how things went down last year, check out our review here.
In our final interview of the series, Sophie Billington caught up with shape wizard Waldemar Stepian.
Sophie Billington: When did you begin your relationship with art?
I definitely didn’t grow up in a creative environment, it never occurred to me that I could pursue a career in the arts until I was around 20. I felt like my parents always wanted to see me working as a doctor or lawyer rather than an illustrator/designer. When I look back, I remember being very creative, I always found myself making something. I was spending my days drawing portraits of my family or tracing Disney characters. I used to take part in various creative competitions and I even have a history of being ‘a designer’ in the school newspaper. Instead of going to university straight after I graduated from school, I decided to move abroad and find something that I could devote myself to. Living in London at the age of 19 was a life changing experience, I grew as a person and developed as a designer and artist.
What kind of relationship do you have with art?
It’s definitely a troubled one. Because being an artist is so closely attached to who you are as a person, these feeling and how you feel about yourself changes constantly. For me, it’s almost like a love-hate relationship. There are days when you are feeling inspired and on top of the world and days when you hate all you work and you question whether this is something that you should keep doing. Then you realise, that in the end of the day, if you enjoy it and you’re passionate about it, you’ll go on no matter what.
Where are you from and does this inspire your art at all?
I’m originally from Poland. I believe it has affected my practice in many ways. First of all, there are many inspiring Polish artists that I look up to, both historical and contemporary. Not to mention, the amazing illustrators and artists that I follow on Instagram. I moved in to the UK straight after I graduated from high school, so I didn’t really have a chance to get to know the country outside of the small village where I’m from. This is why, every time I visit Poland I always try to make the best out of it by visiting galleries, museums, looking at architecture and just simply enjoying the beauty of the countryside. It’s almost like being a tourist in my own country. After so many years of studying visual communication, I became more aware of the visual clues around me , whether it’s the sign above the shop or the typography that is used in the local newspaper. I find all of these things very inspiring. The relation between the culture and design/art is something that I often explore in my research.
You posted an image of a tshirt on instagram. It reads, ‘PROTECT ME FROM HEAVY SOCIAL MEDIA USE’. What do you think about the relationship between social media and mental health?
I don’t think it’s a secret that these two are strongly related. Personally, I used to be a big fan of social media and spent a great amount on time on Facebook or other social platforms. Now, I try to keep it to minimum. I tend to use Instagram the most since I find it a great platform for sharing my work and connecting with other creatives. I believe that these platforms made our lives so much easier which is something that people often forget and they tend to focus only on the negative aspects of it. Of course, there are downsides to everything. Social media can have a negative effect on the mental health especially amongst young people who are often exposed to unachievable ideas of beauty (usually supported by advertisers with the financial aspirations in mind). People have become more self-conscious and insecure, by comparing themselves to others. It’s definitely not a healthy thing to do, especially that what we see on social media is often far from the reality. I guess, the key is to be more selective with who you follow and start questioning whether they add anything valuable to your life.
Looking at your Instagram, you seem to have used less line-work and more undefined colourful spaces in your art last year, and more lines and boundaries and black and white more recently.
My style keeps evolving. I always try to explore new ways of communicating the ideas. Lately, I’ve become more interested in exploring the potential of the line in creating short narratives. I also work more with typography and try to combine them with illustrations. It’s all about playing and experimenting.
What are your plans for the future – have you got an idea of where you want to go and what you want to do?
At the moment, I’m trying to focus to finish my degree and learn as much as I can before entering the professional world. The ultimate goal for me is to keep doing what I love, collaborate with great people and keep getting better everyday.
Wal is contributing to ArtBox because he thinks that ”it’s an amazing project to be a part of and he’s happy to help’. The artist combines illustration and animation, and keeps a diary where he doodles, writes down song lyrics and scribbles down general thoughts before he develops his favourite sketches digitally. He believes that you can find inspiration in anything if you look hard enough. To see more from Wal, head to @waldemar_st.
Wal’s art will be available for purchase at Funraising’s silent art auction event, ArtBox. Last year, Wal’s work sold for £62, a fantastic amount to raise for the mental health charity Manchester Mind. Who knows what it’ll go for this year, but prices will start down low… so have a go. The auction will take place on December 13th at Solomon’s Cafe Bar in Withington, from 5pm to midnight. Head to the Skiddle event page or the Facebook event page for more info.