I am sorry that your experience of the OU has been frustrating at times. It is a tribute to your determination and academic ability that you have achieved so much despite your conditions and the neurotypical privilege that is present in all walks of life.
This should also give the tutor greater direction as to what they need to be able to do to help you study on a level playing field.
Just over a year ago I decided to take down all my art for sale on my website and removed my art from galleries. This was not due to not selling work or a moody tantrum, this was in fact thought out over some time, which was needed as my mind was riddled with questions such as “will this sell” and “is this going to be popular with customers and collectors”. The part of me which was now in charge of my creativity was also doing mental spreadsheets and customer surveys.
Now I am not saying this is not a way to sell art, as there are many successful commercial artists who take to art as they would any business. However this is not for me, I am not driven by money and my philosophy is very anti-capitalistic and personally I dislike any art which is made in the hope of selling for obscene amounts of cash.
The arts have been growing more elitist and individualistic since the 20th century, which historian Walter Benjamin called “The Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” The commodity of art and creativity is now a marketable idea and product to be sold on mass, even though the world we live in is in no way accommodating to the life of an artist, unless you are the lucky few (which is mainly white, middle/upper class men) then you can not replicate the same success as any outlet which churns out art prints of generic tastes to be sold at your local department store. Visual art is taken for granted in our world, imagine the world without it? Removing these visuals from our surroundings would be an extreme shock to our senses, yet we do not value it enough. Art becomes a throw away item, something you donate or sell at a carboot sale or even toss in a skip.
My husband and I are by no means rich, we are actually under the living wage by quite a bit in the UK, which is why the pressure arises in me at the idea that the only thing I can do well and do from home due to my disabilities was not going to feed us or house us on a regular basis – making me believe that myself and my art were worthless. Which left me hollow and without purpose, so as with everything in my life, this became a question of survival.
Tackling mental illness, sexual violence, capitalism, war and being an outsider artist in general meant that automatically my work would not be considered commercial or be the kind of art that the general population wish to put in their living rooms. Nonetheless this is not of any concern of mine, as the artist my purpose is to create, the rest is not up to me. Over this year many of my followers and fans have asked to buy my art or asked where my art is on sale, but still I did not give in. The journey was not over as I still could hear the faint voice of capitalism whispering in my ear.
With this in mind the idea of selling art became something which actually started to terrify me, the thought that if I started again the muse would leap from my mind, with nothing left to nourish me. So I continued on my quest for my cathartic creativity. Which is what led me to reexamine my roots in art – the reason I had begun and the reason it had saved me from hurting myself for so many years. I remembered painting and drawing as a child when my world was falling apart around me, with no adults to guide me; my art was a comfort and allowed me to express feeling which my young brain could not process with language. Furthermore art therapy had saved me when I was in psychiatric hospitals or therapy, never did I think of “selling art” at these moments, there were no thoughts just creativity exploding from me in every direction with a “fuck you” attitude to match.
Then I thought of the other experiences with art which had suffocated me and led me to become silent. Such as secondary school when my teacher decided her and I had a “personality clash” and that I was just a disobedient child who would not concentrate on the topics at hand. Which is hard for me for many reasons. In class a blank piece of paper would be set down for me, with an objective given, such as to draw a still life of some sort – my mind could not confine itself to the simple still life set out before me, other things would appear in my vision and these would have to be incorporated, different colours emerged which others did not see. Which is what drove my art teacher mad, she would get so angry at me and I just could not understand? This was my best and favourite subject and my way of communicating but it was shut down and I stopped trying and taking part.
When later in life I decided to go to art college at 17, having only been out of hospital a short while, the intensity of my emotions and coming from an art therapy environment did not merge well within the confines of academic art. This time I had learnt from previous experiences that my voice was too loud or too raw and with the social pressures of adolescents, which made me want to conform so as to be seen as “normal” and not the crazy girl, I simply muted myself and my creative voice. Which meant yet again the teachers found me difficult, leading me to leave after a year.
With this retrospective, the mission was clear and simple; my work needed to come from the place which has been unheard and abandoned for so long. It is not pretty or comfortable, but it is my genuine voice and my message to the world – with the aim of helping others who like me have been pushed down and silenced. During my year off from the headache that is consumerism, my mind was able to redevelop the meaning behind my journey as an artist. It is true that for me the message in my work is far more important to me than if it is “sellable”, which meant that finding my voice was the most important aspect for my exploration thus far.
Now I am ready to sell my work again and put my work back in galleries, Knowing that the selling is a bonus and the galleries allow my art to be seen and my message to heard by more people. There is now no whispers asking me consumerist questions and there is no compromise to my philosophy. Now I am secure with my art and purpose which means my muse has returned.
If you ever find yourself in this predicament as an artist (of any discipline) then I would recommend a similar period of time away from the suffocation that is our capitalist, consumer driven world, find your roots in your work, work towards your purpose and do not compromise this for anything.
For information on my upcoming store please follow this blog or fill out this contact form:
The mental health system in the UK which is provided by the NHS is failing people like me everyday; so lets see why?
Here is what the NHS have to say about accessing mental health services in the UK:
Mental health, emotional wellbeing and resilience is all about how we cope with what life throws at us. It concerns the way we feel about ourselves, conduct relationships, handle stress or deal with loss.
Good mental health and resilience are fundamental to good physical health, relationships, education and work, as well as being key to achieving our potential.
This is just an opening statement on the NHS website and already there are many issues:
- The first sentence implies that mental illness is only from environmental factors around us such as “what life throws at us” and completely negates to say that mental illness can also be a neurological condition which is visible to us on MRI scans. So for people like myself who have C-PTSD, BPD and suffer from periods of psychosis or someone who has schizophrenia, bipolar-disorder, dissociative disorders and many more are left already feeling like this does not include us.
- It goes on to say, that in order to maintain a good life: mental health, emotional wellbeing and resilience are paramount. When someone like me sees this, the complete lack of effort to include severe mental illness appears as if the NHS caters to an exclusive group which myself and others are not welcome in. Some mental illness is not “fixable” in that there is no cure and the assumption and misinformation is irresponsible and suggests that those with mental illness can be healed with a one size fits all solution.
- The word resilience frustrates me as people with severe psychiatric illnesses have no choice over resilience. We are by the very fact we have survived, mental illness has nothing to do with resilience outside of the context of psychological studies and within the day to day spectrum of a person’s life as so many variables come into play . Resilience by definition means: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. This again applies to depression and anxiety as stand alone diagnoses, which yes; when life throws the stresses of life at you and you do not cope well, this resilience is necessary and coping strategies and talking therapies within cognitive behavioural therapy are very beneficial. However let’s say you have C-PTSD or Schizophrenia where does resilience come in? It comes in as a way of coping with severe abnormalities in the brain and sever trauma, how one “copes” and shows resilience can be affected by many environmental factors and due to this without objective means of defining resilience in a singular, all-encompassing term, using resilience as a theoretical psychological concept or therapeutic instrument will not be universally consistent or correct. Read more about Psychological Resilience here.
- For us with severe mental illness the world is very different , we do not have the privilege of those who suffer from situational depression and anxiety solely. The world expects and allows us as people to feel depressed after death, or anxious after a car crash and what ever else “life throws at you”. This was not always the way, society has come leaps and bounds in the last 30 years to accept depression and anxiety in a mainstream way. This help is now widely available to the general public and society is more and more open to those who suffer from depression and anxiety as most people have had it or know someone who has. With celebrity faces, depictions in modern film, TV and literature as well as many charities and campaigns continuously running to educate the world about depression and anxiety, the world is still silent about those like myself still viewed as “crazy” or “psychotic”. Due to complex sever mental illness which are still only referenced in horror films, crime dramas, documentaries about “the criminally insane” murderers, news reports where “someone with a personality disorder has killed someone” or referenced as the go to insults for people displaying “weird” behaviours.
The NHS go on to say:
Less common conditions, such as psychosis, can make you experience changes in thinking and perception severe enough to significantly alter your experience of reality. These conditions include schizophrenia and affective psychosis, such as bipolar disorder, and can have the same lifelong impact as any long-term physical condition.
The issue here is that even within the severe mental illnesses there are some which will be focused on above so many others. With an over emphasis on Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and a general reference to psychosis. There is no mention of the most common of these disorders; C-PTSD or PTSD, there is no mention of personality disorders, dissociative disorders or to the disorders which have psychosis as a symptom. It is as if the world is not prepared to let go of the label “crazy” and still needs some of us to be under this stigmatising label so that we can be scapegoated as the deranged creatures of nightmares so that fingers can be pointed and there is a face to the monster.
This next paragraph from the NHS is misleading:
Mental illness is treatable and, with appropriate support and treatment, people do recover. Many move on with their lives and are able to care for their family, contribute to the local community, and get back into employment or training.
The sweeping statement that “mental illness is treatable” is an insult to many, it should instead read ” some mental illness can be treatable and severe mental illness is manageable with continued support and treatment”. This goes back to the generalised view that depression and anxiety are the only illnesses affecting the masses and that people can only have mental illness which is subject to your own psychological resilience.
Also some with severe mental illness like myself have symptoms from our illnesses which are depression and anxiety, so you will be offered in the NHS to have these treated rather than the severe illness which caused the symptoms of depression and anxiety. for example, I have C-PTSD, BPD and psychotic depression and due to these severe illnesses I have other illnesses which are symptoms of these, such as: GAD, agoraphobia, OCD, Adult ADHD and BDD.
And then lastly the NHS tell you what is needed but only provide one option in reality:
But this may not always be a straightforward journey. Many people only need a short course of psychological therapy or six months of medication, while others will need much more support and intensive treatment, be it medication or extended therapy.
The issue with this paragraph is again how the less complex and severe your illness is the more you are taken care of. Most people will only need a short course of medication and some focused counselling like 6 weeks of CBT if they suffer from anxiety and depression if caused by general life’s ups and downs, they may then need this again and it will be available to them throughout their lives.
However when it brushes us “the complex cases” under the carpet with the statement “while others will need much more support and treatment” this makes me very angry. As they imply they “the NHS” will provide this for us, but in fact this is NOT the case as all. You will be offered drug treatment of archaic psychotropic drugs, you will be offered short term therapy (6 weeks) and then once you have had this treatment you can not re-apply for treatment until after 6 months. So if you are not “cured” after 6 weeks, tough luck! Which as you have read is impossible for complex and severe mental illnesses.
There is no after care, the emergency lines (crisis support) they allow you to have whilst in treatment are then closed to you, (not that they answered when you were allowed to call them). Finally the pièce de résistance is that you will be told (like I have been told 3 times over the last 21 years) with no uncertain terms that “there is nothing we (the NHS) can do for you now, sorry”.
The devastation that is felt by people like me, who are unable to be part of society due to our mental illnesses due the stigma attached to us, is so overwhelming that in most cases it leads to a relapse and more often than not self-injury, suicide attempts or death. When this last happened to me last year, I suffered a further breakdown and relapse, this meant I did not take care of myself for over 6 months resulting in more ill health. If I did not have a husband who takes care of me when ill, I would have died. So what about all of those alone? What about my husband who has to deal with this on his own?
Now I ask you, is the mental health system working effectively?
Next time I shall be sharing my timeline of treatment within the NHS from age eleven to now. So follow my blog to keep up to date on my future posts.
My colleague from ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL and dear friend Jade Bryant is also exploring the NHS and its failings within the Mental Health System, please follow this link to read more and get involved by sharing your stories.
Find more art from Jade; HERE
This is the beginning stages of a campaign which ASLI (our non -profit) will be running in the near future. We hope to elevate our voices and others and then we hope to take this to the government; to bring about change as well as running workshops and programs which will aim to engage better understanding within communities, so that people like myself and Jade and so many others can be included properly in society which will inturn help us with our mental health.
Thank you for your time.
If you have anything to say on this subject, or your own story please get in touch via this contact form:
Find out about the other judges of this very important competition by clicking the link: Meet the Judges for Able in This Diverse Universe
So how and what is this all about?
“Established essayist and word-mage Karrie Higgins invites you to participate in a nonfiction writing competition on the themes of ableism, disability, access and overcoming. All submissions fees benefit the training and care of Noah Ainslie’s future Autism service dog, Appa. This competition will also serve to raise awareness of invisible illness and ableist bias.
Noah’s neurodiversity often manifests as sensory overwhelm. He has been learning coping mechanisms for six years, but still visibly struggles when it comes to conforming to neurotypical standards. He is high function on the spectrum which means he doesn’t “look like” he’s disabled. He is subjected to ableist expectations, often very aggressively and in public.
With Appa’s help, Noah will have access to the public spaces his anxiety prevents him from entering. More importantly, Noah will have a companion who loves him for who he is and does not judge his inability to conform to ableist public standards. To learn more about Noah, visit his GoFundMe page.”
Follow this link to enter the competition:
To enter this competition, please use the following guidelines for all submissions.Your work should be:
- no more than 2,000 words
- in PDF or docx format
- without identifying information in your document as judging will be blind
All entries are require a $15 submission fee which will directly benefit Noah and Appa. You are welcome to enter as many times as you want.
This competition will run from December , 2015 – February 29, 2016. Winners will be notified March 31, 2016.
The winning essayists will receive $250 cash, and publication on Karrie’s website, A True Testimony. Second and third place winners will also receive awards.
Please get involved with this!
share this with friends and family via social media or email
This is such an important cause and the issues we are asking you to address, affect so many, including myself.
I am also in the process of getting a service dog for my agoraphobia and PTSD.
I live in an able world where I too have been rejected and expected to “fit in” or expected to accept defeat, so please for people such as myself and Noah, support this with an open heart and mind.
Thank you for reading xxx
As the Managing Director of ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL creating merchandise for our new online store (which will be launched early next year) is a fun project for me to take on.
We shall be selling posters, postcards, greeting cards, art prints, music, arts and crafts, T-shirts, stationery, books, online-courses and we hope to stoke items from artists around the world, so you can by from the artist through us! So as this is my baby, I decided to take the plunge and start creating.
Here are 3 NEW posters I have created the artwork for:
Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.
“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
“The animated bug has bitten pop culture. It makes me feel happy and free. When you don’t act seriously, you can make up your own rules.”(Nicki Minaj)
More artworks to come very soon…
We will also be doing competitions for artists to enter their designs to be featured on our merchandise.
Remember when we at ASLI talk about artists we are talking about all disciplines within the arts…
Such as: visual artists, photographers, writers, poets, dancers, performance artists, thespians, graphic designers, crafters and artisans, musicians, singers, cartoonists, fashion designers, film and documentary makers, journalists, bloggers… basically if you are using your artistic and creative self to make a difference we are talking to you!
If you have any questions about ASLI or wish to get involved please fill in the form below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
So it is a new year and with this comes the assumption of an internal reset button which one can press and start again. As far as notions go this is not a bad one if approached correctly with a positive attitude and an openness to whatever lays ahead.
I do not make resolutions as this kind of fait accompli put upon oneself is a recipe for disaster and failure. It does not allow for the mystery of the upcoming 12 months and what life has planned. So instead I set goals which do not have to be finished by 2016 but have to be started in 2015. I move forward with dreams and ambitions and make sure I do at least one thing I have never accomplished before. You may think I am just rewriting the new year resolution mantra and that it is not much different, however the difference is I do not “expect” things from myself, instead I imagine my future and am lead by my dreams and encouraged by my fears.
Last year was great. I became a published illustrator with The Wishing Machine which I am very proud of. Also I had 2 exhibitions one in Portsmouth and one in London, after 2013 I decided I would take a step back from exhibitions and concentrate on new collections. Myself and Sadie Kaye decided to take over the old ART SAVES LIVES and renamed it ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL. This meant I was Artistic Director and Co-Founder with Sadie.
I also joined forces with the talented Lisa Reeve and we are working together on a new book, a new online boutique selling handmade and recycled items as well as art from ourselves and selected artisans.
In late 2014 ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL was handed over to me and I became Managing Director along with my husband Mohammed Farhan and Lisa Reeve. Sadie Kaye remains Artistic Director but has taken a small step back whilst she concentrates on many other personal projects as well as her beautiful expanding family. We have decided to reinvent ASLI, with a new mission and plan. With ASLI set to become a registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) in early 2015 and already with a calendar booked up with exciting events, we are excited with our new venture.
NEW WEBSITE LAUNCH on the 6th of January – http://www.artsaveslivesinternational.com
This brings me back to my new beginning…
My plan for 2015 is to move forward and allow for my dreams to get even BIGGER!!
So with this in mind I better get started. No time to waste!