The Artist's Take on Mental Health - Dylan Mierzwinski
If there's one artist who inspires me every single day by showing up, being accepting of her imperfections, and by sharing her strategies for dealing with anxiety, it has to be Dylan! I'm absolutely over the moon that Dylan Mierzwinski has agreed to be a part of this interview series.
Please introduce yourself.
I’m an artist and illustrator living in Phoenix, Arizona in the USA, and a proud teacher on Skillshare. My style is bold, retro, and playful, and has been featured on greeting cards, fabric, murals, magazines, stationery, etc.
Tell us a little about your journey as a designer.
I’ve been told since I was young that I was creative, but I think it was more that my mom was creative and I happened to be doing what she was doing. I didn’t find my own creativity until I did my first 100 day drawing challenge years ago; I drew for 20 minutes a day and saw my art could be what I wanted it to be, and I could grow my skills. I started publishing Skillshare classes because I get really giddy over learning and sharing new things, and that supported me financially as I grew my licensing portfolio and went after a fabric contract. Shortly after securing that, an agent (Jennifer Nelson) reached out to me and began representing me. Since then my business has been about both sides: creating artwork and sharing the process with others.
Of all the wonderful art you've created, do you have a favourite? What's the story behind this art piece? Why is it your favourite?
I'll pick a recent favorite - which is "Flora" from my third and newest fabric collection with Windham fabrics entitled "Fancy" (out in stores in October). I find that as an artist I tend to fail forward when making work, and don't usually know where a piece will end up, the colors it'll have, the composition, etc., until I get there. When I was envisioning this fabric collection, "Flora" in the emerald colorway was the first print I pictured, and I pictured it in its full glory. Bonus, I'm looking forward to sewing with it.
Why are you passionate about mental health?
I care about mental health because it affects all people, and it requires us to get quiet with ourselves - all the best things come from our connection with that part of ourselves. We deserve to care about and protect our mental health, it makes our lives better.
How do you think an artist can raise awareness for mental health?
Share openly and honestly, and reconsider projecting perfection and an endless hustle lifestyle.
How does a typical day look like for you, as an artist clinically diagnosed with ADHD?
The number one thing for me is creating structure, which is very difficult for ADHDers. This means making lists (SHORT and SPECIFIC) lists, setting timers, and prioritizing with the least drama possible...oh, and the almighty battle to show up. My day is a lot of trying to get myself to work, and then once I do, I usually get hyper-focused and find my joy and rhythm. About the only thing I do consistently every day is begin it by making my bed. It makes a big difference for me - if I can get that done, I can get any task that I break down and focus on done.
Any tips for tackling creative block that stems from anxiety?
Focus on sensations and experiences other than the final result. Pressuring an art session to have a pretty ending can suck a lot of the joy and mindfulness from the process - when anxiety is coursing through me, it isn't a pretty picture that's going to help, it's focusing on my brush swishing through the water, watching colors mix from one to another, moving thick or watery paint around, etc. Those are all treasure troves of mindfulness and presence that can ease anxiety and bring us back to the moment, where we're safe.
Is there a book/blog/podcast you would recommend for fellow artists and designers?
"Art & Fear" by Ted Orland and David Bayles - One of my creative bibles. It feels like a hug to the weary creative heart.
If you could give one piece of advice to artists and designers living with mental health conditions, what would it be?
Your creativity matters a whole lot, and it's always with you, even in seasons where it's too much to create.