Most artists are strong advocates for mental health. In my endeavour to bring their views to light, meet the first designer of this short series of artist interviews, Lori Malkhassian. Lori passionately believes that it's high time the stigma around mental health is bid adieu to.
Here's what she has to say.
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Lori Malkhassian and I’m an illustrator and greeting card designer. I’m a self-taught artist, as I never had any formal education in art, however, I’ve always been passionate about art and design.
Tell us a little about your journey as a designer.
Art has always been important in my life ever since I was a kid, I always had crayons and paint around me and was always busy drawing or painting things. However, I never took the matter seriously, until just a few years ago. I came across a course about surface design on Skillshare and I immediately fell in love with the idea and the career (to be honest I never thought something like this ever existed). The more I discovered about surface design and illustration, the more mesmerized I became, and that’s how my love story began.
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?
My favorite has to be “this too shall pass” illustration. The reason why I chose this one, is not because technically it was the most challenging or took many hours to finish, but because of its meaning. I drew it in the middle of a very long lockdown due to the pandemic, as it was exactly what I was going through. It also resonated with a lot of people since for once it felt like the whole world was going through the same ordeal and everyone felt connected.
How do you add a dash of your personality into your work?
I feel like my work is highly reflective of me and my values as a person. I use a lot of cheerful and vibrant colors in my work, I try to be positive and always see the brighter side of things in life and try to convey the same in my illustrations as well. I believe if you’re drawing from the heart, you will pour a part of yourself into your work.
Why are you passionate about mental health?
In my opinion, mental health is as important as physical health, however, it’s not talked about and shared as freely as it should be. I believe, more awareness is needed to free people from the stigma that mental health can have on some. As someone, who has suffered from anxiety for a long time, I can totally relate to others who are going through the same thing. If my art can make someone’s day a bit better, then I have done my job.
How do you think an artist can raise awareness for mental health?
In general, artists have the ability and creativity to focus and shed light on issues that matter to them. Artists can raise awareness through their work or donating to organizations and foundations involved in mental health awareness or treatment. In my work, I use a lot of vibrant colors along with joyful and uplifting illustrations that give a sense of happiness and relief. I guess in a way, this is my way of spreading positivity and a sense of calmness to those who see my work.
How do you keep yourself constantly motivated and inspired as a designer?
Staying motivated and inspired is not always easy, especially in these times where the whole world is going through exceptionally rough times. This can severely impact your motivation and creativity. However, I try my best to always stay cheerful and try to escape to that happy place in my mind where I can see things from a different perspective and try to create my work based on happy things. Another way to stay motivated is write down your goals and a to-do list to reach those goals, try your best to tackle them, and learn to enjoy the journey as you move along.
Any tips for tackling creative block?
I have to admit, this is the worst. I would say the best thing you can do (which can sound counter-intuitive) is to step back from your work, take a break, and do something fun or even try new things. You can take a walk with your best friend or read a nice book you’ve been postponing to read or simply take a nice, warm, bubble bath. Whatever it takes to clear your mind off of work. You never know when inspiration can hit--after all creating should be fun, not a chore.
How do you deal with anxiety and self-doubt?
It’s completely normal for artists to go through anxiety or self-doubt, I mean, even famous artists have been through such feelings. With social media all around us, it’s easy to get caught in the competition game. I would say my biggest advice to artists, specially to those starting out, don’t compare your beginnings to somebody else’s middle: it can be torturing, since you don’t know their story and you don’t know how long it took them to get to where they are now. Work on your skills, share your work and enjoy your journey, this is unique to you, and your voice matters.
Is there a book/blog/podcast you would recommend for fellow artists and designers?
My favourite podcasts are Creative Pep Talk by Andy J. Pizza and the Lisa Congdon Sessions by Lisa Congdon. My go to platform for learning new skills is definitely Skillshare and I would recommend it to all fellow creatives.
If you could give one piece of advice to artists and designers living with mental health conditions, what would it be?
I would tell them, take it easy on yourselves, you are artists, you have the most amazing and exciting job in the world. Focus on the beautiful and positive things in your life and be grateful for them. It’s totally fine to take a break every now and then and focus on yourselves. Remember, your mental health should be a priority.