Steph Chapman | Issue Eleven Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work

I grew up on seven acres in regional Victoria, Australia. I’m now based in Geelong, near Melbourne. I’ve always been an arty type, with an innate itch to create. I write, draw, sing and paint. The arts ignite my soul. My love of creating led me to study professional writing and editing. I work in the communications and public relations space for a government agency.

I turned to hobby painting in early 2018 after finding out I had an extra electrical pathway in my heart that can cause serious complications. I found myself more anxious and more depressed than I had ever known. In the darkest hour of my life I found painting, and I haven’t looked back. I'm now juggling full-time communications work with my own painting business.

How is your personality reflected in your work?

I’m all about colour – in my life and in my art. I’m a super introvert, but I’m a quirky one. I have neon pink hair. My house is full of pink and mint green furniture. I wear lipstick every day. I have a male cat who eats out of a pink bowl and sleeps on a pink blanket. I’m quiet, but I have a loud and proud sense of self, who I am and what I believe in, and I think this comes out in my paintings. My artwork is colourful and ultra-feminine – just like me.

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work

I’m not sure I adhere to any themes. I just like to create colour-crazy wonderlands that I can get lost in, happy beautiful places that take me away from my anxiety. I figure if my paintings can help me relax and feel safe and happy, then maybe they can do that for collectors too.

What art do you most identify with?

I’m an abstract artist, using acrylic on canvas. I like that there are no rules. I like the freedom of being able to conjure weird and wonderful shapes and quirky botanicals in clashy colours.

Making abstract art is like lucid dreaming – you can create anything you like.

What do you think the role of the artist is in society? I think artists are uniquely positioned to bring light into people’s lives. When we create, and we share the fruits of our creativity with others, we can bring smiles to stranger’s faces. We can ignite fascination. We can inspire. We can make people happy. If I can touch one person's life with something I have created, then I have succeeded as an artist.

I think if you are creative, you owe it to yourself to explore your gifts, and in a way you owe it to others to share those gifts. Those gifts can add sparkle and wonder to people’s lives, and most certainly to your own. I have artwork in my home from various artists. I just love looking at them. I love that they exist. They nourish my wellbeing. I hope my art brings to others what the art I have bought over the years brings to me: light and happiness.

How can artists raise awareness for mental health?

Being open and vulnerable enough to share your story is a great way to raise awareness about mental health. From the beginning, I've been quite vocal about how painting has transformed my life, calmed my anxiety and comforted me in those foggy, depressed hours.

I remember, with one of my earlier pieces, I started it while I was in a really anxious place in the lead up to my first heart operation, and I finished it on the other side of that operation, when I was happier. When I introduced the painting on social media, I let everyone know how the artwork had been by my side, helping me through some tough times. I think this type of vulnerability can help reduce the stigma around mental health. I also take every opportunity to encourage people, especially women who are sad or stressed, to pick up a paint brush and start painting. You don't have to be good at painting to benefit from its therapy.

How do you cope with days that are overwhelming, frustrating, and otherwise tough? What helps you bounce back?

When I'm feeling sad, stressed, anxious or run-down, I like to create. I usually head to my tiny back patio-turned-art-studio and start painting. Sometimes, I'll write, other times I'll sing.

I think it's important to know yourself, to know what relaxes you and makes you happy. As much as possible I focus on healthy, creative hobbies, but sometimes I'll buy food for two and eat it all myself.

What advice would you give to young aspiring artists – especially if they are living with mental health conditions?

Have a go. Believe in yourself. Create from your soul. Don't aim to create a masterpiece, just set out to make something you like looking at. Share your art with others – you never know, you just might touch someone's life.


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