Robert Schoolfield is an artist from Chattanooga, TN who lives with bipolar disorder and uses his artwork as one of his coping strategies. In the following article Robert describes his passion for art and why artistic expression is key to living a happy, fulfilled, life.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said before? Words often get in the way of what I really want to say, which is one reason I create my artwork. Words can say a lot but not everyone thinks or feels the same things and while we can get a good idea of someone else’s emotions, we really don’t know exactly how it is to think or feel like someone else.
I thought about churching up everything I am going to say but then I decided I should probably stay true to myself and reflect my raw, imaginative, complex, honesty, like I do in my art. I’ve edited this writing numerous times, kind of like how I paint over my paintings multiple times. My obsessiveness is on display for you to see because I’m trying to translate how it is to be me so that you will have a better understanding of my art.
I am someone who has been labeled as being mentally ill. People who speak their minds, and use them, are sometimes dismissed as being crazy, or something weird like that. Who knows? Maybe those kinds of people have some kind of genius about them.
While I don’t like to claim mental illness, I do accept it. I like to share that, and make a point of it, hoping that it might encourage others and reassure them that they are not alone and that they can pursue anything they wish to pursue. Anyways, art gives me a reason to live, and, through all of the madness, it is a way for me to show that there is still a sign of life inside. There’s actually quite a bit.
When you display your own personal experience, through art, you catch a glimpse of a moment of how it is to be you, displayed for others to see. Any specific piece is up for infinite interpretation and those interpretations may lead to infinite conclusions. While that last statement may be a valid point, if you do analyze artwork, all different types, you might realize that all creativity comes from somewhere. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all regurgitating the same source of life in our own unique ways. There is a deep sense of connection with past lives, and past people, who were all expressing themselves creatively. Everything about you reflects a certain story, and style, that is uniquely you while also being ‘one’ with everything else. To me, that source of creativity has something to do with the reason for existence. I am expressing every aspect of life in every mark that I make, or even by just ‘being’ me, all of which is a never ending conversation. Creativity is an explanation of life and all of its magic, and mysteries, and I am in a constant state of describing what that source is.
Over the years I think that I’ve crafted a style that is significantly unique to the art world. I am primarily a mixed media artist and a lot of my work is very experimental. I really like layering, to create depth and texture, and painting over things to create an ongoing story that can be viewed numerous times and still have something new to see. I also use a lot of materials that I find relatable or interesting, such as things I’ve written down, pages of books, or other objects.
I go through phases of applying materials, to writing and drawing, and also painting, but not necessarily in any specific order. I am always looking for ways to break out of my own boundaries to make something new that sets itself apart from the rest.
I also like writing on the back of my paintings, almost as if it were a journal, and I call that aspect “Tales from the Backside of The Canvas.” There is an innate intuitive instinct about what I do and I don’t really have to premeditate on it, it seems to be very natural. As I change, and continue making art, my style is always evolving and expanding and reinventing itself.
Like all things though, my art will eventually be buried in history, and I like that because it’s artistic and it’s a reflection of life, in a sense that even the artwork will dissolve and fade away one day. What’s important to me is that the spark, where it all came from, will go on forever and hopefully ignite other flames along the way.
I create because words often get in the way of what I really want to say.
More of Robert Schoolfield’s artwork can be found on his website at www.schoolfieldart.com
By Ryann DeLisi
In this article, Ryann DeLisi, a young woman living with bipolar disorder, discusses the significance of art therapy in managing her symptoms. She also shares her thoughts about social stigma and other issues surrounding BP.
Van Gogh's, "Poppies" is what heavily inspired me to make this piece. Since I was a little girl I've always been in love with art and colors. Painting forces me to be present, it's almost a form of meditation for me. Being diagnosed with Bipolar Type I, I experience both Manic and Depressive episodes and painting is a healthy way to keep me focused and let out my emotions productively.
Honestly, I was hesitant at first about having my name next to a mental illness on the internet because of the stigma that goes along with having Bipolar Disorder, but I think it's really important. It's so much more common than you'd think, but there are a lot of people out there too afraid to say anything for fear of being judged or seen as "crazy". I think most people see having Bipolar as something aggressive, like we are all a bunch of ticking time bombs -- but that's really not the case. In my years of therapy and group therapy, people with Bipolar Disorder are some of the most creative, empathetic, compassionate people I have ever met.
Bipolar Disorder is a very serious lifelong illness that often takes lives. Due to financial issues, finding a doctor has probably been one of the hardest parts of having Bipolar Disorder for me. Your quality of life should not be determined by how much money you have in your pocket. Finding quality help should not be so hard and it is a huge issue that needs to be addressed.
If you are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I think it's important to realize that you are not your illness. You are not Bipolar, you have Bipolar, so please don't let it define you. I genuinely think that we see the world in a different way and while that can sometimes be painful, it is also beautiful, there is balance to everything in life. There's a quote that sticks with me, (I can't remember where I heard it) "Don't deny your mental illness, embrace your mental skillness," and I think that's a good way to look at it.
To see more of Ryann's artwork, check out her instagram @yeti_rex
Note: Ryann's creative work featured on BP Swing Sets and elsewhere is her intellectual property (IP) and cannot be released or redistributed without her express permission. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.