Art as a form of Mindfulness
TJ Wilkshire is a writer, editor and visual artist; based in Brisbane she is going from strength to strength by allowing mindfulness to be her guide.
Be inspired by TJ:
You're a writer, editor and visual artist, are you drawn to or more passionate about one area more than the others? ~ I’m definitely more passionate about writing. It’s always been something I’ve loved, whether it’s reading another person’s work or writing for myself. Yet, I feel that one can’t function without the other. Writing is such a strange discipline; you can go from feeling incredibly proud to feeling fairly worthless and it’s entirely dependent on the writing landscape at the time. I went back to painting seriously as an escape from writing. It allows me to free up some space in my mind. I don’t have to think about it too much, I just do what comes natural. If I don’t like it, I start again. Often I listen to podcasts or have documentaries going on in the background while I paint, so it’s definitely a relaxing activity for me. For many people relaxing is watching TV or just sitting and listening to music. And while I love those things too, I always feel the need to be creating something.
Do you feel these areas interconnect with your work and how you communicate your ideas? ~ Writing and art definitely interconnect. I think understanding visuals as an artist does and can be incredibly helpful when writing as it helps to create a picture in the reader’s mind. Whereas writing makes us ask more questions and think more about what is happening on a deeper level and this can be communicated in painting.
Your work mostly portrays birds and other animals, can you tell us about your love for this subject? ~ My interest in birds originally started when I read a collection of poetry by Robert Adamson, called The Goldfinches of Baghdad. I loved the way he seemed to have this intimate connection with birds, yet he fully understood it was one-sided. I also loved the way birds permeated events in his life and the lives of those around him. In his poems it was as if the whole world could drastically change and people could break up or die and politicians would come and go, but the one constant was the presence of birds. From there I started writing about birds in my own poetry, then I started writing a thesis about birds in poetry and during that process I was painting them. I’ve kept painting them for the past two years. I honestly haven’t been interested in any other subject. I don’t love them in the same way other people do. I find them fascinating in how their environments can drastically vary, how they have these personalities and how they seem to function as a symbol of the difference between animals and humans. I also think they’re very beautiful, regardless of whether they’re a pigeon or an azure kingfisher.
You recently had a solo exhibition at Hansho Flower + Art from 3 May - 2 June, how did you plan your body of work and what motivated you to create in this way? ~ I didn’t really plan the body of work as such, but I knew my style had changed somewhat. I started working on the first few about a year ago. I knew the kinds of colours I wanted to paint with. You’ll see a lot of green in my recent paintings as I became a bit obsessed with the hundreds of shades of green. I knew I wanted to paint plants and birds and I imagined them to be fairly bright and colourful.
What inspires you the most? ~ Other artists inspire me, even if our styles are very different. I’m a huge fan of Fiona Kennedy Altoft and Leah Fraser. I also find a lot of inspiration in images of nature, like a magpie on a fence or a bouquet of flowers from someone’s wedding.
What does success mean to you? ~ I used to think success was how your life looked from the outside. Something tangible we can grab onto, like “I do this for a living” or “this has happened to me.” But, I think it has to do with perspective and that’s something I’m slowly learning.
Success is how you look at your life. It’s sounds cheesy but it can be the difference between being happy and being wildly unhappy.
What are your goals this year? ~ I’d like to develop my career in writing. Figure out what path I want to take and how that looks. My main goal this year was to try and chill out a little and not get anxious about the future. I think this year for me will be about working hard but also waiting for things to unfold.
Three things you simply cannot live without? ~ My laptop, going to cafes and being in the sunshine.
How does art create a positive influence in your life? ~ Art has been a form of mindfulness for me and allowed me to step out of my anxious feelings and into something that uses my hands and makes my mind process colours instead of past experiences or complicated feelings. I paint for myself, because I physically need to get my ideas out and onto something. They need to take some form, or I begin to wallow a little bit. Art is strange because many people don’t find the value in it or are happy buying prints from Kmart. I think art becomes a positive influence in my life when I don’t expect anything from it, like money or recognition. If I can step back and look at a finished painting and think “this makes me happy” and leave it at that, I think that’s the best kind of influence it can have