Professional sculptor and multi-disciplined artist Paige Harris struggles with mental health issues, but instead of doubting herself, she decided to channel her energy towards creating art and pursuing online streaming.
Harris is an accomplished artist, working at Studio Y in Calgary, a place where she feels suits her passion. Here, she gets to indulge in her lifelong dream in a caring environment.
“I’ve worked there for like, a year and a half now and I absolutely loved it when I first started,” she said.
“It’s really nice to develop those skills while getting paid and the environment’s really nice. Everyone’s super positive and encouraging.”
Art has always been something Harris felt she was destined for, early in her teenage life and into college. However, she thought it would be easier to feel rewarded by creating art.
“In high school, I guess painting, mostly, was what I really enjoyed doing and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else other than creating things,” she explains, adding that she applied for the Alberta College of Art and Design.
Art has been a contentious issue within her life as she worried about the reality of finding a strong career within the world of art.
“I guess when I graduated college and I was in the real world, it was just kind of nerve-racking,” she said.
“And then I got into this pit of depression — struggling to find a job and all this other stuff.”
Because Harris had the notion that finding a job in art was difficult, her mental health began to suffer.
For Harris, creating art is what helps her maintain positivity.
The uncertainty of finding a productive career in art created a hazy outcome in her vision for the future.
“When I graduated college is when I felt like my art career is over because how am I going to making a living doing something I really like doing?” she remembers asking herself.
Even with her mind heavy with doubt, she felt determined to fulfil her dream.
“I enjoyed myself and I really liked the experience so that’s kind of what kept me going,” Harris said.
“It’s an experience so it’s gonna be worth it either way.”
Dr. Keith Dobson, a psychology professor at the University of Calgary with a research interest in depression, understands Harris’ struggle.
He talks about behavioural activation, the idea that participating in certain activities can help people cope with their mental illness.
“Behavioral activation can help [people] break out of depression by reinforcing and doing what you enjoy,” Dobson explains.
Harris’ dedication to continuing her pursuit of art out of passion plays into this idea of behavioural activation.
Now, her art career has flourished into something grounded and real, something she once felt was impossible. Through her art, she recounts her experiences struggling with mental health.
“A lot of my paintings come from my own experiences and I guess the insects kind of represents your mental health — coming out of you or disgusting parts of you showing,” Harris said, describing her Inner Insects painting.
As much as she enjoys painting, Harris felt compelled to grow as an artist.
“I like all the things and I don’t like limiting myself to just one specific style,” she said.
“Especially when you’re at art college, they want you to major in drawing or painting, but I always had a hard time just choosing one thing.”
One avenue Harris continues to follow in addition to sculpting, woodworking and welding is poetry.
“Poetry has kind of just been like a way to get my thoughts out … I haven’t done a lot of public poetry, just kind of something that I don’t share a lot, but it’s a part of me.”
However, to Harris, poetry is something she likes to “share with my audience.”
Harris’ audience resides on Twitch.tv, a platform for live streaming. On the surface, Twitch seems like an ordinary gaming website, but she repurposed it for herself into something more creative.
“I thought audiences would like to see something different,” she said. “So, I just kind of went for it and I really enjoyed it.”
In line with behavioural activation, Twitch.tv enabled Harris to put herself out there and be encouraged to create more art.
In turn, it allows Harris to share her work with the rest of the world.
Fellow Twitch.tv streamer Ryan Brunski, who suffers from depression, sees the value in Twitch.tv in supporting one’s mental health.
“Twitch is good at building a community so the community can be a point of strength for people if it’s helpful,” he says.
However, Brunski feels it’s important to understand that Twitch.tv isn’t always the safest place to cope with mental health.
“At the same time, it can also go really bad, really quick,” he says. “There’s this tendency to compare yourself to the highlights of everybody else and I don’t think that’s very good for mental health.”
But for Harris, Twitch.tv has provided a welcoming experience that has proven to be helpful.
“My first stream, I got [followed] by like, 20 people and they’re all liking this. It’s this really chill atmosphere.”
These newfound Twitch.tv followers make her feel right at home when they enjoy her art and streams.
“They’re always making sure that I’m doing all right,” she said.
Twitch.tv has allowed Harris to embrace a brand-new community of like-minded individuals and has helped her to create all sorts of unique art pieces.
You can find Harris’ twitch stream at here.
Editor: Sam Nar | firstname.lastname@example.org