I have been struggling with depression for some time in varying degrees. I really didn’t share it with anyone except for my husband and my sister. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me, and when I did reach out for help, I found myself ‘glossing’ over the really dark parts not really wanting to be ‘that’ person. I would put on a brave face, and I came to realize that I was stuck. I needed help.
I started painting years ago but hadn’t picked up a brush in at least 10 years. I dabbled in oil painting and acrylics but landed on watercolors. There is an immediacy with the medium. It drys so quickly. I found that if I just let go, was present, and let the creativity be the driver, I was calmer and more at ease. And, I felt good about what I was creating. Going to my office ( now calling it my studio) was something to look forward to. The painting brought me some joy and a way through the depression.
Hello, Dlo! How would you describe what you do?
Dlo: Creative release. I am a maker. My parents were always doing something creative during my childhood. It just became a part of me. Although, I went to school for interior design, which was more technical than creative. The interior design worked for me until it didn’t. I quit my job 2 years ago after we moved to Europe. And, it was really a mistake (just not having an outlet). I lost part of my identity. What followed was a slow descent into depression. Revisiting art has really given me a purpose. And, it really forces me to be present. Because, when I am not present, the process is forced and the end product is not good. What I do, is let go. I don’t have a plan; I may have an idea, but no real plan. I just go with what feels good. It is a conscious act in mindfulness.
And how did you discover that this is your purpose?
Dlo: This is a good question. To be honest, I don’t think I have discovered it. Or maybe, I am in the process of discovering it. Which is great, that is a realization in and of itself.
Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter etc.
Dlo: Abstract watercolor. I love watercolor. It forces you to stay in the moment. There is an immediacy to it. It dries so quickly. I work on watercolor paper, but I have also experimented with canvas, unfinished canvas, cotton, and wood panels. I love playing with paint. I’ll puddle the paint and then use my hairdryer to move it around the canvas. Giving the paint an organic movement that allows me to build upon and construct a piece that feels alive.
What is the message you are trying to give with your art?
Dlo: I really haven’t thought about this. It is more of a release, not a statement. Maybe, it is ok, to be honest with yourself. To allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. I have really kept a lot of my depression hidden. I have only really shared it with my husband and my sister and to a certain degree, I hid it from my therapists. I didn’t want to be ‘that’ person: not admitting the darker feelings I was having. So, In the sense that I don’t have a message, that would be the message I would like to convey. It’s ok to not be ok. We have all been there and we are not alone. Being honest with myself was my release, honesty is my message.
What does a typical day look like for you? Do you have a specific routine or process?
Dlo: I really never had a routine until recently. I credit my husband with my new routine. He is a workaholic, to the point, that is what detrimental to our marriage. And, he really tried to be a better husband and changed the way he works, to heal us, and to be better at what he does. He gets up every morning and works out, reads, meditates, practices piano, and Spanish, and then starts his day. And, it works for him. So, I started to do the same. Upon waking, I do yoga and meditate. I was drinking coffee every day, so that would have been the next step in my routine, but, I have replaced it with caffeine-free tea. And, then I’ll do some cleaning (because I cannot concentrate with a messy house). After that, I’ll go to my office (calling it the studio now) and listen to some music. Usually something cerebral like Tipper. Set up my area with water, prep my paper, and start experimenting.
You have been suffering from depression. Do you think there is a link between creativity and depression?
Dlo: When I realized I was stuck, stuck in a depressive cycle of negative thoughts, negative self-talk, unhealthy eating, and just bad daily habits. I would watch TV all day, in the depth of the depression because it was a distraction. I knew I needed a change. To be brutally honest, the change really happened after I tried MDMA for the first time, and it was a huge eye-opener. For the first time, I had empathy for myself and for my mental well-being (I am crying while I type this.) It was a life-changing experience. COMPLETELY. I don’t advocate the use of drugs, but there are serious studies on how psychedelics can assist people who are suffering. I was able to see where I was and what it was like on the other side of sadness. I think that being able to honestly assess yourself and allow yourself to be creative is huge. So, yes, I do think there is a link.
And can creative work heal depression?
Dlo: I believe it can help to begin the healing process. You just really have to do the work every day to get better. I have to remind myself not to listen to negative thoughts. Rumination is my biggest enemy. And, I have to work every hour of every day to curb that. Painting is a moment in mindfulness, where I am just doing. It makes me focus and be present. And, being honest with yourself can really release some dark emotions. It’s nice to turn that into something positive, like a painting.
What kind of advice would you give to an artist that struggles with these issues?
Dlo: Just breathe. Be honest with yourself: acknowledge that there is some darkness there. And, it’s OK. And, breath. Close your eyes, and just focus on your current consciousness. Be present and feel it. For me, that was the biggest obstacle. I was blaming, avoiding, and just not dealing. I was keeping myself in a dark place. And seek help. Like really seek help. And, if it isn’t working, keep trying to find what works. And, keep making and doing, even if it is hard. Because soon, it won’t be so hard. Don’t give up. You are not alone. Speak your truth.
When you were a child, what was your dream job?
Dlo: I wanted to be an Architect. I wanted to build beautiful places to live. We were really poor, and I always wanted a modern home. So, I got to college, and my guidance counselor told me I wouldn’t get a job because I was a woman and talked me into Mechanical Engineering. This was the early 90’s… That lasted all of 2 years. I never want to see another physics book as long as I live. LOL. I dropped out, got married, had a daughter, and got divorced. Went back to school and got a BA in arts, with a specialization in Interior Design.
How has your art evolved over the years?
Dlo: For the longest time it was very technical, I was a commercial interior designer. I used AutoCAD, 3D programs, and quick sketches to communicate my vision. With commercial interior design, the aesthetic part is only a piece of the overall design. It is very technical. You are responsible for proper egress, ADA compliance, efficiency, Fire codes, building codes, etc. So, now after picking up the paintbrush again, I don’t have constraints. I don’t have to follow set measurements, rules, or guidelines. Abstract art is so open and can be interpreted; however, the viewer sees it, their own concepts, own beliefs, and feelings.
What artists influenced you the most and why?
Dlo: My first love was Frank Lloyd Wright, I just loved his aesthetic. If I could live in one of his homes my life would be complete. I think he was the reason I wanted to be an Architect. His homes were so unique. I love wood in homes: wood floors, wood walls, etc. Just feels homey. I love Bacon, Basquiat, Peggy Lee, and Alicia Tormey. Abstract art that still has some realism is quite beautiful. Anything that takes reality and gives it a spin, it so unique.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Dlo: I have just started to share my work publicly. My husband has really pushed me to be more open about it. I was so afraid. The internet can be such a hateful place and I am really sensitive. Being judged is not easy. However, people have been so positive. Just today, one of my new followers posted my art to her story on Instagram and gave me a shout out. That was huge!
What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?
Dlo: My email email@example.com, my Instagram @dlomanion. I am working on a website and that will be up shortly dlomanion.com.
What is next for Dlo?
Dlo: Just taking life day-by-day right now. Getting my website up and running. And, just allowing space to be open, calm, and present. All of the other stuff will just come. I hope that the pandemic will end soon and the borders will open. I miss my family and their energy.