Written by Julianna Edwards, 17, and edited by YAM for clarity
My name is Julianna Edwards and I’m a seventeen year-old Pennsylvania-based portrait artist. I formerly worked with acrylic paints because it was what I knew and was comfortable using at the time. But when I was introduced to oils, my perspective changed dramatically. Not only did my paintings improve, but my skills were elevated the more I experimented. Oil was a big step out of my comfort zone, but it was a much needed one. The pigments are so much richer, and even though the long drying time could be seen as an inconvenience, it’s actually incredibly useful and helpful.
I’m hoping this series will open the eyes of those who haven’t experienced these feelings to what others can’t express themselves
As a full-time high school student, life doesn’t wait for you to paint. When you have schoolwork and just general life events happening all around you, it’s hard to dedicate time to your art. With oils, my work doesn’t dry too quickly and I have a lot of time to move it around and work with it to improve its final image.
Recently I’ve begun a series about mental health/illnesses that will amount to fifteen paintings in total. This series was originally just a school project, but when I chose my series’ theme, I was extremely excited to use my art to raise awareness on this particular topic. Mental health is something I’m very passionate about, especially since I have a lot of experience dealing with it. I think this generation is more affected by and open about mental health in general, which is fantastic, and getting a chance to do my part in bringing it to light through my work makes me so happy. I have struggled with anxiety and depression as long as I can remember, and art has been a safe and beautiful way to express my emotions. I’m hoping this series will open the eyes of those who haven’t experienced these feelings to what others can’t express themselves.
Sometimes, these illnesses are incredibly crippling, and unfortunately a lot of people don’t get the help they need or deserve. By raising awareness on this issue, I hope that more people will be able to receive proper care. As a young person in our world, it can be difficult for one’s voice to be heard. I may not necessarily be very influential, but I will do my best to speak out—No matter how small a voice is, its words can travel fast and far.
I currently have three of the fifteen paintings finished: Insomnia, ADHD, and Anxiety. I can’t help but be a little biased and say ‘Anxiety’ is my favorite (mostly because I’ve lived with it for a long time), and seeing it as a physical manifestation feels like I’ve finally been able to control it a little. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not just as proud of the others. Each is unique and beautiful in their own special way.
Seeing these paintings come to life before me and being able to visualize the mental illnesses is like having power over them. You are not your illness. You can overcome it. You are strong. You are perfect. You are worth it. Perhaps you haven’t been told these enough, or maybe you have and you feel it’s not true. I’ve been there, and I can say there will be more times when I feel that way. But it is true, and everyone should know that. I can’t wait to get more of these paintings finished and provide the mental illness spectrum with the exposure and readied acceptance that it deserves.
More resources on mental health can be found here: https://www.nami.org/Home
All images copyright ©2020 Julianna Edwards