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One to Watch #2: Tara Kergon

Welcome back to my One to Watch series! This week I've had a chat with artist Tara Kergon.

So why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? When did you discover your love of art?

I’m a UK-based journal artist passionate about breaking down stigma around mental health and chronic illness. I share my recovery-inspired art work on instagram and talk openly about mental illness to help and inspire others and prove we are not alone on our journeys. I suppose I have always enjoyed creative things, but I abandoned art after my GCSEs because I felt I should be focused on more “serious” subjects. I rediscovered art near the start of my recovery, because in the depths of my illness I was searching for new expression – and once I started I couldn’t stop!

Between studying, working and making art, you’re kept exceptionally busy. When you’re not occupied, what do you do in your spare time?

Spare time – what’s that?! A lot of my time outside of work and study also goes into volunteering because I love supporting and empowering others. I’m just about to qualify as a crisis counselor with a text messaging service for those in crisis, I spend one morning a week socializing animals at a rescue centre, and I also volunteer as a studio assistant with Artbox Frome to help adults with learning disabilities create and sell their art! I’m personally still learning to take time off completely to recharge and work on recovery, so that need for absolute self care means I also dedicate at least an hour each day to yoga, reading, and Netflix.

You talk very openly about your mental health both through your art and on your Instagram. If you don’t mind the question, what is your relationship between your art and your mental health?

Art is something that has been integral to my recovery and maintaining my sanity – I don’t know what I’d do without it! Recovery requires a lot of self awareness, reflection, and learning to manage challenging thoughts and feelings, and art journaling is an amazing way to explore and express my mental health and the ups and downs of my journey while creating something from it. And part of the reason I’m so open about it on instagram because I hope that through sharing my art I can inspire others to explore their own mental health creatively!

And who/what would you say is your main source of inspiration?

My main source of inspiration is myself, my life, my internal world, and my relationship with the external world. Often my art becomes existential, drawing not only on the challenges of living with mental illness but the difficulty of simply being a person. When I sit down to journal, I often ask myself “What do I need to express today?” or “What am I really feeling?” – and from that comes my most honest work.

Time for a tricky question: if you could only paint/draw one subject for the rest of your life what would it be?

I always come back to natural themes, from anatomical hearts to leaves, but I suppose my favourite thing to draw and paint is flowers. If I could combine those with lettering and writing, then I’d probably be happy!

You have a very active social media presence, how important is it, would you say, for creatives to have a presence online?

As a platform for sharing work, collaborating with other creatives, and creating that demand for your work that can even turn it into a full-time career, social media is unparalleled – artists can reach people all around the world with minimal effort. I’m very active on instagram because the art/journaling community is full of talented people constantly inspiring me to try new things, which then helps me develop my own creative work! But, it’s also important not to let social media take over. It’s an overly perfect, curated snapshot of art and life, and focusing upon the algorithm, likes, and followers can be detrimental. Not only is it hard to switch off with notifications constantly pinging in, but followers do not indicate how “good” your art is – don’t create for the algorithm or instagram aesthetic, just focus on making what fulfils you and make social media work for you!

And what advice would you give to aspiring artists?

First and foremost, don’t compare yourself to other artists – especially those who have been creating for longer. Focus on your voice, your style, and creating something that you are proud of, and just keep going! Also don’t be disheartened if you’re not immediately amazing at something: art is also about practice, so you will see progress if you just keep making. Finally, remember that art is about the process as much as the finished result, especially when you’re using it therapeutically. Often I go through periods where I don’t really like anything I’ve created, but I have to remember that what really matters is how I’ve used the creative process, and that I just keep on filling my journals!

So looking to the future: what’s next for you?

I’m working on developing a career in which I help others with mental health problems, so a lot of energy is going into growing my skillset and finding experience. But I have also just opened an Etsy store selling a few prints I’m really proud of, so part of what’s next is expanding that store! I’m looking to add originals, and explore creating other products like stickers and zines to spread my mental health positivity. Finally, I’m continuing to work on my recovery and developing that ever-elusive balance between work, play, hobbies, and self-care to become the highest and happiest version of myself!

And finally, where can we see/buy your work?

To see more of my journal pages, and some real talk about mental health and life in recovery then head to my instagram (@journalbebe). I also share snippets of my life, creative process, and inspirations on my stories. And if you want to snag a print, check out my Etsy store (Journalbebe) and favourite it to keep up with any new products I release!

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