Natalie Very B is a local illustrator, muralist and art teacher with a strong belief that “art can heal”. We sat down with her to chat about how art continues to help her navigate her own mental health journey, how it’s enabled her self-acceptance, and how art can allow for human connection (or in her words, “[art] strips us all down to a world without boundaries”). Q: You mention on your website that your ‘childhood experience provided the foundation for [your] artistic philosophy’ – can you elaborate on this? What is your philosophy?
My childhood and teenage years spent in Poland shaped me to believe that women are subservient and housebound, while men work long hours and do as they please. It also led me to believe that unless I’m skinny, I’m worthless. Additionally, the toxic relationship between my parents has caused much grief and created a sense of injustice that I felt immensely helpless about.
After immigrating to Canada I started to learn that my past is only one of many possible stories, and that as a woman I am free to take charge of my life and make my own decisions. I’m allowed to accept and love myself. To be proud.
At some point in my journey I discovered art, and despite having it around me my entire life I only then allowed myself to try it. It instantly felt like a comfortable medium of communicating with the world and sharing my feelings. Art felt like home. Over the years, as I grew as a person and as an artist, I discovered how impactful images can be.
Now that I can finally stand strong and do something about the issues that have always bothered me, I use my art as a medium for social change and promoting female empowerment. My artistic philosophy is to make work that makes the viewer feel good about themselves and evokes self-acceptance.
Q: Where do you continue to draw your inspiration from?
I am continuously inspired by dream worlds and nature, but anything to do with femininity, witchcraft, and the moon evoke new imagery in my head. I love illustrating folk tales and mythology. I take long walks in the forest and go to an art gallery to get rid of dry spells. My creative juices flow best in the spring and summer time.
My mom is my hero and a great source of inspiration to me. She’s the one who was brave enough to leave the hurt behind and have a fresh start in a new country. Her drawings are a fantastic stylistic reference for my own work.
Q: All of your work contains elements of feminism – why is this important to you? How did this become a guiding principle in your work?
Feminism, and the fight for inequality, is a strong driving force in my art practice, and something that inspires me to create my illustrations. I intend to give females a chance to shine through my work, and to feel empowered to achieve their goals. To feel beautiful, capable, and strong. Having experienced Imbalance of power in my own life, I choose to build a world where we all hold equal worth simply as human beings. I fight for feminism by giving power to the female form.
Q: What is the role that art plays in your life? How does it impact or reflect you as a person?
Art is an every day part of my life. Painting takes the pain and turns it into an image. It uses hurt as a vehicle of artistic delivery. I think that most artists are sad, in some way, somehow. Art helps us deal, it allows us to let go. Once transferred onto paper, emotions are easier to understand and handle.
Making art is a major part of my identity.
Q: What is, in your opinion, the role art plays in society at large?
Art provides us with joy in the grey concrete jungle that we live in. It brings us closer together, and allows us to experience and share each other’s individuality. Art is a magical device for communicating without words, in meanings that can stretch across the oceans. Art strips us all down to a world without boundaries; a world that speaks through images of love, acceptance, and simplicity.
Q: Let’s talk about art and mental health specifically – do these things correlate in your opinion? If so, how?
Art and mental health go hand in hand. Creative expression has comforted me in the darkest of times, and continues to be my way of achieving self-reflection and internal peace. Painting strong, happy, curvy females who cherish their bodies allows me to find more acceptance for my own self, especially as an eating disorder survivor.
Painting is a beautiful, meditative process that cleanses negative emotions, and temporarily takes me away from our often sad reality.
Q: Explain your relationship with art in 15 words or less:
Art brings self-acceptance. Creativity is power. Art heals wounds. My art is my pride.
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