Art and Mental Health Interview with Tamzin of Resurface
On holding space and reflecting people's energy back to themselves via Soul Signs, taking care of our mental health, and how health can impact creativity ...
I had the wonderful opportunity to get to knowof a little bit a few months back when she generously joined the virtual book tour for The Artist’s Mind, allowing me to share a bit about repetition in creativity. Tamzin is an interesting, empathetic, creative individual who I think you’ll also like getting to know more, so I have an interview with here for you here today.
Who Is Tamzin?
Tamzin Merivale is an Irish artist, writer, and mentor. In creating her unique Soul Sign Energetic Portraits, Tamzin guides her clients through an immersive experience to unearth their powerful selves, their incomparable light and their strength, which she depicts in a portrait. Her mission is to hold space for diverse stories, to create greater empathy and understanding. She believes in “creating deeper connections — not only to others, but to parts of ourselves that have been forgotten, neglected, or are simply waiting to be discovered,” which, as you’ll see from the interview, is something that she believes is a core reason that us humans create art.
Let’s learn more …
You describe yourself as an artist and writer, words that some people have trouble claiming for themselves.
What was your journey to describing yourself this way? What is the story of where your art started and where it's come to today?
Labels, titles and definitions cause problems for us usually because of what we associate with them, or we worry about what others will think. In my opinion, that’s a waste of time and energy, an unnecessary drain on our resources! Do what you love, and don’t worry about defining yourself if it feels uncomfortable. Examine what the words bring up for you, what judgements are you attaching to them and why?
As for my journey here, I always needed a creative outlet. Whether it was drawing, making extravagant outfits, or stretching and contorting my body to music, I was always experimenting as a child and teenager. To make art is to play with our own senses and emotions, and to connect with those of others. I believe that that’s the main drive to be creative; it connects us more deeply to ourselves and to others.
In my twenties, I lived in Florence, where I worked in a gallery and produced some of my first collections in design. In 2019, I had to leave Italy and my work there, so I started drawing again to pass the time as I figured out the next step. I never imagined what it would lead to. I was quickly offered a small exhibition of my prints, which I now see were my first attempts at depicting energy. I came to writing even more unexpectedly, simply through posting my art on Instagram. I thought I was writing captions to promote my visual art, but actually writing was becoming front and centre in the process, and drawing more people in.
I don’t worry about the titles anymore as my full-time jobs are art and writing, so there's no other way to describe myself really!
I believe that all of us have mental health (that it's not about diagnosis or a problem or an illness, although we can have those things, but that it's about wellness, challenges, stressors ...)
How do you relate to the term mental health?
Our health and mental health is so, so precious. We often don’t realise how lucky we are to be well until we’re not.
As for me personally, if I am not mentally well, then I don’t have the ability to work, to put time into my relationships, to take care of myself or to do much at all. So, I put time and energy into my mental health every single day. Without it, nothing else matters. When we’re well, everything in life can get the time and attention they deserve. Those stressors and challenges that can really throw us off in a bad moment become easier to deal with, because we have some resources available, even if they’re still hard.
Your Soul Portraits project is very powerful. How does portraiture help the people you work with on this project?
Thank you! When I began Soul Signs, I had no idea how powerful they would be.
For those of you who don’t know, Soul Signs are essentially a portrait of your energy, of your impact, of the light you carry. To do this, I spend a lot of time with my clients, getting a sense of their story and of the energy they hold － all of the amazing things about themselves that they don’t see reflected in the mirror. I translate those feelings into a portrait, first by taking a photo of them and then illustrating on top of the image.
The process before the portrait is transformational in itself. It’s a vital part of the experience. Being heard and sharing your story can be incredibly healing. When my clients tell me that the one-on-one sessions have had a positive impact on their lives, and that the portrait is just a bonus at that point, then I know I’ve done a good job.
The portrait is powerful I think because it acts as a reminder － this is the dazzling truth of who you are, this is your magic, this is the light that others see in you (or that some people might refuse to see or acknowledge, which is just part of life, it doesn’t make you any less special). When you see that, nothing can hold you back. According to neuroscientists, images inspire action. A Soul Sign portrait is like a vision board of your life-force.
Want to work with Tamzin on your own Soul Signs Energy Portrait? Learn more here!
What is something that the people you've worked with on that project often have in common?
Everyone is so different, but there are some common threads:
Many of my clients have a part of themselves that feels the need to be seen for who they really are, as society tells us to be this, that and the other. Who we really are can often be neglected, we hide many parts of ourselves, and we're DONE hiding. When we're not seen for how extraordinary we truly are, it causes a sense of rejection.
They all have a story to tell, just like anyone. But sometimes those stories hold us hostage, or block us from letting go and moving forward.
I seem to also attract a lot of "outsiders" -- people who just feel a bit different, misunderstood, or that they can’t be fully themselves and still be accepted. I’ve also been privileged to work with a lot of migrants, people who have been forced to leave their homes or have chosen to, who are often made to feel like outsiders for one reason or another. It can be a fascinating journey to embark on with them -- what makes us feel like we don't belong? What makes us feel at home inside of ourselves?
What does "holding space" mean for you and what is your experience of how this helps people?
Holding space isn’t just active listening, it’s creating a certain energy and a feeling of safety and acceptance. For my clients, it’s about the deep connection that forms in that space, not to me, but to themselves. Having a safe, non-judgemental space where we don’t have to censor ourselves is refreshing for a lot of people, sometimes they can be moving through their daily lives always stepping on eggshells and trying to keep everyone around them happy.
A study on trauma victims showed that when they shared their experiences and felt truly listened to, even by someone who doesn’t understand the language they speak, had a positive effect on their moods. Being heard counts for so much!
You have shared that you came to writing largely after being hospitalized for a health issue.
What, if anything, would you like to share about your health journey?
Just that it can be incredibly hard, and painful. It's still not easy for me to talk about, so I'll just say this: to anyone struggling with their health, you have all of my sympathy. I know it can feel like your life has been put on hold. I see you, I know how lonely and hard it can be. You're not alone.
In what ways (positive, negative, both) have health or mental health symptoms/challenges affected your creativity?
On the negative side, like I said above, when I’m not well, I’m not able to be creative or accomplish much.
That said, I attribute the majority of my work today to the struggles I’ve had. If we survive severe lows and make it to the other side, then it can feel like waking up in a dream. We appreciate everything so much more, we use our time to do what really matters to us. I don’t think I would be the writer or artist I am if I hadn’t spent years battling with my health－ those years taught me so much about human suffering, about compassion, about hearing people and meeting them where they’re at, about life overall.
What else do you want to make sure people know about you and your work?
Just that I absolutely love connecting with new people so please do come and find me, send me a message or email. I'd love to know more about you. I'm always open to new clients for Soul Signs or for mentoring, there's nothing I love more than walking alongside people on their journey.
The best place to connect with me and see my new work is my Substack:
They can also find me on Instagram, or visit my website to shop my prints and learn more about me.
3 Posts From Tamzin I Really Loved:
See my guest post on Tamzin’s Substack:
PLEASE HELP ME MEET MY GOAL:
My goal is to find 1000 people who are interested in subscribing to this work at a rate of $100 per year. This shows the world that we as creatives believe artists and writers can and should earn six figures. I practice artistic tithing, meaning that at least 10% of my income automatically goes to support other artists, writers, makers, creatives, performers, etc. So if I meet my goal, we keep at least $10000 of that right in the creative community. I also make every effort to continuously encourage, support, share and promote the work of others.
$100 per year feels like a lot. But it works out to less than $2 per week.
Thank you for supporting my work with a Create Me Free subscription. Our expenses reflect our values and priorities, and it means a lot to know that you value my research and writing about the complex relationship between art and mental health. This support means more than I can ever express. To get a better understanding of the subscription model and what you’re investing in with Create Me Free, read here.