When I first posted @slimesunday’s Instagram page to our company’s internal communication channel #iszit_art (the name’s tongue and cheek), our social media manager felt a visceral connection with his art. For someone who experiences frequent migraines, the clouded, explosion-covered heads conveyed the hazy effect these terrible head pains often caused her.
As for me, Mike (aka slimesunday) portrayed what exactly it was like to “be present” without being engaged. His distorted faces mirrored every moment my emotions would get sucked into thin air or hide behind television screens.
His clouds and warped faces are pretty symbolic. They can represent how pain and thoughts — chronic or mental illnesses — replace our ability to see clearly, causing us to lose small moments of time and reality.
I reached out to Mike through email, to mention our admiration for his work, and asked out of curiosity, whether a mental health connection was off base.
It might be second nature to wonder about mental health in art, but I still feel awkward asking about it — at the same time, your art speaks to me so much on a personal level on this topic. But what’s your take on people asking if your art has any mental health connection?
No one has ever asked me directly about mental illness but I have no issue talking about it. In fact, I think it’s something we should all be comfortable talking about. For me personally, OCD and anxiety came at a young age. I think I was roughly nine or ten when I first started experiencing out of the ordinary thoughts accompanied by massive amounts of anxiety.
At that time, I had a lot of fears about death, disease, and religion — three big subjects I knew nothing about. When you lack knowledge your mind can fill in the blanks with some really absurd things. I won’t go into detail but peculiar thoughts were extremely frequent and lasted throughout high school. My sophomore year in college, I went into a major depression and that’s when I really started experimenting with art and software.
It was the most effective form of therapy I had ever experienced. It really helped me focus on something other than my own thoughts. First it started with different music software and sound design, and then somehow morphed into digital art. So yes, there is a connection. Not only am I overly obsessed with making art, it’s also a major means of escape for me.
A lot of your art has a theme of displacement in some way — yet clearly, many people connect with your work. Why do you think that is?
I think you’re right, I never really thought about that until you mentioned it. I do find it satisfying to cover up a subjects face with something very unnatural. As to why I do that, I really have no explanation other than the fact that it will make the viewer ask a question. Maybe the subconscious is at play here. I’ve just always wanted people to have a split second “WTF” moment when viewing my art.
Coming from a background where your dream was to go to medical school, has this creative process shaped, or reshaped, the way you see the world?
I don’t know if it was necessarily a dream to go to medical school. For me, It was largely an illusion implanted into my head at a young age. My mother, father, and sister are all nurses. I did well in school despite my struggles and really set myself up for grad school. I worked in a hospital for years, then worked as an EMT. So I did all the work to set myself up. It took a while for me to realize that I was doing all the wrong things.
You mention on your site that creation has become a bit of an obsession — you strive to create something before the day ends. What does a day of creating look like?
Yeah, I tend to get obsessed easily. The other day I bought a candle and spent hours trying to melt it the right way so it would look cool on my desk. It turned out to be pointless. When I first wake up I usually crack away at some freelance work. Most of my art ends up somewhere within the music industry so I usually work on song release artwork until four-ish. My girlfriend gets home from work around five so I usually take a break to hang with her.
Around 8 to 9 pm is when I really start focusing on creating something for the next day. Sometimes it takes an hour, other times it’s a painful struggle that takes hours. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to fall asleep until I have something I’m happy with. This is when we start entering a pattern of behavior that most professionals would call “unhealthy.” Mostly because I could be up til 6 am if I don’t have anything I’m happy with yet.
Do you think this “unhealthy” pattern is a trade off? Or do you think art has potential to help with these patterns?
To answer your question, art has always benefited my mental health but there are times when I can become overly consumed by creating and sitting in front of a computer. I find that I start isolating myself from everything else that’s going on. It’s easy to become less involved socially when you start to get into these patterns.
I was stuck in one of these phases for about a year and I really didn’t see much of my friends or family. I was just very focused on art. If you’re looking in from the outside, I’m sure it seems unhealthy and it probably is. A healthy balance would be ideal but for the most part I find it’s all too easy to get sucked into creating for hours and into the early morning. Moreover, one can start to live a very reclusive lifestyle and these types of habits can be hard to break.
Oh — speaking of music industry, it’s funny that I’ve seen your art around before I ever found your Instagram. If there’s one artist you’d love to pair your art with, who would it be?
That’s awesome! Right now, I’d have to say Flume. He has a very unique sound and set of visuals. I doubt what I’m releasing now would pair seamlessly with his music but I’d definitely love to come up with something more fitting for him. I’m just super inspired by his entire discography and sound design.
You should check out Raleigh Ritchie! His music and lyrics seem to go hand in hand with your art.
This dude is very talented, I dig it!
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I can’t wait to see what comes up next on your Instagram. There’s literally something new every day!
Christal Yuen is an editor at Healthline. She believes that art is a form of immortality and enjoys using her spare time to find independent artists, from illustrators to musicians. In the time she doesn’t spend online, she goes to concerts and spoils her dog. You can reach out to her on Twitter.