Artist Spotlight: Febe Zylstra

Bipolar disorder can be a difficult illness to live with, but Febe Zylstra has worked hard over the years to tackle and manage her condition, while choosing to put her attention where it’s needed most.

“Truthfully, most days are challenging when you’re living with Bipolar disorder, but I decide where I want to put my focus and attention. Bipolar doesn’t define me and my life; I prefer to work hard staying mentally healthy and trying to break down stigma associated with mental health disorders.”

Artist, Febe Zylstra believes that where words sometimes fail, art speaks.

Febe’s road to a formal Bipolar diagnosis, like so many others, was far from straightforward.

“As a teenager, I suffered years of depression, later post-natal depression and also anxiety. These were later thought to be related to Bipolar disorder, but I hadn’t received a diagnosis yet. When I did receive my diagnosis I was juggling life as a single mum, nursing and doing my art on the side. It was an extremely intense time.”

When someone suggested she try art therapy to deal with the multitude of changes, difficulties and emotions happening in her life, Febe gave it a go. Little did she know what a cathartic experience it would be – and how her life would be forever changed due to art’s influence. 

“I know for myself it’s essential to maintaining my own mental health. There is such raw emotion in most of these works that you can feel the pain, sadness, happiness and every other emotion in between. Painting isn’t just a passion, but a daily need for me to function better within my life.”

There are a few moments in Febe’s artistic career that she’ll always remember – namely the impact her art has made on others.

“When you see someone totally mesmerized and engaged, it usually means they get it. I once had a lady openly crying in front of one of my paintings and I got concerned - but she told me she couldn’t believe how much emotion it had evoked in her and she didn’t feel alone anymore.”

Febe believes that where words sometimes fail, art speaks.

"Glow" by Febe Zylstra is on display at the 2021 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition.

“My paintings are both a direct reflection of my immediate surroundings, my emotions and an imaginary world that exists in my mind; a place where I go to, to escape and get lost within. I often flitter between painting figurative, abstract and landscapes, and often integrate these genres into one piece in an effort to capture a narrative, feelings and my emotions that words can sometimes fail to describe.”

Febe is proud to be part of the Recovered Futures Art Exhibition, saying she loves how it enables people to open up and connect with her artwork. Experiencing the connection between viewer and artwork is the number one thing Febe loves about making art.

“As an artist, I hope the viewer finds a personal connection with my art, either emotionally or within their own life’s journey.”