Carissa's Story

Looking at Carissa George’s polished paintings, you’d be forgiven for thinking she’s been honing her craft since childhood. In truth, self-taught artist Carissa turned to painting just 12 months ago to help her work through complex emotions arising from her son’s mental health journey.

“After my son’s abusive relationship ended, he just crumbled. He was living with me and I was his main support during that tough period. Trying to walk with him through that journey brought back a lot of emotions from when I was in an abusive relationship with my children’s father, who passed away due to suicide.”

“I needed some way of dealing with all those emotions and thought I would try painting. I loved art in high school, but it slipped away as I disappeared into the toxic relationship. I now feel that I am reconnecting with the person I was before. Painting has become a place where I can zone out and channel my feelings onto the canvas.”

Upon picking up the paintbrush again, Carissa found her style of ‘abstract realism’ evolved quite naturally.

“The first painting I ever did is a powerful abstract portrait of my son dealing with his mental health struggles. I find freedom in my artistic style as I am able to get messy and have fun with it. When I have to paint in pure realism, I find that quite tedious and boring – I just want to mess it up!”

“I like to make the backgrounds of my paintings messy to reflect the fact that everyone has a background, but we don’t need to focus on that. An individual should be the highlight in their own life. The experiences they’ve been through can exist in the background – it doesn’t need to define them.”

Last year was Carissa’s first time exhibiting with Recovered Futures and her second ever exhibition. Through being involved in the event – and with the added excitement of selling an artwork! – Carissa has tapped into a newfound sense of confidence.

“Seeing my artworks hung up in King George Square was an incredible experience. I had not long started painting and there were my works, in the middle of the city with so many visitors! I was at home when I found out my artwork had sold and I was just jumping around! It was phenomenal!”

“Being involved with Recovered Futures has been special because of the focus on mental health. For me, my art came out of a negative space and I find not everyone can connect with trauma on that level if they haven’t been through certain things in their life. I feel that I’m now in a place where I need to share my story because there’s other people who will be going through exactly what I went through, and don’t believe that things will ever get better or easier. I’m here to tell them it does.”


"Torn" by Carissa George on display at the 2023 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition.

As a full-time theatre nurse, Carissa is hopeful that mental illness can one day be seen through the same lens as physical illness. Through her work and her words, she is working on doing just that.

“I don’t understand why it’s such a shameful thing, when dealing with mental health difficulties is such a normal part of being human. You would never shun someone or move away from them if they were dealing with a physical ailment, but it seems that mental illness exists in a different category.”

“I guess if you haven’t had exposure in supporting someone with their mental health struggles, or working through your own challenges, you don’t know what to do say. It feels awkward and you don’t want to say the wrong thing, so say nothing instead. But by speaking about it, we can normalise what is happening and make the person feel OK about getting the support they need to lead the life they want.”