Kerry Dodds always had a keen interest in art, but it wasn’t supported by her teachers. She pushed it down and threw herself into other pursuits for several decades, but it didn’t stay hidden forever. Now a full-time artist with her own studio and a suite of stunning artworks to boot, Kerry has well and truly proven her naysayers wrong. But it hasn’t been an easy path for Kerry, who lived with severe anxiety and depression for years before being diagnosed with cancer – twice.
When Kerry was hospitalised after a ‘nervous breakdown’ in 2019, she rediscovered the passion for art that had been lying dormant all those years.
“I needed something to calm my nerves in hospital, so I started creating art and never stopped! I’m only sorry it took me so long to come back to it. When I create art, I am taken outside myself – it creates another universe for me. Art makes my heart beat differently, I’ve never had that before.”
Kerry was a first-time entrant in the 2021 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition, and pulled off the impressive feat of selling both her paintings.
“It was amazing – I couldn’t believe it! When we came for the artist preview, lots of people were looking at my pieces and said they had their eye on the blue one. The following morning, I was showing my husband online and it said it was sold! It happened so quickly.”
Kerry says she is always surprised by the evolution of her paintings, and how they grow outside her expectations.
“I have an idea of how I think it will look, and it often turns out to be vastly different! But I love that. I now understood it when people said, ‘the painting will tell you what it wants next’. I hang it in the studio first, then in the hallway, and whenever I stop and look at it, it tells me something. I change it a little here and there. There’s a little sprinkling of magic dust in every painting I think.”
|"Adrift" by Kerry Dodds on display at the 2021 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition.
In terms of managing her anxiety on an ongoing basis, Kerry has a series of tried-and-tested methods.
“Firstly I try to block out toxic positivity, all of that ‘you have to choose to be happy’ nonsense. All I can say is the person who said that never had anxiety or depression – it’s not a choice. You have to make peace with the fact that you will have bad days, and not let it unravel you.”
“I have anxious moments all the time – I had one this morning. But I use distracting, counting and grounding to help me during peak moments of anxiety. One day I was in my art room and I broke out in a sweat and got all shaky. I had a pencil and just scribbled and drew circles until I calmed down.”
She wishes people could have a little more compassion and do what’s in their power to help those struggling.
“We may have a mental illness but we are still normal people – we just have challenges managing our thoughts and our demons. Our anxiety and depression is not contagious, we just need understanding and caring. When people say, ‘Just smile, you always look sad’ – well, that is quite insulting. Don’t tell people how to be, instead show them that you’re here for them.”