MAY 10, 2017

Artist Feature:
Adriel Sherman


It’s Mental Health Awareness Month and we wanted to shine a light on the issue and help spread the word. Statistics show that 1 in 5 US adults experience mental illness in their lifetime, and 1 in 25 US adults live with serious mental illness. This next artist feature is special because of the meaning behind her doodles. Get to know artist Adriel Sherman and how she releases the chaos in her head and turns it into beautifully detailed illustrations.

You are a talented artist with a unique style. Tell us about yourself.

I’m 28 years old and currently in my last semester of community college to finish up some associates degrees I started many years ago. There are 4 degrees I’ve applied for but, ironically, none of them are in art. I’ve lived in Southern California my whole life.

What can you tell us about your art? How does it represent you as an artist and how did you come to establish your style?

My art style is inspired by the Zentangle style of doodling. The idea is that the art is dominated by patterns that you can zone out to while you draw or color it. My style kind of meshes all the patterns together to create an intricate and detailed cohesive piece. It really plays into my strengths of doodling random shapes and patterns to create large pieces that look really intricate.

For me, my art represents the balance between “chaos” and “order.” It’s supposed to be a snapshot into what it’s like in my mind. I want a spectator to view the image and first be overwhelmed by the chaotic nature of the piece, and as they look further into it, realize that there’s order and reason within the chaos. My favorite pieces are ones that include a large single piece (like a hand or thought bubble) mixed in with a cloud of doodles. I feel like this demonstrates the yin yang nature and balance of my art.

Can you tell us about the 5150 illustration you created. What did it represent?

5150 is a code used in California that means “involuntary confinement.” It’s used by officers, doctors, and therapists to involuntarily detain someone who is a danger to themselves, others, or is gravely disabled. A 5150 is what would happen if someone who was severely depressed attempted suicide. I suffer from depression and anxiety myself, and although I’ve never been 5150’ed, I know people who have been, and the possibility that I may be involuntarily committed in the future is a fear that I and many others who suffer with depression and anxiety have. But it’s also a motivator to keep trying to improve my mental health, which includes doing as much art as possible.

The piece itself was the expression of that sentiment, it included the numbers in straight jackets and specific doodles that represent, for me, what mental health is like in my head. This includes words like “psycho” and “crazy,” images like razor blades and old medical equipment, pills, and different cartoon characters expressing different emotions. It was cathartic to do, albeit, a darker piece than I usually draw.

What does art mean to you? Why do you do it?

For me, art is expressing in me what I otherwise couldn’t. Sometimes words fail to accurately describe what I’m feeling and the only way to get it out is to use visual media. Doing this is often cathartic.

Art is also a method of relaxation for me depending on what I’m doing. The doodles that encompass the majority of my art takes a lot of stillness and patience, something I feel like I’m often lacking in everyday life. The number one thing I hear about my art is “how do you have the patience?” It’s one of the few things that allows me to hyper-focus on a task. Drawing those doodles help center me, relax me, and clear my mind of chaos by capturing the chaos and spilling it on the page.

What are your aspirations as an artist?

I hope to publish a series of coloring books one day. I also want to grow as much as I can as an artist and inspire as many people as possible.

What would you like people to know about you?

It’s taken me a long time to finally be comfortable with who I am as a person and an artist. This includes accepting that depression and anxiety are issues I have to deal with. So I deal with them in the best ways I know how, by spending time with people I love, by doting on and babying my two amazing dogs (as I write this one of my dogs is laying in my lap sleeping), by playing video games, reading, cooking, and creating art. I’m 28 years old and I feel like I’ve finally reached a place mentally where I feel like an adult who can concur any challenge life puts in front of me. But it’s taken 28 years to reach this place, and even now I know it’s just the start. And I hope this can be an inspiration for anyone else trying to find their place in the world.

What advice or experience from one artist to another can you pass on to our readers?

Up until about 2 years ago I didn’t feel like my art was anything special. It was 2 years ago that I developed this doodling style and for the first time I felt like a real artist. I was actually proud of the things I was creating on paper for the first time.

I mention this because many, many artists hold similar beliefs against their own work. Those beliefs were me being really hard on myself. It’s an unfair thought that stifled a lot of my creativity because I didn’t think I was good enough. In reality my talents were growing and every piece I made, every stroke, every line, every failure and success is what helped define me as the artist I am now. And I’m very proud of that. So never stop creating and evolving. Always look for new inspirations. Even if you feel like you’re not in the place you wish you were with your art, never stop trying.

What are your experiences with mental health? How do you channel your experiences with mental health into your artwork?

I have suffered with depression for about a decade and anxiety for most of my life (seriously, I can remember having panic attacks about the world ending when I was 5). The road has been long, complicated, and often painful, but along the way I picked up different strategies to improve my mental health. One of the main strategies I use is creating art. Sometimes that’s splashing paint onto a canvas, sometimes that’s writing poetry, but most often that’s doodling. Not only is doodling a soothing and calming process (which is especially important when I’m deep in an anxiety episode) but the completion of a project is extremely motivating. Being focused enough to to finish something and seeing the final project come to life make me feel very accomplished.

What is your favorite Bee Paper sketchbook and why?

My favorite Bee Paper sketchbook and, honestly, my favorite sketchbook of all time is the Super Deluxe 9x9in sketchbook. The paper is thick and smooth and can handle ink well. Because my type of work requires a steady hand and a slow stroke I often find that many papers and sketchbooks will feather or bleed, but not in the Super Deluxe sketchbook. It can take multiple passes in the same area and responds very well to wet media. Plus the square size is unique among sketchbooks (which I like because it draws more attention to my work) plus makes posting on Instagram very easy without having to crop my work.

Follow Adriel and see her amazing doodles in action
Instagram: @rage_insanity