This month we’re featuring Tom Chabolla for the Capitol Hill Art League’s Mind of the Artist feature. Read his story and check out his artwork below. You can view more of her artwork here:

The integration of art into my life began in the fall of 2020.  After dealing with depression and anxiety for pretty much my entire life, I had a major mental health crisis in July of that year.  Very reluctantly, I checked into an inpatient mental health unit where I spent 5 days followed by 2 months of outpatient care.  My time in those programs had me participate in two things I normally avoided—small group discussions and art classes.

In the outpatient program, I was fortunate to have an experienced art therapist.  My early artwork there was from that of my childhood—stick-like figures and painting within the lines.  It was very frustrating.  He would play music in the background of the classes and one day it was “Not Fade Away” live with the Grateful Dead.  The music helped me break through some of my self criticism and painted using bright colors with no discernible subject.  That day began opening up for me some glimpse of what could happen if painting from my emotions rather than my head.

After my outpatient program, I continue with the practice using watercolors.  However, I wanted a medium that could be much bolder and textured.  I dabbled with gouache and then oils but found the clean up and long dry times for oils too tedious.  I found what I was looking for with acrylics.

Painting has been a way for me to express emotions I have no words for and to touch deep parts of my soul.  What I paint often surprises me.  People ask what a particular painting means for me and the best answer I have is that i feel a deep connection to it, a pull that draws me closer to it.  No title is sufficient and so my paintings are untitled.

I paint for myself.  So it was unexpected when others enjoyed my artwork.  It was beyond my imagination when people asked if my art was for sale and then when I actually began to sell paintings.  I’ve seen many quotes that call art a courageous act.  I have a better sense of what that means for myself.

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