Dorian R. Schwartz
Such is the sage advice of Dorian R. Schwartz, an artist and advocate for accessible mental healthcare based in Toronto. The Winnipeg native is passionate about painting and psychology. I first encountered her whimsical illustrations and bold strokes via Instagram. When she’s not working with acrylic or ink, she is training to be a psychotherapist as well.
"There are a lot of times when conversation can be deceiving and artificial," Dorian says. "It's hard to open up and be vulnerable but I think the world would be better off if we were a little more open with one another and a little more compassionate." I’m not surprised that this solicitous soul is a volunteer crisis counsellor for Kid's Help Phone. Her partner is a writer and they are currently collaborating on a children's book exploring mental health.
Dorian recognizes that artists must work hard to avoid remaining stagnant. "Sometimes I'll get so comfortable with a particular medium or style that I forget how exciting it can be to push and try new things," she says. "Anything I've created and really loved has always been by being exploratory." Indeed, the appeal of Dorian’s work is manifold.
The twenty five year old predominantly explores societal limitations imposed upon the human psyche. "A lot of my paintings are pretty intuitive, so I use bright colours and texture as representative of the explorative and abstract nature of the psyche," she says. "Usually the last step in a painting is adding more structured details, like shapes or lines. These represent the more restrictive nature of our society or the restrictions we place upon ourselves."
Capitalism is a stressful facet of reality that can try Dorian’s patience if she's not careful. She tries to remind herself that her creations have meaning and that her purpose is more than sustaining herself financially. "It's a learning process," she says. "I fail at something everyday, and as weird as it sounds, failure to me would be spending the day without failing at something at least once." Above all, she's happy that other people can connect with her work.
"I'm always so impressed by young artists and their fearlessness in creating and showcasing their work," she says. "I wish I had felt more comfortable at a younger age to showcase my work, even when I felt like it sucked." So what do young artists need to know? "That creating is a process, and there's no 'perfect' artwork,' asserts Dorian. "Creating artwork is such a beautiful way to explore the depth of one's feelings, especially for those who may find it difficult to express these feelings verbally."
While she speaks English and some French (and reads Hebrew), Dorian acknowledges that language is an incredible tool that transcends the verbal. "I think there is a lot to be conveyed through creation, and I love using paintings to express myself," she says.
RS: So you've been a creator your entire life.
DS: The environment in which I grew up in definitely had a major effect on my work. I grew up with a dad who was an art collector and a psychologist, so I was always surrounded by new art being analyzed in all sorts of intricate ways.
RS: But you only really started to pursue art during your first year of university?
DS: Yes, when I was studying psychology in 2010, I became fascinated by expressive arts therapy.
RS: Can you comment on the role of that?
DS: Expressive arts therapy means so much to me. At times we can forget how different and unique each person's method of communicating is. Expressive arts therapy allows the individual to communicate without words. It's not always comfortable for someone to voice their concerns or innermost feelings. Sometimes it takes a little creativity and trust to understand what we're really feeling. This has been an important process in my own journey of self care and exploration.
RS: Would you say you're very logical too?
DS: People seem surprised by how logical I actually am. I'm a pretty organized, methodical person in certain aspects of my life. I think I'm a little quirky and loud by nature so people usually assume I’m a little more all over the place than I actually am.
RS: How's your MA in Counselling Psychology going?
DS: What I study throughout the day influences what I create later on. I usually get fascinated by a concept in psych or counselling and then work to understand it through creating abstract work. I haven't really narrowed down what sort of counselling I'd like to practice in the future but I'd definitely like to incorporate art therapy in whatever I do. I'm also interested in exploring perinatal psychotherapy. I spend most of my time studying at coffee shops or the library in my favourite part of Toronto.
RS: What's your favourite part of Toronto?
DS: Where I live, Roncesvalles. The perfect spot for long walks. We live right by the beautiful High Park so it's usually the first place I take friends when they are visiting. Downtown Toronto can feel like a bit of a concrete jungle so it's nice to know there are pockets of nature where you can get away.
RS: You love looking to nature for colour inspiration,
DS: But above all my favourite place to be would be inside, exploring a new art gallery.
RS: What kinds?
DS: Toronto is filled with unique galleries, big and small. I like visiting the AGO on Wednesdays because it's free for students. The Museum of Contemporary Art is reopening in a new location close to my house, so I'll likely be spending a lot of time visiting there. My favourite gallery in the world is the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid.
RS: It doesn't surprise me that your favourite book is The Goldfinch.
DS: It's one of the most beautiful books I've read in my entire life.
RS: Who are your favourite artists?
DS: I'm really inspired by Florine Stettheimer. I love the decorative nature of her work. I also love the colour palettes and work by Canadian photographer Laurence Philomene.
RS: What makes you comfortable?
DS: Exploring the city with friends. A lot of my super close friends are friends I've had since childhood. I value and respect them all so much, for their creativity, compassion, and kindness. Or at home drawing and listening to music. My favourite place to be on a weekend is in bed with my partner and our two rescue kittens, probably watching reality television.
RS: What's the scariest thing you've ever done?
DS: My younger brother and I went traveling together a few summers ago and went for a hike in the countryside of Greece. We got stuck in a mini hurricane and had to hide behind a small stone wall with no one around. Honestly, we were pretty much laughing the entire time but seeing our parents react to the story later on was definitely an indicator that the situation was indeed not chill.
RS: Where else have you travelled?
DS: I went backpacking through Europe and Northern Africa after undergrad. My favourite place was Morocco. I loved how much they focused on family and bringing people together.