The artist who’s using his paintings for a good cause
Richard Williams is an emerging, contemporary, artist who started painting as a form of escapism from regular bouts of depression. He is now using his talents to raise awareness of mental illness and raise money for SANE.
Here, Rich writes about his struggles with mental illness, how his painting brought him together with SANE Ambassador James Arthur and why he chose to support SANE.
Five years ago I lay on my bed, feeling as low as it gets and decided I no longer wanted to live. It was that serious. I was battling crippling depression and anxiety and had given up the fight. With a load of strong pills in front of me, I made the powerful decision to call my Dad and ask for help instead. A decision that ultimately saved my life.
On my road to recovery I was left wanting – I had so much to say and needed to focus on something. I found inspiration in art, following several artists, and was fascinated by their ability to start with a blank canvas and create magic. I picked up a paint brush and began painting.
My breakthrough creation was a portrait of Kanye West, a painting with a mental health concept which exploded online and I’ve been creating ever since. In addition to my custom commissions, I dedicate a portion of my time to creating artwork that makes a difference, donating several pieces for charity, auction or just to make someone smile.
My disruptive Pop Art style is influenced by pop culture, current events and my love for icons. With a passion for painting sporting legends, movie icons and performers, I’m also inspired by concepts that come with a meaningful story – particularly in the mental health space.
I needed something to focus on, something that would give me a sense of achievement while allowing me the freedom to truly express myself. I put it all on the line when I’m creating. Each piece gets everything I have.
I have a belief that art has no boundaries, I use acrylics, spray paints, mixed media and stencils. Recent projects have focused on bringing life to artwork using augmented reality. Collaborating with brands to provide in store experiences and one off, custom pieces for the home. I have also worked with several sporting and celebrity icons to provide them with artwork to capture their greatest moments.
My latest series of paintings is titled “Beautiful Minds” and was created to show people that no matter how flawed or low they may feel, they’re still capable of amazing things. We all have a little genius in us. I’ll never forget reading a quote from James Arthur after he made the decision to cancel a performance.
He said, “I’m deeply sorry to announce that I’m going to have to pull out of [the] performance tonight. I have been feeling crippled by anxiety and poor mental health over the past few days and it’s badly affecting me. I simply cannot perform tonight. I promise I will make it up to you and I’m looking to get help for this.”
I remember thinking to myself, “How can you be that talented and successful but feel like that!?” But I guess that’s the point. Mental health doesn’t discriminate. And I can relate so badly to what he was saying. So I decided to paint him as part of my “Beautful Minds” collection.
James found out about the painting and I was invited to meet him so he could sign it. It was great to meet him and chat about the painting as well as our individual experiences. As I knew he was an Ambassador for SANE, I thought it was only fitting – given my reasons for painting the portrait in the first place – that I raffle the painting in aid of SANE.
This painting is to show that despite how we may suffer, we can be equally incredible with it. We all have a little genius inside of us.
There is a huge demand for my work and I have a healthy list of commissions to work through. The goal is simple: to create things that spark emotion and spread positivity. In addition to my custom artwork, I am in the process of launching a creative project to connect artists with celebrities to use art in raising awareness and funds for mental health.
It’s early days but there have been some exciting signs that this could be huge. I’m proud of how far I’ve come and I’m excited for what the future might bring.