I AM Profiles: Dez Aka LoveArtPix

As part of I AM’s mission to celebrate autism with the broader world, we’re happy to present the latest in a series of our ’10 questions with…’ series, featuring self taught autistic artist and altruistic community campaigner Dez aka LoveArtPix. 

1. NSPCC – how did i get involved with them?

The NSPCC was the first charity that i donated art to. A lady from my my home town was attending one of their fundraising events in Manchester at the Nags Head Pub (which my art can now be found on the wall and the front window)  and asked if she could donate the piece she had won on another facebook competion i had donated to, because its such a good cause. I thought that was really nice of her to do but i had the other part of the collection (Bees about Town) and i couldnt let her do that, so i told her to keep hers and dropped the other two off. 

That was a few years back now, when i printed my art on canvas – i mainly print on glass now. I have been donating to the NSPCC ever since that night. I have a great relationship with Rachel who runs the Manchester chapter of it. Its Very impoetant to have a good open relationship with who i speak to as not everybody gets how my condition affects me and it can impact me alot if not. I like to think that i play my part in supporting the vulnerable in society.

I found I could say things through Art that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.

2. You have recently been nominated for numerous awards, is it important to you that neurodiverse people be recognised in the creative industries? 

I just won the Creative Arts and Media Award from the Autism Hero Awards by Anna Kennedy in November which was great. Unfortunaly i didnt make it to London for the event as it was a very busy month and I had a really bad meltdown the day before which was debilitating. I am very pleased to have won though.

Its very important to me that neurodiversity is acknowledged and recognised in creative industries. Neurodivergent minds have a unique view of the world and some of the most creative minds and people who have changed the course of history are clearly neurodiverse. I think it is time that these positives are celebrated and this negative stigma is lifted.

3. You were recently nominated for 2 awards This Is Manchester Awards (TIMA) – what was the award ceremony like, and what were your thoughts of being nominated?

This was the second time that i was at the TIMA events as i was up for my first ever nomination the previous year for the Rising Star / Emerging Talent award so i kind of knew what to expect although this was a different, bigger venue. I always get to any appointment or event early, the bigger the event the earlier I get there. This time I was nearly 3 hours early. I like to know my surroundings so I can climatise. TIMA know me now and support me by letting me in the main room ahead of others just so I can see where I sit so to feel comfortable which is great and I really appreciate that. I’m not a great lover of big events as I have to mask a lot more and my brain is in constant alert with the over stimulation. In the build up to the event I struggled to cope through the week as I had to mentally prepare, it can be very debiltating. The event is very much all go and I drink and take medication to slow my senses down so I can cope – not the best way to deal with it but otherwise it would be far to much for me to handle!

To be nominated for any award is very humbling and I always feel like thats a win in itself as I have got to this position off my own back and paved my own way without any support – with a lot of things stacked against me. Being nominated also adds pressure incase you do win. I’m yet to be there when my name is called out and it is a huge pressure on the night, so during the night I can’t even begin to relax until that part is over. Having two nominations in one night and being up alongside so many amazing individuals from society spurs me on to keep doing what I am doing. I have a good relationship with Ziara who is the founder of TIMA and suggested that next year it would be great to have a neurodivergent-focussed award as this needs to be more mainstream which helps break down social barriers.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by LoveArtPix (@loveartpix)

4. You have recently worked with Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure, can you tell us about your experience? 

Our Dementia Choir are great. I first came across them through speaking to Angela Lonsdale on Instagram. She told me about what a great charity they are and I loved what they are about and was inspired to create a piece of art for them. I sent them photos of a piece I created for them and they said it would be great for me to come down and present it to the choir in person which I was excited to do. It was such a nice couple of hours I spent watching them practice. A lovely group of people and very welcoming. Everybody loved the piece of art I had created which was really nice. It will be going up for auction around christmas or the new year I think. I have also donated the art design to the charity so they can use it on cards and merchandise – I am looking forward to seeing that. Unfortunately I didnt get to meet Vicky Mclure on the day I visited but all the team were amazing.

5. You recieved a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in your 20’s and autism diagnosis in your 40s. What did getting both diagnosis mean to you, and what was life like before.

Yes I was diagnosed with bipolar before what I call the ’bipolar boom’ where it seemed it something that everyone seemed to have. I had never even heard of it before my diagnosis. I was having counselling on a weekly basis and the counsellor showed me a paragrah which some person with bipolar had written and how it affected them and I immediatley related. The counsellor said, she can’t diagnose me, but this very much fits my symptoms so she suggested I raise it with my psychiatrist, which I did, and I was diagnosed on the spot! I have tried every bipolar medication over 20 years and none have ever had a long term positive affect nor stopped or levelled out my meltdowns or sensory overloads – since my ASD diagnosis I understand why! At one point my psychiatrist said to me ’what else do you want us to do, you have had every combination of medication going.’ that wasnt what I wanted to hear or what any patient struggling should have to listen to! Eventually I put a complaint in and my treatment was reviewed and eventually, after 20 years deep of none-responsive treatment for bipolar, I had the diagnosis of autism. Going through the assessment I realised that it definetly was autism and for the first time ever in my life it all started to make sense. I cried on the phone when I got the diagnosis as it had been very intense and after all these years, the validation was overwhelming. To be honest I struggle to remember my mindset before my diagnosis as I masked daily. I still struggle to unmask now but I am very aware of it much more which makes a huge difference and somethimg I work on daily.

I cried on the phone when I got the diagnosis. 

6. What does art mean to you?

Creating art is very personal to me and my way of expressing my emotions to be seen visually for myself and others. Having an invisible disability and masking all my life it’s still hard for me to express myself and for people to understand it. This way I get to be free in a sense and put out what’s inside me. I have used that term ‘my own personal therapy’ a lot but I feel it’s less like therapy and more of a focus. I think when people hear the word therapy they think of therapeutic – the noun for therapy is ‘treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder’ which doesn’t really fit. I create art to give my thoughts a positive focus and it doesn’t always feel therapeutic, it just stops my mind going to darker places. I often hold my breath when I am creating and it can be very intense and not therapeutic at all. I think I will start to use the term art focus which I feel fits what I do a lot more.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by LoveArtPix (@loveartpix)

7. Manchester often features in your art. What does Manchester mean to you?

Im a proud born and bred Mancunian so I like to promote it through my art. My very first collection was my ’Bees About Town’ colletion that can be found at Oxford Road train station. Manchester has so much talent so it makes me very proud to know that my artwork is dotted about the city and hopefully I will be listed somewhere in history as one of the many creatives of it. My artwork can also be found at Victoria Station where I have created 2 pieces which are dedicated to the 22 people who died in the Manchester bombing. I also have another collection there which is a tribute to the beautiful architecture of the city. Northern (Northern Rail) have been very supportive of promoting my art and will also be featuring in my upcoming documentary from Eklectics film production company.

8. How do you describe you art style?

I am self taught, and create all my art on a free app on my phone called Picsart – The number 1 downloaded photo editing AI app in the world. I think because I am self taught I don’t really have a specific style and I like to continuously experiment with new techniques. I definitley have a certain look about my art and think people can guess if I created it. 

Some of my art can be very vibrant but it can also be quite dark depending on the mood that I am in. I try to capture emotions and feelings through my creations. I create art on any topic which inspires or invokes a strong enough feeling in me but also to give my erratic emotional thoughts focus.

Art is my own personal therapy to express my heightened emotional states.

9. Can you tell us more about your journey to becoming an artist and the impact that art has had on your life?

I try to be as honest as possible about my struggles as I feel the only way things can change is by people understanding. I blog a lot about what I go through and try to use analogies so people can relate. Creating art has completely changed my life and I struggle to think what I did before it to get by. I create art daily – although more at night as I don’t sleep much so it gives me focus. I am only just coming to terms with the title artist as I fell on it by chance. It was more a way to regulate and express my feelings than it was choice. I compare it to people who go to the gym to help with their mental health, you don’t call them athletes! Although I know now that since I have started creating art I have definitely grown as an ‘artist’ and my skill set is improving all the time.

10. You do a lot of work supporting charities. Is supporting charities important to you? 

Supporting charities is very important to me. To have struggled all my life and to now have a way that I can channel them struggles into something positive, why would I not want to share it! I wish I could help more charities – but I do have to watch how much I take on so not to burn out but I also pay for the prints myself so I have to watch that to ha.

11. You embrace technology to create your artwork, what are your thoughts on AI? Is it just another tool to expand artistic potential or is it a danger to creativity?

I create all my art on my phone on the app Picsart so I definitely embrace technology and what it brings to art and a way of expression. I am currently collaborating with Picsart on a course which will promote the usage of the app and easy steps to navigate it both in general but also one tailored to myself in which I want to use to help other autistics and neurodivergents due the positive impact it has had on me.

Through the research for this course I have had to use the AI side of the app which I have never really used. This has been a really big eye opener. It has lots of positives and some negatives (like most things in life depending on how you approach it). 

I think it will and has unnerved a lot of people, especially when you see what it can do. However I think for the true creatives, the ones who see life through a different lens, I think it will become a tool to aid and take things to a new level – which I personally want to utilise.

The way I create art on my phone on an app wouldn’t of been dreamed about years ago, and yet without it now I don’t know where I would be and I am so grateful for it. 

Society in general struggle with change when they don’t understand something, until it becomes norm! I feel the people who are really negative about it don’t have much understanding of it or had chance to use it?  

Only time will tell on this huge topic but either way it’s here to stay. 

12. You have had an amazingly productive 2023, what plans do you have for 2024?

This year has been such a rollercoaster for me in many ways. Being nominated for 4 awards, winning my first, being filmed for a documentary and everything inbetween has been mind blowing. In 2024 I will hopefully be putting on my first art exhibition in Manchester. Before the documentary went into production I originally planned to have one this year. I believe everything happens for a reason and now the plans for my first exhibition are far bigger than I could have imagined and hopefully something different to your norm – more news to come on that as it develops. The documentary is still in production and I’m looking forward to the final edit of that and where that goes. I have some exciting colllaborations with different artists and services which will hopefully raise awareness of neurodivergent conditions in society but also the use of art therapy/focus as a life skill approach. Collaborations are very important to me as they bring people together and it’s a great way to showcase different ways of life in positive light. I will definitely continue to donate art to the charities I am involved with and generally just try to keep on this journey of self exploration and trying to be a better person and add to society and make a positive difference. One thing I need to do next year is steer towards managing my mental health a lot better as this year (especially the latter half) has been extremely tough. I can’t help others if I don’t look after myself. It can be hard as I hyperfocus, so getting that balance can sometimes seem impossible – but I have to try!

13. Will you be celebrating Christmas? 

Christmas is a really stressful time for me. The sensory stimulation is off the chart, the constant changes of patterns and the big emotional attachment around the whole season really hits me. Years ago I would pretty much drink through it to cope. 

This year I want to try to and really slow it down, which I think will include setting a real generalised plan for the days and just trying to enjoy it and not think about to much – again, easier said than done. 

I won’t be leaving the house much and spending it with my family over the Christmas week. 

If you would like to see more of Dez’s work, you can check it out now on his Website and Instagram , 

 

If you or someone you know is interested in taking part in I AM Profiles, please drop us an email at enquiries@i-am-autism.org.uk

To find out about how I AM can offer support contact us at admin@i-am autism.org.uk or give us a call on 0161 866 8483
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