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Anxiety artbook: The Nightmares Dreams Are Made Of vol. II

Brandon Stewart is a father, artist, lover of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Indiana Jones. A conscientious observer of the 80's. Brandon also likes to juggle creative projects. He currently paints in acrylic and oil, does pyrography (woodburning), writes stories, draws and writes for comics, and has been a professional tattooer since 2004. He won't sit still. Like millions of people, Brandon has anxiety. He describes anxiousness and panic like this: "In a small case, anxiety can feel like nervousness before a test. In a severe case, it feels like waiting to be executed. In both cases, art has been my salvation." We have conducted an interview with Brandon.


In which special circumstances did you first figure out that your art book could be use as a weapon to battle anxiety?

On some level, I think I’ve always dealt with anxiety through art, even when I was very young. Emotions are often complex and confusing, so making them into imagery seems to lift the veil, so to speak. Anxiety in particular is hard to identify. You feel scared and nervous, but usually for no apparent reason, which makes it particularly difficult to know how to address it. So when I draw, and it will often start making sense. In a way it’s like turning myself into a science experiment.

After a hospital visit that sent me home wearing a heart monitor for a few days, I felt out of control, and unsure what the results of my tests would be. I locked myself away in my house with nothing but my thoughts (a mistake if you know how anxiety works). I believe that the only way I made it through without succumbing to the fear and anxiety of the unknown was because of my reliance on art.

What are the other methods that you have tried before to battle anxiety that does not work?

I am not a fan of medication. For me, it feels like simply putting on a band-aid to cover up what I don’t want to deal with. I look at anxiety as my body trying to tell me something- Maybe I’m not eating or sleeping well. Maybe I’m stressed. Maybe I’m depressed. I feel the route to getting well, or creating better coping mechanisms for anxiety and panic is by being aware of the uncomfortable feelings.

I’m not judging or condemning those that take medication because I know many people that benefit from it. Medication just isn’t for me.


When your anxiety is the highest, does it make you the most effective in your illustrations too? In what extend, and what kind of 'things' do you draw?

I find that when my anxiety is high, I’m the most open and honest with myself. I think this leads to more insightful (albeit often grim) imagery.

Why did you title this book "The Nightmares Dreams Are Made Of: Volume II"?

Nightmares are necessary in order to fully appreciate a dream once it’s achieved. It’s accepting that anxiety is a negative part of my life, but in a positive sense, it’s also a driving force that propels me towards something better.


How do you feel each time after you have completed your books? Do you have an artwork of that 'feeling' too?

Completing a book for this project is like saying to myself, “See, you survived this. You’re much more capable of dealing with anxiety than you think.” Small victories go a long way when you’re handling anxiety and panic; it’s proves to the subconscious mind that there’s no need to step in with it’s fight or flight reaction because it knows you’re in control.

I do find that once I get a more serious project like “The Nightmares Dreams Are Made Of” out of my system, that I do tend to draw or paint more lighthearted things. I draw and write comic books and often go out in the rain to do watercolor paintings.

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