This very personal exploration of schizophrenia explores each stage, from the early signs and reactions from friends and family to seeking help and the challenges of recovery. McLean bravely shares his paranoid delusions and offers both a verbal and a visual experience by including digital artwork he created to help objectify and control his impulses and fears. As McLean relates his experiences step by step, issues of sexuality, identity, and drug abuse are discussed, along with the overarching issues relating to mental health and the medical profession. Messages from online posters who either have suffered from mental illness or have cared for the mentally ill are included throughout, adding more perspectives to the author’s personal experiences. This powerful combination of words and pictures provides a unique and poignant insight into a hidden, internal world.
Five Star Review on Amazon By S. N. Rivera Burgos
I like to read personal accounts of mental illness. This book is an artwork. It is a pleasure to hold, read, and look at. It is well organized, very entertaining with many drawings made at different times of the author’s illness. I felt he was very honest, humble and friendly.
I like the fact that he is a young writer. I guess the book was written when he was just 30 years old, so many young readers can identify with his art and music.
There are many reasons he recovered. Among them his supportive family, supportive friends, he took up humble jobs along his illness even though having a university degree, modern medicines, he was able to balance the pros and cons of his medicine’s side effects and keep taking them.
About the Author
I am an artist, illustrator, author, research fellow and art teacher.
My artistry began in childhood and continued years later with the completion of a Bachelor of Fine Art from Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, (Drawing), with a minor study in ceramics.
It was during and after this phase that my art practice took a different turn-with the digitisation of my work, and co-inciding with the onset of schizophrenia when I was 20 years old. After some time I returned to study completing an advanced diploma in Computer Aided Art & Design. (CAAD).
The art I made during this time was published in the autobiographical account of recovery, in ‘Recovered, Not Cured, a journey through schizophrenia’, (Allen and Unwin, 2003), which was awarded a ‘Highly commended’ from the HREOC, and nominated SANE Australia’s ‘Book of the year’, prompting a long relationship with the organisation.
Not to be held back from my illness, after much travel and more study, I was employed by ‘The Herald Sun’ and ‘The Age’ newspapers respectively, specialising in news graphics and illustration. It is in this time I wrote my first book.
In 2008, I published a collection of his works in the book ‘Strange Currencies of Ego and Soul’. As a spiritualist, soul is heaven, ego reflects the darker side of human nature, for it’s corruptible condition, I think the book reflects both these themes.
My private art practice did not stop, however, and I have constantly been exhibiting in solo, and group shows, since 1995. At one point I utilised the computer based medium to diversify into short film-making.
The sideline from my artistry reflecting periods of ‘dis-chordancy’, led to the filming of a documentary on my life and visual practice, by The Dax Collection. Entitled ‘Collected Thoughts 3’, the film is distributed as a resource mostly for young people in Australian Secondary Schools as a teaching resource.
I spoke publicly for many years on the role of art and recovery from, and coping with schizophrenia, doing countless radio interviews and public lectures. Its taken me to such diverse places as Australian Parliament in Canberra, to Dubbo in outback New South Wales, and The School of Religious and Philosophy studies, in Montreal, Canada, where I also exhibited.
I have also spoken extensively with The Mental Health Research Institute (MHRI) on my experience of art making and life experiences with high school students. In 2009 I lectured to national body of the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Team, (VCAT), in which I used my life experiences, and art, to help decide and direct what is appropriate for school curriculum in Australian High Schools.
Talking about the images was always a good starting point and insight of the time, which people were interested in, and sufferers could relate to. My speaking role also helped a lot of people I think, and was very cathartic, but now I spend my time solely on art practice, and studying my Masters in Education, without involvement re-living obvious trauma of years gone by. I’m looking forward. I’m excited by the future.
I have since moved on from public speaking and the role my past art played.
My new body of work from 2011 was celebrated at Kingston Arts Centre, and entitled ‘Back to Basics’, of which a catalogue is available here on amazon. It was a return to the traditional sensibilities of drawing – form and space, using subjects reflecting on circumstance, metaphor, bayside location, and utilising social realism, symbolism and drawing upon my personal experiences.
These drawings represent my joy of image making, also the rhythmic dynamics of light and dark in both a metaphysical and visual sense. Of late I am exploring character making in the now published children’s book, ‘Grogan the Monster in…What do you Love?’, also available here and is planned to support raising funds for The Royal Children’s Hospital.
In Feb 2012, I held another solo show, ‘Because I like to draw – Return from Pessimism’, at Gasworks Arts Park, in South Melbourne – a lighter look at localised urban environments within a traditional context that welled from a much more positive space.
I am currently a Research Student in a Masters in Education via creative project at Victoria University, Melbourne, in 2012 within a visual interactive art context.