For our World Mental Health Day takeover, we tasked Tel Aviv-based illustrator and animator Ori Toor with visualising a complex and sensitive topic. “I wanted to show the intricate mind of the creative person,” he explains of his interpretation of the brief. “I made it a bit personal, as I do with most of my work – overall it’s joyful but at the same time trying to keep the darker side under control. I wanted to create a balance between happy and sad.”
Ori says his creative process is like a “stream of consciousness”, which began with the idea of basing the illustration on a “big, brain-like object”. “Then it came to me that turning the brain into a thought bubble was a great way to combine the neurological scientific aspect of the story, with something that’s more about mood and emotions. Everything else followed.”
A closer look at the details of the cerebral labyrinth reveals pockets of wonderful narrative. A box at the top right, for example, is a triangular attic space – home to a puppy in a teacup – that Ori conceived as a “imaginary comfort zone”. In the middle, you’ll spot a book wedged into the folds of the brain, which Ori says focuses on “trying to ‘fix’ oneself with research and knowledge”.
Dotted around Ori’s world are little people: “I’m not sure if they’re there to help out, or helpless themselves.” One’s riding a big, one-eyed animal, looking scared on their journey in the middle of nowhere. Another peers out from a sun, that Ori says is “cracked but still functioning”. On the opposite side of the image is a sad moon, whose “gravity is influencing the graph below, interfering with mood statistics”. Then, in the top right there’s a creature sunk in a room who Ori says is “the subconscious dictating everything”.
“I think my mental issues affect my work greatly, and in return my work affects my mental health,” Ori says. “I always work freestyle because the very idea of planning ahead causes me immense anxiety. I started working this way after gradually understanding that the regular way people work (with sketches and storyboards and the like) just makes me feel bad.
“I see my work as a way of understanding myself a little better. I create things that don’t make much sense to me while I’m making them, but after a while I start interpreting what I drew and ask myself questions about it. The actual process is therapeutic but it also helps me realise the problems in a clearer way.”
1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem every year, and in England, 1 in every 6 people report a common mental health problem – like anxiety and depression – each week. But only 1 in 4 people in the UK reporting mental health difficulties receive ongoing treatment. If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in today’s coverage, if you would like to find out more or to donate, please contact Mind or CALM.