Abi Stevens says her art started as a means of escapism. To immerse herself into fantastical worlds allowed her to disconnect from any of her daily stresses and create an alternate existence. One shaped by her own imagination. But in the past few years, Stevens says her work has developed to be more expressionist in nature and represent her current reality and emotions in all their complex glory.
She hopes it all leads to empowering others, particularly those in marginalized communities, to cultivate their own talents and develop a greater sense of self.
“I think that my work has evolved to become a more direct reflection of who I am, how I feel, and the things that I care about,” said Stevens during a recent interview with Done. “A lot of my work comes from my own experiences.”
Stevens, an illustrator and product designer, says her inspiration comes from a broad and diverse swath of sources including stained-glass windows, illuminated manuscripts, architectural details, mythology, Tarot cards, and even the ecosystem of flowers or animals.
She believes her curiosity ultimately lends itself to discovering ideas in many places and adapting them to her work.
“I think there's absolutely a difference between inspiration and motivation,” said Stevens. “ And I could lie around all day with dozens of ideas floating in my head. But that's an exercise in imagination. And that's separate from the motivation to actually turn them into finished artwork.”
When Stevens speaks about the distinction for her between inspiration and motivation it comes from a place of authority as it relates to her own mental health.
“I think that ADHD is not a case of lacking motivation,” said Stevens. “It's an executive-function disorder. And it's the functions that stand between the idea and the work, not a lack of motivation. I have all of these ideas, and I would love to make all of them. But my executive function, and like lack of time, make it difficult for me to do.”
None of it has slowed Stevens down as she’s worked on an eclectic variety of projects from her home in the UK including a children's book about Egyptian history, a fantasy book involving dragons, and an article about global warming.
“[ADHD] helps me to make connections between concepts and springboard into new ideas,” said Stevens. “There's a sort of specific joy about that, that I think is very ADHD kind of to the core. It gives me that level of enthusiasm to dedicate to each project, which I think is really important.”
Stevens, who at one time also struggled with chronic migraines, says finding a community of like minded people is critical to overcoming any challenge.
“I think it gives you a sense of belonging, and a sense of being understood,” said Stevens. “[It] really helps you to have confidence to make changes in your own life and believe that you can do things and you can find a way around [anything].”