For Shani Nottingham, art requires a focus on one color or brushstroke or pixel at a time.
“For example, break down tasks into smaller chunks to manage them,” Nottingham recently told Done. during an interview. “I try to start with just a little thing, and that normally gets me into the workflow. So even if it is a technical, rather dry aspect on my to-do list, this leads to that feeling of accomplishment and normally powers me forwards to just keep going.”
And going and going she has. Nottingham, who lives in rural Australia and works as an illustrator, artist, and educator, says she has always used art as a way of releasing any turmoil or angst inside. Some of her earliest childhood memories are about art as a means of expression, though she says in her late teens and early twenties her art came to reflect more about her struggles with mental health.
“For my illustration work, particularly with watercolor, I produce lots of bright, colorful, whimsical work, which I am told all the time is uplifting, joyous and happy,” said Nottingham. “Of course, this is indeed one aspect of my personality. I love to laugh and see the ridiculous in life. I love color, it gives me physical reactions, makes my heart beat faster. So yes, this work is a reflection of that aspect of me. The darker and more difficult parts of my brain and emotions I do reflect upon, but I do so from a distance now - more as a way of analyzing the way my ADHD functions.”
After decades in multidisciplinary art across commercial works, sculpture, film, photography, collages and more, Nottingham chides that selling is her favorite part of the process. But she now also deeply appreciates the hyperfocus of ADHD as it relates to her process and routine.
“When I totally lose time, sense of self, and the world is focussed on the thing I am doing, all troubles and extras are excluded,” said Nottingham. “That creative flow is intoxicating - even if it is until four in the morning. So this aspect of ADHD I find intensely brilliant. A gift.”
She says her inspiration often arrives in a variety of forms from time spent in her garden to travel (and taking heaps of pictures) to books. And reading in particular is something she recommends to others seeking ways to adjust to an ADHD diagnosis or shift in behavior.
“Read and read some more,” said Nottingham. “Listen to podcasts about it. Find online groups
and networks. Watch TV shows, documentaries. Talk to people about what you are going
through. Counseling if you can. Do not listen to toxic or well meaning people who say that everyone has these aspects and you just need to get over it. This is not helpful. Find people who have experiences they can share. Google. Inform yourself. Knowledge is power.”