As a portrait artist, I use my skills to extract insight and wisdom from people living the brave and powerful experiences unique to the path of recovery. I have recovered a deep, loving relationship with my partner and our families, a network of caring friends, the gift of gratitude and the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a full-time artist.
Since 2007, I have painted professionally, producing large-format, industrial-influenced, mixed-media abstracts. Even though I really enjoy my abstract work, I have always been drawn to portraiture and have wanted to produce a themed portrait series.
Throughout my career, I have sketched people as a hobby, but never as a professional portrait artist. In January of 2014, I decided to experiment with oil paint and chose to do a self-portrait, which was the beginning of my current project. After completing the self-portrait, I continued sketching portraits of other people. I wanted to create more meaningful artwork. My connection to this project was different from my abstract work. It was as if I were carving the subjects out and pulling them from the paper. I wanted my work to address a social issue or cause; I wanted it to have a voice and a vision.
Having been in recovery for just over a year and experiencing the sting of negative social stigma associated with addiction, I realized I had found my subject matter. A few months later, the Hello My Name is . . . Project came to life. This undertaking has allowed me to reach out to others in recovery and connect with them on a deeper level.
It is now my mission to put faces with recovery, focusing on the positive aspects of the lives of people living this commitment. Recovery is often shrouded in anonymity, as many of us continue to live dual lives – wary of the social stigma associated with addiction. Others simply cut themselves off and isolate from the world at large. I ask, “Where is the freedom in this?”
Addicted people are often filled with shame and experience discrimination. Even in recovery, many of us continue to struggle with these issues. I admit at times I have difficulty being open and honest about my recovery with people outside our recovery community.
If we are only as sick as our secrets, why is recovery my biggest secret? How joyous, happy and free can I expect to be when harboring anything that I would not willingly tell another person? Through the Hello My Name is . . . Project, those who choose to can find the strength and courage to step outside the rooms and break free from the lingering social stigma of addiction.
When a human being is taken to the depths of darkness by addiction and then recovers, a light grows within them. I paint the light I see when I gaze in the mirror, as well as the light I see in recovering people around me. We emerge from the shadows eager to share our newfound hope with others. My project offers a look at the faces of people who have confronted their greatest fears and have decided to unite with the world.
My work for the Hello My Name is . . . Project is created using basic white charcoal on black paper. I chose this medium to align the art with the overall concept of the project – emerging out of the darkness of addiction into the light of recovery. The participants reinforce this concept as they step out of the shadows and reveal themselves to the world as people of recovery.
In early 2016, the Hello My Name is . . . Project will be a traveling exhibit. I am in the preliminary stages of planning a large show slated to open for National Recovery Month in September 2015. You may follow the project on Facebook, join the mailing list to receive an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at my creative process and keep up-to-date on the latest project news along with upcoming show and event details.
I invite everyone in recovery to sit for a portrait and share how recovery has changed their lives. Recovery is not an anchor; it is a pair of wings. It has helped me change my life for the better, and I want to encourage others to experience the same.
If you are in recovery and would like to share your light, schedule your portrait session today by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Douglas Lail lives in Asheville, North Carolina, and works predominantly on large format mixed-media abstracts. His latest focus is on social artistry to build social awareness of the positive impact of recovery on society. Lail has had several solo shows in and around Asheville and has shown in galleries from Birmingham, Alabama to Charleston, South Carolina. You may contact him through his website motivestudio6.wix.com/hellomynameisproject, on Facebook at HelloMyNameIsProject or Twitter @HMNI_Project.