My name is Mary Hawkins and I am an abstract artist in Greenville, South Carolina. I melt crayons and oil pastels to create colorful abstract representations of my life. It is through my work that I am able to live my life in screaming color. I choose to use the phrase, live in screaming color, because I have Bipolar Disorder.

On June 16, 2003 my life changed forever.

My father was in a horrible automobile accident involving a tractor trailer whose driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. The accident almost ended his life and would leave him with a Traumatic Brain Injury. This traumatic experience, in addition to having a family history of mental illness, is what many psychiatrists and psychologists have determined what triggered the onset of my Bipolar.

I want to share my story with other people in hopes of stopping stigma against mental illness. I am an intelligent, educated, kind, compassionate, loving, respectful and diplomatic human being with an ear ready to listen and a hand willing to help. Here is my story:

I struggled for a long time to find a healthy outlet that would quiet my mind of the highs and lows I felt so often due to my mental illness. I had been in and out of therapy, and was put on many types of medications. Things would be okay for awhile, but would not stay this way for long. I took myself off medications time and time again, and with each of these times breaking the hearts of the ones that loved me.

A few years ago I began my path finding that outlet in an art’s based therapy program, and I will be forever grateful for this. Finding therapy through the arts made sense to me. In college I studied many of history’s greatest artists, most of them had one thing in common and that commonality was they suffered from some kind of mental illness. History has shown us there is a clear connection between the artistic temperament and mental illness.

It was February of 2014 when I created my first melted crayon piece entitled, “Live in Screaming Color.” I found an old canvas, a zip lock bag of broken crayons and without any plan or purpose began to melt the broken crayons onto the canvas. It was in this moment that I felt an inner peace that I had never felt before. My mind was quiet and I was able to allow my hands to do the work. I felt free of everything. I saw this as my “Aha Moment,” my moment of clarity. I realized that broken crayons still color and saw this as a metaphor for my life. Having Bipolar Disorder does not make me broken, but in society’s eyes it does.

The arts have always been a large part of my life and a very special bond I share with my grandmothers. They taught me at an early age to really look for and appreciate the beauty that can be found in art, music, nature and life in general. For this reason, I find inspiration for my work through other artists, music, photography and experiences that I have with loved ones. I am also inspired by the amazing scenery that is the Upstate of South Carolina. I am heavily influenced by artists of the 60’s Pop Art Movement (I guess you could say I’ve been channeling my inner Jasper Johns), Impressionism and Street Art.

Currently my work can be viewed through the month of January at the Café @ Williams Hardware in Travelers Rest, South Carolina.

7 responses to “Mary”

  1. Laurie says:

    Thank you Mary for sharing your story. As the Mother of a bipolar son I am very proud of you. Stay on course and continue to find joy. Bless you dear one.

  2. Maggie says:

    I cannot see you work but I love your story. Keep it up you’re an inspiration to the rest of us.

  3. Anjali says:

    Mary, I am glad to read your story, and think it is wonderful that the experience you describe brought you such inner peace. My BP has mostly been “tamed,” but one of the few things that can help calm my ongoing anxiety and depression is art. Usually, looking at watercolor art or looking at paintings of clouds helps. I often think that being an art therapist would be a very rewarding career because I know it could help so many.

  4. Jeanette says:

    Thanks for having courage to tell us your story, Mary, it can’t be easy but mental illness needs to be brought to the forefront to encourage healthy, constructive conversations and emotional support for those who need it most!
    Keep expressing yourself through your art!

  5. Marie says:

    Thanks Mary for sharing your story. As someone who has struggled with bipolar for the past few years & depression for nearly 10 years I can relate to your broken crayons metaphor. I’m not an artist in the traditional sense, drawing, painting, coloring but I do find comfort cross stitching especially with some of my fellow stitching friends. I struggle during my depressive state to even find the mojo to pick up a needle & thread. I tend to do my best work during my hypo manic phase of my illness which also provides me with a sense of peace not to mention a sense of pride & accomplishment. Stay strong Mary & know you are not alone. I’d love to see your art work one day.

  6. Brad says:

    thanks Mary, I especially like the part about the art based therapy program and the way it gave you “inner peace” and felt free of everything. We all need a “voice” so we can express our feelings and thoughts with others. A diary is a good way as well to express your feelings.
    Problems arise when you keep things to yourself instead of expressing them.

  7. Jamie says:


    Thank you for sharing your story. After much heartache and struggle, I recently received the diagnosis of ADD and bipolar. The extreme highs and lows really throw me for a loop, but I’m glad to know exactly what it is I’m dealing with. I’m into art, too, and writing, and music, and dance, and language, and generally a lot of creative things. I don’t find that artmaking helps me very much, but meditation does. I really like your concept of living in screaming color because I love color, too. I feel like all of my senses are just reaching out for color, and smells, and tastes, and sounds, and touch, and sights, and that all the world is beautiful and I just can’t get enough of it until I find myself falling down into the depression chasm. Again thank you for sharing.

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