Illustrated Tapes ✕ Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

Curated by Jason Sturgill
14.05.19
spoti.fi/2Q3IZo9



Sequenced for front →  back listening.
Jason is an illustrator and designer based in Portland, Oregon.

Heya Jason, thanks for putting together our first ever Mental Health Awareness Week mixtape. Something I value immensely in your work is your openness around mental health and how you interpret experiences and thoughts of your own. How did music fit into the brief for you?

Music has always played a big part in my emotional/mental journey. It marks moments in time that you will always associate with a particular song. I chose a variety of songs that have done this for me over the years.

Could you tell us a little more about your song selections?

It was really hard to make a playlist that was less than two hours long - I’ve been actively seeking out new music for over two decades so it was tough to choose. “Mixtapes” can be difficult because you want them to turn people onto new music while also having a few tracks that are more widely recognizable. I wanted to make a mix that included recent discoveries along with some of my long time faves.  

How did you go about the artwork for your cover?

I’ve been doing a series of images that I’ve posted to my Instagram that represent the ups and downs of mental illness. I was diagnosed with bipolar II last year which has been a relief in a sense, to have a condition that gives a scientifically recognized description of what I’ve had to live with. When I’ve made images with this theme it’s just a matter of thinking of a concept that can represent each end of the spectrum in a clever way. A cassette tape felt like a fitting solution since it’s where my musical journey started and it was funny to see it rendered in the square format that we’ve been used to seeing ever since.

It was cool hearing about your firsts experiences with the world of design and illustration though starting your own record label at college in your Creative Mornings talk. Does music continue to play a role in your work?

I think music has continued to fuel my creativity over the years. Lately it’s been the crop of young artists that have been able to break through the noise on their own without the support of a major record label. It’s inspiring to watch musicians that can garner attention through the strength of their own ideas around their sound and visuals.


Jason at CreativeMornings Portland, May 2017

I really enjoyed learning about your Face Each Day project, and your artistic growth through drawing post grad school. Drawing and sharing regularly now seems like a continuous part of your creativity, are these things also important for your mental health?

I think it is important, and something I need to utilize more. There definitely is an overlap as I don’t think I could have one with the other, and if  I can communicate what I’m going through it’s the first step in releasing those emotions and moving on.



Your Instagram often gives a snapshot into your journey with mental health, whether it be a quick update or more open-ended thoughts. Does the act of drawing out these moments help you to make more sense of them?

Obviously it’s something I think about a lot. It can be taxing to bottle these ideas in my brain and not share them with others. Through the act of sharing these thoughts I’ve realized I’m not the only one that thinks about this stuff and that others really value that someone is sharing their pain.

One of your posts I love in particular is Ride The Wave, in which you talk about the difficulties of seeking help, something I’ve recently been working on myself. Are there any pieces from your feed that stand out for you?

The piece that stands out to me is the one that I need to refer the most. It’s the boxing glove that says “Don’t Beat Yourself Up.”




Any recommendations of other creatives doing great work around mental health?

I think one of the first people to really make talking about mental health issues less scary is Gemma Correll. I think one of the main reasons she’s been successful is due to the lightness and humor she uses in her work. Another person that I think does a great job at this is Tara Booth.



Pursuing a career in the creative industries is rarely straightforward, as I’m sure you’d agree! The twists and challenges we face, particularly early on, can be pretty tough to work through. Do you have any advice for looking after your head during rocky patches or when feeling a bit lost?

I think it’s hard to give advice because everyone is so different. When you’re in the depths of darkness the last thing you want to hear is someone telling you just need to go run and you’ll feel better. Just because something works for you doesn’t mean it works for others and I don’t like it when people put out these blanket statements that make people feel even worse when their answer doesn’t work for them. If I were to attempt at some sort of universal approach it would be to talk with someone about your mental health. For me it’s been talking to people that have an outside perspective, not just friends and family. If your health insurance can cover it or you can afford it finding a therapist and psychologist is a great place to start.

What did you listen to growing up?

I tried to represent some of that in this playlist but what’s interesting is that there’s not much early Hip Hop in the mix. In middle school I was obsessed with all the rap that was coming out at the time. De La Soul, Tribe, NWA, Beastie Boys, BDP, Public Enemy, Too Short, Sir Mix A Lot... Hip hop has only recently been discussing mental health which I think is why at the end of middle school and high school I started diving into Depeche Mode, Morrissey, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, etc.

What’s happening in your creative world at the moment?

Lately I’ve been thinking about other ways I can express my creativity outside of illustration. When I was first starting out in the real world my creative outlet revolved more around curation and collaboration which I’ve been wanting to get back into.

Where can we find you online?

Instagram is always the place to see what I’m up to at the moment: ︎ jgspdx. Check my website if you want to see what I used to be up to: jgspdx.com

Thank you Jason!



If you are struggling with your mental health, or know someone who is, a great place to learn more or seek help and advice is Mind Charity.

Samaritans is a UK based charity providing a 24 hour helpline for those struggling with anything they are going through and can be reached on 116 123.

Please consider donating to these charities to help support their incredible work:
Mind UK donations page / Samaritans donations page

If you are based outside of the UK, CheckPoint has compiled a useful list of mental health organisations and charities around the world.