Local artist's passion helps him beat the black dog

JAMES Hill is not unlike the Volkswagens in the pictures he draws and paints or the '64 Beetle he has been working on in his garage for the last eight years.

"You can knock them around, smash them about, but they keep going," he said.

James is still going after a tough year or two.

"Last year, I had depression. It just came on and before I knew it, I was right in the middle of it," he said.

"I never thought it would happen to me. You think it happens to other people."

Although the symptoms - tiredness, lack of motivation, low mood - crept on over months, the illness took James by surprise.

A beautiful wife, two nice kids, a good job, a house by the beach - the Bell Vista 38-year-old did not think someone like him, in his position, could be depressed.

"Even after the doctor told me, it was hard for me to admit to myself that I had it," James said.

"And once I accepted it, it took a while to admit it to my wife. I didn't want to use that term depression. I was brought up old school - it was stuff blokes don't talk about.

"As I progressed, I had to build up the courage to tell close friends.

"I'm at the stage now where I want to talk to everybody because you can get through it.

"People need to be open enough to talk about it and go and see a doctor."

James' turnaround came about almost as inexplicably as the depression.

THERAPEUTIC APPROACH: James Hill, who has his artwork on display at the Caloundra Library, used art to help combat depression.
THERAPEUTIC APPROACH: James Hill, who has his artwork on display at the Caloundra Library, used art to help combat depression. Warren Lynam

"One day, for no reason, I just wanted to paint. I've never studied art or done it too much," he said.

"I did a picture of Kings Beach in oil paints. That was where I had my breakthrough.

"When I was doing that, I was kind of lost in my own art which shut out the whole depression."

James started drawing in charcoal.

Gradually, more colour came into his work, and the subjects changed from VW wrecks with smashed windows to bright Kombis on sunny beaches.

A series of 17 James' works hanging in the Caloundra Library show the transition.

"The reason I chose the pictures that are in the library is because they express the whole journey," he said. "Some of them are very emotional pictures. What people are seeing is raw emotion."

James does not consider himself a great artist but "it's good to get the feelings down on paper".

He has set up a Facebook page, James Hill Original Art.

"I just want to share my art. The more people that see it, the better," he said.

James looks at the good that has come out of his spell with depression.

As well as taking up art, he has become a speaker with Beyond Blue and is studying psychology.

"I'm glad in some strange way that I went through what I went through because now I can help others and keep people happy," he said.

Topics:  beetle black dog depression mental health sunshine coast

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