Nomoco Gets Real with Mental Health for Oprah Magazine
As medical sciences advance to the point where we’re understanding the human body more and more, focus is shifting to the brain. How our mind processes emotions and events are revealing themselves to be more crucial to our overall health than we’ve given them credence in human history. Oprah Magazine is currently exploring mental health in a series they’re calling “The State of Our Minds,” that acts as an exhaustive investigation of how we manage the worlds inside our skulls. The magazine commissioned a wide collection of stories that include personal essays, medical accounts, and notes on effective mental management from a bevy of accomplished writers and storytellers. In that grand company is Nomoco who the magazine asked to lend her work to these tales and help bring them to life.
When the magazine first approached Nomoco to work with them on this project it was smaller in scope, but as the collaboration evolved, it grew. They asked Nomoco to create more pieces for more of the stories and it blossomed into a much larger partnership. The value of that kind of creative cooperation cannot be overstated. “I think it's very important as every little thing affects the creativity and it shows in the artwork,” Nomoco says. A partnership of trust that runs that deep creates a supportive microculture that makes for better work.
At first glance, the fluidity of Nomoco’s illustrations is almost disarming. They seem fragile and ephemeral, but her use of color is bold and powerful. It’s because of her ink and her process. In a creative arena that values specificity and intricacy, Nomoco has given over to the wily nature of ink, and for good reason. “I use ink because I like its organic movement,” explains Nomoco. “It always gives me some accidental surprise while I'm drawing. I feel it creates aliveness for the picture, and I hope it communicates in that way. Also, I like the instantness of the ink, I can visualize and draw at almost the same time.”
The process of creating these images began by distilling the stories to their most concentrated hearts and then translating them into a visual language. Nomoco dug into each story to understand it deeply before she was able to start the translation process. So many of the stories are about transformation and grappling with hard truths, and Nomoco played with those themes in her work. The first image is paired with Cynthia’s story about crawling out of depression and plays with that theme with cloudlike portraits of Cynthia that start small and dark and turn brighter and larger. It is also one of Nomoco’s favorites. “The transformation of low to high is satisfying to me. And I feel the connection between the instability of the human heart and the wavy cloud like shape of the head,” Nomoco says. She also related to the story of Katie whose journey involved a sober admission of the truth of her life. Nomoco painted Katie as a woman whose entirely life is seemingly played out on her dress. “Katie's piece was interesting to me, as it shows her life story in one painting- I felt like I'm becoming Katie at some point.” The stories in this collection are relatable to everyone, whether or not you’ve been through the exact events these writers have. And if you haven’t, Nomoco’s work can help deepen your understanding.