Appleton-area artist Anja Gridley credits her early childhood schooling as the impetus for her creative expression. Gridley says her home-schooling gave her the skills she needed later in life, when she embraced her creativity as a young adult.
“It was really important for [my mom] to raise my siblings and I bilingual because she’s from Germany, and we always had the chance to be really creative,” she says. “It’s also where I learned I have dyslexia and it’s actually a strength and not an academic weakness.
“That was also kind of the same period of time I was dealing with mental health issues,” she furthers. “I started to develop symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and didn’t know how to relay that to anybody, so I just drew. I drew pictures of eyes, and places, and nature with hopes that people could really see me through my art.”
After an AP art program, she joined a six-month-long program for creatives from all over the world. The program included a three-month-long lecture phase in Germany and three months of an outreach phase in Ethiopia. While in Ethiopia, Gridley says she had a sketchbook, a handful of ballpoint pens and an endless supply of raw emotions, accompanied by a healthy discomfort of living in a developing nation.
“So, I just drew about it,” she states. “And that is really where my creativity exploded.”
Gridley says she’s also had many people believe in her along her artistic journey, which ultimately led to her current role as a graphic designer for the Appleton Alliance Church. Her body of work has evolved to a type of visual journaling combined with hand-drawn collaging, using her emotions as her creative fuel. She’s also completed murals, with potential for more mural work in the near future.
“I very much use my art to process and kind of zone out, and I very much use my art as a form of worship, so I connect with God through my art a lot,” she states.
As Gridley continues to explore her creativity and further grow as an artist—in the midst of a lot of life changes—she says art is incredibly healing and grounding for her.
“Creativity, within itself, is extremely healing,” Gridley adds. “Giving myself permission to create and not to just instantly deem my art unworthy before it even exists—that was also really big in learning that I matter and it’s OK to be heard and seen and felt.”
To follow along with Anja and her art, find her on Instagram @adg.crtv. —Meghan Diemel