Mikaela Wikström - self-taught intuitive visual artist
Helsinki / Finland
Mikaela, you are a self-taught intuitive artist. Your artworks are amazing. Tell us more about you and your journey into the art world (brief bio/history/backstory)?
Thank you! I feel honoured to be part of this community of Art Mums!
I have always loved stories of all kinds and have had a vivid imagination for as long as I can remember. As a teenager, one of the only things I enjoyed in school was creative writing, and I secretly dreamed of pursuing a career as an artist, but I quickly found out that the chances to make a living on art were slim. For some years, I managed to forget those happy sparkles inside of me. But they never totally left me.
At Uni, I studied Pedagogy and Sociology and had quite a few jobs that were not supporting my creativity. I was always running around, taking different courses, trying different jobs. Something inside me wouldn’t let me settle or rest; it was like a big piece of myself was missing. Life kept challenging me, asking me to start looking within and to awaken those creative sparkles again. I resisted at first, but there was no return; the creative voice inside me did not rest. I could not and did not want to live the life I had so far. Once I answered the call, new opportunities started to appear. I signed up for art history classes enjoying every minute of it. Later on, I found myself studying art as a minor at another university, gradually finding new teachers that guided me forward. A lot of the learning also started to happen intuitively on its own once I finally gave in and let the creativity flow freely again.
What is your main source of inspiration?
My inspiration comes both from small, barely noticeable details and from larger entities that have been built up over time. For me, the light and the feeling in my paintings are essential, and things that light those sparks are really my greatest sources of inspiration. I love encounters that make one believe in magic, unexpected discussions that happen not only through words but also on invisible levels and make the heart sing. Music that I feel in my whole body can also lead to the most amazing inspiration when the timing is right. And nature – coming from a country with vast areas of forests, thousands of lakes, and with the sea around the corner – I can't even put into words how much it means in my art and my life. Even during the most stressful times in my life, sitting in the forest by my favourite lake has helped and guided me forward.
”Do you know those small little things that can change the direction of a whole day? Even your life? Small little glimpses of joy and magic that make your heart beat a bit faster? Those fractions of magic are why I paint.”
You were diagnosed with breast cancer when you were 29 years old. How did you find out and how did it affect your life and work?
I lived a busy life, travelling, studying, partying, and hoping to start a family with my husband. Instead, I found hard lumps both in my armpit and in my breast. At first, I didn't even get the needed tests because breast cancer under 30 is rare. However, just after my 29th birthday, I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer that had spread to my armpit.
In order to survive, I was sent urgently to radical surgery, chemo and radiotherapy. The first six months, I kept myself going and in a quiet, calm and positive state of mind. When chemo started, my body had already changed for good, and I hardly recognised myself in the mirror since all my hair fell off. The strong chemicals started to affect my mind and body, and I fell into a dark hole. The darkness was so thick that once I started to see some light again, I guess the importance of light has never left me.
During the darkest time, I saw some amazing dreams that showed me beautiful things and people I would lose if I gave up. Things I would never get to experience again. Radiotherapy had barely started when I started to have terrible stomach aches. At first, the physicians thought cancer might have spread, but it turned out to be endometriosis that had to be removed through surgery. My odds of ever having a child of my own were not great.
My life changed overnight when I found out I was very sick, but I'm not sure where I would be today without it. It has made me braver. Or maybe not braver, but I tend to listen to and follow my heart more. I think the layers can be seen in my art, and I'm ever interested in the harmony between light and dark. I never get tired of painting and investigating light!
You are a mum of a 3-year-old daughter. You became a full-time artist after she was born. What has changed for you back then?
After going through cancer and all the treatments involved, my body was a mess. I had never forgotten my dream of having a child of my own, even though some years of involuntary childlessness followed. When my little daughter was born, it was quite a miracle, and on many levels, I felt she brought a new softness and light to my life and art. When she was a baby, I had less time to create, but I took all the time I could to paint even a little here and there. She is a sensitive, patient teacher, and she has been teaching me so much about balance and harmony.
Without my art, I wouldn't be happy, and if I had returned to my day job, I would not have had time to pursue my art dream. I wanted to have more flexible hours with my daughter and be the best version of myself for my daughter and family. I need her to know it is possible to follow one's dream. I have not regretted becoming a full-time artist.
How did you feel about motherhood in the past and how do you feel about it now?
Motherhood was something I was secretly dreaming of and something I probably had quite a few opinions and ideas about. Most of which I have had to re-evaluate, lol! I used to spread my energy on too many things until the point I was exhausted, but motherhood has helped me focus the little extra time I have on what I experience is important. I feel more grounded and at peace with my life, and I think this can also be felt in my art.
What are your greatest challenges right now? How was your art practice affected by the pandemic?
I am still learning to be kinder to myself and take care of myself even during stressful times. I'm trying to learn that sometimes good enough is really good enough and enjoy things more instead of getting all worked up about things I can´t change. The pandemic made me move more of my art to social media, and I think I have learned quite a bit of new things that have changed my art business for good. I have met so many wonderful artists and collectors online!
What is the message behind your art?
I guess my paintings do not offer any obvious answers but perhaps awaken different emotional states in the viewer. Light and paint are mixed with space and depth, creating a place where feelings and emotions that might have long been forgotten can be felt again. Light is the core of my paintings and the one thing that has been there from the very beginning, which keeps evolving. It is something I'm constantly studying and developing to dig deeper into finding the core in each piece.
What does your art do for you?
My art is a big part of who I am. Before I started painting full-time, I often felt like a big part of me was missing, and it made me anxious and often frustrated. There is something healing with my art, and it has helped me overcome many difficulties in life. Colours are of great importance to me, and different colours speak to me during other times in life. Often I still can't believe I get to do this for a living! Even though it is uncertain and stressful at times, I love it so much.
What are your plans for the future (career, parenting, etc.)?
I will keep on exploring my art and ways of expressing it. I´m very interested in further exploring the light that has been playing a big part in my art since the beginning. Since
my painting is so intuitive it grows at its own pace and for me to be open, to hear and to channel the nuances of the creative flow I need to take good care of myself. I do have quite a bit of work to still do here.
What advice do you have for fellow art mums?
Remember that you have your own unique creative journey. Get inspired by other artists/artist mums, but don't compare yourself. The creative flow finds magical ways of expressing itself when you are gentle with yourself.