Artist Interview on Pathfinders | Diving deep to resurface with Tamzin

Tamzin Merivale is an artist and writer from Ireland. I discovered her work through Substack, and was immediately drawn to her raw, honest writing and stunning portraiture of empowered women. I’m thrilled she agreed to let me interview her and share her creative process with you.

Finding one’s purpose or mission in life can be really elusive for some people. How did you discover that you wanted to focus on helping people transform their lives through art? Was it always a clear calling or did you always know that you wanted to be an artist?

Absolutely not - and I totally understand how frustrating it can be to try to find something fulfilling in life, or in work!

For me, there were two dominant sides of my personality from a young age. The first was that I was very sensitive to how other people felt, which made me intuitive and pretty angry about the state of the world. As much as it’s a cliche, I just wanted to do some good in whatever way I could. That led me to study International Development and to qualify as a massage therapist - two very different ways to try to make a positive difference in people’s lives! 

Neither of those careers felt 100% right though, and they neglected my creative side. Art and self-expression were my survival mechanisms and how I made sense of the world; whether it was through dance, visual art, photography, or eventually writing. 

I knew by my early twenties that I needed a career where I could combine some kind of healing or “change-making work” with creativity - but I had no idea what that would look like or how to figure it out.

For a while, I was a full-time designer/illustrator, and while that wasn’t entirely fulfilling, it gave me time to develop as an artist and understand what people really came to me for; which turned out to be my writing, guidance, connection and my artwork too. 

So really, the idea for Soul Signs just dropped into my lap without even looking for it - I never imagined that I could bring everything together in one offer. 

Speaking of Soul Signs, I was immediately drawn to these beautiful portraits of women. They’re unlike anything I’ve seen before. Can you share more about how they came to be? 

Soul Signs are an immersive portrait experience that involves a few layers:

The Sessions. Through one-on-one meetings, we connect with each other but I also help you to connect more deeply to yourself, and your life story. Through that, we can uncover any blocks or patterns that may be holding you back – one client described it as opening a window onto parts of herself she didn’t know existed.

The Portrait. After the sessions together, we do a photo-shoot (possible from afar too!) so that I can create a portrait of your energy, of your light, of your strength. The portrait shows you the feeling you give other people, as that’s not something you can see in the mirror. When you walk into a room, the energy shifts, so I want your portrait to be a visual representation of that power you hold. You’ll have it as a reminder forever, an image of your true self. It also tells your story as I include a lot of symbols relating to what we uncover in the sessions.

The Story. This part is quite special for me, as it goes so far beyond the client and myself. To accompany the portrait, I write about you and your story, and I can’t express how much it means to me when someone trusts me with this - I have been asked to share some astonishing stories for my clients, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. 

I believe it’s a very important step, sharing these diverse life stories connects us all to each other on a deeper level again; we are holding space for each other, we are listening to each other, we are learning from each other.

That is healing in and of itself, while it also allows for more compassion and empathy, which in my opinion, are the enemies of judgement, prejudice and discrimination.

I offer the whole experience both in-person or remotely/online. I also offer each part as a stand-alone, as some clients just want a portrait, others just want the story, and some others just come to me for mentoring sessions. As to how they came to be, I think I partly answered this above, but there was another reason, which I explained better in this post.

Essentially, I was surrounded by exceptional women and I wanted to find a way of showing them their amazing energy and presence!

I can really relate to the power of listening to and sharing each other’s stories- it’s one reason I started Heartbeats! This world can feel so isolating and I think it’s easy to believe more in disconnection than our interconnectedness.

That all shifts when we’re vulnerable and authentic with each other- we realize we’re not alone and so many of us share common challenges and life experiences!

One thing I’ve noticed as part of a creative community is that a lot of us struggle with the term “artist,” especially in reference to ourselves. I’m curious, what’s your definition of an artist? When did you first start calling yourself one?

My definition of artist is that there is no definition - if you want to be one, go ahead.  

I was also uncomfortable with the title for a long time, it made me think of a floaty skirt, painting on a big canvas, and no income. I don’t paint, and while my work is creative, it’s also entrepreneurial, which demands many other skills. I’m happy to describe myself now as an artist and a writer, even though that doesn’t encompass all that I do - so I just do my best to describe it and carry on!

I’m curious, you’re originally from Ireland but you’ve travelled extensively and lived abroad. Are there particular environments, landscapes, or moments that looking back, helped shape your life as artist or your creative work?

Probably all of them! But I’ll try to pick out a few.

The feeling of being alone, in the unknown, with only yourself to rely on. I started travelling alone at quite a young age and I really recommend solo-travel. That feeling of being in an unfamiliar environment or somewhere you don’t speak the language is unsettling, but inspiring as it fills your brain with new information, re-ignites the senses and forces you to grow. Every time I’ve moved to a new country it’s the same - at first nothing makes sense, but slowly you put the pieces together, and learning a new language or culture is hugely satisfying!

I once stood on the shoreline in Mauritania, which I’ll never forget. I felt overwhelmingly small, like a pinprick on the map. On one side, I had the Atlantic Ocean stretching all the way to Central America -roughly 5,200kms of water. On the other side, I had the Sahara stretching all the way to Sudan and the Red Sea - roughly 5,500kms of sand and emptiness. This line where two utter extremes meet; crashing waves one side, dry desert on the other, and very little inhabitation or human life on either side, I found it extraordinary.

I can’t leave out Florence, where I lived for three years. Everything in that city is stunning, and it’s where I first started to pursue a creative career, so Italy formed me in more ways than one.

Thank you for sharing! As a solo female traveller myself, I can really relate to how vital that experience has been for me and the ways it’s shaped who I’ve become. On a different note, you mention that a health crisis in 2021 led you back to your true passion for connection and empowerment. You also began to write during your hospitalization. One of my favourite lines of poetry from Mary Oliver is “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” 

Do you feel that challenge was a necessary part of your transformation? Are there other instances in your life, that in hindsight, provided growth through difficulty?

To read the answer to this question and the rest of the interview, click here.

To avail of a 15% discount on working with me until the end of May, get in touch here.

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