For the Australian illustrator, art is not just a hobby, it’s therapy.

By Florence Sullivan.

Australian illustrator Sarah Nagorcka, known in the art community as Gorkie Gork, pairs simple illustrations with short existential thoughts jotted across the page almost as if it was taken directly out of her journal. Her drawings offer a glimpse into her mind, sharing her experiences, social anxiety, and lack of motivation.

Through her art, Nargorcka has created a community where her viewers can comfortably share their own experiences and emotions, and are encouraged to use art to express their own struggles. Below, the artist speaks to Mission about using art as a form of self-therapy, sharing her personal thoughts online, and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected her motivation to create.

FLORENCE SULLIVAN: How did you first start drawing? Did you draw from any specific inspirations early on?

SARAH NAGORCKA: My dear mum always encouraged us creatively. She made paint for me as a toddler out of food dye and cornflour and we were allowed to paint the outside walls of the house. Inspiration-wise, I had a comic strip when I was 12, with the star characters being a sheep and the occasional bird. Makes sense, I grew up on a farm.

FS: Many of your drawings reference mental health, social anxiety, and self-doubt, in a light-hearted way. What has your experience openly expressing these emotions online been like?

SN: Great! It’s been quite addictive getting the validation. Knowing that I am expressing things in a way others recognize gives me the courage to keep sharing.

Also, it’s true I am open and honest in my work, but there are plenty of deeply private things that I keep to myself. You have to have that too.

FL: Whether it be on online education program MasterClass or at a museum, what do you enjoy most about doing artist workshops?

SN: It makes my day if I can lighten someone else’s experience. Whether it’s providing a new way to frame a concept or simply holding space so someone can take time for themselves. If someone reaches a moment of personal clarity—that really makes it worth the nerves I get in the lead up to these workshops! I definitely want to keep working and creating with people in this way, so watch this space for more workshops.

FL: In one of your illustrations it says, “Feels good to draw this badly,” what made you decide to shift your style towards “drawing badly”?

SN: It never shifted. I have always had a fast and loose style of drawing. I care more about the dopamine release I get from drawing and discovering my internal world, than I get from a finished piece of work. What has shifted is that in 2020 I started facilitating this for other people so they can experience that same release.

FL: In an article you wrote for Medium, you spoke about your issues with perfectionism and people pleasing. Since growing a following over the past few years, do you feel the pressure for perfection in your art?

SN: I don’t feel the pressure for perfection in art but I feel other pressures online. If I’m honest, I feel pressure to be young or on top of trends even though everything inevitably slips through your fingers. I know it’s not very cool to admit that; there is a pressure to stay on the treadmill while pretending you’re not at all trying to stay on the treadmill. People pleasing is another matter and I have recently tried to divert my energy into Duolingo instead of obsessing over what I have and haven’t said. I know three words in Mandarin now.

FL: Your followers seem to greatly respond to the existential, emotional themes in your work. Does your artwork act as a form of self therapy? How?

SN: Absolutely. That is why I reconnected with drawing to begin with. I went through a very rocky patch in my mid-20s and I struggled to hold a job. At the time I wasn’t particularly good at expressing myself in writing, so I would push my feelings out as shapes and other things that felt true. From there I could sometimes build that into a phrase, and once I had a phrase I could communicate and share that with others. This was a great relief. It was absolutely self-therapy.

FL: Did the COVID-19 pandemic change the content of your art or your outlook on your illustrations?

SN: Yes. I stopped creating so much and focused more on physical things. Dance classes, physical theater, walks, swimming, to survive and also because it brought me more pleasure. I’m gradually getting back to the pencil, but it’s secondary to my body now.

My content didn’t really change. It has often been relative to motivation and the existential. If anything it became more relevant during lockdown to others, but perhaps less fresh to me. Because I had been dealing with working-from-home malaise for years, I had knowledge of it, when it felt like much of the world was just stepping into it.

FL: What advice would you give to those who are struggling to feel creative or inspired over the past year?

SN: Oh golly, I don’t do advice. I feel everyone is just surviving as best they can! Here’s some love instead of advice. You’re doing great. Considering the amount of uncertainty we have to deal with in life, you’re simply a miracle of togetherness.