Touched By Fire Artist Profile: Erika Farkas

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Ottawa artist, Erika Farkas shares her thoughts around mood disorders, her work and the Touched By Fire program. 

Being accepted into the Touched By Fire show opened my eyes and made me realize that there is a wealth of talented artists and creatives out there who struggle in their daily lives, but who find comfort and release in the process of creating something meaningful and unique. 

I do indeed consider myself a Touched By Fire Artist, and I am proud to have been part of the exhibition. I discovered Touched By Fire by looking for venues and opportunities to display my art and was very excited to find out that it was organized by MDAO, for artists with mood disorders. Right away, I felt a strong connection to these artists, and I wanted to be part of the exhibition even though I in live in Ottawa, and unfortunately, due to scheduling, knew I wasn’t going to be able to personally attend. I advertised my participation in Touched By Fire on my website and Facebook page.

Having been accepted in a juried show such as Touched By Fire meant that my art has meaning and value not only for myself, but for others as well. I am a self-taught artist, and only recently started exhibiting my work in art shows. The positive feedback I received from jurors and others definitely helped my self-confidence, which due to my disorders, was never very high. I firmly believe that having been part of a juried exhibition outside my own city added considerable weight to my artistic reputation.

The most important thing about Touched By Fire is that artists afflicted with a mental illness or disorder are given a voice and the opportunity to be seen, heard, understood, appreciated, and supported, without the associated stigma that society at large is still placing on them. 

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder in my late 20s. I definitely feel that having been part of Touched By Fire, I put myself “out” with my mood disorders, which I only talk openly about with my family and friends. But why should I hide or deny them? My disorders are under control, I have raised a wonderful daughter as a single parent, finished university, and have a great career. My mood disorders will never go completely away, they are an integral part of who I am, and I learned to channel those unwanted emotions into artistic creativity that is both therapeutic and fulfilling.   

I am inspired by people’s faces. I have been told that my portraits have a strong emotional component. This is perhaps due to the fact that when I draw, I am not satisfied with a portrait until I can connect with it on a deeper level than with my hand holding the pencil. Perhaps as I draw, I am channelling my own fears and emotions into it without being aware that I am actually connecting with my own life force. At any rate, the connection is powerful and inspirational, and it doesn’t necessarily occur in relation to my mood disorders.

Images © Erika Farkas

My self-portrait entitled ‘Deep-rooted bittersweet memories” is for me a fountain of feelings, emotions and memories that I left behind, some good; some bad. I don’t like to dwell on past events, as those I cannot change. What I can do is gather all those deep-rooted memories and throw them into a deep well in my psyche. I don’t necessarily want to forget them, I just want to be able to look past them and realize that life is beautiful, precious and worth living.  

Since I started this creative journey in 2012, I’ve feel that I can cope with whatever life throws at me. I have completed more than 150 drawings, won 5 awards, and exhibited in numerous exhibitions. I had this creative passion building up for years in me, but I never took it seriously enough to act on it. That is why I urge anyone with a mood disorder who feels the need to share his or her passion, emotion, and talent with the world: don’t wait until you are 50 like me! Start early, pick up a pencil, a brush, or whatever medium or form of art makes you feel alive and create, create, create! Become a Touched By Fire artist like me and you may never feel alone and overlooked in your journey!

To see the work Erika submitted to Touched By Fire in 2013 and read her statement visit 

Find out more about Erika at