Mishka Winters is taking on the world!
The 21-year-old scratch artist, is trying out life as a professional creative, while studying Australian Sign Language and working as a taekwondo instructor.
Despite the heavy work load, Laverton local, Mishka isn’t backing away from new challenges. With the love and support of her family and friends, Mishka is learning to trust her talent, working alongside her twin sister (Steph), on their new business venture – Winters and Crown.
Coming off the back of her first exhibition at Favor & Grace in Laverton, as part of the Art and Industry Festival, Mishka is feeling a real sense of achievement:
“Having my art up on the wall for the first time. . . was really fun, and I felt very special. I would sometimes go to Favor & Grace for lunch with my sister, and look at the exhibits. Dale (owner of Favor & Grace) would talk to me and my sister about the art, and we told him that we did scratch art. He invited us to bring art for the Art and Industry Festival in November – we said yes straight away! I had only just started scratching out animals in October, so I had about a month and a half to scratch out as much as I could, to fill the wall. It was very stressful, but exhilarating at the same time. I was excited for people to see my work. The night was fantastic. My confidence boosted when I saw strangers look at my art and say how amazing it was. I felt very good inside.”
So, what is scratch art?
Scratch art is a medium, which involves a scratch board (or paper), and you have a special tool with a blade. The scratch board has 3 layers – first is the actual board, then a layer of white clay, and on top is a thin layer of black ink. Scratching through the black, reveals the white clay underneath.
Mishka had always enjoyed drawing, but discovered scratch art as a 15-year-old, “I was introduced to scratch art in art class, with my teacher Miss King. We had all of class time to scratch out whatever we wanted, but I knew that I wanted to save it and take my time with it, so I took it home. I decided to scratch out a picture for my favourite teacher, Mr Damon. When I gave it to him, I was very proud of myself, and to this day, it is still in his office.”
Despite a clear passion for all things art-related, a lack of confidence had Mishka considering a future in psychology. Creativity lingered, with Mishka experimenting with oil paintings, drawing and a continued interest in scratch art, “I would scratch out quotes and lyrics for my friend’s birthdays. I would give my paintings to my teachers and friends. I had never taken up art lessons, so all the pieces I had done were more of a trial and error. I came back to doing scratch art and my twin sister, Stephanie told me I should make a business and sell them as gifts.”
A bout of depression in Year 9, left Mishka feeling adrift, then during Year 12, life took a turn, “I developed schizophrenia and was put into hospital for a month. I knew my hopes of becoming a psychologist weren’t very high, so I had to let that go. It was a very hard time for me and my family. My relationship with my mum wasn’t the greatest, and I was losing friends.”
In the 3 to 4 years since diagnosis, Mishka has been in and out of hospital on 9 separate occasions. She has managed her illness through a combination of medication and appointments with her case manager, and is feeling positive, “My relationship with my mum and family is now better than ever, and I have a strong group of friends who support me and are always there for me. I still have a long way to go, but I’m already so far from where I used to be, and I am proud of that.”
With her sister’s continued encouragement, Mishka decided to pursue the idea of a small business and S for Scratch was born, “I was mostly just scratching out lyrics and quotes and simple drawings. For ages, I knew that I had wanted to be good at realistic pictures, but I was too scared to even try. After a year into the business, I thought that I needed to pick up my game and challenge myself. That was when I tried doing realistic animals. My first animal was a tiger, and I was actually quite happy with it. Then I tried cats and dogs.”
The response to her animal series has been overwhelming, yet Mishka is quick to play it all down, “The reason why I am currently only doing animals, is because I feel that it is much easier than doing human beings or flowers. With animals, they are covered in fur, so all I’m really doing is scratching out small lines. The hard part about it, is which direction to scratch (because fur can go any way), and knowing when to stop scratching, before you’ve scratched out too much and it just looks excessively white. People always mention how realistic the eyes look, and how hard that must be, but to be honest, I believe that scratching out the eyes is the easiest part. Yes, it involves more concentration and patience, but it’s a nice change when I’ve been repeatedly scratching out the same lines for about 10 hours.”
S for Scratch transformed into Winters and Crown, and the Nguyen sisters, (or Mishka Winters and Annie Crown, as they are known in the art world) are excited about what the future holds. Mishka is looking forward to creating more of her hyper-realistic scratch art works and participating in local markets, whilst hopefully finding more places to hold exhibitions. Finding the balance between art, studying and teaching taekwondo is difficult, but definitely worthwhile, “I am currently studying Australian Sign Language (AUSLAN), so I hope to become an AUSLAN interpreter, to help the deaf communicate with the hearing. One other thing I wish I could do, is to be an advocate for people with mental health issues. I want to inspire them to chase their dreams. I want to work at a psychiatric ward or youth centre and run art programs. To talk to different people and understand and relate to their struggles – to help them know that there are lots of other people in this world going through the same thing as them, and that they are not alone.”
Mishka is the very definition of inspirational. Much like the artwork she creates, there is much to be discovered, by simply scratching beneath the surface. She is humble and appreciative, knowing that life is not without its struggles, but with the love and support of her family and friends, there is nothing she cannot achieve, “I am very grateful for the people who are there for me, and I appreciate everything they do for me.”