In her midtown apartment, Rosaura Unangst rolls out a sheet of white paper and paints thick, black letters in long strokes. She’s not just painting; her work goes beyond the aesthetic.
Unangst, 27, is passionate about spreading the message of the benefits of creating art.
“Making and creating things with your own hands is … a massively good thing you can do for yourself – health-wise, mind, body, spirit,” she said. “There’s something that just comes from (creating) … you don’t get from anywhere else.”
An artist since childhood, Unangst is the one-woman show of color and creativity behind Pigment & Parchment, her latest business venture. Through P&P, the painter/illustrator whose style charms with nostalgic feel offers custom cards, home and event décor, and other one-of-a-kind items. She also offers workshops in watercolor, hand lettering, and calligraphy in her aim to spread a love of learning.
For years, Unangst has experimented with mediums like illustration, watercolor, and collage. Some of her talents have a basis in formal teaching, and some from trial and error.
“I’m still learning and I hope to always be learning,” she said. “I’m a fan of just figuring out your own way … without following all the rules.”
While she’s run other art businesses, including a successful Etsy shop that specialized in custom caricatures, Pigment & Parchment allows for a wider definition of her art and offerings.
“I wanted something that could be broad enough that it could evolve with me as an artist,” she said, adding that choice came along with personal transformation and soul searching.
Last year Unangst enrolled in an intensive outpatient program through the Summit Eating Disorder Clinic to address her binge eating disorder. While she said she was skeptical of any “self-help” or therapy, when she learned more about eating disorders and realized she had a problem, she sought help quickly.
“I didn’t know (binge eating disorder) was a thing. There’s not a ton of education about eating disorders in our society,” she said. “I threw myself into the program and felt like I went back to college. … I’m glad I trusted it because it works.”
She describes herself as an “introvert and extrovert at the same time,” and explained she used to avoid events and face-to-face marketing opportunities. Now, she participates in GOOD: street food + design market, bridal fairs, and hosts her P&P workshops.
“That wouldn’t have happened prior to (therapy), and it didn’t,” she said. “Now that that shift has happened, it’s so amazing to see how big of a difference we make in our own lives – holding ourselves back, just by thinking we’re not worthy.”
Unangst touts art therapy because for years she’s used art that way. She laughs when she reflects on the angsty poems and collages pasted together in frustration of her teenage years. It took her participation in the therapy program to realize she’d been using art as a tool for healing all along.
She hopes her workshops will allow people to let go of their demons and gain confidence.
For Tanya Hibbard, the watercolor workshop she attended with her teenage son, Jacob, is literally therapy. After an accident six years ago, she began to have symptoms that resulted in a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury. The doctors told her to try all kinds of new things to help repair the damage her brain had undergone. She said she was resistant to try new things because she wouldn’t be good at them.
“In any kind of physical therapy that’s not the point,” Hibbard said, adding that she’s tried complex math problems, yoga, meditation, and Zumba. “It felt nice that (the workshop) was going to be with a group of fun, cool girls.”
“It’s really interesting to see – like watching a little fish tank of human interaction,” Unangst said, adding those who are bound to perfection or judgments have less fun with it. “I do try to challenge them so they eventually break out of that.”
In the long-run, Unangst would like to host art therapy group retreats, where people camp for a few days, make some art, and “talk about some stuff.”
She knows firsthand the power of art to heal, and wants to share that with the world.
“(Art) is my meditation, essentially. If I was a yoga person, it would be my yoga,” she said. “Seeing someone morph even a little bit is really awesome and really gives me hope in humanity.”
Meet Rosaura in this video interview.
Words and photos Kate Gonzales
Video Kate Gonzales and Andrew Hooper