Artwork and text by Tess Walker

I am a French-American and lived in Paris for the first half of my life. I did not have much exposure to the beach until I moved to New Jersey at the age of twelve. At the Jersey shore I discovered my love for the beach and how peaceful it made me feel. It is the one place where I feel most at ease.

Art was always a therapeutic activity for me, but I did not know how much it would save me during my darkest times. I found my love for art while in treatment for an eating disorder. I went through some difficult times, and realized it was time to seek help. I remember sitting in the treatment center every day and thinking, “Do I belong here?” Although it was where I needed to be to get help, I thought about signing myself out every day.

While I was in treatment I made artsy things for the other patients, doing so brought me a lot of joy. It was a difficult time for me, but my artwork was the one thing that helped me through. It continues to keep me going to this day.

Since my discharge, I have continued therapy, and I have consistently searched for ways to inspire and uplift others who might be going through dark times. These past months, I have developed an idea to connect with others through my art by merging the two things that bring me joy — art and the ocean. To share this with others I started hand painting colorful sea life, mermaids, animals, and inspirational quotes on seashells and randomly placing them on different beaches throughout the New Jersey shore for people to find. In hopes of spreading positivity, I posted the seashells on my Instagram @ColorfulSeashells. I received many positive comments and now people are reaching out to me for custom orders. So, my quest to help others has grown into a new business venture.

I am now a student, and will be attending Rutgers in the Fall as a Chemistry major minoring in art. I look forward to seeing where this artistic journey takes me. Everyone struggles at some time, and it is my hope and mission through my art to make one less person feel alone.

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