On days when Jimmy Purkey isn't feeling like himself, he likes to head over to his art studio, squeeze some brightly colored paint onto a palette and go to work on his latest piece.

Purkey, 42, of New Salem, painting primarily in the style "chaos abstract," as he put it, has made art an integral part of his life as a therapeutic pastime. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 16. 

"When I get in moods I feel aren't good to be around people, I'll start painting and get it out on canvas or wood," Purkey said. "A lot of times it does work, it helps me break certain thought processes." 

With a passion for art and helping others with mental health struggles, Purkey donated $300 from his most recent gallery show to Community for Holistic Integration, an organization that hosts events all over central Pennsylvania, including in York County, Gettysburg and Harrisburg.

CHI, as it is commonly known, is a grassroots organization aimed at bringing holistic wellness through connection, education and integration. Purkey's donation will go to help fund its healing arts program. 

Purkey's most recent gallery show, which generated the money, opened Jan. 4 at The Parliament, 116 E. King St., and lasted three weeks. 

The show, titled "How does this make you feel?" invited patrons to browse his art and write on a sticky note how a particular piece made them feel. Throughout the duration of the gallery show, those sticky notes accumulated for others to see.

To Purkey, hearing how his art has touched others is the most worthwhile part of being an artist.

"There are a lot of people fighting their inner demons, and they quell those fights through art. Knowing you're not alone is the best thing ever," he said. 

Purkey, who first began painting in 2006, also participated in theater throughout school and was part of a local post-hardcore punk band, Mismo.

He decided to try painting and hasn't gone back since. 

"It's solely mine. I create what I create on my own," Purkey said. "And I leave the product up to interpretation by everyone else." 

— Reach Tina Locurto at or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.

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