A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Quiet Day



This is J.P.'s cat Rosie. Sorry J.P. I tried painting the photo of her outside in the foliage, but it didn't come out, so I chose one of the other photos to work from. If you think it looks like her, I'll send you the painting.

Quiet day today and I didn't buy cigarettes. I thought about it, but I didn't do it. I'm trying to drink more water when I get anxious about it. I painted Rosie, then shot some photographs of myself and the landscape outside my house. I'm thinking of doing a self-portrait using more naturalistic colors and I'd also like to paint one of the landscape photos I took today. I'm still using watercolors and acrylic because they are water based and easy to clean up, but sometimes I miss working in oils. I discovered on About.com-painting that there are water-based oils. I have never heard of that. I would like to try them out, but no funds right now. Maybe after Christmas I can get a beginner set.

I was looking and reading through a book by a teacher of mine, Mary Beth McKenzie. The book is called A Painterly Approach and it came out in 1987 when I was taking her class at the National Academy Of Design in New York City. It's filled with beautiful photographs of her work with several demonstrations and a review of her process in pastels, oils and monotype printing. She writes well and I think I will re-read the book for guidance and even inspiration. I've returned to the images in this book repeatedly over the years because I'm drawn to her style which is sort of an abstracted realism with a focus on color. She an excellent draftsman and an excellent painter. She taught me several things, one being that the background is just as important as the foreground subject. Most beginning artists focus on the face in a portrait and neglect the background until the very end of the painting. I sometimes do this too. But the color you choose for the background will affect all the colors in the portrait. Also it's important to bring some of the background color into the foreground and visa-versa. If you don't the painting will lack a certain harmoniousness. One of the hardest things Ms. McKenzie tried to teach was not treating your oil painting as if it were precious. Instead she encouraged doing reconstructive surgery, so to speak, on the forms that weren't working. I did this yesterday in one of my acrylic paintings.

You can do these things with acrylic or oil painting because the paint is opaque and you can just paint over mistakes. Not so easily done with watercolors where colors are transparent and mistakes show through or colors get muddy when you paint over them too much. Watercolor is a different headset, many say more difficult. Even so, I enjoy switching from watercolor to acrylic and back again to vary my process and challenge myself.

It was partly cloudy today and cold and I turned up the heat for the first time this year. Snow will be coming soon. I hope I'm ready for another winter season. Last year I stayed home a lot to avoid driving because I was feeling some anxiety about driving after I skidded of the road one fall.
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