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.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

New Techniques, New Supplies and An Opportunity

Unfortunately, my first attempt to do a batik did not come out. I didn’t have the wax hot enough and so it didn’t block the dye from entering the pattern. I’ve taken this week off from it and will try again in a couple of days. In the interim I have been studying how to make decorative Celtic/Chinese knots for beaded jewelry. Some of the knots are quite elaborate. The author of the books I’m using, Suzen Millodot, suggested using a cork board to pin the cords while working, so I went out and got a moderate sized cork board that rests nicely on my drawing table. There’s also another technique she introduces weaving cords around a cardboard tube or glass to make a bangle. I was successful at making one of them. Getting the right cord to work with is difficult, so Ms. Millodot suggested buying white nylon cord in bulk from a hardware store and dyeing it different colors. I bought 170 feet of it and will use my dyes to color the cords.

I ordered more painting supplies: inexpensive watercolor and gouache paints, somewhat expensive egg tempera paints, inexpensive gessoed masonite boards and more expensive watercolor boards. They arrived yesterday and so yesterday I painted several paintings testing out the materials. I do not have experience painting in gouache and only a very little experience painting in egg tempera, but I wanted to expand my choices of water based paints. The gessoed masonite boards are not for watercolor but for acrylic, gouache and egg tempera, so I tried painting a portrait with the gouache but it only partially stuck to the surface. Very frustrating. So then I tried using the tempera and it stuck but I had trouble making it go on opaque. The colors are lovely though and I kind of like the consistency. I was painting blindly when it came to what colors to use because I was working from a black and white photograph by Jock Sturges. (I really like his work and also Sally Mann’s photography. I have a couple of their books. The pre-psychotic painting was based on a Jock Sturges photograph.) I left the painting unfinished because I liked it and didn’t want to overwork it. The surface is very delicate, so you’re supposed to spray it with a fixative and then varnish it. I’ll have to figure that out.

Then I moved on to gouache again, determined to get the feel for it. I used 140 lb watercolor paper and redid a portrait that I had done in watercolor the night before. I wanted to compare the two mediums. The watercolor was more delicate and obviously more transparent and the gouache was more dramatic and color saturated. Two very different orientations. With watercolor you work from light to dark, gradually adding washes of color, whereas the gouache, because it is opaque, you work from dark to light as you would in oils. I also want to try to combine watercolor and gouache in another painting. I will post the photographs of the paintings in the next posts so you can see the comparison.

On Friday Richard came over to mow my lawn. While he was mowing, I quickly neatened up and vacuumed the living room/dining room area because I wanted to invite him in and talk to him about my business idea of painting portraits of his high school soccer team. I showed him the paintings of his daughter, son, and mother-in-law and a few others. He thought it was a great idea and said that he was sure that the parents would go for the idea if he pushed it. He said he had a lot of pictures of this years seniors and he would get the pictures to me, five to ten to start and see what happens. He is also an administrative nurse at a Veterans hospital and was thinking about some business ideas of his own because he’s a photographer. He wants to take photographs of the vets and their loved ones and he thought I could also make paintings of the photographs, so they could choose what they wanted. He said he was sure they would pay for it. This is very good news.

I’m thinking about calling my portrait business Second Sight and having business cards made up. On the business cards I will put my name, a P.O. Box (which I will get on Tuesday), my phone number, my email address and a website address. I’m going to try using myspace as my website address and post photographs of my work, so prospective clients can check me out and make their decision. I would like to have the cards made up in time to include them with the portraits that I send to the parents. I’m also considering doing the portraits for donations and sending a self addressed stamped envelope with the portrait and card. That way people can pay what they can afford. It also gives people who do have money the chance to be generous if they so choose. My mother is not keen on that idea; she thinks I should be paid a set price, but I’m so new to business and to painting portraits that I don’t have the confidence to ask for a lot of money. I think I need some experience first. My initial goal is to get paid enough to just cover the cost of the supplies I use and then take it from there. But for me, to be paid anything will be such a boost for my self-esteem. So wish me luck.

(A few hours later...)

My living room/dining room feel better now that I have my drawing table and supplies close at hand, but the voices have been murmuring negativity from time to time today. I know I will have to fight for the right to be happy and creative. If the voices really are teachers, then I will have to listen when they murmur and look out to make sure my steps return to the right path. And what is the right path? Not succumbing to negativity by learning to redirect my energies to the productive. There was a time not long ago when I had very little motivation and that to me is the essence of depression. It is a very hard spot to be in because you can only minimally redirect your energies and have to sit longer with the negativity and the longer you sit with it, the deeper it sinks in. That’s why I used to get audiobooks and listen to them for hours while lying on my couch. It numbed the pain and made me engage in something outside of myself and it was very easy to do. Now times have improved, but I am still ill--in recovery, but not recovered yet. There are times during the day when I feel my difference from the mainstream of people and I still feel some regret, but I’ve learned to adapt to both the plusses and minuses of being a voice-hearer.

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