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.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Working In The Quiet

It’s been so quiet lately. I’ve almost stopped watching TV, first because I wasn’t getting a signal for a lot of the stations and then because I wasn’t so interested in watching the programs or movies. In fact, some of the programs actually made me feel uptight. Then I was thinking that the satellite programming was so expensive and I could use the money each month for art supplies. It’s quiet also because I haven’t been singing much or listening to music or watching DVDs. Lately I seem to like the quiet when I’m drawing and painting and writing, though I do like to listen to something when I crochet or make jewelry. I’m talking into a tape recorder as a form of therapy and self friendship. It’s almost six months since I started doing that and I still recommend it. It makes me want to do a weekly podcast, maybe using excerpts from the tapes during the week, but I don’t know how to do a podcast yet.

My voice fills the void. I’m not exactly lonely and yet I seem to need to hear my voice and thoughts a couple of times a day. I figure why not speak out to the world or rather to a few people in the world once a week. I’ve listened to a couple of podcasters and their shows are very casual. I think it’s amazing how creative people can be with their computer and over the internet--words, music, photographs. If you want to be creative there’s a whole world out there in cyberspace. I’m only minimally aware of it, yet it intrigues me. It takes courage to write a blog or do a podcast or be creative in any way. And once you put yourself out there, you are really out there, warts and all. But that’s the way all of us are whether we can admit it to ourselves or not. Nobody is perfect. And that’s a good thing, it leaves room for learning and changing and what is “perfect” anyway? One person’s perfect is another person’s imperfect.

I tried working on a couple of portraits today. The first two attempts failed. The problem seems to lie for me in the surfaces I was working on. One was an 8” X 10” watercolor board that I found too small and the other was a 9” X 12” primed masonite board that I had painted over with white acrylic paint to see if the gouache would stick better to it. Nope. So I switched back to a 9” x 12” piece of 140 pound cold pressed paper and tried to do another gouache painting. I painted a middle tone over the paper, so I could work more easily from dark to light. Then I looked at a book by a teacher I studied with in New York City, Mary Beth McKenzie. She was illustrating a technique of hers where she first paints in gouache and then uses pastels carefully arranged often in cross hatching over the surface. Wow, she was and I’m sure still is, so talented and so brave. She has no qualms about using black to draw on her canvas or watercolor paper. She taught me more than any teacher since. I regret that I didn’t continue to study with her.

Anyway, I realized that I had acted too quickly when I put down a middle tone on the paper because when I looked at her illustration I quickly saw that she had left places untouched by the gouache to accent the highlights in the composition. She also approximated the colors of her portrait where I had just laid down a wash of one color. She stressed that when she taught, that you should try to get as close to the actual colors as you can and set up a relationship between colors and tones. And she’s absolutely right. No color exist in isolation. All colors are in relation to other colors. If you lay down a color that is not close to the reality, then you change all the relationships. I do this a lot, get lazy and don’t try to get the exact color and I predictably get lost and have to wing it. I did that on the Ronda gouache painting, but it came out all right anyway. Serendipity. Not intention. So much of good drawing and good painting is close attention, patience and practice.

So I went ahead anyway (no need to waste a good piece of paper) and tried to follow my former teacher’s instructions. I was doing okay, but she showed herself a master. I was moving along too quickly and I was overwhelmed by the choices of color. I have this large pastel box set that I got twenty years ago and never really used. It has three layers of pastels, a wide variety, but still I would have to approximate by blending several colors together. My portrait was starting to look more like a woodcut print than a painting or pastel drawing. It was kind of interesting and I felt some satisfaction to ease the disappointment of the earlier attempts, but now I have put it aside and will move on to something new tomorrow.

I meant to email several people today, but for some reason it’s messed up and I can’t send or receive email. So I have to call my mail service tomorrow and see if they can help me fix the problem.

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