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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

A Song And Journal Excerpts

As of Friday late morning I have high speed internet access and can download or upload much more quickly. I still can’t play video or in some cases audio and I don’t know why. My brother comes over tomorrow, maybe he can figure it out for me. I’ve said it before, but one of the drawbacks of self isolation is not having friends who can explain computer stuff to me. Otherwise, the man who set me up was very nice and it took less than a half and hour to do. I was so surprised and pleased. I had been expecting it to take hours.

I signed up with a podcasting host called Podbean for $5 a month. Now I have to figure out how to actually take an audio file, upload it to their site and send it out to both the blog and iTunes (I think?). Podbean seems very user friendly but I’m fairly clueless. Oh, I’ll learn; I’m determined to learn. I ordered a book today on how to use the GarageBand program to create songs and to podcast. I’m hoping to get it within a week.

I did make an audio recording using GarageBand, but very minimally--just me recording my introduction (which lasts about 9 and 1/2 minutes) and then me rambling for another 14 minutes. I need to get more organized and try again. I mean it sounds okay, but I’d like it to be a little better than just okay, preferably good and informative. And I’m tempted to include at least one of my songs. Maybe start the podcast with a song and then go into some talking. The song I think I’m going to use is called Ready and it’s about my friend Richard. I wrote it maybe 12 years ago and sang it close to that long ago, so the recording is old and not of very good sound quality, but it’s one of my better songs. Here are the lyrics:


(For Richard)

I’m ready to die
I’m ready to die, he said
It’s all over for me
Doesn’t matter ‘bout the kids and the family

He said my wife would be
Much better without me
I’ve got a two hundred thousand dollar
Life insurance policy

I’m just really tired,
Really tired and too poor
I’ve tried every angle I could think of
I can’t think of any angles anymore,
Not anymore.

My wife doesn’t give me
The affection that I need
She doesn’t understand that
That’s a very slow death for me,
For me.

I’d accept any miracle
Jesus Christ had to give but
I’m ready, I’m way too ready
I’m ready, I’m way too ready
I’m ready to die
I’m ready to die he said
I’m ready to die
I’m ready to die he said.

I mention Jesus Christ because Richard is a Born Again Christian and when he talked repeatedly to me about being willing to die, he was serious. He wouldn’t go so far as to kill himself (which he must consider a sin) but he was almost welcoming the end of his life and that really disturbed me. He’s one of these very creative, hard working types and it was out of character for him to speak about his death so plainly. I felt helpless to help him. I’ve never played him the song though...

I picked up and read from a journal the other day that dates from about a month after my last psychotic break in December of 2001. It’s surprisingly lucid and sensible. The first two pages contain lists of recovery behaviors like taking the anti-psychotic meds, going to my therapist and support groups, getting enough sleep, etc...and also of warning signs like the return of delusions and paranoia, the inability to concentrate when reading, talking aloud too much, etc... I remember that I kept the Al-Anon daily readers close by and studied them. I wrote: “Today I’ve been guided to keep the focus on myself. Instead of being codependent on my psychosis, I need to focus on my core problem which is codependence.” Before I became psychotic, I was codependent on the alcoholic in my life. I obsessed about him and his problems and avoided dealing with my own. I did the same thing after I became psychotic. I believed that I was telepathically connected to an eccentric rock star who eventually morphed into a serial killer. And I obsessed about him and again avoided looking closely at myself. I made another list prefaced by the question: “How do I keep the focus on myself?
1. When I take my medication
2. When I make sure to get enough sleep
3. When I make sure to eat regular, healthy meals
4. When I love the cats.
5. When I bathe regularly
6. When I relax and enjoy some of a movie or a book
7. When I meditate on goodness and good behavior
8. When I consult the I Ching as a spiritual/moral practice
9. When I write in my journal
10. When I make choices focusing on what I like rather than conforming to what others like
11. When I love my reflection in a mirror.

What I was doing was working a recovery program. I was in a very delicate state but I was determined to get healthier: “I HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT I’M SICK EVERYDAY.” And I did. I had to stop pretending that there was some higher purpose in my delusions. The higher purpose was in recovering from my delusions and not in fostering them.


“And we don’t see clearly what is going on while it is going on. It is as though we are in a fog.” (Codependent’s Guide To the Twelve Steps, p.15, Beattie)

This is how I’m feeling now--just beginning to come out of the fog. It’s frightening to see how lost I’ve been in my sickness. Seeing but not seeing--I think I’ve been aware of some level of my blindness--in the beginning of the psychosis I said “I’m flying blind.” And even so, I’ve been held and guided throughout it all. If I hadn’t been guided, I would be dead. That’s how important it is to rely on a higher spiritual power. I’m still very detached, but I believe i will begin to remember my more painful moments with enough of a balance to work through the pain and release it.


After I read that journal, I read the next journal. Then I gathered up all my journals, organized them and put them on a shelf. I’m going to gradually go through them and pick out quotes and write responses to those quotes. The goal is to make a Journal Book of my life from just before I became involved with an abusive alcoholic all the way through the worst of the schizophrenia and up till now. It might also be a good way to organize some of my blog entries.

I got a bit depressed after reading the journals, but that’s to be expected. It’s not easy going back in time to painful moments. But I do think it will be worth it to try and understand some of what I went through and share it with you. Maybe you will find parallels in your own life or with your loved ones.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reaching Out

I woke up three hours late today and when I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror I saw that my left eyelid was swollen. I looked lopsided and unattractive, not an auspicious start to my day. I wrapped some presents for my uncle because his birthday is early next week and went to the post office to mail them off. When I got home I made a decision to call my phone company to see if I could get high speed internet service as well. Using the telephone became hard for me sometime after I became ill. I have a fear of talking to strangers and appearing awkward, but I’ve been wanting to get high speed internet service for the past 6 months and my desire for it outweighed my discomfort, at least temporarily. So I called and went through a rather uncomfortable 20 minutes talking to the sales representative.

Her named was Anna and she was very serious and businesslike, a little curt, but ultimately patient. I felt like an idiot. I couldn’t even give directions to my house. I didn’t know what kind of long distance service I had. She wanted me to send her either a fax or an email of my current internet provider’s bill, so that I could take advantage of a special promotion that would save me money. I had no idea how to email the bill or how to fax it. She remained silent while I fumbled for words. Eventually we got through the call. She set up an all day appointment for the service people to come and set me up this Friday.

After the call, I continued to feel very foolish and restless. Depression set in and I lay down to take a nap. The nap lasted about 3 hours and when I woke up I still felt down. I knew I had to change my attitude, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I would reach for a book, then put it down, or get up and go to the kitchen to get some food and then stop and head back for the couch, sit down, stand up, feel befuddled. This is a sign of depression for me, when I can’t make up my mind. I feel as if each choice I make will somehow hurt me. Eventually I sat down in front of the computer and started writing this blog entry.

I am a few steps closer to doing a podcast, but it’s not going to be easy. Well, setting it up might be easy enough, but actually speaking for 20 to 30 minutes will be harder. I can understand why people interview other people on their podcasts; it’s hard to be interesting all by your lonesome. I thought it would be easier because I’ve been talking into a tape recorder for over 6 months now and I can do that pretty well without boring myself. Now I’m talking into a microphone and recording it on GarageBand, a Mac audio program for making podcasts and/or your own music. It’s a very different experience than talking into a little tape recorder. For one thing, my voice is amplified when I put on the headphones and that makes me feel very self-conscious. For another thing, without a topic and some notes to follow I get lost and then stop talking and then there’s this gap in the recording. But basically I need to have something worthwhile to say.

Making the first podcast is the hardest part because I feel the need to introduce myself and tell some personal things about myself. I’m going to call the podcasts--Yin And Yang Radio, but I feel silly saying that too. I’m going to say it anyway because I want to keep the podcast connected to my blog Yin And Yang and I need to call it something. I went online and did some research on how to do a successful podcast. The advice I got was, don’t use music and/or video as filler (though I would like to include a couple of my songs here and there sometime) and that people downloaded the podcast to listen to you say something, so stick to saying something interesting. Also when you stop having something to say, end the podcast, don’t try to stretch it out for another 10 minutes. The advice was also to include your friends because one person talking can get dull. Me, I’m going to have to fly solo in the beginning. Once I get used to it I might coax my brother into letting me interview him.

But before all that I would like to have high speed internet access, so I’m praying that whoever comes tomorrow with be able to hook me up. I would like to listen to more podcasts and learn from them. My podcast will be a rank amateur recording, but that’s okay. I just want to gradually break out of my self-imposed isolation and this seems like an interesting way to try and do that. I want to share my story and try to reassure people that the stigma of mental illness doesn’t have to stick and that people can and do start to recover usually after acknowledging their illness, seeking help and becoming med compliant. In some ways I want to follow Christina Bruni’s lead in sending out a message of hope. I particularly want to support those who are suffering from acute psychosis, to let them know that I have been where they are and that I believe in their ability to get through the worst of their illness.

I’m not sure why I’m so determined to do a podcast. When I was acutely ill I lived in such isolation, stumbling upon a podcast by someone who suffers from schizophrenia could have opened up my perspective and given me a lot of comfort. Actually hearing someone say: take the meds, might have gotten me to take the meds sooner. I’ve talked about starting a support group, but I never got the courage up to do it. I’ve been afraid to talk to people, but here alone in my house, I might be able to finally reach out to others. Even if I fall flat on my face, I need to give this a try. There’s something magical about talking, it has the power to heal when treated practically and positively. It will be good for me and maybe good for others and that’s the best reason I can think of to do it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

An Abstraction

I've been looking at so much representational artwork lately, my own and others, I thought it would be a nice change to post an abstract painting I did several years ago. I did a series of them on the floor,unstretched, using enamel house paints and it was a lot of fun. I'm tempted to try to do some abstract watercolor paintings after looking and photographing these older paintings. I was influenced before by Klee, Kandinsky and a more modern artist named Joan Mitchell (not to be confused with Joni Mitchell who is both a singer/songwriter and a painter). I will look at Klee more closely because he has done some amazing abstractions using watercolor. Browsing through the Artid artist blogs and looking more closely at their work makes me want to engage more deeply in the looking and creating process.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Quick Response

A little while ago I got an email from Mr. Rutledge apologizing for the delay. I don’t know if he responded because of my modest rebuke or because he just happened to have the time to return my emails. Perhaps I was too hasty in rebuking him. It turns out that they will have multiple bloggers for the schizophrenia community which was the main thing I wanted to know. I didn’t feel qualified to be the only blogger on the subject which is why I recommended Pam and Chris. They will also have communities dedicated to Bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. At this juncture I am definitely willing to give it a try as long as I am free to write what I want. He says I will retain the copyright for my writing while giving them permission to publish my blog entries on their site. There are no hard and fast rules about writing, just that I do write and post. Otherwise, he left me no new instructions and so I guess I will wait until they are ready to start up their communities. I tried to set up a profile on Wellsphere, but it won’t accept my password, so I will try to apply again and see what happens.

I probably should feel foolish, but I don’t really. It is a fair deal--they get all my blogs dating back to November 2006 and then get my new blogs for their site and I get more exposure to people who might benefit from reading some of my writing and who might help me in my recovery as well. I only regret that I wasn’t a bit more patient with the process and that I jumped to a conclusion. For that, I apologize.

Now I am rereading my blog entries to see if I want to keep all of them as is. Also, I haven’t put labels on all of the entries, so I have to do that as well and then post the labels so people can get to the subjects they are interested in. That will take a week or so if I’m diligent. But the idea that more people will read my writing is enough to motivate me. So, I’m back to being excited about it. I think it will also help me personally to stay more stable and accessible to others. I hope so anyway.

A month ago I discovered somehow (I forget how) that my blog was listed on a site called “Blogged”. On this site editors and people in general rate individual blogs that have been organized into categories. I don’t know if someone chose my blog to be part of their listings or if it was just picked up along the way. It wasn’t rated. But I looked and found Chris’ personal blog, Nancy’s blog and also beautiful mind’s blog listed, but not rated yet. So I decided to join and start looking through their blogs to find ones that interest me. I will be inviting Chris, Nancy and beautiful mind to check it out. I did not see Pam’s blog, but will be recommending it to them as well. I put in a request for the editors of the site to review my blog. That could take up to two weeks because they get a lot of requests. It just struck me as a neat system for finding the strongest blogs out there on any number of subjects. If you want to see for yourself, click on the “blogged” link.

Today I was trying to figure out how to do a podcast through iTunes. Too much information confused me, so I’m going to go to the Blogger help pages and see if they write about it more clearly. Part of the drawback to being a recluse is that I don’t have handy friends to teach me how to use my computer. But one of these days I want to include a weekly or every other week podcast with this blog or on iTunes if possible. It would be a challenge for me and a way to cut through my self imposed isolation. Now I have to think of topics to talk on and tape myself. So far, I’m comfortable talking to myself on tape, but I haven’t tried to do it with an audience in mind. The first step is to organize my ideas and write good blog entries.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Modest Rebuke

A good week followed by a not as good week, but not a terrible week by any means. The main thing that I have found to be upsetting is that Geoff Rutledge from Wellsphere never returned my emails. In my first email to him I accepted his offer to become a featured blogger. I then went on to ask if there would be other bloggers blogging on schizophrenia and mentioned Pam and Chris. I did say that they were more accomplished than me because Pam has co-written a book and has been blogging longer than I have and Christina writes both a personal blog and professional blog for Health Central as well as being a full time librarian and an advocate for NAMI. I went on to ask some questions and to thank him once again for the opportunity. A week went by and no word from him. So I sent him a second short email reaffirming my interest and asking him to reply. Then Chris left a comment on this blog saying that this man from Wellsphere had gotten in touch with her. This is the only way I knew that he had even gotten my email in the first place. Very awkward. Not that it’s surprising that Mr. Rutledge would prefer to have Christina working for his company because she is outstanding, but that he didn’t have the courtesy to inform me, hurt.

It’s okay if I am not a featured blogger for Wellsphere, but he shouldn’t have offered the position to me in the first place without being certain that I was whom he wanted. I truly thought that he had not only thoroughly checked out my blog, but had checked out my favorite links (which includes Chris’ site and Pamela’s blog). To my mind, he was the only one at fault here. He may have acted ambitiously, but not well. Disappointing and a bit humiliating to have my writing called “fantastic” and then to be ignored. Politics at play. I guess I was impressed by the man’s credentials (I had checked him out online to see if he was legit). Teaching and practicing at Harvard and Stanford medical schools are not little accomplishments and he also had done some other rather outstanding things in the online community. I decided he was a very capable person and knew what he was doing. And so I was honored. I told my online friends and I told my therapist and I felt pleased with myself.

Perhaps some people get ahead by stepping on the little guys. It’s certainly not an unheard of notion. But sad. Beware of ambition. Stand by higher values, and be willing to let opportunities go that might compromise your sense of self worth. At least here, within my small sphere, I am free to write as I see fit and that means a great deal to me. I may not reach a large audience, but I don’t need to. Maybe I touch the lives of a few and that is a good thing in itself.

Otherwise, I have been uploading work to Artid and painting. My painting is uneven which is as it should be because I haven’t been doing it seriously for long. It’s just great to have some people look at my work. I like having business cards, but I’m thinking that I should take the summer to practice painting portraits before I promote myself locally. I was going to say that maybe I jumped the gun, but really, no. I am not a great artist and I have much to learn, but I’m good enough to try to paint portraits for others and that is what I’m doing. And I’ll tell you, getting photographs from people is like a breath of fresh air. I live such an isolated life and these photographs give me a precious glimpse into other people’s worlds. My therapist is away on a trip to europe (her first time) and I asked her to take photographs of her husband. And I’ll continue to say it to everyone: please send me photographs either by email (wanderjahr@infoblvd.net) or mail (PO Box 805/ Alfred N.Y. 14802).

I painted a portrait of Nancy’s almost grown-up children (the photograph I worked from was five years old) and she did not like it. I hadn’t gotten the proportions of their faces correct. And the painting itself was too tentative. She was right. She said that maybe it needed to be reworked. Unfortunately, with watercolor, that’s difficult to do. What I need to do is try again and work harder on both getting the drawing more accurate and the painting more fluid and confident. I also should try switching to acrylic which is a more forgiving medium which I might do because I really like the photograph. Her children looks so loving towards each other. Nancy wanted to make sure that I was okay with her being honest and I definitely was. Without honest critiques my work will go nowhere. And I have to be able to handle criticism if I’m going to pursue portraiture. Some people will like my work and others will not and that is just reality.

But for a little while my voices reacted to the stress of not having done a good job. Luckily, it didn’t last long and I am free to move on which I shall. Now, when the voices get restless or fixated on the word “Evil” I can step back from them. The negativity doesn’t stick so much. I believe this is due to the combination of taking the anti-psychotic medications and my own particular brand of working it through by pulling myself towards the positive once again. I acknowledge what’s wrong, either in my circumstances or in my way of thinking, and then I acknowledge what’s right. I don’t just sit with the negative. When I can’t find so much positive, I take a nap. Letting go consciously allows me time to work it through my unconscious, gives me a break and sometimes after I wake up I’ll have a different, better perspective. I remember that when I was in the acute stages of psychosis I would get obsessive like a dog with a bone. Now I let go of the bone and take a few steps back.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Good Week

I’ve had quite a good week despite having bats in the house. On Tuesday evening I discovered an email that I had overlooked from a man named Geoffrey W. Rutledge MD, PhD. He wrote: “....I’ve taught and practiced Internal and Emergency Medicine for over 25 years at Harvard and Stanford medical schools. I’m also the Chief Medical Information Officer at Wellsphere (www.wellsphere.com), where we are building a network of the web’s leading health bloggers, and I think you would be a great addition. Wellsphere is a fast growing, next-generation online platform that is revolutionizing the way people find and share health and healthy living information and services. Our platform connects millions of users with the valuable insights and knowledge from health leaders and knowledgeable writers like you.” He was inviting me to be a featured blogger for their soon to be launched Schizophrenia community.

I thought about it for a couple of days and asked for input from Nancy, Pam and Christina. Nancy said it sounded good but to talk to Chris, Pam said--go for it and Chris, well, I had forgotten that this was the week she was going to be very busy going to the NAMI convention in Orlando, Florida. Eventually I thought, how often does an opportunity like this come along to get my writing read and to support other people? Not often, and so I wrote back to Geoff and accepted. I mentioned Pam and Christina in my email to him, saying that they were also excellent choices for blogging. I haven’t heard back from him yet. I joined Wellsphere, but, for some reason, my password keeps getting rejected, so I’ll have to contact someone. All I know is that it is a legit corporation and that it is widespread. There are people relatively close by to where I live who are members. And so I wait and see...

This week I was struggling with wanting to write a blog to introduce myself on Artid. My therapist counseled me to not reveal that I suffer from schizophrenia and Jeni, Nancy and Chris all agreed. But it just didn’t sit right with me. Meanwhile I had introduced Pam to the site and she joined; without any hesitation she revealed that she suffered from schizophrenia. She also proudly said that she was one of the winners of a NAMI art contest. And I was proud of her. She made it look so simple and natural and so I decided that I would also reveal that I suffered from schizophrenia. It just felt like the right thing to do. And so I did and asked for members of the Artid community to respond to the question of whether or not I ,or any artist, should hide basic truths about themselves to clients.

To my surprise five people responded and all with words of encouragement. You can read what they wrote by clicking on the Artid link I’ve listed in my favorite links section of this blog and then clicking “Blog”. I printed out a copy of their comments because I would like to make a response to each of them and also I would like to show it to my therapist on Monday. It’s such a weight off my shoulders to be honest and I will be glad to be honest with my local community, regardless of whether they respond to me or not. I know a certain percentage already know that I suffer from schizophrenia. I told several teachers while at school and I told my brother that he had my permission to tell his friends if he wanted to. I want people to know why I am so withdrawn. It’s not because I dislike people and it’s not because I think I’m better than others, it’s because I have a mental handicap which makes me somewhat eccentric, but not hateful.

I really believe that stigma can’t be lessened unless more people with mental illness are open and honest about it. I actually think that being that way is reassuring to some people instead of frightening. It’s the odd person who says nothing who is going to be more the object of fear and/or scorn. Also, regardless of what I believe about my voices, I know this is a physical illness and should be treated as a medical condition and not something to be ashamed of. This is my opportunity to take a stand and perhaps make a small difference in my community. And generally, I’ve found people are more receptive than some would think. Not all people, but I have to take the good with the bad and teach myself to be tolerant of those who are not tolerant themselves of others with differences and weaknesses.

Another plus this week is that Nancy bought the gouache of Ronda and she also sent me photographs of herself and her familly. Thank you Nancy! She is turning into a great email companion and she’s been so supportive of me by encouraging me to paint. And yesterday, as you can see by the previous post, I painted the portrait of her father and niece which I will send off to her on Monday. I happened to get one of the how-to watercolor portrait books on the same day as I got her photographs and that helped to inspire me to paint right away. It is worth knowing other artist’s techniques and applying them. As I go through the book I see what I have already learned somewhere along the line, but I also get all this great information on things I didn’t know like underpainting with a cool color in shadow areas before laying on a wash of flesh coloring makes the painting start to come alive. I have a lot to learn and this is good.

Oh, and I got my business cards and they look good, no mistakes. I sent some to Nancy when I sent her the painting and I will give some to my brother to hand out to his friends. I’m hesitating over whether to post them in the post offices and other places right now. I might wait until the end of August or September after I’ve gotten some practice painting portraits in quantity. I still haven’t heard from Richard about getting photographs of his soccer players, which I would really like, so I don’t know whether he’s changed his mind or not. What I need are photographs, lots of photographs to work from. Maybe my brother will encourage his friends to give me some. That would be excellent. I love photographs and I love paintings, but getting a photograph from someone is like a window into their life and it’s magical to paint a portrait of that. So send me photos!

And wish me luck getting the bat out of the house---again!

Nancy's Family

I painted this watercolor portrait of Nancy's father and her niece practically as soon as I got the photograph. It was a very enjoyable experience and I hope you enjoy it as well.

Bat In The House

Last night at around 4 AM I woke up to see something flying by my bathroom light. I thought, “Is there a bird in the house?” But then I thought it was more likely to be a bat by the way it was flying. I got up but didn’t turn on any lights and watched this flying creature swoop up and down. I then turned off the ceiling fan, not wanting the bird/bat to get hurt. Then I put the cats in the back room with me and promptly fell asleep. For some reason I just wasn’t ready to try to get the critter out of the house. I slept fitfully worrying in my sleep about what was happening outside my bedroom. The following day I tentatively went out and started looking for signs of the bird or bat, but found nothing, so I let the cats out and got on with my day. I was pretty certain by then that it was a bat because bats are nocturnal. I figured that it found a niche somewhere out of sight and hunkered down for the day. I was pretty sure that I would see it sometime later that night. And right I was. Soon after I turned the lights down the bat came out and began swooping throughout the living room beneath the ceiling fan. So I grabbed the cats and put them away and promptly opened the front door. I watched the bat as it kept flying in a circle hoping it would catch the feel of the cool air coming from the doorway. I sent out a little prayer and out it went.

I’ve only had a bat in the house once before, years before I became actively psychotic. That time I got to see it hang upside down from some curtains. I got it out of the house pretty quickly that time. This time I felt a certain sympathy with the trapped animal knowing it had patiently waited to make its bid towards freedom again. And to free a caged creature is a very good feeling, even if there was a twinge of fear of the bat in it as well. I was glad that the mini ordeal was over and the bat was happily back in its home--the wide open night sky.


(A couple of days later) I wish I could say that the bat problem is solved, but just last night another bat (or the same bat?) got into the house through my woodstove pipe which has no screen around it on my roof. I think it is still in the house though I tried to give it an out by leaving the front door open, but I didn’t see it go out, so after a while I shut the door and decided to wait until tonight to try again. It’s unnerving though waiting for the bat to wake up and start flying around. If this keeps up, I’ll have to ask someone to put a screen around the pipe on the roof so the bats can’t get in. I’m not surprised that they are drawn to it. I never use it and it’s a dark, safe place, except once you’re in you’re stuck. It’s not wide enough to allow for the bat to fly up and out, so into my living room it comes.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Second Sight Logo

This is the image I'm using on my business cards. I also posted it on Artid though this version is cropped.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Business Cards, Brushes and Blogs

I ordered my business cards yesterday. They should arrived in 8-9 days. I also ordered magnets with all my info and an image on them. I think that’s a good advertising tool. So I’m officially calling myself Second Sight Portraits and I am officially promoting myself as an artist. It’s taken me long enough. I’ve been uploading a lot of my artwork--paintings, drawings and photographs--to Artid and I have more to go, but most of it is work I’ve done five to ten years ago. So I’m eager to get the photographs of the high school soccer players from Richard and start work. I have a feeling that I’ll probably do a couple of portraits of each photograph I get, one in watercolor and another in gouache or acrylic.

I went over my budget today and ordered three rather expensive watercolor brushes. I think they are definitely worth investing in. The brushes I have now are not very good. I was reading an article about a watercolor artist who uses just one sable brush. I checked out how much it cost and it was over $100. Wow! But he does really good work with his one brush. And if you take care of the brushes they can last for a very long time. His brush is a number 16, large enough to do washes but with a fine point to the tip to do detail work. So I’ll have a few good brushes and good watercolor paper--Strathmore and Arches, but my watercolors are mostly inexpensive, though I do have some tubes of Grumbacher which are good quality. I’m also picking up two books on how to paint watercolor portraits. They are basic books that I will use to strengthen my portraits. Right now, I’m just painting by instinct rather than by conscious technique. So sometimes I get it somewhat right and other times I’m way off because I’m not sure what it is I’m doing. I need a lot of practice.

I haven’t written an Artid blog yet. Well, actually I did but it got lost when I tried to upload an image. Frustrating. I didn’t write about schizophrenia, though I kind of wish that I could, but I did write about why I thought a lot of artists don’t blog on that site. How much does an artist reveal about him or her self to prospective clients? If it were just artists writing to other artists, you could be less reserved, more personal, but this is a public, professional blog. Still, I’m itching to write something. What do I say? How do I introduce myself? I haven’t been a dedicated artist over the years and have only just returned to it recently. I can’t say that can I? But my work does say something, even if it’s not in one consistent style. I’ll be speaking to the people in my community and I feel self-conscious. Perhaps I’m doing too many things at once. I’m just so excited to show my work to family, friends, the other artists and people passing through, but at the same time I’m trying to start a local business. Can the two mix?

I don’t know, but I can always change it by putting images in what they call the “warehouse” and not displaying them. For now, I’ll continue to display what I’ve got for a while till I get the business cards and start to promote Second Sight. Then I want to display more portraits, which means that this week I have to spend some time painting them. Maybe I’ll be able to paint another 5-6 portraits and put them in another “gallery” space. That would make me feel better. That’s the cool thing about this space, new work keeps changing things. So hopefully the space won’t always be static. My hope is that I finally become a dedicated artist and grow into my own style.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


On Friday I bought some art supplies and a magazine called American Artist Watercolor Highlights. I grabbed it at the last minute only realizing later that it cost a whopping $9. Turns out it was worth it, not only because the magazine had some interesting articles, but because it led me to an online site called artid (pronounced art-eye-dee). Artid.com is a marketplace for all kinds of artists, most especially painters. You can display photographs of your work in galleries, six images to a gallery and if you choose, you can offer to sell the works represented via Paypal or eBay. It’s inexpensive and very convenient. Included in the package is a personal blog and here’s where I get stuck: do I reveal that I suffer from schizophrenia to the people at that site and potential customers?

I’ve been revealing myself here since November of 2006, but not with my full name and not with my family or neighbors reading it. That’s the difference. This space, because it is only visited by a few people, is my public private space, but artid is a public space. I have to get used to that difference.

The prices for individual works of art range anywhere from under $200 to over $2000. I put the Ronda paintings up for sale for $20 each (no matt, no frame). I mean, I’m just starting out and my confidence level in my work is not that high yet, but it shouldn’t be, I’ve only been back to painting for a month or so. But it is fun looking at other artists’ work. There’s quite a variety in styles and techniques and price, too. I have a lot of exploring to do.

What I haven’t been doing enough of is drawing/painting. I asked Pam to email me a photograph of herself, which she did, and I just can’t capture her face yet. I’ve tried 3 times. Then I discovered artid and spent my time checking that out, then my brother came over for the day and night to use my computer (his is unfixable right now and he needs a new one). I felt self-conscious working in front of him, though I did manage to do a small, simple painting of my Nana (my mother’s mother, gone for quite a while now). I have to keep reminding myself that it is the process that is most valuable and not the product. And that’s really true when I think about it. I mean I like looking at work I’ve completed fairly successfully, but not for too long. I need to move forward.

Quite a while ago I painted a self portrait on a 32” x 28” canvas. I responded to it only moderately and so I decided to cover it up with primer and start over again. That’s what I did. Now I’m trying to figure out what to paint. It’s an awkward size, somewhere between a square and a rectangle. I’d like to just do some painted studies on it and not worry about it becoming a finished painting.

(Next day...) I just saw my therapist. I told her about artid and asked her advice on whether or not I should reveal that I suffer from schizophrenia. She said definitely not. She said I should separate my private life from my professional life. But I don’t know how to do that. I’ve never had a professional life and I’ve been ill one way or another for quite a while now. A part of me wants to take on stigma by being upfront about my illness, but I can’t really do that until I’ve become successful at something. Right now, I’m just starting out. It’s weird though, I feel like not being upfront about my illness is somehow a form of lying. I doesn’t quite sit well with me. Or is it I don’t know how to have an identity apart from seeing myself as mentally ill?

The other issue is that my friend Richard is really helping me out. He’s trying to start a photo business and he’s also found a website to display and sell his work. He’s said he’d be happy to refer some of his customers to me by having a link to me on his website. That plus he’s willing to convince the parents of his soccer team to buy my portraits. Now, would me revealing that I suffer from schizophrenia put him in a difficult position? Now, that would stop me because I do not want to hurt him or his chances in any way. He’s been very good to me and my brother for over 20 years.

Well, it looks like I won’t be writing about art and schizophrenia except here and I guess that’s okay. I just have to give this being a professional thing a chance and see what happens.

I got my P.O. Box today, so I can finally have business cards made up. Now I have to photograph my artwork and upload the pictures to artid. I’ve uploaded only 7 images so far. I also need to start picking out work to matt. I have to remember that building a business takes time and not get discouraged when I don’t get done all that I want to get done.