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, April 25, 2009

Red Wheel Joy Ride

I had a successful day painting today mainly because I got some new 24"x30" canvas boards to paint on. This is my fourth acrylic, abstract, expressionist painting. I plan to do eight more so that I can use the images to make up a calendar on the Zazzle site.

After I've finished a painting, I sit and just stare at it, looking for identifiable images within the painting. In this painting I found a blue figure (blue head and torso) with outspread arms riding on a mountain bike or motorcycle with a red wheel in the countryside, hence the title to this blog entry. Don't worry if you don't see it because it's not that obvious and you may see other images within this painting if you look at it closely. But I do find that my more successful abstract paintings have images or scenes within them.

So far in this series I'm sticking with starting a painting with Mars black acrylic paint to get a base design/drawing down. Once I get past the initial stage of facing down the white canvas with the black paint and spreading the design across the entire canvas, paying attention to the corners, then I begin laying down bold colors, filling in or covering over the black marks. Much of the process is intuitive. I choose colors quickly when I paint and then step back and study the color relationships using my imagination to fill in a new color in a new position to test out what I will paint next.

I like working on the canvas boards, though I find myself wishing that I could afford to frame them, so that I could hang them on the walls. Right now I live with about two of them at a time, one on my easel and one propped up on a chair. I'm not sure why, but I am fond of three out of the four abstract acrylic paintings. There's courage in the choice of colors and a commitment to the painting process that I find refreshing. I let myself be impulsive and trust that my instincts will guide me. I look at the whole canvas and don't get hung up on one part, don't get overly precious. In fact, I find it a sign that the painting is going well when I can take one color and go over broad areas, covering up marks that I was becoming too attached to. I have to push myself a little to do that, take the chance of going in a weaker direction. I learned this technique from a painting teacher, Mary Beth McKenzie. She would come to each student's canvas individually, take her paint brush, dab it in black or dark blue and proceed to correct the proportions of a portrait with decisive strokes and life would spring into the image. Some people would get disturbed by her approach, but I looked forward to it. Courage, repetition, decisiveness and close study of color. She was the best teacher I ever had.

A couple of days ago I picked up a few more quarts of colored enamel house paint, now I have enough to paint on the floor on primed, but unstretched canvas. I did this about four years ago in art school. I was inspired by both Jackson Pollack and Joan MItchell (though I believe Mitchell painted on large sheets of primed canvas tacked to the wall). It's been a while, but it's a whole different feel to paint flat on the floor with large paint brushes. There's such a feeling of energy in it.

I also began working on a new song today. I even added harmony to the two stanzas I came up with and recorded it on my portastudio, which I haven't done in a long time. I am cautiously returning to songwriting and singing, a little bit here, a little bit there. So far, the voices have not been attacking me for it and I'm able to sing with some feeling. That's a relief.
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