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.

Friday, May 8, 2009

More Sketchbook Studies

I bought some watercolor pencils a few weeks ago, but just got around to drawing/painting with them. I like them almost as much as the Pitt pens, except with the Pitt pens I get to engage more in the sketch, the gesture of what I'm drawing which is liberating when it comes out right. But using the watercolor pencils is also an interesting mind set. First I do a detailed drawing, varying the pressure on the tip to get darker, denser colors or lighter to medium colors. The set has about 36 pencils, enough to have a good variety of colors, though there is no good Caucasian flesh tone ( I will have to practice combining colors to get a good flesh tone, Caucasian or otherwise). I know the denser I rub the pigment onto the paper, the more paint I will have to work with when I wet my brush, but lighter is good too for contrast and gestural marks. When I do paint I don't paint the entire surface, again for contrast and detail and variety. Some areas I paint only one color at a time, not mixing them with their neighboring colors and other areas I blend the colors. If I want to leave more of a sketchy feel, I don't put as much water onto my brush and I paint lightly. If I want a more painterly feel, I add more water. But the fun things is that I can do both, so it's sort of like I'm making a drawing/painting rather than just a painting.

I have a lot to learn about blending colors and manipulating techniques, but I think I'm off to a good start. In fact, I've been feeling quite good about the work that I've been doing. The next step will be to work larger and with more details and more planning. I don't work much with interior spaces, I usually focus in on the main interest. The real challenge is to work on a group image put in an interesting space. I think of how elaborate the Renaissance masters were when depicting either a religious and/or historical scene. It would be amazing to attempt to do a mere fraction of what they did. But really it's all good simple, gestural, direct or elaborate and painstakingly done and actually I think the best painting tend to combine the two approaches.

The artwork has given me a purpose in life, especially now since I've been working consistently for the past couple of months. On the days when I don't draw or paint I feel a bit hollow because I miss it. That's an excellent sign because it pushes me to pick up pen or paintbrush more often. I came upon a quote the other day by someone named Lee Simonson: "An artist has been defined as a neurotic who continually cures himself with his art." There are really three cures, the inspiration, be it a photograph or live scene or another painting, then the work itself which is both a meditation and a challenge and finally the artwork itself and looking at it. The period of illness for me is at the end of the process before I am inspired to search again for something meaningful to me. That's the point where I can get stuck in negativity. Sometimes I am afraid to surrender to the process again, afraid that I'll fail. This is foolishness because everything is practice and mistakes are good things because they point the way to eventual successes. Which is why having a sketchbook/journal is so important. It keeps you connected to the process instead of thinking about failure (or success).

There's another side, just as practical and that is the need to earn money to pay for supplies to keep working. That is the business/marketing side which I am only just starting to touch on now. There is a whole online marketing universe and it's no fad. Humans beings were made to be artists of one sort or another and the computer has given the layman access to so much. People are becoming fine artists and designers and songwriters and musicians and filmmakers and writers and craftsmen. It's extraordinary and exciting. But it also means there is a lot of competition. The good thing is that everyone is unique and there's room for everyone to try and sell their creations. But not all will succeed. The chances of success improve I think the more research you do and the more you apply the research to your creative work. So that's what I've decided to do--become an entrepreneur. I have some talent, I'm working on the skill part by increasing my artistic productivity and now to learn how to become a business woman of limited means with some mental handicaps to contend with each day. I'm not assured any success with this, but I would be foolish not to keep giving it a try. And if I fail, I still succeed because I'll still be an artist. But wish me luck anyway!
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