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, June 25, 2015

My Art Process & The Higher Power

This is a drawing I did yesterday with rapidiograph pens and markers.  I drew it for a childhood friend because I had emailed her photos of a couple of other drawings done in this style and she wrote back that they were "delightful" and reminded her of the artist Paul Klee.  These types of drawing are so very different from my generally realistic drawings and paintings, but that is part of the fun of it, experimenting with a variety of styles and mediums.  When I start a drawing like this I do no prep work, but just begin to make marks on a page to see where I will go.  After I've laid down the black and white drawing, I go on to choose colors one by one to color in certain sections.  Again, there is no plan.  I pick colors intuitively and see how the colors I've laid down interact with each other and then just keep going.  Usually it winds up becoming some strange, fanciful world that I can enjoy visually, but cannot interpret.  This approach is a lot of fun, but each time it takes courage to lay the first mark down.  I'm hoping that I continue the practice.

I've been trying to get myself to draw and paint more within the last few weeks and have been having only partial success.  Over the last several months I have bought a lot of art supplies, initially because I gave my older supplies to a friend last year who was interested in making art at a time when I had lost interest, and then because I was finding good deals at an online store called Dick Blick and found myself unable to resist.  Earlier this year I had painted a couple of seascapes based on photographs I found on Google.  I used a new medium -  water based oils.  I had heard of them years ago and was curious.  Could they measure up to regular oil paints?  I had switched from oils to acrylic because I work in my living room and my six cats roam around and demand attention while I'm working.  I didn't want them around the paints or the turpentine, etc...  I also worked with watercolor and gouache for the same reason.

I found as I used the water based oils that I really liked them, more than the acrylics I had been using.  The seascapes, painted on 10" x 10" canvases, came out well.  Then I went down to Florida with my brother to clear out my father's apartment because he had been moved permanently into the nursing home.  That was emotionally exhausting and when I returned I wasn't ready to start painting again.  Then I got the urge.  I bought a standing easel, put it together and kept it in my living room.  I picked out another seascape to paint and then found I couldn't do it.  So I turned to my watercolor pencils and drew this:

It didn't come out the way I had hoped.  It was pleasant enough, but still not what I wanted.  I wanted to use the oils and felt blocked.  That's why I turned to the rapidiograph pens and markers and colored pencils, going in an entirely different direction.  That's good, too and, for now, I can accept that.  I'm not sure why I have this block.  Perhaps it is the Higher Power directing me.  I hope so.

I've been turning my will and my life over to the Higher Power much more consciously in the last 6 months.  It's a strange sensation.  Each morning after I get up I take my medications for the day - one anti-depressant and one anti-psychotic.  I thank God for the medications and then I pray for guidance.  I say aloud "Please guide my thoughts, speech and actions today."  Then I go on to pray for some of the people I know, wishing them to have guidance for the day, too.  If I have a particular problem I'm dealing with that day, I ask for help with that also.  Finally, I read from 2-4 daily support readers and reflect a bit on each one.  That is about the extent of the structure I create for the day.

I have never lived a very structured life, except, at times, when I was in school.  Because my family has been able to support me financially through all my illnesses, I have not taken on the responsibilities that most people do.  My desire since I was a child was to be some kind of creative artist, but I could never commit to it the way others have, even though I tried to over and over again.  And I continue to keep creativity a big part of my life be it with writing, songwriting and singing and making visual art.  It has been a godsend to me to have a lot of creative abilities and outlets, especially when I was in the midst of acute illness.  I believe creativity is a must for everyone, regardless of their mental state.  It's a basic way to stay in touch with oneself and the Higher Power at the same time.

So as my day progresses, I turn to the Higher Power in gratitude for so many things and ask for direction as to what I need to do in the moment.  Yes, I make some plans each week to see other people, or to call them or to do certain things that need to be done, but mostly I go with the flow and see where it leads me.  And there are times when I lead myself in a wrong direction.  Most of this week I spent alone meaning to reach out to people by phone and mostly not doing so.  I spent part of my day re-reading a few journals I wrote in 1993 at age 30 when I was separated for a couple of months from my then boyfriend who had been abusing me cyclically for over 3 years.  At that point in my life I had discovered Al-Anon and their daily readers and other support books.  When I was away from my boyfriend I seriously embraced recovery, but it was a very upsetting time for me, trying to decide whether to return to living with my boyfriend or not.  As I read, I felt respect for myself and how hard I was trying to heal, but still it stirred up emotions and I felt depressed.  After experiencing a couple of days of this, I stopped reading the journal and redirected myself to more practical matters and this helped.

I see art making as a practical matter.  The practice is down to earth and meditative.  It gives me a break from my studies (because I do study for hours each day either support literature or books on addiction, dysfunctional family systems and Buddhism) and allows me to let go.  It is also the most direct means of connecting with others on the internet through sending images I've made to friends through email or posting them to Facebook or on this blog.  People don't always have the patience to read what I write, but they do have the patience to quickly take in and respond to my images.  I need some of this connection and feedback.  It makes me feel happy.  It is self-revealing in a socially acceptable way.

I also know that I need to slow down each day.  When I work, I work hard and have to take breaks mostly lying down on my couch for 5 to 10 minutes.  It also helps to sit at my table in front of an open window and listen to the birds singing and feel the breeze, look at the trees and sky and feel peaceful and grateful.  So I'm living and learning as I should be.  The cool thing is that even when I go in a wrong direction, as long as I learn from it, it has great value, just in recognizing it and in becoming more aware.
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