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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Sun Road Watercolor Sketch

Today's morning study.  5"x7" watercolor with watercolor pencil on watercolor paper.  I overpainted it and lost the highlight of the paper.  I usually paint watercolors on an Arches paper block, so the paper is stretched and flat, but this paper was loose, which took away some of my control over laying down the paint.  This painting is based on a photograph that I got from Google Images.  I think I'd like to try again on stretched paper, maybe a little larger.  I took the photo of the painting with my good Nikon digital camera instead of my iPhone, so it stayed in focus.  Glueing it down helped too.
I love taking photos of my artwork.  When I crop it a little bit, I can make clean edges, which I like.  The color pops a little more intensely in the photograph.  So much of whether an images works or not depends upon background color and lighting.  Shift those and you change the appearance of the work.

I've decided to do at least one painting a day using the road theme, maybe road and sun theme in a landscape.  I showed Sunday's painting to my sponsor and she asked me to try painting the different feelings I have.  I will keep that in mind.  But one thing that is fun about painting is that the moods tend to shift as the painting progresses.  That's why sometimes I take photographs at different stages of the painting process to see the different moods.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Geometric Landscape

Acrylic, gel & pencil - 8" x 10" on paper

I got a slow start today and didn't get to painting until a little while ago.  I was looking at more Diebenkorn paintings.  I didn't play around with other materials.  I want to sit with this style for a bit. Working with the acrylic and the gel gloss and focusing on dynamic colors, this painting makes me think of stained glass, a painterly version of it.  I like that some edges are clean and others are not.  It helps give the image a sense of movement along with the diagonal lines.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Art Process

Acrylic, Gloss & Pencil on paper, 8" x 10"

I stopped painting last March.  I stopped blogging.  I did quit smoking cigarettes from the first of January till the end of July last year.  Now I'm stuck with it for now.  I've been stuck lately with other things.  My sponsor told me that I needed to let my inner child play.  So I turned to art books and postcards.  I picked out a postcard with a photo of a Richard Diebenkorn painting called Ocean Park (Number 30).  Then I looked for and found a book called The Art of Richard Diebenkorn, a book given to me by my mother years ago (along with many, many other great books she chose for me).  I looked through the book for inspiration and insight and decided to base a simple painting on a few of the elements from the postcard.  This is my first attempt.  Here's Diebenkorn's image:

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park (Number 30)

Diebenkorn has precise lines; I do not.  I'm not patient enough.  Diebenkorn used oils and painted large; I did not.  Diebenkorn worked on subtle surface variations.  I followed a little bit enjoying the brushstrokes on the paper using my Dollar Store acrylics, but my brushstrokes were primarily vertical and horizontal and hence not as vital.  I initially made some color choices based on Diebenkorn's image but soon strayed away.  The orange, pink and red are strong on the left side of my painting whereas Diebenkorn's salmon pink has a quieter vibrance.  

I think I will keep going with this painting, add more lines, vary the brushstrokes, maybe paint lighter tones over darker ones.  I might try a series of these and vary the approach after the initial shapes, colors and values have been set up.  I have stamps, patterned tape, watercolor pencils, various gels, collage pieces - a bunch of stuff to play around with.  

My play has a serious edge to it.  I think the child in me likes to study.  I have to remember to take breaks the way I do when I'm studying my support books.  Walk away to look again from a different place in time, in different light.  

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Keeping Focused

"Don't be swayed by external circumstances."
                          Tibetan Lojong Slogan #50

Because I have a psychotic disorder that includes voices, I have "external circumstances" inside of my mind.  There is me, what feels like me inside, and then close by there are the voices, and I interact with the voices and can be influenced by them.  It is like living with someone with several personality parts I cannot fully detach from.  I have become accustomed to having no privacy with them and in many ways we are friends, so the lack of privacy is not so damaging.  But we are both mentally ill and sometimes his illness threatens to unbalance me mentally and emotionally.

I am learning to identify what boundaries I need to set with him.  I am learning to use affirmations to tell myself that it is okay to love and take care of myself, that it is okay to trust myself.  I can identify when he is uncomfortable.  He becomes reactive and defensive.  If he is trying to label and judge me, sometimes I become reactive and defensive.  That's what happened last night.  Yet my anger is okay.  It lets me know that my boundaries have been crossed and that I am hurting.  And when I express the anger to him, it lets him know that I am not accepting his label and judgment.

So I was swayed by external circumstances and need to be temporarily to learn the lesson that I must work to stay focused on my recovery, which is my spiritual path.  This Lojong slogan gives me permission to detach with kindness in order to continue the work of defining myself to myself in order to grow.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


"We inventory ourselves, we meditate, and we help others.  We acknowledge our own behavior.  We ask God, as we understand God, to continue providing us with willingness to love ourselves."
                                             Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families
                                                         Chapter 8, p 308-309

I strive to be honest, to be open and to be willing to be guided each day.  People who have trouble loving themselves have trouble even talking about the idea of loving themselves.  It's too emotional, feels too vulnerable.  I have felt that way.  Now I tell myself regularly that I love and respect myself.  It is an essential part of how I face the days and nights.  I still have some addictive patterns that try to sabotage my self love, but I am learning to identify those patterns and counter them with establishing healthy patterns.  This requires willingness.

Saturday, February 3, 2018


"I have an innate ability to heal and to grow.  I don't need to force myself to change.  All I have to do is to show up and be willing.  When I am ready, the changes will come easily."
                                                                            Courage To Change, October 24

My way, in my sickness, is to force change, to go too quickly.  I am learning that so much of healing comes from relaxing.  A lot of the 12 Step slogans are about this:  "Easy does it.", "Let Go And Let God.", "Live and Let Live.", "One Day At A Time."  So I show up for my life and stay open, willing to learn and honest in my approach.  I allow time to just be, to listen and look for moments of insight and intuition.  I know that can't be forced.  Change comes whether I force it or not; now I put the focus on how change comes to me.  I seek peace in my life and instead of resisting the flow of life, I go with it.  I train myself to go with it every time I relax.