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, May 30, 2009

My House

Twenty years ago my father retired from his high paying job and twenty years ago he bought me a house far away from the City, so that I could be near my brother. It was a nice house, on a nice road, not too far from town. There was an upstairs and a downstairs. The downstairs was sort of a basement with a concrete floor, but it had a bedroom, a laundry area and some open space and an attached garage. Soon after I moved in, part of the open space downstairs was made into a darkroom and another part into a small bathroom. There was no drain for the sinks and toilet, so a sump pump was installed that would push the waste and water up, over and out to the sewer system from the garage. There was also a door downstairs that led out to the back of the house. Outside the door was a drain and a few steps that lead up to higher ground.

Except for using the darkroom, I have spent most of my time upstairs, where there are two medium sized bedrooms (one of which I use as my music/recording room), a library/computer room, a bathroom, a kitchen and a decent sized living room/dining room area. The living room has a cathedral ceiling and a smallish loft (which I never used much since I'm a little afraid of heights). In the center of the room is a woodstove that I haven't used in years because I associate it with my ex-boyfriend.

So I lived in a house that was too big for me, with an abusive, alcoholic boyfriend and many, many cats. We managed to take care of the house and the lawn and the cats, except when my boyfriend would have an outburst and start trashing the house, which I would then clean up in a state of shock. After I broke up with my boyfriend and I was alone in the house, I began having fantasies of my house being an off campus gathering place for artistic students. I had a darkroom, art supplies and space and a music room. I imagined people making music, working in the darkroom and painting. I imagined a sense of community and a place to fit in. Needless to say, that never happened. I did get accepted into the BFA program at the university and a few times I invited some fellow (but much younger) students to my house, but then I became delusional and paranoid and took a leave of absence from the school.

For three years I was acutely psychotic, not taking the anti-psychotic medications, and having breakdowns every year, but I was also very involved with some local women who I had met in a domestic violence support group. I would invite them and their children over to my house. Several times I invited a young woman and her baby daughter to stay with me. They set up down stairs. But that didn't last long and eventually I had to tell her to leave because we were having conflicts with each other and I had another breakdown.

That was probably eight or nine years ago and in the interim the outside drain downstairs has not been draining properly and I have had repeated flooding. The doors have warped and won't close, there's mold on the lower walls, the floors are all dirty and there are lots and lots of spiders. I haven't used the darkroom in five years. The upstairs has not faired so well either. I have two male cats who I never got castrated and they pee, spray and puke all over the place. I have a fear of using the vacuum and the carpet cleaner because I think I will be electrocuted. I stopped using the dishwasher years ago, not sure why, but I rarely wash dishes, rarely use the laundry room to wash my clothes. There is also a lot of clutter.

Before I became delusional and paranoid, I cleaned my house and took good care of my cats. I enjoyed cleaning and organizing. Now, even years after my commitment to taking the anti-psychotic medications, I still have a lot of trouble cleaning and organizing. It has bothered me for years. And because my house smells and is dirty and cluttered, I don't have anyone over, not even my brother, except for very occasionally. I have been paying the minimum for satellite television, though I have had no reception for many months because I don't want to have someone come into my house to repair the reception. And for years, there has been flooding downstairs. Instead of attending to it, I have detached from it.

Well, sometime within the last couple of weeks, I noticed that there appeared to be a separate leak in my laundry room as well as the problem with the outside drain and this I couldn't ignore. I would have to have someone come into the house and try and figure out how to solve the problem of the overflowing drain and the leak. Someone to replace the doors and fix or replace the sump pump which hasn't been working for several years. So I told my brother, who told a good friend of ours who has done work for us before. He came over and looked at the damage. Just letting him into my house was a big achievement for me. He knows I suffer from schizophrenia and he didn't shame me. I will still probably have to call for some more outside help. I'm going to try to do that on Monday. But at least the word is out that I need the help. Luckily, my father has set aside some money for house repairs. He's been wanting me to take action for years now.

Some people with schizophrenia have real problems taking care of themselves and their homes. I am one of them. I really should have had outside help from nearly the beginning of my illness, someone to do some of the cleaning, but I was too ashamed to let anyone into my home and I worried that I wouldn't have enough money to pay for cleaning services. My father was already paying for weekly therapy, along with exorbitant monthly health insurance payments. Because my parents took care of me financially, I stayed outside the social services system. Even before I became acutely ill, I was living in isolation, the schizophrenia just made it that much worse. I needed help, but I wouldn't ask for it, not wanting to be a burden to anyone and because I was ashamed and because I was stubborn.

The truth is, I believe, that anyone suffering from serious mental illness, be they poor or wealthier, needs a support system. Not only medication and therapy (which I have), but local mental health support groups and/or clubhouses (which I haven't had), caseworkers who come into the home once a month, housecleaning help and a general doctor who keeps close track of whether the individual has gone to the dentist (I haven't gone in two years), the eye doctor and for women the gynecologist (I don't have a gynecologist) or any needed specialist. Socialization is particularly important precisely because the tendency of those who suffer from mental illness is to withdraw from others. Setting goals is also important, goals that lead to volunteer work, mental health activism, education, part time work and even full time work.

But this is an expensive proposition: insurance, medicine, therapy, doctors, cleaning help, education, vocational training. Which is why I believe and have believed for years now, that there should always be, everywhere, mental health support groups. Support groups are very low cost, and yet they allow the platform for social organization amongst the mental ill in local communities. People with mental illness can help each other. They can provide therapy, knowledge, direction, friendship, mental health activism; members can connect outside of the group to help with cleaning, personal hygiene, making doctor's appointments. In effect, people with mental illness can learn to take care of themselves by taking care of each other.

I will have the work done on my house within the next month or two and that is very good and a sign of growing health for me, a willingness to let people in, to admit that I need help. Still, it has taken me many years to get to this point, years that could have been better spent helping others like me and letting others help me too. I have yet to find out if there is a NAMI support group within my area. I made contact with someone, but she is very busy and will get back to me later. I think the chance of it is good and so I am hopeful.

Monday, May 25, 2009

LiveJournal

Before I write about LiveJournal, I just wanted to say that I made contact with a NAMI (National Alliance On Mental Illness) representative from a town about a half an hour away from me. Unfortunately, she had just come back from vacation and was swamped with work (she also works full time as well as being the president of NAMI in her county) and couldn't write much, but she said she would get back to me when she had more time. This is very exciting news for me because the only NAMI organization nearby was just a bit too far away, but this new organization is within familiar territory for me. I still don't know if there is a support group, but I'm keeping my finger's crossed. I'm hoping that I can get involved locally finally. I think I would like to join the In Our Own Voice (IOOU) group, if I can get up the courage for it. As far as I know IOOU has people with mental illness tell their story publicly to interested listeners thereby reducing the stigma that surround mental illness. I would like to speak out in my town at the local university and/or college. Maybe I could even inspire some students to organize a NAMI On Campus. It has been a dream of mine for a couple of years now to have a support group in my town, not only because it would make it easy for me to stay involved (especially in winter when the roads are bad), but because I believe it is in an ideal location between two towns and with two schools.

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I found out about LiveJournal from a fellow schizophrenia sufferer in a SharePost at Schizophrenia Connection (where Chris Bruni has her professional blog). I went to the journaling/social networking site hoping to find her there. I thought maybe I needed to join in order to find her, so I joined and set up a journal, but I couldn't find her. So in the interest category I looked under schizophrenia thinking that maybe she would be there, but I still couldn't find her. What I did find was a bunch of mental illness/health groups. I began checking them out and what struck me was that most of the people posting were young people who were suffering. I decided that keeping a journal there with links to this blog and to my online artwork galleries at Artid might serve to help young people who are just starting out in life gain a little more perspective and maybe even some hope that they can begin to recover from the devastation of mental illness. So I posted an entry there telling some of my story and included the two links. I also joined three groups (though one has yet to check me out and approve my membership). I figure that by joining some groups and posting there and in my journal I might make some good contacts, even friends, and do some good in the process. If you're interested, I've added my LiveJournal page to my Favorite Links. My username is blueartist7.

As I read through some posts, I noticed that some of the people were like me in that they had a therapist, but didn't have many offline friends. And I thought, not for the first time, that the internet is revolutionizing things for people with mental illness by letting them connect with others, thereby lessening the sense of isolation. The internet is giving even the most socially awkward person places to fit in, opportunities to share their story and struggles and the healing gift of being able to help others through knowledge and friendship and all sorts of creativity. One thing I know talk/writing therapy works, which probably accounts for why social networks are flourishing. People need people, but people with mental illness and who isolate themselves out of a sense of shame (as I do I think), need people even more.

Friday, May 22, 2009

On Beginning A Memoir

I haven't drawn or painted in about 6 days. This happens to me, I get active and creative for a month or two and then fall into a bit of depression. Or maybe this time I am just taking a break. Since I discovered my high school friend online, I have been doing some soul searching and some remembering. I'm, once again, thinking about writing a memoir and have been doing a lot of writing in my journal. Today I ordered a book called Writing A Memoir: From Truth to Art by Judith Barrington. A former writing teacher recommended it. I'm also toying with taking a very inexpensive online class on writing a memoir and noticed that this book was recommended. But why do I want to write a memoir? And do I have the stuff to make it happen?

One thing I know, it's not easy to write a memoir. It takes a lot of careful remembering and reliving. It takes courage and it takes skill and craft. And behind it all you must have a lot of motivation to make sense of your life and a belief that your story is very worth telling. Why is my story worth telling? Actually it is my belief that everyone has a story worth telling because life is that challenging and rich. One problem I will have to get over is that I am not proud of my story. I see a lot of failure instead of successes. I know that's not quite fair to myself, but my self esteem has been sorely bruised by my mental illness and consequent poor choices in life. I have failed myself on a number of occasions. And yet, those failures are also learning experiences that may help others; that gives me hope.

I think one of the reasons why I want to write a memoir is because I am still on the periphery of society. I don't fit in and I want to fit in somewhere. My self isolation is so extreme that I talk into a tape recorder and listen back to it for company. I have been talking into a tape recorder now for about a year and a half. It is one way I bond with myself; it is also potent therapy. So, in a way, I've been telling my story to myself for quite a while now. And though my self esteem is still weak, I find that I like myself. I like that I'm moderately intelligent, creative and thoughtful. My insecurity comes out when I'm around other people. I'm somewhat in awe of all that other people accomplish in their lives, of the responsibilities they take on. I have become fearful of taking on responsibilities. I assume that I won't be dependable.

If I do write a memoir, I will be taking on a large responsibility, a personal commitment to be honest, fair and hard working and I will have to look very closely at myself, my family and my relationships. I like to look at it as a determined attempt at self-discovery. No matter how negative I get, I hold onto the belief that my life has meaning, if only to warn others not to take the path that I took. Perhaps I have some valuable things to say about the nature of mental illness. I know I certainly have a lot to say about the far reaching consequences of living with poor self esteem. I may have always been biologically destined to become psychotic, but poor self esteem led to self sabotage which led to trauma which led to a psychotic break with reality. And though I began hearing voices in my mid twenties, I didn't become out and out psychotic until just after my 36th birthday. I could have accomplished a lot up until then.

But I didn't and now here I am just beginning down a path of potential self-discovery, self-discovery that I am hoping will benefit others as well as myself. I learned a valuable lesson when I went to Al-Anon meetings (and some AA meetings) and that is that telling your story honestly to others is one of the most generous acts you can do, for yourself and others. Children learn by being told stories, well, so do adults. I write in this blog to help myself and to help others. Without this blog, I don't think I would have gotten to the point of even considering writing a memoir. Writing in this blog has taught me how to be honest in a public place. Getting comments from readers and knowing that some people may be tuning in to my writing every now and then gives me just a little more confidence than I had before I began writing here. It helps me to believe that I can make a difference for the better in the world. And it lets me know that I'm not alone. None of us are.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Signs To Watch

I haven't contacted my old friend, but I did follow up a couple of leads from her Twitter page and found out that she is a successful instructor and administrator; she is also a mother. It was exciting to find her on the web. I even got to read some of her professional blog. I felt happy for her achievements and success, but I faltered at the idea of contacting her. I looked at myself and felt self conscious. And then I started looking more closely at my life and the choices I made and I wondered when precisely did I become mentally ill or had I always been mentally ill? Everyone has disadvantages in their life, but not everyone becomes mentally ill because of them. Why did I? Is an illness like schizophrenia purely a genetic flaw or do I hold some responsibility for becoming ill? Am I off the hook and not responsible for causing my illness or am I on the hook living the consequences of my actions? Did I, by my choices, turn myself into a schizophrenia sufferer? As always, the answer lies all mixed up, part biological, part personal inclination, part circumstantial.

I had experienced psychotic symptoms before I began hearing voices in my mid twenties, I just didn't know that it was psychosis at the time. I was kind of proud to be a little weird. I looked askance at those who seemed to fit in to school. I didn't trust that people who seemed to be normal, were normal. I bordered on anti-social, except for a few close friends and my family. It was the mid 1970s in New York City and punk was branching out into new wave music. I was responding to Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, Rikki Lee Jones, the B-52s, cut my hair real short and wore thrift store clothing. My two favorite jackets were a faded jean jacket with a marijuana leaf sewn onto the back of the jacket (though I didn't smoke very often then) and a too large for me man's black jacket. I had an old fashioned camper's knapsack on which I wrote the quote from a Crosby, Stills and Nash song: "If you smile at me, I will understand, 'cause that is something everybody, everywhere does in the same language."

Going to high school in Manhattan and returning home to Brooklyn sometimes late at night, made me street savvy. I dressed down, stayed low key, didn't make much eye contact, moved quickly in the streets. I did not like the subways, but I used them all the time, much more than buses and I never hailed a taxi, though I may have ridden in one a couple of times with friends. I walked around with a pocket full of change to give to the homeless outside the subway stations. In Brooklyn, I lived in comfort. I had my own room, my own black and white television, my own telephone on the top floor of a 3 story brownstone. I had a lot of privacy. I did my school work and didn't get into any trouble. I was just another moody teenager, a bit too withdrawn maybe, but okay it seemed.

What are the signs to watch for in the young? Social withdrawal, difficulty making friends, few extra curricular activities, an aversion to competition, little interest in getting a job, not talking in classes. Who can get a youngster back on the right track? Parents, teachers, friends, siblings. I don't know about other kids, but I needed more guidance and structure, more mentoring. My self-esteem had been shaky since I was little, despite doing well in school. Doing well in school was not enough to turn me into a well adjusted adult, I needed a bridge and a push. My tendency was to withdraw and avoid. But how do you get a withdrawn kid to get involved? You pay attention and you say something. Set up challenges and accessible goals to achieve. You stay encouraging. You teach by example. But mostly you pay attention. Young people need special attention from some adult or a strong positive social network.

The internet is a powerful tool and I think it's changing things for people who suffer from mental illness. People like myself, young and old, who tend to be socially withdrawn can make contact with other people who have similar interests and/or problems. If you take the initiative, there are many places to fit in. It still can't take the place of face to face connections, but it lessens some of the isolation, provides information and support. What I wish is that more people were forming groups on the internet whose members are from specific local communities. The two groups I would like to join locally are the artists and the mentally ill, even better mentally ill artists like myself. Ideally, I would find a local group online, join, get to know the members, and then form an offline support group.

I formed an online mental health group for my town and area, posted my cards in town, but no one showed up and I felt discouraged and a bit embarrassed. I still hope someone will make use of that group, but I haven't advertised it enough. But some good news is that I visited the NAMI (National Alliance On Mental Illness) site and discovered that there is a NAMI representative in a town that's about a half and hour away and she left her phone number and email, so I emailed her and am hoping she will respond sometime soon. There's a slight chance that there is a support group available. May it be so.

It still shocks me that I have never been to a mental health support group for my illness and that I know no one personally who suffers from it. My therapist and psychiatrist vaguely assert that they know there are other people who suffer from schizophrenia in this area, but I have no knowledge of who they are. The stigma of the illness makes people stay anonymous. In my small town, I'm pretty sure the word is long since out that I suffer from schizophrenia, partly because I let it out to teachers when I was at school and partly because I told my brother that he could be open to his friends about my illness. It's not that I want people to point at me and say "There goes the town schizophrenic." I want to reassure people that there is a reason why my lawn is not always mown, why my car is in my driveway nearly always, why I rarely have visitors, why the lights stay on sometimes into early morning, why I don't have a husband/boyfriend, children, friends or a job. I'm the crazy artist woman, the sister of a very smart, very verbal lay musicologist-soccer devotee who hangs out at the local bars; I am harmless. I'm pleasant to the bank tellers, the wait persons, the pharmacist and his assistants, the postal workers. I get my meds and I take my meds and I don't make a scene because my psychosis is no longer so acute. I'm seen sometimes in my brother's company. Am I the only psychotic person in town? I don't know, but I'm certainly not the only mentally ill person in town, I just kind of feel that way. Which is why a NAMI support group nearby would be a golden opportunity to meet at least a few other people who suffer from some sort of mental illness.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

30 Years Ago...




These are some of my drawings that I did when I was in high school. Recently I found one of my best friends from high school on Twitter, so I've been thinking a bit about those times, though I haven't had the courage to contact her. I have to say that I knew something was wrong with me from my first year at high school. I hated that first year. I went to a small, private high school bordering on SoHo/Greenwich Village in Manhattan. I had gone to public schools up until then and all my friends were going to good public schools, but I didn't get accepted at any good ones. So off I went, leaving Brooklyn for Manhattan, which was a big switch in itself. The location of the school was pretty cool, but the school itself felt incredibly foreign to me. I went from an Intermediate Public School of 2,000 to a private school of maybe 200. Most of the kids that went this high school were white and had gone to fairly expensive private schools all their lives, whereas my Brooklyn friends were much more varied ethnically and financially, which I had loved, but had taken for granted.

In the junior high school that I went to in Brooklyn I had been part of the "Advanced Enrichment" classes, that's where the more motivated, precocious kids wound up. We were not beloved by the rest of the school, which consisted of many Puerto Rican students, some of whom were members of gangs even at the tender ages of 10 through 13. There were quite a few really tough girls who proceeded to attack some of my friends off and on during the school year. I think I was spared because I looked pretty Hispanic myself and I wasn't much of a talker. This school went from 6th to 9th grade, but most of my friends left by the end of 8th grade due to the violence. I was artistically inclined, but I didn't have the courage to try out for the school of Art and Design in Manhattan. My best friend did have the courage and got accepted. So my parents, not wanting to send me to the local high school, which had a very poor reputation, started looking for private schools to send me. I hated the idea of going to a private school, but I had no choice, so I was biased against the high school I wound up at from the beginning. Plus I was fresh out of Brooklyn and had a heavy Brooklyn accent, so whenever I opened my mouth I stood out as different.

I discovered that the kids in my class were not motivated to learn and work, which I found weird and dispiriting. I continued to be a "good" student, though I didn't talk much. I was very withdrawn, to the point where I wouldn't even go to the cafeteria to eat with the other kids. Instead I wound up eating my lunch on some unused back steps hidden from view. I used to feel badly because there was a public telephone in the hallway and I could hear people having what they thought were private conversations. That first year I made a few tentative friendships with other borderline misfits, but the one girl I was closest to left the following year. She was really nice, a writer and very smart and she didn't like the school either obviously. But I stayed and, for one reason or another, a girl, who seemed to be accepted by the general population of the school, took pity on my and befriended me. I wouldn't say that she much liked the school either, but at least she was used to going to a small, private school and she was charming enough to fit in. She was a dancer and an actress, but initially she wasn't a very good student. Nonetheless, she was smart and funny and talented and I came to love her, really, to be a little in love with her, as I was with my other friend who went to Art and Design. I think a big part of why I was fixated on my two friends was that there weren't a lot of interesting guys at that school. So while most "normal" girls were going out with their first boyfriends, I was hanging out with my friends, though not all together. For a while, I seriously considered the idea that I might be bi-sexual. In fact, I thought that the truth was that everyone was potentially bi-sexual, it just depended on who you happened to get close to in adolescence. So I wound up being/looking pretty androgynous. I didn't really think about it, but I'm sure the kids in my high school thought Sue and I were lesbians. At least for a couple of years until we started hanging out with very bright/funny boy from the class below us.

Actually Sue and Saul were more suited to be together, they were both half Jewish on their father's side, living in low income housing with their divorced mothers (whom neither felt that comfortable with), both Manhattanites, both artistic (he was a writer and later starred in his senior class play "To Inherit The Wind"), both very bright and very funny. My memory is not good, maybe conveniently so, but I wound up being Saul's girlfriend. I guess, he sort of chose me. I was 17 and a complete virgin and my self esteem was low enough that I thought I would not get another chance to be in a relationship with a boy. I really thought that. That and he put a lot of pressure on me. He was romantic and horny and I was actually pretty vulnerable at that point. The first time he tongue kissed me (I had never been kissed before), I thought it was absolutely revolting like having a snake in my mouth. Anyway, I must have begun to emotionally neglect Sue. I remember forgetting about her birthday and winding up giving her a lousy present and that was it. She was pissed and she basically rejected me. Later she would say that she never got over her father leaving her and that she would rather be the rejector than the rejected.

So she began looking for friends elsewhere. That was horrible and I missed her a lot. And then I lost my virginity to Saul soon after my 18th birthday and that was it, I was changed too and not really for the better. I went into mourning for several years for the self that could have been, but I stayed with Saul all through college. And, really, he was a very good boyfriend for me, for a while. But I stopped having any friends whatsoever. It was just me and Saul for five years. For a good chunk of that time my family adopted him and he lived with me at home. I sort of rescued him from a clinging, obese alcoholic mother. He had been living in a one bedroom apartment with her for many years, he got the bedroom and her bedroom was the living room. I thought she was really a very nice person, but Saul said she would get abusive with him and he hated it. The terrible irony is that his father suffered from schizophrenia and by the time that I started hearing voices Saul and I had broken up. So both Saul and Sue never knew that I was actually mentally ill though they might have suspected it at some point. Anyway, all the people I cared for eventually began to grow up and turn into adults and began to distance themselves from me and probably rightly so. I lived at home till I was 27 and studied painting and photography in Manhattan, but didn't get a job. During that time, after Saul, I had 2 boyfriends, sort of, but neither lasted very long and no friends. By the time I moved to Western New York I was very lonely. My self esteem was real low too because I had been shaming myself for years about not getting a job. So what did I do? Within months of moving I got involved with a young, abusive alcoholic who was homophobic and anti-Semitic to boot. But that's another story...

It's hard to believe that 30 years have gone by since I was close to Sue in high school. And much as I would like to get in touch with her, I still carry this shame with me, the shame of being an adult child suffering from mental illness. The main thing that keeps me respecting myself is my artwork. Being an artist is my new identity. I've wanted to be an artist since I was a kid, but the confidence and skill were lacking in me. That's beginning to change, but I have a ways yet to go.

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!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Getting Into Drawing






These were all done today using the Pitt artist pens. I really like these pens.

Self Portrait


I painted this portrait last night in acrylics. As self portraits go, this is a rather large one, 16"x20". I tend to do that, paint my head big. One reason I do that is because I need better brushes, so painting bigger is easier than painting smaller. I am also not a good judge of brushes. It's much simpler in terms of brushes with the watercolor/gouache--I use only three--a detail brush, a medium brush with a detail tip and a larger brush. But with the acrylics I use 6 to 10, grabbing them rather impulsively. None of them give me the control of the two smaller watercolor brushes.

I don't think this portrait is a true likeness of my physical self, but it might be representative of my emotional/spiritual self.

Pitt Pen Drawings