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.

Monday, May 21, 2018

"It is okay to know who I am."
                Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families - Affirmation #1

I'm a process in a body.  Who I am has been in flux since before I was born.  I have no concrete self, no set "I".  I am changing every moment.  Change can cause release; it can also cause anxiety.  But I do have rhythms and patterns flowing through me.  Rhythms and patterns that began in infancy and have continued, some getting stronger, others getting weaker or alternating again.  I give myself permission to look at my patterns, to review my journey.  Giving myself permission to look and increase awareness is not the same as doing it.  I also need the permission of the Higher Powers to reveal to me what I need to know at the right time.

I say I want to retrieve my childhood memories, but when I open to the exploration, I get pulled into strong feelings and react by pushing the tendrils of memories away.  Seeking to be more aware and to remember my past does not mean I won't feel discomfort.  Too much discomfort might mean that it is not yet time to remember, that I am not emotionally ready.  I need to pay attention to how I am feeling as much as I can.  This leads to intuition and to guidance from something known yet unknown, the mysterious, yet ever present, Higher Powers.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Check Out My New Art Blog

I just posted the first entry to my new art blog.  It's called Kate W. Kiernan's Art Blog and I'm still going with Blogger and linking it to my Google Plus account.  This is the painting I write about in my first entry.  I decided I wanted a blog dedicated to art and my art process.  I'm planning on making it a platform to sell my art work.  I pretty quickly decided to be open about my struggles with mental illness because art has been my way of coping with my life and enriching it.  I don't think I could have turned to recovery attitudes and behaviors without having been consistently creative in one way or another all throughout these last 20 years.  But my focus will be on art and art process and not directly on my mental illness.  I just felt I needed to be honest about this challenge in my life from the beginning as a stepping off point.  

Here's the link to my other blog:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Side Profile Drawing

This was done with a 3H pencil on hot press watercolor paper 140lb 8x8".  It's an attempt at doing a portrait of Barbara Striesand, but it doesn't quite work for me.  The nose and lips are a bit off.  Still, I enjoyed drawing it and I like the profile.  I've been considering specializing in side profile drawings and paintings for some of my work time.  It's been about two months since I got back into visual arts. A lot of times I get into a creative streak but it usually only lasts for a couple of months.  This time feels different.  Part of what is holding me to it is that I need to earn income.  I tried to earn income nine or ten years ago and didn't sell much, but then I didn't promote and market myself enough either.    This time I'm trying to be business oriented, so I've been doing the research online and thinking about what I would like to sell.  I've just begun to use index cards to keep track of business/marketing ideas and art process ideas.  I realized that I had been doing several portraits in profile and I thought maybe that would be a good angle, a specialty that could identify me to potential collectors.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Art Process

This is an 8"x8" drawing that I did on clay board of a very dear friend's daughters.  My plan was to try out some Sennelier egg tempera paints to do this portrait.  It's been sitting on my drawing table against the wall for about a week.  I painted a self-portrait in egg tempera about twenty years ago.  Here it is:

This portrait was done just before I entered into psychosis in 1998.  I was in art school at the time and, though I wasn't psychotic yet, I was still struggling.  I liked working with the egg tempera that I concocted at home with dry pigments, water and egg yolk.  I think I mixed some watercolor into the yolk, but I'm not sure.  I gave the portrait to my parents.  I don't think my mother liked it too much, but I gave it anyway.  

So here I am about to try another portrait and I'm lacking in confidence.  Intellectually I know it is foolish to be afraid to begin painting a portrait.  And in my heart I know that what I respond to is the process.  I also like documenting the process and seeing the stages the work goes through.  So I know I want to do this portrait of my friend's daughters and I don't want to give up on it.  I just got some 140 lb hot pressed watercolor paper also in the 8"x8" size and I thought I could try to do another drawing of them and try out watercolor.  I'm not yet confident with the watercolors either, but the only way to get the confidence is through practice.  

I think fear is my greatest character defect.  Fear of failure, fear of success.  And this is why having a regular art practice might be a good direction for me because I have to begin again all the time.  I have to somehow face the fear and get past it.  

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Today's Experiment In Art

Approximately 8"x10", 98 lb paper, Sennelier watercolors, Caran D'Ache watercolor crayons and a touch of black India ink.

I got an art workbook yesterday called The Paintbrush Playbook by Ana Montiel.  It has 44 exercises to try out with watercolor, acrylic and inks in the book.  I've tested out 4 so far.  She is trying to teach in a playful, creative way about the basics of water based painting.  I need the help.  I'm doing my best to let go into playing and experimenting, into getting closer to understanding the mediums and supports.  I'm tentative still.  I like working with abstraction because it sets me free to be more intuitive about line, color, value, brush choice, brush marks.  It takes some courage to face the blank page or canvas or board.  I think that one thing I like about abstractions such as this one is that I have to look for meaning and pleasure in it.  There's no deep message and yet something of my spirit is expressed.  That's good enough.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


Over the years I've gathered up art supplies.  Some I've given away to a friend when I haven't been working for a while on art, but I invariably return and pick up a few more things to try out.  This past month I've gotten a set of Caran D'Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons.  I've tried them out a couple of times and I really like them.  The colors are rich and easy to apply to the paper and I can get some good texture coming through on my drawings.  I also got some Sennelier watercolors and I already had watercolor pencils.  I've done a small comparison test between them and they all have their strengths and they are all different.  The most versatile of them, for me, is the Sennelier watercolor.  I intentionally got artist grade watercolors to replace my student grade watercolors because I had read in a research book that there really is a definite difference in quality.  I can see/feel that it's true.  You can paint and you can draw with these watercolors, whereas with the watercolor pencils and crayons it has some bias towards drawing.  I'm still feeling them out.

The simplest way to learn about line, shape and value is with a pencil.  With portraits I usually do a pencil drawing, especially with watercolor portraits.  I've found sometimes the underdrawing is a stronger image than the painted image, but that is because I am still learning about painting.  Still learning about drawing too, about process.