Painting: Don’t Think. Just Feel

Today I sat down, brush in hand, colors spread put around me, and just stared at the canvas in front of me. I wanted to paint but my thoughts were too scattered to focus on a concept or any kind of intentionality. I closed my eyes and just sat there. Alex came and sat in my lap, and proudly began naming the colors he recognized.

I dipped a brush in red, his favorite color at the moment, and handed it to him. Without saying a word, he snatched the brush from me and got to work covering the canvas in frenzied streaks of red. When he was finished, he said “RED!” did a little hop, dropped the brush and ran to his room with a smile on his face.

I know at some point I would like to work on developing intentionality, so that I’m better at communicating what I’m trying to say through my paintings. For now though, I’m realizing that I’m content to just pick up a brush and attack the canvas much like Alex did. I might have one thought I focus on or I might have nothing but emotions, and I like that. I think some of my best pieces have come from when I’ve turned down the volume on my reasoning and listened instead only to the emotions that were waiting to be acknowledged & allowed to speak. I can’t always articulate what they are in words but on canvas, they pour out of me with each stroke; their voices speaking through each color and layer I apply.

If you were to ask me why I painted what I did today, I’d simply shrug & say I don’t know. It’s just what came out. They were directed purely by emotion, with no direct thoughts or intended meanings. They’re simplistic & maybe look amateurish, but I’m okay with that. I’ll get better with more practice and exploration.

The first one is untitled for now. I have to study it & “hear” what it’s saying before I name it.

The second one? Well, I’m not sure, but when Bertski looked at it, he said it kind of reminded him of the early 80’s and the New Wave music era…I laughed because I was born in ’82…and I’ll be 30 on Saturday…so maybe it represents that? Not sure but I thought it was a fun interpretation, considering how much I love music and the bright fashions from that time period.

So here they are. OH-in honor of said 30th birthday, I’m having a sale in my Etsy shop-all unreserved listings are 30% off now through Saturday. Stop by & have a look :)

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Painting: Pennies for Your Thoughts

I’m not sure how I feel about my latest painting. As a result I have yet to title it. I know what drove me to paint today, but I don’t know why it was expressed this way. I’ve never done … Continue reading

Painting: My Refuge & Strength

There’s a Psalm in the Bible that speaks of God “being our refuge & strength.”

While I am at a crossroads with my faith (more on this in another post) I’d like to believe that God is our refuge & strength by actually giving us things that bring peace & provide a shelter from the chaos & realities of life…or our minds.

I spent some time in the hospital last week. The psych ward. After being hypo manic for nearly 4-5 weeks I started to crash into depression close to 3 weeks ago and wound up having suicidal ideation & thoughts…I’ll talk more about this experience later but for now, I’ll just get to the intent of what I want to share with you today.

What I’ve learned since I started painting at the beginning of the year is that painting is my refuge and fills me with a strength I’ve yet to experience otherwise. Yes, at times I’ve found myself leaning on God & my faith to pull me through the rough seasons of my life….

BUT-through this season, this time of grappling with my illness and striving for longer periods of stability, I’ve come to realize that painting, brushing strokes of color across a canvas brings me a calm & peace unlike any other. When I paint, the thoughts that yell & clamor for my attention quiet down and go back sullenly to their dark corners. I choose colors & sweep them across the canvas without a single thought.

Silence. Peace. Light. Wholeness. Myself. I feel the most like myself when I paint. I paint and afterward can go and laugh with my kids, deal with the frustrations & joys of life…and the crippling pain of a mind that at times seems to want nothing more to bring about my demise & the destruction of my family.

The Bible says God is a restorer. I like to think that He’s placed this, this whatever it is in my life to do just that-restore. Restore parts of me that I forget are still there. The parts that still exist among the scattered puzzle pieces that are my brain & body chemistry.

I’ve painted quite a bit the last few days, finding solitude & comfort after a painful & desperate couple of weeks where I clutched sanity & life with as much strength I could muster. For myself. For my boys.

(Sigh)

Well here’s a look at what I’ve been working on…

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What do you find comfort & strength in? What restores you?

Painted: Layering

So I’ve spent the last two days painting. It’s been awhile so my creative vibes didn’t flow as much as I hoped they would. Maybe it’s the new med combo I’m on. Or maybe I’m just rusty. It maybe I just feel more inspired & creative when I’m hypomanic. Who knows?

Anyway, the first canvas I gave up on, but the second, I liked how it started taking shape, so I decided to try and take what I’ve seen other artists do on YouTube, and try my hand at layering.

I did the base colors and started some blending last night…

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and spent about an hour and a half tonight adding, blending & building upon what was there.

The result? This….

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Not sure how I feel about it. I do at the very least like the brushstroke work I utilized throughout the painting.

What do you think? And seriously be honest, criticism is welcomed as long as it’s constructive. Also keep in mind I’m a newbie who knows nothing about technique.

Then & Now

Over the weekend I started my new dose of Lamictal…another 50mgs to try and put the brakes on my latest (and longest) high.

Last week I was reeling from it…dizzy from the frenzy.

This week I feel my mind turning around & going in the opposite direction…everything is slowing down.

My thoughts are still all over the place, but instead of shouting & screaming to be heard they mumble as they mill about…whispering their requests & anxieties from dark, shadowy corners they’ve been banished to.

Somewhere between the ups & downs of this disorder, there lies a middle ground called stability…a place where medication keeps everything from getting out of control. A place where the highs don’t send me skyrocketing into the stratosphere and the lows don’t entrench & isolate me in the darkness of depression.

I know recovery ( i.e. stability) is not a myth, some city of gold that’s only been talked about but never actually seen or experienced. It’s real. I’ve talked to people who live there, who have managed to build a healthy & stable life within the valleys of mental illness.

I hope I’m closer to residing there than I was a year ago. Last July I walked into the VA hospital crying and begging the social worker & intake psych to help me as Alex slept in my arms. Last July I wanted to die and knew I would if I didn’t get help that day. I was willing to take anything, do anything, just to make the chaos stop for 10 seconds. That’s all I wanted. A 10 second reprieve from a mind that was too scary and confusing. I just wanted to be able to breathe without feeling like I was suffocating. This July I no longer want to die and I can breathe at least 10 seconds longer, taking in bigger gulps of air & of life in the process. A year later I still have highs and lows but they cycle at a much slower pace than they used to. I no longer wonder how I’m going to feel from hour to hour. My focus is now on managing how I feel from day to day.

I know I still have a ways to go before I get there, to stability. But where I had no hope of it a year ago, I feel it now. I know it now. I can see it on the horizon, off in the distance, welcoming me like an old friend…waiting for me to come and make myself at home.

There are upcoming changes & transitions I’m worried about that may threaten my progress…and lots of good, exciting new things I’m looking forward to….so that’s why I’m more concerned about this impending low than I’d like to admit. I hate putting pressure on myself but I can’t help but feel as though everything over the next 4 weeks depends on how well I ride out this about face in mood.

I’m not really sure of where this post is going, and I feel like I’ve spewed enough disjointed thoughts so I’ll end it here with this:

I painted today….something I wasn’t doing a year ago. Crazy how much you change in a year, eh?

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I Couldn’t Write But Was Feeling Restless So Instead I Painted

My laptop crapped out on me today. I was planning on spending 45-50 minutes journaling and writing some posts, but when the screen on my craptop went black for the fifth time, I gave up on that idea and wondered what to do with all the restless creative energy I was feeling.

The last couple of days I’ve been feeling restless, wanting to get lost in being creative. Colors are dancing before my eyes-I envision their placement on giant stretches of canvas when I sleep at night. My mind is busy writing my life experiences into chapters for my memoir (more on that later), and it seems even the simple and smallest details of my daily life are the perfect fodder for blog posts. ( Don’t worry, I’ll spare you from having to read 95% of them. That’s what the draft folder is for.) When I hear music, my body wants to get lost in movement, and my desire to take a dance class reminds me to put it on the “Things I must do once we’re settled in Austin,” list. (Again-more on this later)

Paint. Write. Dance. I’m craving creativity & expression in these areas. While I’m putting concentrating on dance until after we move, I plan on directing my creative energy into writing and painting this summer…. I want to spend at least 30-60 minutes a day exercising my creative muscle….I’m intrigued and excited to see what I come up with, especially as I continue to explore the world of paint, which is a new one for me. (And yet again, more on this later. I owe you at least 3 posts-remind me)

That’s why when my laptop gave up, I figured the next best thing to do was grab a piece of canvas, my brushes & paints, settle into a corner of the living room and just…paint. I did this last night as well.

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The pieces I did last night and this afternoon kind of caught me off guard. I did some experimenting with thinning out my buttery acrylics with water, and here’s what emerged…

This one describes how my thoughts and thought processes are when I’m hypomanic. Everything is colorful, vibrant, I feel alive, full of energy…some of it is anxious, agitated, restless energy, some of it is productive and punctuated with lots of laughter & creative projects that range from painting to cooking. Things are fantastical, special…My thoughts run & bleed into each other blending reality with the fantasies my mind conjures up. This of course makes my concentration and focus blurry at times. I haven’t settled on a name for this one yet, but it will probably be “Manic Thoughts” or something along those lines.

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This one is called “Distortion” or “A Distorted Perception of Self,” I haven’t decided yet which sounds better. It started off colorful and very bold, but halfway through turned into a mishmash of colors than blended together to create a muted look in terms of color. I spent about 10 minutes just throwing water at it, watching the paint leave trails on the canvas. It’s ugly, it’s messy, distorted, and a little chaotic…but to me, it’s how I see myself sometimes through the dirty lens of mental illness.

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So, I didn’t get to write today like I wanted but I guess it’s just as well. I did something I enjoyed, and that has me feeling pretty grounded….even though hypomania is trying to lift my feet off the ground. I’m trying to stay level. We’ll see how it goes.