Sunday, March 6, 2011

A New Painting

The way to read this painting is that the main scene is a dark rock cliff, with a stream on top, and a waterfall tumbling down into a pool of water at the bottom. There are, off in the distance, small horses that have poses that are catastrophic to their tiny riders. There is a small man at the top pulling apart an ivy plant, two more small men negotiating a blow job, and a woman perched on top a rock ready to dive into the pool of water.

I don't know whether the ivy on the cliff face will overwhelm the figure of the horse headed woman, I will try to keep everything on the cliff face dark except for her. What I've got here is just the first underpainting of her, there probably will be two or more layers of paint to make all her limbs rounded and her flesh white-pink with purple shading.

As you can tell, I drew the horse headed woman first, in a notebook, photo-copied the drawing, and then tried to invent a scene to put her in. I'm afraid that the scene could have been better. I would have loved a forest of pansies, roses, or weeds, tall plants that flowers all stand above her figure. Nothing else but her and leaves and flowers. That would have put all the emphasis on the horse headed woman. I could have had her figure against so much that would have made her stand out - the dark depths of a forest, a sunset........... once I drew her I had a devil of a time trying to figure out what scene she would fit into.

Her vagina is showing. That is the most lovely and disquieting thing about her. I actually drew her several years ago at the beginning of a painting workshop at a local art school. The instructor helped me with her hand. I remember not knowing what its size should be. Her figure drew inspiration from 1) an erotic photograph in a book 2) the photograph of an artist's drawing of a horse's head found in a book 2) the computer generated Poser figure of a nude my husband printed out for me.

Hey, perhaps there has never been a figure like her in all of art history. If someone buys this painting it will be because they liked her.

Planning the colors for this composition is atrocious. There's a landscape, rolling hills, there's rocks, there's sky and there's water, and of course, there are 56 ivy leaves. Each leaf drawn from nature. I really do enjoy drawing plant life from nature. When in doubt of colors, do underpainting! That's my plan. I don't know if the entire scene will be done in underpainting (limiting the pallet to three colors, flesh, white and ultramarine blue), there is a chance that at some point I'll figure out the colors (for instance, the blue of the sky and the blue of the water will be two different blues, cerulean and blue horizon, I think those are the labels). Blue horizon is pale and wintry, a cool color, and cerulean is tropical and strong, a warm color. One tube of cerulean blue costs like $35! Thank goodness I don't have to do an entire sky cerulean blue. The splash at the end of the water fall should be fun to paint. And oh, maybe I'll paint some ripples in the pool of water.

I'm taking my Seroquil as prescribed. Like Kate said, its best not to monkey around with brain chemistry. My depression has lifted with the beginning of this new painting and I'm excited. The drawing presents great difficulties - which is good, I won't get bored.

My husband noted that I had had a powerful dream the night before I wrote the last post. I don't remember my dreams much, but this one had me, upon waking, wondering so many things. In my dream I returned to college. I think a part of me would like to go back to college. This is the part of me that imagines that having more education would allow me to work, as if an education could suspend the negative and positive symptoms of my illness. There is, in our culture, the faint promise that education will re-wire your brain. Turn incapable to capable, turn ignorant into savvy. I know, little fool that I am, that taking a three hour volunteer job at the front desk of an art museum completely wiped me out. I know that doing an hour and a half of work on the pictorial directory that I had as a volunteer project with another lady from church made me sometimes sick as a dog. And I know that when I come back home from and hour and a half leading the peer support group I'm usually exhausted. I've got tons of evidence that my mental activity only lasts for a short time before my illness forces me to take a withdrawal from the world. I don't doubt that I could do the classwork for part-time attendance at a college, especially if the course was on-line. Reading, writing papers, this I could do. Because I would be working in fits and starts, a little here and a little there and every other obligation in my life would be suspended and deregulated to "not important".

Upon waking from the dream where I returned to college my groggy mind was full of "what if's" - what if I needed to drive a long way to go to a class, what if I took out loans to go back to school, what if I got sick because of the stress.......... I thought my dream was a sign of a new direction in my life. And then here is where the depression started which lasted through the day. College is a beginning, but it is an ending all in itself. It is an artificial life that does not necessarily translate into the real world. While you are in college and doing it you are full of purpose and self-esteem. The job of learning is fun for people who like mental challenges. And how nice to be able to have a label for yourself, "student".

But I know that having a degree will not mean that I can do a job. And I know that having a job does not mean that I would like the job I could qualify for. For instance, I would go mad having my husband's job because it would feel so bloody senseless. I've got to feel as though there is meaning and dignity and an end product to what I put my mind to. Having a finished painting is a nice thing of quality, a little "Hello, my life has some meaning." I can look at a painting as proof I exist. I'm not a drone, I'm not the same as anyone else, and nobody before me, or after me, can do exactly what I have done. I'm not saying I'm the best, because I've seen people who I feel are more creative than me or are at least creative in a different direction. What I'm saying is that painting requires me to use my mind and talent and I've been on my own relying on my own product, producing mind work every day, that putting me in a conventional situation, such as selling clothing or working a machine in a factory would make me think ill of my life. If I can't use my mind I'll be unhappy, but given the fact that I've got schizophrenia I can only use my mind for short periods of time.

How entirely lucky I am that for the short periods of time I have mental clarity, I have a task to do! And that is painting. For more than a year's time its been writing a book. Well, I've decided that some people know how to put a book together, and some people know how to put a movie together, but I know how to put a painting together. Give me pencil, a piece of paper, and I will plan a painting. Give me canvass, tubes of paints and brushes (ah, tiny brushes!) and I will execute my plan. Maybe throw in some innovation that wasn't in the original plan. I have decided that I really don't know how to put a book together. Nor even a short story for that matter. I can narrate what has happened to me and what I think, but this is not fiction. I'm not ruling out that I will never write a book, because someday I may stumble upon how its done. But there is far more satisfaction in doing something that you feel competent at, then doing something you don't know if it will ever see light of day. I know I can finish a painting. I don't know if I can finish a book. Confidence for me is a small, trembling, delicate state. My artwork, after all, doesn't sell. Well, that's not entirely true. Haven't tried that hard, and the best pieces get bought by members of my family or people who know and like me.

Tomorrow, and the day after, my mornings are free. Hurrah! I'll be painting.

1 comment:

  1. Way to go Karen! I love your drawing and painting and the thought and care that went into making something so unique. It's wonderful to see your process and to have the privilege of entering into another world. I am excited to see you transform the background into a breathing and colorful space. How large is it and are you using oils?

    I can see you going back to school and getting a degree, though whether it translates into an art career, I just don't know. It didn't happen for me, but then I live in a remote area to begin with and I'm not as dedicated as you are. Your location is better, too. And definitely don't rule out writing a book. I think most people learn through trial and error over an extended span of time. Pam Wagner said it took her 10 years to write her first book and I'm finding that for myself I go back and forth with it over the years too, but each time I return to it, I've advanced a bit more and am clearer about my direction. For now, I am just glad that you keep writing your blog entries. I enjoy them so much. There is uniqueness there also, a fresh look at things, which I appreciate very much.

    Kate : )


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