Sunday, November 13, 2011

Angel in a Pear Tree

There's nothing like the satisfaction of finishing something and photographing it for the blog. This drawing is called "Angel in a Pear Tree" and it had me powerfully sad yesterday. Yesterday I screwed up the hands and the wings of the angel and it simply looked like it had yellow claws. Very hard to do detailed work with oil pastels. But this drawing is small, about 12" x 16" and it was good practice for doing detailed work. I still have a way to go before I'm at the technical proficiency that I had ten years ago working in this medium.

For hours I beat myself up about the angel's hands, long after I had stopped drawing. I didn't have faith that I could fix them today. Something else too disappointed me. Its the violent subject matter of my art. I guess I'm not very accepting of myself. I thought to myself, "The picture has pretty colors, but whose gonna want a pig pointing a gun at an angel and a man pointing a gun at a bird?" I felt like the biggest freak in the universe. But I simply can't control my imagination. And also, I felt like an artistic dud. I thought, after all these years of doing art, and your talent hasn't grown. Your talent is primitive and slender. Nobody is going to want to pay any money for this picture. The gallery won't want it, your a hack, your unsophisticated, your a nobody and nothing. I told my husband, right after three hours of work on this drawing when I was exhausted and at my lowest point, that I might as well put a bullet in my brain.

When I feel like a worthless piece of crap I usually watch a movie. Watched the Sci-Fi movie "Serenity" by Joss Wheaton of Buffy, Angel, and Dollhouse fame, and by the end, at least, could stomach the idea of living.

The drawing was done about a month ago for a design for an oil painting. I forgot to add space around the standard sized panel for the frame, and it simply wouldn't fit on the panel as I had drawn it. I keep forgetting to add space for the frame and I end up having to pay for custom framing where my frame guy frames with tolerances of about two eights of an inch. He does wonders, but its expensive.

So I decided that this one wouldn't make it to oil. But it was drawn on heavy, heavy paper, exactly designed for pastels or oil pastels. Last week was a busy nightmare with appointments, (put snow tires on the car, eye appointment for glasses and a mammogram that inexplicably I got stressed out and dizzy during - almost fainted, burst into tears for a moment) and I knew that I would only get an hour here and there to work on my art. Oil paint seems to be more ceremonial, there is a getting ready and a cleaning up to be done that is really not much, except what my mind makes of it. Drawing can be done in bed. I sure like the comfort of my bed. I will confess that my bed is the center of my universe.

My therapist says that its poison for me to compare myself with others, and its all the work of the ego. I must have a dominant ego, in order for it to torment me so much.

This drawing represents me on Geodone at a lower dose. It was planned and executed on the same dose. The question that I ask myself is if I lower the dose of my antipsychotic, will I get more creative or less creative or simply differently creative?

I'm existing pretty well on this dose of Geodone. Minimal anxiety, minimal drug sedation, and happy happy joy joy I'm continuing to lose weight. Couldn't do that when I combined Geodone with Seroquil or at a higher dose of Geodone. One thing I've noticed is that I'm more emotional, in all ways. I mentioned the behavior during my mammogram. Well this is my third one, and nothing like what I experienced happened on the first two. Yeah I'm always nervous in hospitals, but dizziness, threat of fainting and tears? And the nurse guiding me through the mammogram was sweet and nurturing and caring to the tenth degree.

Given the foul mood I experienced yesterday, and the jubilation I feel today, I'm not depressed. I'm simply neurotic over my artwork and have some serious self esteem issues, which I've had continue my entire life despite oodles of therapy since I was a kid in kindergarten. Yes, they hooked me up with the school therapist in kindergarten because I wasn't like other kids. I don't know specifically why, but I know I felt like a looser in kindergarten and was comparing myself to other kids then. Rosie was the pretty one, the popular one, and the kids on the school bus would spit out the windows at me when I got off the school bus. So I must have had this vibe; I'm different. Wasn't overweight or bad looking, all I remember is that I sometimes talked too much. I distinctly remember my kindergarten teacher saying in exasperation "Karen will you shut up" (I was talking while she was reading a book) and I was shocked because she had sworn at me. I thought teachers weren't supposed to talk that way to little kids.

In fourth through sixth grade I got put in an after school program for gifted children. I this program I met genius - kids that were intelligent and creative in ways that were way beyond my ability. I didn't find my "place" with this group either. My mom thought the program might have a bad effect on me by making me feel special or superhuman but I paled in comparison with the arrogance of some of these other kids who breezed through school. The program did teach me one thing. I can do, and make, and progress, all on my own in my own fashion. As an artist I won't compromise. I won't make art that looks like other people's art. Of course this makes me feel like a freak and suicidal, that I'm out of step with normal conventions, but the race is on pitting me against me, and I don't feel I'm doing my best work yet. That elusive yet. I strive. Sometimes, like yesterday, I strive so hard that I defeat myself.

A quote by Carl Jung in a book that my therapist is having me read in preparation for lowering my medication has me thinking. Here's what Jung said,

"To be "normal" is a splendid ideal for the unsuccessful, for all those who have not yet found an adaptation. But for people who have far more ability than the average, for whom it was never hard to gain successes and to accomplish their share of the world's work - for them restriction to the normal signifies the bed of Procrustes, unbearable boredom, infernal sterility and hopelessness. As a consequence there are as many people who become neurotic because they are only normal, as there are people who are neurotic because they cannot become normal."

For Jung, success I think came bountifully. And he was an adulterer, which says to me that he believed the boundaries of morality did not apply to him, he was above them. I know little about Jung but I would like to know more. He is an intellectual heavyweight, and people who are, usually know this about themselves. They know their own talent. Jung considered himself neither normal nor neurotic, so he throws his weight around and points the finger and proposes pathology at those poor saps who are below the best, and who are above the best. What this quote brings to mind is Woody Allen's defense in Time Magazine of why he had sex with his girlfriend's adopted daughter, it was, because genius is permitted a different type of morality.

For myself, nothing in my day comes easy for me. Walking the dog is hard. Showering is hard. Making art exhausts me to a point where I feel like I'm losing my mind. And that's only after three hours, my total limit before I'm reduced to feeble mindedness.

All the time I crave the state of being normal which is denied to me because of my schizophrenia. I know that as a schizophrenic I'm doing pretty well, but I have so much of a sense of loss for who I might be if I weren't schizophrenic. I've had this disease for over twenty years and I still haven't adjusted to my new normal.

Last week when I was being fitted for a new pair of eyeglasses I was helped by an exquisitely lovely young woman. Everything about her said "competent, kind, clean and composed". She was dressed conservatively but elegantly and she had the coolest, most compassionate and intelligent demeanor. She noticed that the black frames I chose also were made in tortuous shell but that the store didn't carry a pair for me to try on, should she order both types of frames so I could compare before making a final purchase? I mean, she went the extra mile for me. And I couldn't help notice her nails. They were french manicured. This is when the beds of the nails have clear nail polish and the part that extends past the skin is painted with contrasting white. Her engagement ring was beautiful too. A round diamond surrounded by a circle of little diamonds, at least ten or twenty thousand dollars worth of sparkle. So some rich man had claimed her.

After I left the eyeglass store I didn't want to be me, I wanted to be her. Have her body with her skinny legs and blond hair, have her life, work with people in an eyeglass store and be nice to every customer, have an income, have a lovely life as I imagined she must have.

Neurotic, neurotic, neurotic. And as my therapist would say, delusional with a lower case D because I'm not accepting of the now, and the actual way of reality, and not accepting of me all by myself.

My nails are always cut short. Because I handle paint and oil pastel I frequently need to use the pads of my fingers to smudge color. French manicures would only annoy me. But how lovely to dress, and compose oneself, because you are a professional doing a professional job with people out in the real world. Before I got schizophrenia, I thought that would be my fate.

Now its my fate to be an artist. I better work on accepting that..............


  1. I don't have any training as an artist, but I have developed my own eye for art. I can generally now look at "great" pieces of art, modern or classical, and I get a sense of why they are considered that way. Something strikes you. I look at this current work, and I don't think this quite has it. But... a big BUT... I think you are close to finding it. Like I said, I'm not an artist, and you, in trying to find the direction, may go the wrong way, but I think you're almost there. Finding a means by which to strike the viewer, and summon a piece of his soul in some new fashion.

  2. to The AngeL in the tree listen to me(symbol of path towards enlightment- the tree that is)- My schizophrenic voice says for her to fly away and be free. They have guns, but you have wings amongst many many other things. You can teleport to heaven. Why don't you? Why should a spiritually superior angel associate with miscreants? There are evil ones on the prowl. They have bad karma. Be the karma police and report to you divine one. Maybe they'll get hit by a tsunami. In the meantime, ask for some angelic surgeons to work on your hands. They won't mind. (Nothing wrong with help from other artists).

    I have been suffering from schizophrenia, but I am well respected in my community and liked by many. I got personality and pizazz. Study Jung and while you're at it read Joseph Campbell. The fact that you have this illness gives you a chance to expand your mind and explore territories others would only dream of exploring. People will find you interesting with your different points of view. You just have to learn to be more confident and express your ideas more effectively, but it can be done.


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