Sunday, January 15, 2012

Touch of the Flu

These are two images I got from a search with the term "outsider art".

What I like about both images is that they were created from a place of sincerity and concentration of vision. These artists were seriously committed to their art.

What I found out about the first drawing is curious;

“Charles A. A. Dellschau (1830-1923), a butcher from Texas whose obsession with flight yielded notebooks of double-sided watercolors that have the luminosity of stained glass.” ROBERT A. SMITH
“…what is still fascinating about some of the best outsider art is the feeling you have that fantasy has become so powerful as to eclipse what most people take for reality. Charles A. A. Dellschau, a butcher in Texas, created thousands of wonderfully fanciful pictures of Jules Verne-style flying machines.” KEN JOHNSON

It seems that Dellschau creates in obsession and obscurity, not even knowing what he is creating is art. That is one facet of outsider art, work that is created for reasons only known deep within the mind of the creator. What I love about this picture is the color and the pattern. Recently when I imagined the painting that I'm working on everything gets covered over with spots and lines - I have to restrain myself to leave portions of flat color. Decoration isn't for prettiness, it seems to have hallucinogenic pull and fantasy is made up of more and more detail. As my meds are lowered I imagine my paintings with more business, more chaos, more motion, more colors at odds with one another, more alteration, more more more decoration for the sake of decoration rather than making literal sense and sensibility.

Must the pants on my little painted men be striped and the shirts pokadoted? YES! And put five colors on their tiny hats.

The second image is Morris Hirchfield, prominent in my library's books of American Folk Art, it seems strange that he is considered an outsider artist on the internet as well. Hirchfield was in the business end of the garment industry for most of his life. When he retired he started painting. It is said that he got his feel for pattern from textile prints, but I think that pattern is simply a means to building complexity and depth in his paintings. Pattern is a tool to an end. Pattern makes up for lack of technical art school instruction. Pattern is very primitive. Its a place I go for when I'm really reaching.

What I like about Hirchfield is the density of his painting. He doesn't skimp, he doesn't rush, he's detailed and trained himself to do the boring parts of a painting that involve repetition. Some painters are fast and spontaneous, they are expressionistic. That is not me. I like Hirchfield am the opposite of this. Where Hirchfield and I part company is in the use of color, I like to use many different colors in one painting. His leopard family also has a serenity that my work lacks.

As I painted today my throat started feeling funny and my upper body muscles began to ache. I've caught a bug from somewhere.

My therapist cancelled my last appointment due to bad weather. Over the phone I reported to him that my thoughts seem normal and I have no schizophrenic symptoms since I saw him last. I did however twice last week get a stress headache. It was a headache that even taking ibuprofen couldn't eradicate. It seems that I'm more vulnerable to them on a lower dose of antipsychotic medication. Since it has only been about two weeks at a lower dose I think that my mind is still going through a process of resettling itself and finding a new chemical balance.

The thing of course that I have noticed the most is a change in my artistic vision. I am very happy with the change. The first thing that is affected is my concentration; I'm able to concentrate for longer periods of time with less negative feelings after. I can paint longer and it takes less time to recuperate and go on to the next activity. I still hit a wall where I know mentally where I want the brush to go on the canvass but I lack the willpower to physically move it. This I think has something to do with my schizophrenia. The longer I paint the more "spaced out" I get, staring for long periods with little actual action until I reach a point where I'm frozen in place. This happens at the end of three to four hours. Then I go to bed (even in the middle of the day) and lie down and shut my eyes. Usually mentally I am obsessed with my artwork and I think about it intently in bed, going over the image and what I've just done again and again. I'm cured and relaxed when other matters creep into my mind and my mind wanders away from the painting I was working on. One my mental grasp has eased I can do a different activity; usually it is walking the dog while it is still the warm part of the winter day and there is light out so the cars can see me.

Painting is far more fun than walking the dog. I hate being out in the world. It takes an enormous psychic push to get me outside. Usually the dog gets walked, this is how I know that I have willpower that is stronger than my schizophrenia. But I think that only a mental illness could make something so simple as walking the dog a Herculean task. One that I have to emotionally prepare for, and then after, recover from.

Don't know how bad the flu is going to get, the dog may not get walked tomorrow.

Before I go to sleep at night I usually visualize what I am going to paint the next morning. This morning it was hats on men playing musical instruments, tomorrow morning it is blue swirls in the sky on a different, mostly virgin canvass. I've never painted a swirling sky and when I planned the painting I was on a higher dose of medication and the sky was supposed to be graduated flat blue. Now I want to add different colors to the blue and have far more movement and complexity.

All different size swirls in the sky.

I'm a bit taken aback by trying something new.

And should I add that I'm terrified of going mad? Watched a movie last night with Joan Crawford having a schizophrenic break down and got a mild stress headache. Have seen this movie about 4 times before, it is in my collection, and I never reacted negatively to it before.

It was like I was watching my worst nightmares come true as Crawford hallucinated and emotionally writhed in pain. She ends up killing a man she was romantically obsessed with. Perhaps the lower dose of medication allows me to identify with the character on the screen more than before. I'm more sensitive. I'm more involved. I'm more influenced.

And right now, I'm on high alert, having just lowered my medication.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Karen,

    I hope you feel better soon. I admire you on several levels--for your dedication to your art process and for having the courage to try and see if you can maintain your recovery off the medication. It is interesting that you are a risk taker in this, yet you are very controlled and careful in your art making process. I am the opposite, more spontaneous in my art, especially when I paint abstracts, yet more conservative in my actions, especially regarding taking the medications. And yet, I think you are also a risk taker in your art's subject matter, whereas I am, again, more conservative and mostly not fanciful. I think your art work is a success because of both of these traits, the risk taking and the extreme care you take in drawing and then painting every detail.

    As for the fear of going insane, would you consider keeping a journal of your progress as you reduce and then eliminate the drugs from your system? I think you have a scientific mind; you are extremely honest and attentive. Just keep notes in addition to this blog and chart your course. I think you are right to be on "high alert" because vigilance is what can save you from the insanity pit. I know that I keep a continued vigilance with my audio journal and I'm on a high dose of medication. Because of our illness, we need to stay awake and aware of what's going on in our minds and how we're reacting to what's going on inside. You have been learning to be a very disciplined artist and now you have to learn to be just generally very disciplined, more so than many others. I think you can do it Karen. But don't feed the fear, don't continue to watch a film that triggers that fear. Know when to say NO to yourself.

    Love Always, Kate : )


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