Friday, April 20, 2012

"The Gift" Drawing

An hour after I finished this drawing I broke down crying.  I just didn't know what to make of it.  Was it good or was it bad?  I had been so obsessed during its creation, and when it was over I felt lost and directionless.  From start to finish it took a little under a month to create.

The colors were added with oil pastels, underneath is the preliminary pencil drawing.  When I drew with the pencil  I thought that I had left room for it to be eventually matted but unfortunately when it came time to add the colors I added detail right up to the edges of the paper.  So when I get it framed I can't use a mat.  Am going to frame this one because it is a gift.  I am sending it to someone I don't know well and I figured if I framed it there would be less of a chance of it getting lost or torn or simply discarded.  It is an ego thing getting it framed - I value it so I want to take good care of it.  Maybe this will help someone else take good care of it too.

I had no visions in my head of what this picture would look like when I began except for one seed element.  I knew I wanted to start with the drawing of a bound bird.  The image of a bird with straps across its wings, preventing it from flight, is an old image that I've used in two other works of art made years ago.  However, never before have I put quite so many straps of bondage on the bird, nor have I ever included a lock and key.

Once the bird was drawn I thought to put behind it a stone wall and a girl sitting on the stone wall.  I pictured her in a pretty dress printed with cherries, and in her hands she held a heart.  As I drew this girl I thought that she was an evil creature who had torn the heart out of the chest of a man below her.  I imagined the man wiggling and flailing in agony on grass.  But when I drew him he had a languid, gracious pose.  Suddenly the meaning of the picture changed, the woman was no longer evil, and the man was no longer in pain.  There was a transfer of the heart taking place, but whether the horse headed man was offering it up to the woman or whether the woman was giving to the horse headed man something vital that he lacked was unclear.  However, in either interpretation, whether or not the heart is coming out of a body or going into a body it is most certainly a precious gift.  That is where the title comes from.  It just is coincidence that "The gift" is actually a gift.

The last element to draw was the cat holding the gun.  Guns in my art are reoccurring objects. Usually I find that the person or animal holding the gun is pointing it at something beautiful and good, like a unicorn or mermaid or angel.  I suppose I feel that it adds an element of threat.  That a good thing has hanging over it the means of its termination and destruction.  Probably the cat won't shoot.  But he's demonic.

After I finished the drawing, had my cry, and was left with doubt and uncertainty I went for a walk with my husband and our dog.  I was feeling a little crazy and kept thinking about Degas pastel drawings of ballerinas.  All those colors.  I kept thinking to myself, why can't I draw like Degas?  And while I wanted to be Degas, my head traveled even further and thought, why can't I draw like Michelangelo?  Or Leonardo Di Vinci?  I wanted to be big, bigger than life, huge, on top of a mountain.  But what I really felt was small and insignificant. Why so much dissatisfaction in the very hour when I should feel accomplished?   I said to my husband that the pain was very old, going back to high school, going back to elementary school.  I simply have a hard time accepting what is me, and this drawing is very much in my own, idiosyncratic style.  I am a primitive, outsider artist.  And schizophrenic.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Nick Blinko's Art

Nick Blinko is an outsider artist currently represented by the Henry Boxer Gallery in England. This is what their site has to say about him;

"In the case of British artist Nick Blinko (b.1961), who has in the past been hospitalised, the need to make pictures is stronger than the desire for the psychic 'stability' brought by therapeutic drugs which adversely affects his ability to work. His images are constructed of microscopically detailed elements, sometimes consisting of literally hundreds of interconnecting figures and faces, which he draws without the aid of magnifying lenses and which contain an iconography that places him in the company of the likes of Bosch, Bruegel and the late Goya. These pictures produced in periods when he was not taking medication bring no respite from the psychic torment and delusions from which he suffers. In order to make art, Blinko risks total psychological exposure".

(Colin Rhodes . 'Outsider Art : Spontaneous Alternatives', Thames & Hudson)

On Wikipedia I learned that Nick Blinko is schizoaffective. I thought it interesting that he stops his medication in order to have more creativity. The rewards in terms of notability for making his type of art are enormous. The gallery that represents him is premier. His work is prized as typical of outsider artwork, one of the few mentally ill people who make art in the "style" of obsessive, detail orientated artwork like the artwork of schizophrenics who were hospitalized before the invention of drug therapy. Blinko is in museum collections. Most notably The Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne and The Outsider Collection and Archive, London.

I recently had a letter from a woman studying to be an art therapist. One of her questions to me was did my artwork change from when I was less stable, to more stable? I replied that currently I was lowering my meds dose in order to be more creative, risking stability to gain a creative edge. Originally I lowered the dose for health reasons, but now, seeing how happy I am with my art, I have realized that for me a lower dose of medication means improved creativity. I also told her that I was more fragile, but stable, and that there was a difference between stability and fragility.

I didn't tell her this, but my therapist says I'm the best he's ever seen me. I may worry that I'm fragile, but this is not what he is perceiving during our visits. I'm starting to consider that anti-psychotic medication creates depression, or at the least, not wishing to use that popular medical term, dysphoria. I know that since I've lowered the dose significantly, I'm not crying at therapy sessions or arriving and saying that I'm worn out, distressed, or mentally fried. I don't complain anymore at sessions about the current shape I'm in - I'm not saying I feel crazy or express much anger over having this illness. I'm almost always happy and stable. At the worst, I'm a little spaced out but even this is more of an inner reflection and does not seem to manifest itself during conversation.

I don't think dysphoria is a popular or even noted side effect of antipsychotic medication. However, when I got out of a hospitalization in 1991 after being on heavy antipsychotic old school medication for two years, and being very depressed for two years, a Yale professor of psychology who I was seeing as a therapist suggested that my depression could have been enhanced by my medication. If the feeling of being medicated or doped up is so unpleasant that many go off of their medication, preferring to be med free, it might be that in the med free state they experience a lightening of affect. Not just buoyant from the lack of being mentally slowed down, or sedated, but having a legitimate lust for life that the medication extinguishes.

While I'm having no positive symptoms, my negative symptoms are the same or maybe worse. Its hard to know whether or not being "tired" and impeded was from being sedated on anti-psychotics or more currently, being over-stimulated and then bringing on negative symptoms. Nowadays, if I have a busy, activity filled day the next day it is much harder to find energy to get out of bed. There have been days recently when all I did was lie in bed and watch movies having no motivation or will power to do anything else. Sometimes there are moments when I'm so drained I can't even speak. For instance, I can't answer my husband when he asks me a question. This happened last Sunday after I spent two hours on a drawing. He wanted to know something but all I could do was mutely look at him. Knowing me, he just let things be without an answer. But then after an hour of just lying in bed, I got up and started to clean the house. So the negative symptom passed. Energy, will and drive returned. After being taxed, the brain rested and readjusted. Overall, I had a busy, fun filled day Sunday.

For the past several days I've been working on a drawing, intending to color it in with oil pastels. It is at the pencil line planning point and very detailed. I'm really happy with how it is going, only, I hope I have the skill to draw fine detail with the messy and blunt medium of oil pastel.

I felt the need to do something super creative, that's why I started the drawing. The process of painting is very slow and sometimes boring. My next task for the canvass that is on my easel is to paint bark on a tree. How dull. Gradual gradations of color is needed as the rounded tree trunk takes shape. One color would read a flat paper cut out tree trunk, no volume in space.

On a sad note, the pharmaceutical company that was going to fund the exhibition of my artwork has cancelled the project. Currently I'm waiting for Fed-Ex to return the artwork that I had to ship, to all places, Canada. There was a company in Canada that was going to create the physical layout of the art display. Or so I imagine. So my art will not be touring this next year with other works by schizophrenic artists, exhibiting at medical conferences. I have to say though, while the project was in its planning stages it was very exciting and I was emailing sometimes every day to a PhD coordinator in New York City. The hardest part wasn't writing about the artwork, or creating a bio, but oddly enough packaging the art for transit. I had to find picture boxes (went to three stores) and then try to physically wrap and fit everything so that it wouldn't get damaged. The grunt work was what I was least adapted to. My husband once said that he has seen me try a physical task I've never done for an hour, and then be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. So trying something new, if it's physical, is hardest on me. Using my mind to solve a problem, expressed through writing or art, now that is much easier.