Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tea Time Drawing

This is a very complex drawing.  Click on the image to enlarge.  It is a plan for an oil painting measuring 22"x28".  The largest size I can do which will fit on my table top easel.

The drawing was created in two steps.  First I did a half size image measuring 11x14 so that I could get the basic ideas down - where the shapes went in relation to one another, how they filled the rectangle.  The first idea I had for this painting was a naked lady serving as a table.  On her stomach was a tea pot and cup and saucer.  One hand supported her, the other hand is up in the air holding my version of a candelabra.  My candelabra has a central image, a little drama going on between the candles and their crystal droppings.  There is a tiny naked lady, slightly bent, vomiting water.   Water flows in a stream from her lips like a classical fountain.  She stands in a pool of water that is cupped in the center of the candelabra.  When the colors are added the pale blue of the water, with ripples, will be I hope define the watery element.

In my small starter drawing I established first the human table and the figure in the chair.  It mattered to me that the seated woman be clothed, as to contrast the nakedness of the table, and I picked some clothing details from a Vogue magazine advertizement.  The shoes I had to go online and look for on the designer's website.  This idea of having pants under a skirt is picked up this Fall season by several designers.  The skirt pattern is not based out of anything in Vogue or by any contemporary designer.  As it happened while I was creating the drawing (a process that took two to three weeks of working about five and a half hours every day) I watched an old black and white movie.  It was Anna Karenina, staring Greta Garbo in the lead role.  The movie, based on Tolstoy's classic novel, takes place in Russia before the revolution and the over throw of the Czars.  So Garbo was 19th century aristocracy and she wore beautiful full length gowns.  The ribbon and lace pattern comes from one of Garbo's gowns.

It was fun planning the chair the clothed woman is seated in.  I have a book of animal drawings, and I looked for animals that were all a little bit different in their snouts.   The chair will be upholstered in buttons and bulging fabric, probably a light cream color (the swirling background will be deep blues and greens) and the animal heads will carry with them all this cream color, as if they were upholstered too and created out of fabric - natural extensions of the chair.  They may have subtle nuances of color, but definitely the elephant will be cream instead of his natural grey color, and so forth.  The lightest elements of the painting should be the chair, the naked lady table, and the candelabra. 

Where there will be the brightest pop of color is among the flowers covering the floor.  I said to my husband that the simplest thing to draw was the naked woman's breasts, I only had to do them over twice. It is funny they were so simple, yet so essential, - when the final painting is first viewed I think the eye will land immediately on those breasts!   But for the rest, well, I went through three of those erasers that you stick on the end of a pencil.  I drew, erased, and redrew incessantly.  Just the arc of the skirt was considered by millimeters.  For this drawing it seems I have drawn arc after arc.

The trick to drawing the foliage on the floor was variety.  There is some repetition, but I wanted large blooms and small blooms but above all variety in shape.  Nature is a freak in how she invents, I wanted freakishness.  A reoccurring trick was to alter the direction that the tips of the blooms faced.  The floor is not a place where all natural things aspire up toward the sun.  The stalks of the blooms may start by growing upward but there is the final tilt of the bloom, and I hope the eye is drawn back and forth - my aim is to dazzle and overwhelm the viewer's eye. 

In some simple words I can sum up this drawing.  Pattern.  Energy.  Life.  Pathos.  Beauty.

This drawing could not have been created on a higher dose of antipsychotic medication.  Before I could only work two hours, even only an hour, before exhaustion numbed my mind.  To my perception now, what I did before, was pretty simple.  I made simple because I was simple.  Drawing requires you to give it your all and invent creatively on a scale that is but pale comparison to the manual labor of putting oil paint on a canvas.  The pencil moves quickly, the brush loaded with pigment moves slowly.   Now on a low dose of medication I can work an average of five to six hours.  Not only can I attempt more complexity, but I think the ideas flow quicker to me.  I have drawn flowers to trim the bottom of a painting before, but never have I attempted such strange and diverse shapes nor have I been capable of picking up and adapting concept of form from source material in botany books.  In short - what I attempted before on a lot of medication is impoverished in comparison to the complexity I am game to translate now.  Lower the medication and I grow bold.  It feels like I suddenly added IQ points to my brain.

At the height of my dose I was on 200 mg Geodone, now I rest comfortably at 80mg Geodone.  Each time I stepped down my dose, by either 40 or more recently 20 mg, I experienced withdrawal.  It would have been foolish to immediately assume that this was some natural illness suddenly making its appearance on lower medication.  I have been warned in books that the grip of antipsychotic medication is so insidious that coming off of it is ripe with peril.  The last time I went from 100mg to 80 mg was HORRIBLE.  For several days, right before I was due to take my evening dose (when most of the med was gone from my system) I experienced extreme dizziness and the unpleasant sensation that my mind was filled with cotton.  Thoughts would not form.  I told my husband I had Alzheimer's.  Also, I had problems with sudden surges of irritability and anger, lasting usually about two hours.  This made me hard to live with as I found that nothing that my husband said pleased me, and everything seemed to incur my wrath.  I quickly learned as marriage tensions flared to bite my tongue and say nothing when I was displeased.  Now I am peaceful, happy, and my normal self, (and the marriage is good) but it was all rocky for about ten days.

No symptoms of mental illness have made any appearance.  I have no depression, no delusions, no strange fancies, (unless you call my artwork a strange fancy, you are granted permission) no sadness or feelings of worthlessness, no suicidality, no paranoia, - only the flow and ebb of my days where I work in the mornings until I am exhausted and then I can do little physical activity for several hours.  I work, rest, and then enjoy some form of quiet play most days.  What is unpleasant is how I have the urge to overextend myself, and consequence is exhaustion, not of the body, but of the mind.  Physically I'm effected because my mental fatigue is so great that I don't have much will to move about.  So after work I lie in bed and watch a movie.  Sometime in my past a doctor told me that antipsychotic medication would aid concentration and sharpen my wits but as I have learned THIS IS NOT TRUE.  I have come to the conclusion that at the age of 19 I suffered a nervous breakdown where I had delusions and mania, but in the decades after (I am now 44) the greatest and lasting change to my brain was a reduction in my ability to concentrate. When I focus I focus intently, but the concentration does not last as long as it did before my nervous breakdown.

The question in my mind is how low can I go on my medication before either one of two things happen.  The first is that mental illness symptoms reappear.  At such a point I would immediately go back up on my medication to where I had been stable before.  (I consider myself stable at 80mg).  Is there a hiding, lurking mental illness masked and corrected by 80mg of Geodone?  Am I a schizophrenic monster merely being held in check by a low dose of medication?

The second thing I wonder about is my concentration and level of energy.  If I lower my medication and I LOSE the ability to concentrate for five and half hours then I would go back up on my medication.  I LOVE TO WORK AT MAKING ART.  EVERY DAY.  I HATE DISABILITY.  If I lower my medication and negative symptoms of schizophrenia appear or I couldn't work as long (some kind of unhinging of concentration) then probably I would go back up on my dose.

I have an appointment with my medication nurse in mid September.  She was very reluctant to lower my medication before, but I hope to persuade her to lower me more to 60 mg. I am, as she observed in our last visit, competent, and with no current complaints in life, why not try?  I read a statistic on another schizoprhenic's blog that 80% of schizoprhenic's relapse within two years if they stop their medication.  That left 20% who successfully went off of medication.  Could I be one of those 20%?

I greatly enjoy life and making the Tea Time drawing was a blast.  It was fun, it was hard obsessive work, but it gave each day purpose and meaning to an extent that I have rarely experienced before.

Now I can't wait to have the drawing copied onto thin paper and transfer it to its waiting canvas.  Then the paint!  O Lord, how it will sing with color!