Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New Painting, "Shot to the Head"

This finished oil painting is called "Shot to the Head".  I am slowly working a more ambitious format. This canvas measures 22"x 24".  Click on the image to see it enlarged.

The painting was planned by making an initial drawing while I was on two different types of antipsychotic medications.  So it actually started over a year and a half ago.  The pencil drawing plan was put away while I finished other oil paint projects.  A lot of the small pattern in the piece, such as the swirling sky, the striated green ground, or the stripes in the cats, was added after I had come down on the antipsychotic medication.  Everything in the original drawing is still there, except much is added.  I think less meds resulted in a painting that has much more energy and interest than what was first visualized. 

Also, a side effect of being on so much antipsychotic medication was a lot of suicidal thoughts, and in general, wishing I was dead about twice a week.  Or so my husband claims I used to say with regularity, "I wish I were dead".  Nowadays, on very little antipsychotic medication, that phrase never, ever passes through my lips.  I love my life, I love painting.  Lowering the medication resulted in the end to suicidal thoughts and the complete dissipation of depression.  Naturally it was instinctive to plan a painting like this one if you are contemplating your own death.  But if you are generally happy, like I am now, I don't know if it would occur to me to have such violent imagery.  Never say never, I don't know what future compositions will contain, but if you are generally happy and content as I am, pictures like "Shot to the Head" don't enter your imagination.  However, I am considering that I might suffer from PTSD, due to emotional abuse in my childhood, and the violence of that time, its horrid memories, and memories of years of anguish over having a mental illness, still effect me.  I sometimes get so angry at people and the past in idle moments.  I am still a very unsettled soul.  Recently I remarked to my husband "I am content, yet I am tormented."  So who knows what rabbit I will pull out of a hat when I draw and plan a painting.  It might very well be a bloodied rabbit.

Always a driving factor in this painting's composition was the shot to the head.  It is the first thing you notice.  The woman standing on the ground in the black wrap has a tiny bullet hole in her smooth, white forehead, and blood splatter coming out of the back of her head.  The red blood was intended to pop against a light blue sky and to be an emotionally dark counterpoint to the beauty and elegance of the rest of the picture.  I think the garland made up of leaves and flowers is quite pretty, and the clothing the women wear is high fashion, inspired from pictures of models taken mid 20th Century.  So while there is admittedly blood and gore, the painting otherwise is very static and still.  It is a poised and silent, a one thousandth split second frozen image of an event.
And then there is the story of the piece of black string.  It is gathered in a ball in the lower left hand.  But unstrung, the black string winds its way around the trunk of the tree, makes it's way down the tree branch, drops to suspend the wooden plank that the woman in the green suit stands on, and then ties around the cat, lifting him up under his armpits.

The title "Shot to the Head" was intended to be more than just a literal description.  It describes what this picture does to the viewer.  It gives the mind a little jolt.  It dazzles the eye.  It shocks.  It challenges.  

I am so much happier with the quality of my artwork nowadays.  I don't care much that it looks crazy.  For a while there I was searching the internet with the google words "schizoprhenic art" and trying to find someone who painted like me.  I wanted to find my tribe.  But what I'm making doesn't look much like anyone else.  I guess this should make me feel happy. 

The first eye that I try to dazzle, excite and please is my own eye. 

Everyone makes very personal art.  Even if its just a vase of flowers.  You make that type of trite picture because you think it beautiful.

My idea of beautiful happens to have a lot of color, a lot of emotion, and the "zoom" quality. 

My art makes your eye "zoom" around the picture.


  1. Dearest Karen!

    Wonderful work! Yes, you are uniquely you and not like any other artist I have encountered. Your delight in color and design is obvious and your subject is intriguing. There is both complexity and simplicity in this painting, perfectly balanced. I actually noticed the woman standing on the swing and the hanging cat first and not the blood flying out from the other woman's head. It is interesting to me that the bullet enters the woman's head right at the third eye spot, the spot that Hindus I believe mark. It marks a place of higher consciousness. Despite the blood, the woman is so composed and elegant, so unharmed by the violence that the blood implies. And that is part of the challenge of much of your work, that negative twist amidst the beauty and design of your scenes.

    The worlds that you have been creating read like some delightful yet bizarre fairy tale, an adult fairy tale filled with hidden meaning that spark questions from the viewer. I asked myself, who are these women, why is the cat hanging from the tree branch, who has shot the woman in the head and why. The mystery of the painting is that the questions don't get answered and yet a sense of meaning and importance remain.

    I love the treatment of the garland around the tree trunk and branch and the swirling background reminiscent of the intensity and patterns of Van Gogh. The figures may be static, yet the background is a kind of joyous movement that make the characters stand out.

    I am so happy that you no longer feel that suicidal pull, that you are free of it and that you love your life and work. That really comes through for me in this painting. Hopefully, you can work through the residual feelings and conflicts from having been abused when you were young. You are in a much stronger place to do that now, your artwork testifies to that. Well done Karen May Sorensen!

    Always with Love,

    Kate : )

  2. Wow, I must say your painting has certainly improved. The color, the composition are much crisper. Keep up the good work!

  3. I love your work. I noticed you never mention if you have an etsy store, or sell any of it? I really think you's wonderful.


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