Friday, December 21, 2012

Adam, Eve, and the Devil

This painting measures 22"x28" and was the most complex piece I've ever attempted.

Sorry folks, but no matter what I did I couldn't get the last two detail pics to load in right side up.  I'm a computer idiot.  If you click on an image it will slightly enlarge.

Its a painting of an old biblical story, done in outsider art style.  By someone with a mental illness.  Does my illness show or is this just creativity?  Schizophrenic art is known, for those that are unmedicated usually, to have an abundance of too muchness - crazy energy.

In the last week of finishing the work (which I loosely estimate as having taken 5 months to complete) I had two petite nervous breakdowns.  Been doing so well in life that when I cancelled my therapy appointment because I couldn't get out of bed and drive to the office, my therapist said that I probably just had the flu.  Since my only complaint was inability to move and weakness of body and mind, no drama, he said it wasn't certainly a schizophrenic breakdown.  He did that therapy thing to me, "I'm listening, I'm listening, don't you believe I hear you?" which means "your simply being neurotic, but I'm not going to jeopardize our relationship by confronting you so I'll just appear to go along with what you think".  But I did quite fall apart.  No mental illness symptoms like in the past, no crying, no suicidality,no delusions, no mania, no depression, - my only complaint was that it was very boring not having a head to use.  I understood that my concentration was fucked, couldn't read or watch tv, and later in the evening had a hard time talking or making eye contact with my husband.  Nice husband served me dinner in bed.

Happily, after each day passed, I got a little stronger until my next breakdown.

So I worry, am I on a path to madness.  Since its the holiday season had to cancel two dinners with couples from my husband's job (one dinner with his boss, sorry boss, my wife just had a petite nervous breakdown she isn't up to drinks and dinner) and can't travel to Maine for Christmas in a fishing village by the sea.  Mom is coming down to see us and sleeping on our couch Christmas Eve.  She thinks my father at Thanksgiving had so traumatized me that it is now absolutely necessary I have no further contact with him.  Petite nervous breakdown is solved in her book.  What she doesn't realize that for a while there before she came to visit I had nausea anticipating our meeting each evening leading up to the event, and after one visit ended, hyperventilated and lost feeling in my fingertips.  On better terms with mom now, but my therapist has made commits about how she is a toxic person and at times abusive (exactly what she calls my father, a toxic person, and so she says, you must not have toxic people in your life.  Oh the irony.).  Too bad I love very much this wounded, bullying person.  And she needs me to love her too.  The drama isn't all my parents fault for who they are.  I'm convinced that I'm way too sensitive and take on the emotions of others on a deep, unprotected level.

So more about the painting.  It was first designed as a drawing for a smaller canvas.  Yes, more idiot that I am, all the detail when I first drew it was even tinier.  Had the drawing enlarged 15% and extended the rays in the sky leading out of the tree and redrew the plants on the ground to make it fit a larger canvas.  The rays were rather nebulous and blank in the drawing.  But as I started painting them I first got the idea for the swirls, then later the angelic writing.  Thats what all the tiny symbols inbetween the blue swirls are, angelic conversation about the big event that is transpiring.  Hey, probably in Paradise angels are singing all the time.  I figured the english language is made up of the alphabet, a series of symbols, so I would create my own alphabet.  But I wanted the painting to be interesting, so it was important that none of the symbols repeat.  For a while there I would wake each morning and for an hour of prime concentration, in a drawing book, struggle to make symbols that were new and different from anything else in the world.  It would take about an hour to get a third of a page finished, tough going.  Since the symbols were a late addition, it was fortunate that I had extended the rays in the sky from side to side to fit a bigger canvas - it made more room for angelic writing.  I have enough symbols in my drawing book now that I could probably fill two more Paradise skies and still not repeat a symbol.

When I was designing the drawing the rays were a problem, blank though they were, because they had to be a width so that Eve's hair would not be bisected.  I only knew that the rays would be different colors, and if her elaborate hairstyle (nod to Frida Kahlo) had a line going through it it would be pictorial disaster.  So I got out transparent paper and made paper rays, to position them, and a ruler, to get the spacing even - it was all about math and the priority to frame Eve's hair just right.  At that point I titled the drawing "All about Eve's hair".

I had the idea for the tree of life to have a pattern of leaves that were all original designs.  I didn't look at any reference material to make this painting, no pictures of nudes, no plant life - so I know that what you get is my imagination doing its best to look real.  Oh, one picture I did use was a 1940's Dior couture model for the Devil.  Her dress is called "The New Look" and it was a revolution in fashion dressing.  The devil is not innocent, so she is dressed in the best, while ignorant Adam and Eve are naked.   I tried to do naked as well as I could.  After being familiar with some outsider art nudes I know that the human mind isn't too clever when it comes to sex - most outsider artists butcher the human form because I think we are shy and don't "peek".  Some outsider artists simply haven't ever had sex either.  I know I've been around nudes, but I know too that I don't particularly "peek".   The leaves in the tree are far more distorted than the human form, plant life seems to insist upon handling more liberties.  As long as the primary color is green to suggest leaf life your good to go.  I used all my tubes of green for the tree of life.  I like to paint colors straight from the tubes, which my art school trained father thinks is very limiting.  Bully for him.  Maybe I'll grow into mixing more, since its been now pointed out at Thanksgiving that I am a fool.  But you should see my collection of green tubes of paint!

I read recently an anecdote about the famous photographer Richard Avedon.  A young man who was just starting in photography asked the master for his best advise.  Avedon said that if you go into a photo shoot with an idea about what your picture will look like, and you get just such a picture, then your shoot has been a failure.  What you want is the unexpected to happen, and an end product that trumps your expectations, for expectations are small when the creative process takes over.  In the end this painting looked nothing like what I imagined it would.  It morphed, it elaborated, it vexed, it veered, and then it really did turn out better than what I had planned.

I really liked the journey I took to make this painting.  My only hope is in the future to go on more such wanderings.  Planning mixed with inspiration would be an apt description for my painting style.

And maybe, just maybe I am a little mad.