This artist went slowly nuts (schizophrenia) and painted cats the whole time. You can see the progression of the disease in his art.
Did you ever look into the abyss and get the feeling it’s looking back at you? And it wants to pull you in so deep you’ll never get out? And you can’t look away?
Step away from the edge, my friend.
I was there too, for years.. Now I’m ok. I’m not opening that can of worms, I just want to say, if I can live through all that, you can too. Keep stepping away from the edge every day in some way. Get outside and do something. Exercise or art or gardening or anything you like. You might enjoy your old age even if most of your life was messed up. Have your fun. You have it coming and it will happen if you stay alive.
oil paint on pastel paper painted with a palette knife
This flower is too sexy for my blog. Too sexy for my blog. Too sexy OMG.
Oh well, I draws em like I sees em.
Inspiration. Where does it come from? I can only talk from my own experience here, so feel free to opine, as always.
I think it comes from outside myself. It’s nature or other art, or a good teacher, or music, literature, everywhere you see something that grabs you. When I was young and worked full time and exercised every day and had a house, husband and kid, I wasn’t into drawing and painting. I still had a lot of ideas but when you’re young and you have a lot of obligations and distractions it’s easy to put art on a back burner. I always knew if I lived long enough a time would come when I could concentrate on art. To me art and craft are the same thing. Back then I was inspired to take a pottery class or two. I was inspired to make gingerbread houses and carve pumpkins among other things. Is the inspiration to sew or cook something special less than the inspiration to paint? I say it’s all the same. If I don’t feel like painting it’s because I’m on something else.
I had a lot of stress back in those days but I don’t think stress kills inspiration in my case. It’s that there’s only 24 hours in a day and I like to sleep too. There were a few years when my mind was in a turmoil. Art gave me the chance to” live in the moment”. It’s a good break for your mind if you’re under stress. I think all that advise you read about living in the moment and giving up the past, whatever is eating you, is too idealistic. It’s not like you have switches in your brain where you can just turn off thinking about that bad thing. When you can spend a lot of time alone you have to go back over it again and again until you figure it out. Then you can get some peace of mind. There’s a lesson to be learned from whatever your mind is fixated on. You have to face it. Masking the problem with pills won’t stop it from coming back. Plus the meds could suck the spirit out of your work, if you’re an artist, by numbing your brain.
The main thing about inspiration is that it requires time alone to work for me. It helps to eliminate some things from your life if you’re a very busy person.
About this drawing: It was so windy that flower was blowing all over the place. I drew a moving target. It was real good practice because after drawing so many magnolias I had to work faster and observe then sketch and observe again when the flower blew back. I had to work faster and it wasn’t too bad because charcoal doesn’t show up on this paper anyway, so, just skip it. With flowers, if you get it wrong no one knows.
Art. It can be sublime. It can be transcendental. This sketch might not show it, but to me this is an example of my attempts to rise above the things in life that had me whipped. It’s not about the finished artwork. It’s about keeping at it and going through a process.
I’m not an expert on mental health. I can only talk about my own life and I try not to focus on the negative. I can’t talk specifically about how bad it was for me. You’ll have to take my word for it when I say I slogged through that black tunnel with no light in sight for years. I don’t trust doctors so I didn’t take drugs for it which only mask the symptoms but don’t solve the problem. That’s not to say I didn’t self medicate, because I did. These days I feel ok. I still get bummed some days but not as bad and not as often which makes me feel like it might be over and now I might be immune to anymore depression.
Why are so many artists depressed? We can blame it on hormones, genetics, modern life, I don’t know. But if you’re a girl and your Dad was depressed then hormones isn’t the reason. I’m one of the younger baby boomers. Now I’m retired and it’s good. I think about the talented people who commit suicide and it’s a shame that those people don’t get to enjoy life’s rewards because they killed themselves. If you knew in advance that your depression would last fifty years and in all those years happiness would be fleeting but depression would last, would you hang in there for peace of mind in your old age? Don’t you deserve peace of mind even if you have to wait so long for it?
It’s possible that depression is part of the human experience for the reason that if we were all happy and satisfied with our lives we wouldn’t be motivated to improve our situation. The world today is better than it was throughout history. We live longer than out ancestors. Why? Because they were unhappy about disease and did something about it. We need to carry on for the next generation because, as I see it, there is no purpose to life except to continue. Yes. Life’s only purpose is to continue. There is no meaning.
There’s something we can do as artists that non artists can’t do. We can leave the world with our best artwork when we die. Making art will cause your brain to temporarily click over to a different frequency from your depressed state. You can get into the art zone every day for a few hours which is a relief, and then later look at the progress you made. If you do that over the course of years you see an improvement and that can be encouraging even though in the real world you’re still a loser. You can be a lonely social outcast and you can give beauty to the world. If an artist has an easy life their work is just so much fluff. If you suffered you don’t have to continue to suffer for your work to show your soul. you’re work will always have that because it was a part of your life and it will come through.
If I can do it you can too. Stay alive. Do the best you can. Stop being so hard on yourself. Distract your sad brain with art, music, literature, travel, games, anything you like, until you feel better. You’re not the problem. It’s the world. It’s not you, it’s those people. Living better without them is the best revenge. When you get older and have time to examine your life you might find it easier to understand and accept.
And when you do find something that gives your mind a break, savor it like fine chocolate. Go back to the good thing every day for a little while. Take your time there.
That’s all for now.
Why did I paint this? Why does any artist do their own type of art? The answer is this. The mind seeks balance.
Imagine all the different types of art. there’s the visual, music, literature, dance and all the crafts are an art too. Imagine all the artists of the world. every nationality has artists. They come in all personality types with all different types of backgrounds and beliefs. There’s no two alike. You might never find another like yourself. All these things shape how an artist reacts to their own life through their art so that each artist will give you a different interpretation of a subject, if left to their own judgement. If an artist is trying to learn from a teacher they will paint like the teacher, but as they go on and work on their own, their own personality will be reflected in their art.
If an artist works at a regular job to pay bills they don’t have as much time to devote to art as I do since I’m retired. Younger people have more stress than I do. They have more responsibilities and obligations. When I was working full time I didn’t do much art beyond pottery classes and things like that because I couldn’t keep up with the job, exercising, raising my daughter, cooking for my husband, housework, etc. I was too tired for art. Also I was depressed for years. Now I’m ok and I tell young artists who are depressed, Hang in there, stay alive, it gets better when you get older.
But, if an artist is pulled in a hundred directions. That artist would want to simplify their art. This is one of the reasons that a lot of modern art is simplistic, the artist needs to balance the chaos and frustrations of the fast paced world with their art. In my case, my life is so boring it would drive you INSANE in less than a week, I bet. But I’m ok because I get into these complicated studies of trees or whatever my next subject is. Plus, now that I feel better mentally, I think I might be immune to any more mental illness. I’m not going to tell you how bad it was.
Even though I’m trying to copy the colors and values of nature and drawing from life and painting in plein air, my own strange life experiences show up in my paintings. I can see it in there. I read other artists saying they aren’t trying to copy nature, they’re giving their own interpretation of it. I’m trying to copy nature. I can’t imagine something more beautiful. But my painting doesn’t look like nature, exactly. There’s too much of my personality in there. What do you see about me in my painting? Do you see I have patience, persistence, attention to detail? Too much time on my hands? Can you see I’m capturing more than the camera can? I’m balancing the boredom and loneliness of a life with no meaning or purpose with art. And I feel better than I did in years! Isn’t that weird? I chalk it up to painting in plein air. It gets me outside in the fresh air and that’s good for your health, mental health too.
This is a photo of the crabapple tree. The painting took a long time to do and I worked on it at home a lot. I mixed my paint colors in plein air and checked my palette against what I see in real life then went home to do the more time consuming part of the painting. I don’t use a photo for reference, so that’s one reason my tree isn’t like the photo.