Well, on the personal front, I’m no sure how I’m doing exactly right now. We’ve been having a low pressure system here for the past few days, which has translated into a persistent migraine which turned me into a vegetable most of the weekend. It’s receded a bit today but is still lingering. Then I went to my photo group this afternoon and was quite discouraged with the experience. This is a photo project that my occupational therapist (OT) recruited me to participate in over the next few weeks of summer. She was quite excited about it, as she had attended some workshops on using photography as a recovery tool for mental health patients, which got her to start up a group at the Allan Memorial Institute. We started with our first meeting last week, which left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied, and after our session today I’m seriously considering dropping out. Continue reading
Be grateful for the creative, feeling, hurting, yearning, tortured soul. That’s a soul of substance. ~ Jonas
Drawing detail: A Soul of Substance, 2011 by Smiler
“Nowadays, I seek to appreciate more than I hunger to achieve.”
These are the words of Jonas, in his response to my loaded question on why he no longer paints anymore. Part of the following text is taken from the latest message I wrote him, as I’ve been mulling over this whole business for the past couple of days now. No. That’s a lie. I’ve been mulling over it for the better part of my life actually.
The most un-self-conscious piece of self-expression I ever created was as a baby, when according to my mother, I made a painting on the wall with my own faeces. There is no surviving record of that masterpiece that I know of. Some works using fecal matter have made their way into museums; I remember seeing something like that at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and yes, I was disturbed, but mostly by the fact that toddler tactics like that still have the power to shock enough to get major institutions to pay out big money to exhibit such… well, utter crap. Ever since I developed a rational mind, I’ve never felt the need to make art that came quite that literally from guts. In fact, it’s been a struggle to express myself at all in any meaningful artistic way.
As I said to Jonas, I don’t know if it’s a reflection of my relative youth, or immaturity, or a drive that’ll always be a part me, but that hunger to achieve still burns within me, even as I’m trapped under the burden of chronic depression and feel that all hope and aspirations have been sucked out of and replaced by apathy.
I’ve been especially depressed these past couple of days, no doubt due to hormonal shifts which occur with too much regularity to warrant making a special effort to contact my shrink about changes in medication, but this topic has certainly tapped into my current bout of self-pity. Most every day I wonder whether I should or shouldn’t make the effort to do artwork. I should be grateful for all the compliments I receive from various people—teachers, friends, acquaintances, who seem to agree I have talent. But so what? I often use the analogy of someone who is good at playing the piano, and then goes off to study at Julliard and discovers she is only average at best among the truly gifted. I’ve never been assiduous about playing a music instrument so going to Julliard was never an option, but I’ve never been to any equivalent among the world’s leading arts and design institutions either, such as Central Saint Martins in the UK, or Parsons, or School of Visual arts in NYC (though I did attend a couple of workshops at the latter, including one with Milton Glaser, no lightweight by any measure). All this to say I’ll never know where along the continuum of talent I might have landed among my peers had I studied in one such establishment, so I mostly try to convince myself perhaps it’s better not knowing what it might have led to, being surrounded by that much world-wide talent to learn from and exchange with on a daily basis, that chances are I would have been mediocre at best by comparison. But does talent even enter the equation? After all, great artist have their insecurities too. Did Lucian Freud face such struggles? And if he did, what kept him painting day in day out?
Every day I struggle between the desire to make things and the pull of apathy, which tells me all my efforts are for naught, that I should just put down pencil and brushes and let others make their mark, because what is the point really? Is it enough to simply be mediocre if one derives pleasure from something? Yes, of course. But then, is it enough to be mediocre if one is tortured all the while? And is that the soul of an artist seeking expression, or just the victory of depression over yet another wannabe? The only thing I know for sure is we have all been given the capacity to create. The rest… is just the mind playing it’s own games.
Above: Lucian Freud , Girl with Kitten, 1947, oil on canvas 39.5 x 29.5 cm
My latest bout of the blues was set off by a night spent fighting the bedclothes, and insomnia always leaves me feeling very sick the next day. So I took a “sick day” today and slept till I could sleep no more and feel better for it now. This means I missed my art class, but I don’t even feel badly about it, though I should, I guess. All I know is I didn’t want to be in the same room as that irritating woman. My bruises from last week have gone from blue to greenish-yellow and cover a good portion of my upper and lower right arm as graphic reminders of just how badly I handle stress. Continue reading
My first watercolour class of the session was today and it was… interesting. It’s a full class, whereas last term we had a very small group, so I needed to adjust to having so many people there. This one woman showed up and her appearance dismayed several of those who had had the bad luck of having her as a classmate before. She criticizes absolutely everything in a very loud, strident voice, when she’s barely even gotten through the door. I’ve had words with her in the past, so I have to really keep my temper and attitude in check because she has a way of driving me crazy. She thinks nothing of putting down a person’s work, which is completely unacceptable behaviour in this school, where they really strive to create a nurturing environment. But then—anybody who thinks they don’t have artistic talent? should see this woman’s work. This woman apparently thinks she has a gift though. The stuff she showed today literally made me feel sick. Yes, that bad. The teacher usually finds the loveliest things to say about everybody’s work—it’s a real talent she has—no matter how much or how little talent a person has, and she was more or less rendered speechless, along with everyone else. She pleaded the fifth after class when I asked her about it, and that told me everything I needed to know. Continue reading
I should preface this post by saying that I feel fine today. A tad blue, but nothing to write home about. I just had to share this short animation that my cousin in Israel posted on my Facebook wall today and which I found funny, sweet and touching.
I have a heavy heavy heart today. Not sure why. It’s been like this for quite some time now, but today, tears welling up and great sadness, tears falling. And fatigue, overwhelming fatigue. I tried pushing it all away by laying down and listening to Die Trying, the latest Jack Reacher novel I’ve got going. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the story and I was hooked into the thriller for hours, but still, still the oppressive sadness wouldn’t leave me.
I need to start a new thread on LT since the current one is getting too long. I like to put an image in the top post to make it more visually interesting. I do tend to be obsessive, just a tad, so been looking for visuals for hours for the last couple of days. I had an idea in mind, then found something I liked and thought I’d do a montage in Photoshop, which is nothing new for me, but somehow… all the insecurity and stress and pressure to produce visual images overtook me and I just felt utterly lost. It should be my favourite thing of all. I’ve been told so often by people who should know about these things that I’m talented, and aren’t we supposed to revel in our talents and derive boundless pleasure from them? How taking on the simplest project, done just for the fun of it can become such a tortuous process is beyond me. Which may explain some of the sadness. Being an art director in the publishing world for successful magazines was a dream of mine when I was a kid, although I wouldn’t have known how to define what my role would be, or that it was called ‘art direction’ or anything like that. I worked really hard, and my dream became a reality, and then the reality of it with the pressure it entailed became so crushing… I tried. I really tried keeping it together. Why did I fall to pieces while others manage to soldier on, and why I can’t seem to put all those pieces together again and move on, and why and for what do I mourn still are questions that plague me. I feel so lost—like a rudderless ship lost at sea, navigating unknown waters, with a blanket of dark thick clouds hiding the stars from view. I guess the new thread can wait.