By popular demand (at least one verbal request), I’m going to go back two entries and talk a bit more about the paintings I posted. This is going to be a little weird because I didn’t have any particular idea I set forth to convey with each of these. Heck, I didn’t even decide they were a triptych until I finished “Smile.” I was just trying to ground myself in creative activity to keep my s**t together during some rough times.
I started this painting shortly after Sean was released from his first hospitalization. At this point in time I was trying to hold down three different jobs at work as well as try and support Sean and also learn as much about bipolar as I possibly could.
As my mental state does best with a heck of a lot of down time, all of this was really wearing on me. Oh, did I mention Sean was barely sleeping nights? That meant I was barely sleeping nights either.
So when we went to see his brand spanking new therapist, she was as concerned about me as about Sean. I’m not going to lay out my opinion on how responsible that concern was, but there you have it. She asked me what Sean could do to make things easier for me. In retrospect I wonder if she was really stupid. What Sean could have done would have all fallen under the blanket statement of Not Have Bipolar. And we didn’t have that option.
Now, as I’ve mentioned, naming my own needs is hard for me, and things I could have asked for were outside Sean’s ability to give at that time. But I did feel a sudden yearning to get back to painting, something I had not done since high school. So I asked Sean to allow me the time and space to pursue this.
As he was at first very medicated and then very, very depressed, it wasn’t too hard for him to accommodate me.
This painting was inspired by a short story I may post some time but aside from the focal character having no eyes it has nothing to do with that story at all. With this and the following paintings I would start out with an image but let the painting take me where it wanted.
So what can I tell you about this figure? I know she is old and I know she is waiting. I use she/her pronouns for all three of these works but this figure and “Smile” are more andro than anything. I’m really proud of the halo. I used an exacto knife to cut erasers into about six different feather stamps, stamped the halo in black and then added more details with a brush. I’m not sure if the black to her left (our right) is a wing or just a trick of the light. She is stillness in chaos. She sees all that is coming and she is waiting.
All I know about the crack in her heart is that it is damage, but she has never not had it.
A month or so after finishing “Cracked” Sean and I had driven a county over to go to a game store, because where we lived at the time you had to drive a county over to go do anything. By this point, thank God, Sean was comfortable driving again so on the way home I was in the passenger seat watching the full moon race along with us, flashing between the late-fall branches. The constancy and beauty of it hit me hard and I knew I wanted my next painting to honor the moon.
Aside from that first flash of inspiration, this one fought me every step of the way, Usually when I finish one step I get an inkling of what the next step should be but not with this secretive bitch. I had to tease out every little thing. As a result I think she’s the richest of the three. She’s as static as “Cracked” but also as dynamic in her own way as “Smile.” She is holy, in her fashion, and the hijab/wimple adornment she wears is intentional.
I started this one in VA but we moved to FL before I was finished (because from what I hear, homelessness sucks), so things like the splattery sky background were done in a completely different setting and not the nice little corner I had set up for painting in.
The things can say about her are that she knows about death and she can also germinate life. Her face is serene but there is much she does not disclose. I don’t know what her eyes look like when they are open.
I cannot say if the flower bud or the trees are hers. They may be, or she may only watch over them.
After I finished “Lunatic” there was a long hiatus before I started the last of the trio.
I began and completed this one exclusively in FL. For many months, one of the only things that brought Sean any relief was standing in the ocean and occasionally digging up shells with his feet. This painting is inspired by that. She’s also the closest to a self portrait in that it was the first time I was specifically trying to put some of how I was feeling into the painting. (Also we both have freckles.) She’s questing, or journeying somehow, but the land isn’t quite right for her: Depending on how you look at it, it could be arid or undersea.
To make the bubble effect in the upper corner I used large straws. I would dip them in the paint and then blow through them to nudge the color where I wanted it. Acrylic is a very forgiving medium. If, like me, you are a mediocre artist, actrylic paint and ballpoint pen are where it is AT.
I love that she walks a line between lots of dichotomies. Is the land desert or ocean? Is she sightless or is that shell an eye? Scumbag if I know. She’s both kind of horrible and kind of Disney princess. Like “Cracked,” I use she/her pronouns to refer to “Smile” but she is also on the androgynous end of the spectrum. Who she is doesn’t much encompass gender.
I think all of this trio knows conflict, but “Smile” knows it intimately. She knows spilled blood, and loss, and searching for salvation. She is dangerous.
Listen, I told you this was gonna be a weird one. I enjoyed this post, trying to give my household gods a bit of a voice, but part of why I paint is because it is a way to put forth the things that are harder to name and difficult to pin down verbally. You can expect more jokes next time, provided life has not once more fallen into shambles.
I am working on a new piece which will either be a stand alone or the start of a new series; we’ll have to wait and see what she has to say about it. But here’s one of the preliminary sketches. My paintings take months when I am not also writing, so don’t hold your breath for updates, but she’s half done and so far she’s effing cool.
Ars Longa, Vita Brevis