Kate Kiernan Art Blog
Sometime in early July I stopped painting. When I thought about taking up my brush again, I would become afraid and also the stresses of life intervened. For a week I returned to smoking, something I had quit 10 months earlier. I even had several offers to paint portraits, but I didn't follow up on them. I thought, perhaps I wasn't ready to commit to being a working artist. But why? I had the time, the means, and a modicum of talent. Should I put the blame on my mental illness or should I stand up and take responsibility for my lack of commitment? In truth, it isn't either/or, but both. Surviving the worst of schizophrenia (and over 10% do not survive) has left me with depression, voices and a damaged ego. Add to that a lack of work experience and a limited support system. I do not live a "normal" life, but I know we all have our personal demons and trials. Despite my illness, I'm fully aware that I am very fortunate. My illness is an impediment, but I have stood in my own way on many occasions.
I've wanted to be a creative artist since I was a child. I went through stages embracing different arts--painting, music, dance, writing, photography. Ironically, being multi-talented did not serve me well. I became a dilettante. I wouldn't stick to one medium. I wouldn't commit. I wanted to do it all, but I didn't have the fire in me to become passionate about it. My art practice was erratic. Sometimes I was in school, other times I was on my own. When I practiced I made progress, but I invariably would stop only to start again at some later date. And today, years later, I still struggle with that same pattern.
How do I change a lifelong pattern? And how do I combat a mental disability that is interwoven into that pattern? It might sound trite, but I think it's safe to say that I have to take it "one day at a time." I think it was Henry David Thoreau who said in his book WALDEN--"Simplify, simplify, simplify!" And that is equally true--Keep it simple, break it down into manageable pieces. I have a friend who has suffered from severe depression and the motto that got her through it was "little by little."
Now I have another chance, a fresh start that began two weeks ago when I started painting again. How did I break my artist's block? The friend I mentioned kept encouraging me and I then encouraged myself. One day I sat down at my drawing table, took out a piece of paper, took hold of my brush and wet it, loaded it with watercolor pigment and made a mark. I had no idea in mind, except to make marks on a page and to suspend judgment. I produced a small, abstract landscape. It is not very good or even complete perhaps, but it served to break my block. For me, there's a touch of joy in it. Just to put pigment to page, to make another start and to have faith in a greater process is a freedom that I've been missing for two months.
Breaking the block is a big thing, but taking that impetus and following through a little each day should be my creed. I have a deep respect for the artists here who work each day, rain or shine, and share their work in this open forum. It's a blessing to work and a blessing to see the work of others.
Working each day takes good ideas. To motivate myself I've been making loose watercolor copies of some of Cezanne's oil paintings. The image here is based on his portrait of Joachim Gasquet. I've also been painting from a couple of photographs I've found in magazines, photographs that struck some kind of chord in me. Right now, I have no teacher, which means that I need to organize and structure my time better and draw inspiration from various sources. Thanks in part to my mother, I have many excellent art books to study. I miss New York City with all its fantastic museums and schools, but I can still make my way as an artist, as many of us do in rural communities. Artid is a boon to me; it gives me an art community to belong to and somewhere to return for inspiration and some support. Just looking at other artist's work and reading their blogs has already stimulated me to contribute my share. May this be a productive fall and winter for all of us.