Inspiration, Interpretation, Imagination…

Hmmm… I know so far I’ve only done one simple flower colour study so it’s very early days, but I’ve been reflecting ever since on how it felt this afternoon to be painting again after all these years. Physically I absolutely loved the feel of the brush in my hand, the steady flow of the paint, and the diluting wash of the water, however clumsy and awkward my technique may have been to begin with. I know that technically, patience and practice and perseverance (as with everything else in life) will help me improve in time.

But emotionally I can sense I’m still too tied up in how I feel something ‘should’ look when put to paper, as if the only criteria that mattered for judgement was to reproduce a near-photographic representation of my subject matter for scathing critique under extreme scrutiny. As if true-to-life matters more than true-to-me. Of course, if the purpose of my painting was indeed to achieve that level of accuracy (for example if I were painting someone’s portrait for them) I suppose then it really would matter?

But I think I simply want my subject matter to provide the baby-steps beginnings of my own creativity, be a spring-board point of inspiration that I can choose to interpret in my own way, letting my imagination decide what to do and where to run with it. After all I’m not 17 any more, I don’t have a set syllabus or class curriculum to follow, or for that matter a teacher or parent to please. Rather, I have the absolute freedom to please myself. I can be as abstract and off-beat and making-it-up-as-I-go-along as I want.

So why do I struggle so much with recognising and accepting that artistically creative adult reality? Maybe the question I need to be asking myself is – who am I actually painting for? Because maybe that’s partly what has been blocking me for all these years, maybe at heart I’m still that insecure little girl always yearning for approval from others, trying desperately to feel good enough but all the while knowing I will never be enough for some people no matter what I do…  🙂

Daily Prompt: Prickle

old-water-colour-paints

These are my old watercolour paints from school – well, what’s survived of them, anyway! I haven’t actually done any watercolour painting since 20th May 1981, and the reason I can be so confident about the date is because that was the day I sat my Higher Art practical exam, just before I left school… I found the old exam paper with my paints 🙂

old-exam-paper

I never intended to give up painting altogether, because although I wasn’t ever great at it I really enjoyed it, but after leaving school I worked for a while, then got married and had a baby – actually three babies, one after the other – and somehow there never seemed to be time to paint. I carried on tentatively drawing (mainly simple pencil sketches) for a while, then that too dwindled away to nothing.

Over the years I have occasionally picked up my drawing pencil every now and again, but never my paintbrush. In fact, although I still have my paints I have no idea where my brushes even went, or my watercolour paper for that matter? There were more tubes of paint initially, but sadly after close inspection these nine were all that were salvagable – mind you after 36 years of total neglect it should probably be more surprising to me that any are still usable!

Recently I’ve been feeling the stirrings of creative curiosity again though – that prickling sensation of anticipation that comes with a renewed desire to have another go, just to see how it feels after so long to wield a wet paintbrush on heavy paper, feel the flowing undulations of diluted colour spreading out and tinting the pristine page beneath. I think that’s why I like using watercolours so much – there’s a delicate softness of touch to it, a gentle fluidity that resonates with me emotionally.

My mum was an art teacher before she got married, and she always used to paint with oil paints, and my eldest daughter moved on from the bright acrylics of her teens to the pastels she uses now. But my favourite medium was always watercolour paints – whatever else I experimented with along the way I always came back to watercolours. And now here I am at 53, itching to pick up where I left off 36 years ago.

The thing is, starting painting again requires an initial outlay – fresh paints, and replacement brushes and paper. Nothing too fancy, I don’t need to equip an entire studio, just get the bare minimum to give it a try. But if I’m actually going to do this then I need to commit to starting somewhere, so I guess there’s no harm in picking up a few basic supplies, and taking it from there – how exciting…! 🙂

Daily Prompt: Prickle   

 

Daily Prompt: Glaring

One glaring omission from my personality seems to be a naturally happy gene – it’s not that I’m never capable of feeling happiness, more that it requires a deliberately proactive shift in my internal emotional mechanism for me to seek out those rare moments of satisfaction and joy and contentment and truly appreciate them for what they are – it feels to me like happy is just not my natural state of being.

I once began studying for a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, and in spite of really looking forward to the academic challenge, emotionally I struggled with the troubling feelings it raised within me right from the very start. Sitting in a class of bright, cheerful, positively motivated people, it soon became clear to me that – just as I’d always felt in childhood – my brain simply didn’t function in quite the same way as everyone else around me.

We completed a lot of personality tests and suchlike as part of our course, and as usual everything we explored seemed to indicate towards me having a depressive personality with bells on. It was as if my brainwaves resonate on a completely different frequency to the rest of the class – no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t fit in to the prescribed mould for successful students of this subject. And the more time passed, the more depressed I felt about it all, so I chose not to study my Master’s degree to completion – I gave it up for good, only one third of the way through.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I sit around all day permanantly wringing my hands in an oh-woe-is-me kind of way, or can’t function like any other adult in the outside world when I have to. It’s more that where the general level for feeling happiness sits flirtatiously within comfortable reach for the majority of the population, for me it remains consistently and tantalisingly elusive, well beyond my natural grasp, and can only be reached after a concerted effort on my part.

It feels to me that at heart my parabolic range of everyday emotional peaks and troughs plots overwhelmingly below average on a regular basis. In a world of Winnie-the-Poohs and Piglets and bouncy Tiggers, I’m definitely one of life’s Eeyores – but I suppose at least now I’m an Eeyore with a Post-Graduate Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Glaring

Writing Bravely: A Day in My Life

Inspired by Damyanti’s post on the Daily (W)rite I thought I’d share a day in my life just now, with the idea of writing bravely however much it hurts to admit to…

A Day in My Life…

Life does not come easy to me right now. I’m doing my best to struggle through my myopic misery by dealing with it all the best way I know how – I deliberately reduce what’s required of me with regard to daily tasks to the barest minimum for survival, and forcibly push my creativity to balance out the myriad greyness of it all with whatever miniscule splashes of the brightest ribbons of colour I can find.

I make sure we have food and clean clothes and a reasonably presentable home; I put on my public mask and go to work with a smile; I cry a lot in private. And I make myself take photographs, write poetry, crochet, draw – I keep my blog going and hope, know, deep in my soul that however low it gets this particular dismal trough in the constant parabola of life’s ups and downs won’t last forever – they never do. Always, in time, I know that this too shall pass.

It never ceases to amaze me that in one sense I am at my most creative when mired in the unfathomable depths of despair – it’s as if I cling on to life’s fragile beauty in the only way I know how, by holding on to the hope that exists in giving life to images and words, if not drawing myself upwards out of depression then at least stopping myself from drowning in it. I feel the oppressive weight bearing down, the dense pressure crushing my chest, but as always I focus on my brightest hope and just breathe through it all as best I can… ❤

In Need of Understanding…

In Need of Understanding…

When depression feeds dark thoughts of dying

Fills my days with exhaustion and crying

And I’m struggling so bad

Give me space to feel sad

Understand that I really am trying…

I’m not someone for whom the art of living comes easily, and have struggled with recurring depression on and off since childhood. I’ve seen one psychiatrist (after surviving an overdose in my early twenties) and have visited countless psychotherapists over the years since, but however much I struggle to search out solutions to try to increase my psychological understanding (including earning a degree in Psychology and Sociology as a mature student), I still don’t feel any happier at source about life.

When it comes to medication I’ve tried multiple variations of anti-depressants since my teens and was even on valium for the longest time (when my children were small and I was stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship with their father, who I have since divorced), but I find that although chemical sedatives in general do tend to curtail the worst of my negative emotions, they also flatten out any slight spark of positive emotions, too, leaving me a bit like an inert zombie. So medication for me really is a last resort.

Instead these days I find it better just to sit tight through the depressive episodes when they come, whenever I can, knowing that however bad I feel it does always get better in time even if I do nothing – no medication, no therapy, just let it work itself out. But I do find it exhausting, trying to continue to behave as far as possible like a ‘normal’ adult in public for the duration. And I find I’m always really tired and emotionally drained at home while I’m feeling at my lowest.

So when I start to feel the familiar feelings gnawing in my gut I’ll try to fight it for so long, forcing myself to do those things in life I know I enjoy in the hope of avoiding falling in too deep. But sadly there usually comes a point where I have to just accept it’s upon me once more, and I go into a kind of emotional autopilot. I function as far as possible, and then I fall temporarily into limbo until I have to function again, and this pattern simply continues day in, day out until I start to feel properly human again.

The thing is, so many people try to tell me if I feel depressed I should be going to the doctor to get some medication, or be referred for therapy to ‘sort myself out’, but the trouble with that is that it feels like they’re telling me I need to be fixed, that I’m not good enough as I am. Because at my core this is who I am, who I have always been – I simply don’t know anything different, know no other way to be in the world. After all this time I know my own body, and more importantly I know my own mind – I know what works for me, and what I need most is understanding, and for people to trust me.

If things get bad enough for me that I need to seek medical help again, trust me I will. But the only person who knows when that point is reached is me. Luckily for me my husband is very understanding, as is my GP – both have put their trust in me, allowing me the space to feel whatever I feel, preparing to be my safety net should I fall unexpectedly but otherwise letting me try my best to get through it all in my own organic way… ❤

Daily Prompt: Substandard

One of the difficulties inherent in growing up always feeling ‘not good enough’ is that you can all too easily become too much of a perfectionist at heart, terrified of showing any less-than-excellent artistic by-product of your all-too sub-standard self. The risk of public failure feels too much to bear to the extent that sooner or later you might even stop trying – because if you don’t try (or so your reasoning tells you) you can’t possibly fail, and avoiding failure seems to be a far safer bet when it comes to a motivating factor than attempting the fragile futility of scoring success on a first attempt.

For years I wrote poetry I squirreled away in secret, showing no-one, and spent ages day-dreaming of being some kind of a creative visual artist avidly exploring the joys of drawing, painting, photography, needlework. But as I would never be good enough (or so I repeatedly told myself), what was the point of pursuing anything seriously? So instead I dabbled half-heartedly, frustrated, convincing myself I was absolutely fine paddling around in the shallows, pretending to myself it wasn’t that I was just too afraid to take the plunge and dive in deep…

And then soon after turning 50 I started blogging, and began sharing some of my ‘best’ photographs and poetry oh-so-very tentatively at first, images and words shyly declaring themselves apologetically as if with a discreet little throat-clearing cough. To my surprise and delight, people responded enthusiatically, so I tried regularly sharing some relatively incomplete creative experiences, decidedly unpolished works-in-progress still in the process of struggling onwards and upwards on a steep learning-curve.

And through not being so afraid to put myself out there I found I’ve improved as I’ve gone along in a decidedly trial-and-error hap-hazard process of playing around until I finally get it right, and it feels great. So now I’m ok sharing my sub-standard stuff, because after all everyone has to start somewhere, and you’re never to old to learn. And one lesson I’m learning loud and clear is that you don’t fail by falling down, but by not getting back up and trying again, time after time, for as long as it takes to get to where you ultimately want to be… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Substandard   

Weekly Photo Challenge: Satisfaction II

colouring-in-1colouring-in-2colouring-in-3colouring-in-4

I may be a 53-year-old grandmother, but the intense satisfaction of colouring-in pre-printed generic outlines I’ve enjoyed since childhood has never left me. The current trend for producing adult colouring books has been brilliant for me – I have three A4 sized books, all slightly different, and alternate them depending on my mood. Some pages have full-page abstract designs, some with only central circular mandala-style shapes; some with recognisable subjects, some no more than doodles.

Colouring-in for me nowadays is a completely harmless way of creating some semblance of control over my actions in what can sometimes feel like an otherwise uncontrollable adult world – I can choose which colour to put next, one after another, finally building up a complete picture that is uniquely mine. Even someone else with the same book will no doubt choose to colour the same image very differently – perhaps using felt-tipped pens instead of coloured pencils, or pressing lightly and shading larger areas rather than pressing more heavily, concentrating on smaller sections.

Personally I prefer applying relatively dense colour by using the same kind of coloured pencils I used as a child – I first lay them all out on a tray to locate each colour more easily, before becoming completely engrossed in the rhythmic patterns of small movments, simply letting my imagination run free going with the flow of colour in whichever direction suits me best at the time. Some pages I work from edge to edge, and others I begin somewhere in the middle and radiate out. And I don’t tend to plan each design in advance – I simply move on playfully from one colour, one shape, to the next until I’m done.

Colouring-in soothes me in a way I can’t quite describe – it connects me in the simplest and most inclusive of ways with the immersive joy of creative artistic expression. Perhaps not everyone can draw or paint, but everyone can colour in – it’s not as daunting as facing a completely blank page as the outlines are already there in principle, providing the perfect framework to entice you in. When life feels drab and grey, it really does help me put a little colour into my world… 🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Satisfaction

Weekly Photo Challenge: Satisfaction

A bit of a tongue-in-cheek life-plan list for this week – three things that bring me satisfaction…

make-my-peace

Past: Making peace with my problematic past…

beauty-of-nature

Present: Spending time appreciating the little things in life…

 

ducks-in-a-row

Future: And finally getting all my ducks in a row… (Yes I know they’re grey geese, not ducks – but they just sat there so neatly I immediately thought of ducks in a row) 🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Satisfaction