Out with the Old

“Harrison”. Original pastel pencil pet portrait.

When I began this blog, I thought I’d document my journey into art. I’m a late bloomer you see. I took up painting in my sixties, and now, in my seventies, I’m wondering what happened to that creative energy that seemed so passionately powerful just a few years ago when I was reveling in online classes and exploring a variety of mediums with enthusiasm.

Is the pandemic to blame? I know I’m not the only artist who has found the forced isolation of Covid-19 to have been a damper on her creativity. I’ve talked to others who say they, too, have felt uninspired and lacking any enthusiasm for picking up the brush or pencil.

Is it that at the first of the pandemic when our governor had us on lockdown, I went off my SSRI venlafaxine. I did it cold-turkey and suffered definite withdrawal, which, because I had a bladder infection, I first mistook the shaking for a response to infection. Even now, my anxiety level is definitely higher and is difficult to navigate especially in the mornings and is probably a factor in my senior-citizen-onset insomnia. The reason for coming off the SSRI was a diagnosis of fatty liver, and the good news is I’ve lost 75 pounds, which is great for the liver function as well as a couple of other health concerns I have. However, even a higher dose of buproprion (Wellbutrin), has not alleviated the anxiety. Is that a reason I don’t feel like painting?

Is it that I had a very sick dog with congestive heart failure, a collapsed trachea, mammary tumors, and a mouth tumor that made her nose run and caused her to cough even more? I have to be honest and say that often I wanted to work on the sofa so she was beside me instead of working in the art room where she was farther away from me. A dying dog is an unusual excuse for not painting, but I do think it affected my desire to drag out the collage and the acrylics, amped up my anxiety, and kept me glued to the living room more than I normally would have been. She died in August of 2021, and I have felt a lot of grief over losing her. Indeed, I felt sad even before she passed as I watched her struggling to breathe while seemly getting sweeter as she relied on me to help her feel better. She would rally and then have a setback. It was hard.

Is the problem that I joined a local artists group with lifelong professional artists who sell their work and felt pressure to be more original? Until then, I was enjoying just trying to do what I saw the online teachers do, usually in my art journal, maybe on canvas or art paper, but certainly not with an intention of selling anything. The pressure to be more original was a challenge, but it limited my exploration of different media and styles. I found myself trying to be too perfect, and instead of looking forward to time at the art table or easel, I was looking for a book to read or a Netflix show to watch. Instead of adding my own take to a technique and feeling like I was learning, I was painting for an audience instead of myself.

So, have I given up art altogether? No, but the art I have done has been in media that I had no real experience doing before the pandemic. I found Erika Lancaster on YouTube and Patreon and started doing watercolor in 2020. She is a fantastic teacher, and the freedom to just learn without having to produce something original was very enjoyable. In 2021, I did a lot of pastel pencil through the classes of British artist Colin Bradley. I got some of his first classes through ArtBundle4Good, but I eventually bought a lifetime subscription. It is an easy sofa medium, and I really enjoy learning the techniques without having to beat myself up for copying. My original pieces using Colin’s techniques look pretty good, too. I feel like I’ll continue both.

What is in the future for me? I cleaned up the art room. My new dog is comfortable at my feet there. I signed up for a class with Fonda Clark Haight called The Down Deep through Galia Alena’s Art Is Magic site. I have taken it before. It is about using art to explore your subconscious and is more about the inner exploration than the beauty (or potential for sales) of the art while allowing for great originality and freedom of expression. I am hoping it will help me get in touch with the source of my anxiety and maybe help me deal with it better. I don’t want to go back on the SSRI.

I am looking forward to 2022 and a new way of arting. I want to draw and paint for myself again. I have numerous classes I’ve bought and not even opened to explore what new things I can learn about art and about myself. I am going to try to have the goal, not to art every day, but to art for fun. I sincerely believe that once I bring the fun back into my art practice, doing it every day will become a given, and doing something original will be a joy instead of a competition.

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