That Happy Poor Girl

“It’s ALL a gift…”

(or That Poor Happy Girl)

I am happy to be that poor girl…really! I have spent many days and hours working for very wealthy folks, and I am fine with my more humble surroundings. I see sparse, stark interiors; lots of steel, lots of neutrals. Blah. Bluk.

I suppose it’s alright for a little while, just as soaring ceilings might do for a bit. But it’s just not my thing. I’m a cottage kind of girl, a cabin kid, happy in a hovel, at home in a trailer, a caravan, a tent.

I do enjoy running water, electricity and heat/ac at the ready, though. “Younger me” was more of a survivalist, but my poor hands have arthritis now and wouldn’t be able to hold a match to start a fire. So yeah, electricity is pretty necessary.

. Today I worked some hours on the road. I never told you, but I’m what they call a “gig” driver now. So I tote around a lot of different types of people. Today I was reminded to be grateful, after delivering some privileged little teenagers to a “European Waxing Salon”. Uh, yeah. They were speaking in hushed tones about homeless people, and how scary Miami is now. I actually joined in, and felt ashamed afterwards. Who do I really think I am? I’ve been listening to some music I like from some years back, and an Everlast song keeps going thru my head. Some of the lyrics say,

” Then you really might know what it’s like…the have to lose…”

I had forgotten to be grateful. I’m not out on the street, sleeping under overpasses, stealing liquor, shooting coke…I’m not out beating people up, or stealing from my Grandma. I’m not out ripping and running…

Anymore .

I have to keep it real, keep it fresh. I don’t deserve anything I have. It’s all a gift.

This is my old tomcat, George. He came up to me in my driveway one dark night a couple months ago. Could hardly walk, ears tattered and bloody, one eye squinted shut. All his backbone was showing, all his ribs. A big lump on his side; he could hardly walk and his meow sounded like a cough.

But he’s here right now, on my warm lap. Purring his messed-up little head off. Does he want to live in the Taj Mahal? Well, maybe…but he seems pretty content right where he’s at.

And Her Name Is…

“…and I am all locked up inside a tiny, empty box of a mind…”

Writing used to be a source or therapy for me. My private world of imaginary confidences, unseen friends who listened intently and loved me fiercely. I would share my deepest wishes and dreams, safely. A sense of comfort would come from answers to my problems and daily pains, answers that I know came from inside of me (because I’m the only one here, ya know?) but that seemed like they came from a guide. This inner guide is always here, and I’m not talking about my conscience or “higher power”. No, this “inner voice” ususally sounds like my Mom. Mom when she wasnt fussing at me, or angry at me. Mom at her best friend/ Mom best. A sister, a twin… a smarter twin.

I know I can write anytime, any where; I used to fill volumes of spiral notebooks. They are all here somewhere, buried in boxes, closets and sheds. When I got my first laptop thirty (THIRTY?) years ago, I had a private journal. But we artists have such egos, and on some level I thought someone out there would benefit from my self examination, rumination and basic self-pity. So I “went public” with my thoughts. For a while, even perhaps a year or two, I still felt the feeling of off-loading and relief after a writing session. I was honest and open and the feelings flowed out, just as they do in my other art.

After a while though, I started getting anxious about what I would write, how much I would share, who were my readers and what content they wanted. Would anyone “like ” my entry? Was I furthering my art “career” or hindering it? was I being too spiritual or sharing too personal information? My writing style, was it easy to digest or too flowery…ad nauseum.

It has progressed to the point now till no longer look forward to sitting down with my imaginary sister, she has disappeared into the shadows deep inside my mind. I miss her, and really need to find her again. I still create my beautiful art, but my poetry voice is silent and has been for a long time. I am filled with a sadness , a longing to share my heart with her. I think she just got tired of my insincerity, always trying to be “ON” for an audience, always trying to impress. I traded my muse for a star that not only faded, it never rose in the first place. And I feel a chill when I see this empty page.

I must find her, see if she will listen when I tell her how much I need her. That all this fandom and chasing sales is a bunch of baloney. Losing her just takes the shine off of it all, and I am all locked up inside a tiny empty box of a mind. It’s a cliche at this point, but a mind is a terrible thing to waste. I always wondered what her name was, this friend who comforts me so, who helps me figure out which direction to take and who gives me that pat on the back when the going gets rough. I know her name now: it’s Sanity.

The Days of Trouble Begin

“…I will carry the Hurt. But it will NOT defeat me…)

A guy can be going along so well, everything chugging along, when suddenly; the bottom falls out of the world. Just when it seemed like smooth sailing.

Is that shocking to me? Shouldn’t be. I’ve felt like Wile. E Coyote many times. This time was different. This time is different.

Until the day comes that I can speak, I will paint. I will draw. And I will carry the Hurt. But it WILL NOT defeat me.

Inside I am safe, free, loved, cherished.

For The Love of DETAIL

The Magic Bus

New art, the tiny line moving across the canvas. my pin-dot imaginary School Bus driving thru a blazing white desert.(That’s funny, a School Bus! Why not a Mach I , or a horse or something? I’m such a child inside). I spend a lot of my day trying to figure out if I’m processing information properly. An internal , endless dialogue. Does everyone have this? it is very tiring. Life in general can be very tiring, but when my little Bus drives around: we find wonderfully exotic places, and we cavort with incredible animals and people. I’m so grateful to have this outlet.

I am so elated to be creating for the sheer joy of it. No calls, no commissions: just joy.

The Mural Dream of a Cool Kid

“I was high on life, and probably paint fumes and Columbian Gold…it felt cool…”

THE MURAL DREAM

Mural painting is fine art today. Just as great frescoes in the days of Michelangelo, and centuries before, large scale art is an artist’s dream. Is that why children inevitable write in crayon on the playroom walls?

I am sure of this: As long as I have been able to appreciate fine art and my burning desire to depict what I see thru it: I have wanted to paint murals. At times, in my youth, I exercised this need, painting in spray enamel on any available wall in the dead of night. “HELLO WORLD!” in six foot tall red letters over a grinning, fanged 30 foot tall caricature, scrawled on an underpass along I-95 southbound. Painted in 1985, before the Interstate had even made it to West Palm beach. Ah, what satisfaction to drive by it in the backseat of Dad’s Mazda, grinning silently.

These were days before I heard of graffiti culture, I was a transplant to the largely undeveloped east coast of Florida an hour north of Fort Lauderdale. These were the days when the County Sherriff had bricks of coke and bales of weed being dropped on his private airstrip a few miles north of my house. I hung out with a bunch of dudes who owned a race car shop, building mid-engine Mustangs and drag racing on Glades Cut-off Road.

Before Race-day one weekend, the boys let me use all the leftover spraypaint in the shop to paint huge murals of fire breathing dragons and heavy metal chicks everywhere. I was high on life, and probably paint fumes and Columbian gold. What a rush, the guys all in amazement at my grand design. Now I was a real artist, a legend at the shop, “The Girl Who Painted Barrel Road “. Now I knew how Michelangelo must have felt when he unveiled the Sistine Chapel for the Pope! (Unveiled it? How, exactly?) Well, anyway, it felt cool.

FASTFORWARD NOW, 25 years clean and sober, a professionally recognized fine artist in my own right. Now living in St. Petersburg, Florida which hosts the annual “SHINE” mural festival, an event which brings mural artists and fans from all over the globe, and I’m still dreaming.

I know it will happen, I will have a wall to call my own. I will keep pushing, keep striving, keep believing. After all, I was born on the sixth day of March- the same day as Michelangelo!

Mania Illuminata goes home!

Me and my shadow!! It has been a long trip but she found a good home!!

WHAT a great show this was at Five Deuces Galleria down in St Petersburg this month! I had really been trying to get in a show at this gallery, I felt early on that it would be a good fit for my work. I was right! I have made some excellent connections and am working on my entries for their next show, “Black and White with a touch of color!

I am really excited to have my piece in an important local collection, and I see great things ahead! Let’s keep pushing on!

“Ooo, the Girl is GROUCHY!”,

“That’s ENOUGH! Now, suck it up and get to work!”

I used to feel such spontaneity when I used this site. I was able to let out all my angst, the ups and downs of life: just let it float.

letting things float, like in this painting, “Utopia Parkway”©SusanTMartin

Then I decided it was high time I got serious about my art, in a financial sense. After all, that’s what artists are supposed to do right? Look for angles, ways to promote myself, improve my lot in life. My life is already half over, so make hay while the sun shines, right?

This bit of creativity I titled, “The Master Worker”©SusanTMartin

. Wrong. My rebellious side decided I don’t need anyone to finance my art. I can scrape by. I will be discovered by accident. So I lost all my wind in my sails. I will try very hard to gather myself together.

That’s ENOUGH!

Now, Suck it Up and Get to Work!!

Ok, ok, I did, I am!

Where is Captain Jack?

“…maybe all artists…go thru periods of feast followed by famine…”

STUCK IN THE DOLDRUMS…

waiting for the TIDE…

There was a song I knew, back in my past life(when I was that other ‘cooler’ girl) entitled “When Will It Rain”. It plays in my head now: I walk on parched ground in my mind, thru a sweltering heat in a huge, empty landscape. Begging for the rain of Creativity to wash this dry spell away, saturate the soil of my aching mind, send cooling rivulets of inspiration into the cracks and fissures…

In one of the “Pirates” movies, the ship was stuck in the Doldrums. A very real occurrence for sailing vessels, this is a dire situation for the crew as the film depicts. I can imagine their suffering, stuck virtually motionless in the very water that also gave them so much bounty at other times of year.

Such is my plight as a Bipolar artist. Who knows, maybe all artists, all people, go through periods of feast followed by famine. Maybe I just feel it more acutely, or respond to it differently. This ‘stuckness’ is deadly for me, it frightens me into believing that my artistic talent is gone forever, like a well run dry. In reality, it is natural to experience some down time, it is even recommended to take vacations to ‘recharge’ and ‘renew’.

I know in my heart that I will be in fire with creative endeavors soon, and I will successfully sail to the next sighted port of call…but my disease tells me I’m dying in this vessel, surrounded by all the paint in the world, and not being able to lift my brush…

AWAY…

There are months when I sail along. Then there was April. Ouch.

Work in Progress: The Old Grove

Bipolar Disorder has a whole bag of tricks it can put to use on me, it used all of them. I let myself believe I didn’t need more than 3 hours sleep per night. In fact, thot I, I don’t need to sleep for 72 hours…48 is just too easy!

Spring on the Gulf

I’m so glad I don’t have schizophrenia. I deal with enough psychosis from insomnia.

I hope to be creating more very soon. Right now I’m working on a little 16×20 landscape , and at the end of April I had entered 5 works into INSIGHTS V. So I’m kind of easing in to new ideas. Let it flow, baby!

The Healing

and The “Salvator” Mommy

. (And THE LAVENDER CAT!)

Being still is very difficult for me mentally. Having a racing mind is the natural state of being for me, anything else is alien and uncomfortable. If I’m flitting about inside I can leap away from my disturbing thoughts as soon as they appear- it’s a constant dance to keep the wolves at bay. My faith has helped tame the beasts lurking my memory’s deeply scarred terrain, knowing that there is a force for good stronger than the pull of caustic quicksand that daily tries to suck me in.

Here is the divine painting now!

I will dance this mental quick-step until death swallows me, the wounds of prolonged sexual abuse and violence are the deepest kind, years of therapy have given me some tools to offset the devastating effects of PTSD a bit. My Bipolar Disorder causes my synapses to fire differently than “normal” folk, this is proven by science, I believe this is a reason I am plagued so frequently by the flashbacks and memories.

me standing tall at the recent ART HEALS show at The Arts Exchange, St Pete, FL.
USA

My art is my outlet to “talk” about my inner world, it facilitates compassion and understanding in some viewers. Others will still judge my moral failings, and when these judgements slap me in the face I am better able to stand rather than crumble.

I recently was assaulted by an attempted character attack, called a liar and thief to my happy face-dashed by a loved one’s belief that I was still the person of 22 years ago when my addiction raged. It stunned me, unhinged me for a time- but I am bouncing back; hurt but not letting these untruths detail my sanity completely.

. This is all I can write, the healing is still in progress. Thank God for my loving friends in high places who know my inner heart and the fact that 22 years of sobriety, therapy and spirituality allowed me to leave that dishonest personality long ago.

A Quote in the INSIGHTS IV catalogue
Me and Joyce Sang, co-founder of The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation, and my featured piece, Deep Running(framed in an acrylic box to highlight BOTH painted sides of the canvas!)

I will paint and create art that reflects my journey, this soothes my troubled mind and gives me the most relief. Thank you so much for your continued support on my artistic journey

“Salvator Mommy” Savior of Cat’s and Bipolar Daughters, Acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas

Peeping Out

“Hold on for dear life my friend.”

Squinting. Blink, blink…blink, blink…

The coast seems clear, dare I step out-into the light? I think I must, after my last cryptic and elusive post. Nothing bad happened, artistically. I was uplifted, encouraged, validated. People needed to hear from me, needed to hear how a girl with so many odds stacked against her from the “git go”, plus the things I had piled on myself-how I had teetered at the edge of the abyss…and made it back to tell the tale.

Why? Why? Why? ©STMartin “Growth” detail

Many are grieving themselves, their pain written in their beautiful eyes, on expertly made up, flawless faces. They searched mine, looking for an answer- “Why.” Why? Why? Had they missed the signs? Were there signs? Hadn’t they done everything, sought the right help, paid the right physician, listened closely in the therapy sessions?

Why hadn’t their love been enough?

Of Love Lost…©STMartin2021

I could only tell them that there was no rhyme or reason as to why I am here and their daughter is not. They did nothing to cause Bipolar Disorder. It doesn’t come from privilege, nor does it spring from want. It isn’t kept at bay with hugs or attention, nor is it fueled by neglect. At least none of this was true in my case.

My family was dysfunctional, true. So were many of my peers families. So are nearly all families. But my friends had not led lives fueled by a burning need to shoot across the sky in a blaze of purple confetti. Or to try to beat the Guiness world record for consecutive shots of 100 proof vodka. Nor had they experienced the kind of despair that left them lost and disheveled in their bathrobe when they were supposed to be graduating college or accepting an award.

A very trippy feeling…©STMartin

I wanted to tell them they did more than my family ever did. That my Mom was the only one who believed that I did not want to be a train wreck. She asked the questions, walked thru broken glass for me and held my hand when the meds weren’t working. But ultimately she couldn’t divert the catastrophe either.

I’m trying to tell you it’s not your fault. Grieve the loss, but don’t blame yourself. I know when the darkness comes over me, it’s no one’s fault. And if I hold on really tight, it will pass. I white-knuckle it many nights, but a new day always dawns.

One day in the future there will not be any mental illness, or suicide. Until then just love your Bipolar person, hold on tight when you can and bask in their amazing glow. Be there when their sparklers fizzle and love them back to their feet. When they jump in their little rocket ships to the moon, put on a brave smile and wish them all the love in the world…till you meet again.

And if you are Bipolar and you are feeling alone, please reach out if you can. Know that you are worthy of love and that this darkness will eventually pass. You will be back on top again. The rain will stop. The sun will shine, the pain will ease. Hold on for dear life my friend.

Round One: Let the Game Begin!

“…walking into the sunlight of my artistic future!”

I Will find the WILL!!

My Founding Artist painting: The first of my works to be placed in The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation’s Permanent Collection!

Fittingly titled “Crossing the Deleware, Well Aware” it shows my journey from despair and being held back by my past to shedding the overcoat of depression and walking into the sunlight of my artistic future! I based this title on the little “George Washington” Dude lurking down in the bottom center of the painting…See his funny hat?

My “Doubting Suzie” Ways

Ok, friends, here’s the deal: I quit working as Frank Strunk III’s intern last week. Why, when I was enjoying learning from him so much? Why, when my mind was blooming open to all kinds of brilliant metal working techniques, and my mind was being blown by his artistic vision?

“Why in the world would you do that Susan Todd?”, Susan Todd asked Susan Todd.

I figured out the answer to that yesterday, although the reasons I gave Frank were that

A. I need to focus on my work I already do, cause it’s what I do. (Huh?)

B. I am doing a piece about my Dad and I’m an emotional landmine.(Hmmmm….What?)

C. I have been invited to a big event and need to focus.(Nope.)

D. Too many scattered efforts make Suzie nuts. (Now THAT makes sense)

Did I do the right thing? I wasn’t sure, because I really want to make metal art. I’m frequently making impulsive decisions and regretting them. He was generous with his time, his tools, opening his shop, his art and heart to help an emerging artist. And I bailed, just when I was really digging in.

An Emotional piece about my Dad…Work in Progress. “Dead Men Tell No Tales”©STMartin2022 (started last week!)

I hate how my Bipolar Disorder makes me run Soooo Hot and then drops me on my doubtful butt. But it did, and here I am. Have I done what I said I was going to do? Well, yes. Yes I have. So that is good, I really have benefited from focusing on less! I have finished one of the pieces for the new INSIGHTS V call and started 2 more. I entered the Art of Possibilities Show in Missouri with 3 works, and finished 2 Grant applications plus am working on a third. And this third one is a doozy.

THE IMAGES ABOVE are of ‘THE DREAMING FOREST’ ©STMartin2022 (A New Work!)

I didn’t get the last three I applied for, but I’m getting better all the time at writing them. This new one I am having trouble writing, but that is ok. I AM REACHING OUT!! Oh, and I finished my Art Business course that the St Pete Arts Alliance gave me a scholarship for!

So, have I been working, and trying and FIGHTING for myself?

Yes! YES!! YES!!!! Making connections and forging ahead, breaking new ground in new and exciting directions. Learning new marketing skills and remembering old ones I had forgotten. Benefiting from taking little risks and meeting new artists.

Now that I have written this I am astounded at all I have accomplished in the past 2 months. I really am a creative Powerhouse! Cutting thru the choppy waters like a PRO! Go Suzie, Go Suzie!

There is NO limit on my creative potential! I can SOAR! Look at me go!!

one of my commissions from 2021

Will You Forgive Me?

“I will flay myself alive…peeling off each layer to offer up to the powers that be…”

I don’t know if I can…

Self Portrait 2014©SusanToddMartin

Here I am again, laying on ‘the sick bed’. It’s my forlorn couch, a relic from the 70’s (in the most excellent and outrageous fabric one could ever hope to find) but alas, my dying body is taxing her. I say dying, and in a literal sense it’s true, in that all things living begin dying at birth, but that’s not my meaning here.

Where did this Skinny Young woman go? Why was she angry? Why wasn’t she jumping for joy in that Young body?

I say my body is dying, but it’s immobility, as in the ‘death’ of energy, ambition, drive to do, see, create. Creative death. Self inflicted wound. Very deliberate. I knew when I dragged myself out of bed that I would do nothing but suffer today. Even when an opportunity for joy arose, I quashed it.

Susan Past ©STM2018

. I know exactly the game afoot, I know full well the grant application that awaits my attention. I know that I have a good project in mind- I even laid some initial groundwork out. Did these things help me keep my momentum going? Well…no.

kind of cool photo…but I’m still having my pity party so I can’t enjoy it.

No! I’m still going to sit in this bucket of my own $#@% until I nearly miss the deadline, then I will run at the goal full tilt with sweat and tears flying off of me. In this process I will flay myself alive, peeling off each layer to offer up to the powers that be, showing them the very essence of me, turning this way , then that, to reveal my facets.

Me, Drowning in my own effluence…(Reaching Out©STMartin2017)

Why do I do this? Lay in ambush for my own success? I have asked too many times and found only euphemisms. So today I quit asking. Today I start

FIGHTING.

One of the many versions of The Sentinel’s Prayer©SusanTMartin2018

I made myself get up, clean up, walk the dog, eat and finish a painting. I still have some fight left in me!!!

A GREAT Motivator…

“…I’ll look outside for a hippo to wrestle…”

“Who can it be?”

It is the white hot lead that throbbed in my spine last night. Coloring every second of every hour a bloody shade of red. The red from my bitten lip, the red of my sleepless eyes.

no more pain, indeed…(detail, Flashback 937©STMartin2019)

Why last night, when I’d been doing so well- doing so much so well ? Hmmm…let’s see….let us analyze:

Saturday: Ride horse.

Yup. There ya go, Dopey.

So now I am lying on a frozen bag of broccoli, contemplating a pain pill, contemplating calling an ambulance and wishing I had a gallon of chocolate ice cream and a liter of scotch. I haven’t had a drink in 21 years…but I gotta say, oblivion has a certain appeal right now.

And doesn’t it just figure that when I’m hittin’ on all cylinders in my art business; applying for grants, apprenticing to a famous sculptor, putting in bids on murals, putting paintings in shows and working on another-BRAINSTORMING MY BIPOLAR ” HEAD OFF-this, this is the week I decide to ride a horse.

Well, it’s just another day in the life. I wish I could avoid these conundrums, but that’s just not me. (on a side note, I just noticed that when you hit ‘bold’ and ‘italicize’ even the period dot gets bold. Ooooo….)

Any hoo… I guess that’s all for now. I have another grant opportunity I have to finish applying for by this Saturday, and tomorrow I go to the metal shop, so I better try to rest and see if I can walk in the a.m. Oh, wait, maybe I’ll look outside for a hippo to wrestle first! Sheesh!

(all that being said, I am creating a bunch of awesome art right now!)

An Artist’s Realization:

“My dreams are NOT dead!…”

Stepping Off

What did I dream of then ? The freedom to create new art, better art than anyone had done before. I dreamt of sculpture, glorious-creamy-marble-gleamy sculpture. Human form expressed in visions of living flesh to make one weep.

Pushing the limits of what had gone before, finessing my gift to a razor fine point that would etch images so tantalizing that Albrecht Durer would be green with envy. I had no doubt in my teenage grandiosity that these goals were within my reach, I knew I was “that good”. All the tools were laid before me, I believed they would always be freely given by a grateful world, an appreciative audience who would grease my path to slide into the role of a modern day Michelangelo, only in female form.

Perhaps I dreamed a bit large, but how wonderful to entertain such beliefs! With no guardrails to hem in my imagination my art soared, with no thought to the cost of materials or the the limiting exhaustion that real world work brings.

Well, guess what? I am making those dreams a reality today. I found someone who is willing to give me a chance, an opportunity to learn from his experience. I gathered my courage and kept asking, even when it seemed like I was getting nowhere. After following up on a suggestion a local CAD artist made to seek out this artist (thank you Alex!); I am proud to say I am learning from metal artist Frank Strunk III.

My dreams are NOT dead, I AM following my passion. I have the drive and vision, now with a little funding I will be soaring again! Soaring! On riveted metal wings, in welded metal carriages, in sculpted hot-air balloons and on the backs of giant imaginary sea creatures! Watch me soar, man!!!

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