This is the call prospectus; I will somehow communicate visually to you (since I am a visual artist) the feeling of being Bipolar. My inner workings, tickings, thinkings: the fears and joys, ups and downs, backward-and-forward loves and hates…ALL the fuzzies , and the rough edges, swirly thoughts and bumps in the road BLOCKS.
In living color. Will it be beautiful? Perhaps in the fact that I am pouring myself into the page, translating feelings like a electric current running thru my heart to yours. Can it be done? Yes, because that IS what I do, always, in my art. Not to say the feelings come across in all my work to each and every viewer, but it is ultimately what motivates me to create.
. I AM a Bipolar Creative, and I am compelled to create to express this state of being.
“Oh, it’s so easy for you to paint things.”
Is it? Anyone can learn to create a likeness, with practice and will.
But no one can squeeze their very essence into a creative work the way I do without strong emotion, taxing effort, mental strain, soaring delight and, at times, great agitation and even physical pain. Yes, I have heard other Artists, many technically great and successful who purport no emotional contortions are necessary to create great art.
That is not true for me.
My art soothes my frantic racing brain which runs away at breakneck speed when certain conditions are met. Or the melancholy, dark days when I seek the relief of soothing, deep blues and greens..
Yes, I do love this Bipolar life of mine, and I’m glad to be who I am. I am proud to share myself in my art. I hope it helps a friend some future day, to put their feelings on the page…
“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!
“…walking into the sunlight of my artistic future!”
I Will find the WILL!!
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.
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.
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!!
take the time you need to heal, then: GET UP ON YOUR FEET AND FIGHT!
“It’s not the size of the Dog in the Fight…It’s the size of the FIGHT in the Dog…”
My physical health knocked me down for the past 2 weeks, any headway I had made in my Art Practice seemed to be slip-sliding away! I had given myself a wake up call, determined to make this a great year for my self expression. Motivated by many hours of study in art history, and of the great Masters, then the Impressionists, And on down thru the centuries…
I was Fired Up and hitting on all cylinders! I even sought some marketing advise, only to be told that I had no idea what I was doing and probably never would. Ahhh, welll. That’s nothing new, my Dad told me that for 40 years!
I will not let negative remarks cloud my Artistic Vision! As long as I am able, I will use this gift to tell my story: Sometimes messy, sometimes hard to look at…
BUT ALWAYS UNIQUELY MY OWN! Hooray for Me, and for You!
So, I had been sidelined, but I still have 5 works in 4 shows across the US right now! Not bad for a loser!!
This painting, “Ad Infinitum”, is a commentary of my journey from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Childhood Sexual Assault, Self-Loathing and Suicidal Ideation to a Life of Freedom and Acceptance of the person I was. As a person with Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder, and PTSD , this journey was arduous and excruciatingly painful.
This work has been juried into the ” 2021 Women In Art”, an online show honoring women artists for the month of March, at Las Laguna Art Gallery, Laguna Beach, California. You can view this show online at laslagunartgallery.com March 4-27,2021 Description of Work: As a Bipolar Artist I have always portrayed my duality in my work unconsciously at first, way before any diagnosis. I painted this as an entry to The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundations Insights IV Art Show in 2019, the theme being Self Portraits. As such all the women in the image are different facets of the Artist. On the Left side of the image in gilt and green vines we find a woman hanging on a stake, paying for her crimes.
Center Bottom is the past self (as I described initially here). We see that she is dark overall, and notably, wearing a mask and full of confusing puzzle-like pieces and disjointed lines. In fact even her hair is like the pages of a book that holds her many secrets. There are signs she has been in bondage, chains, shackles, even some kind of demon-like being can be seen lurking inside, still biting her(shoulder region).This collection of symbols indicate not only abuse, but also the bondage of addiction and codependency. She smiles up at the healed self who is lifting her out of the mire. Her condition had become so dire, that we see a tiny version of self scrambling up the stairs in her forearm to escape, with a look of terror on her face. That is not a shirt the lower self wears, it is her skin, which has to peeled off to reveal the clean inner person she is becoming.
Around the lower self’s neck, central to the painting we see a venomous snake, usually a symbol of evil in art, for centuries. But rather than striking, it is benevolent ( after all it is pink!) An “inside joke” on the Artist’s part, as she was bitten by a Pygmy Rattlesnake on July 5, 1985 and then by a Copperhead on August 10, 1995, which very nearly cost her her life.
BUT SHE LIVED, and now that all the other venom of her past is purged, SHE IS LIVING A JOYFUL LIFE NOW! As far as the child in the right-hand corner, that needs no explanation, nor does the love on the face of the Healed Self.
Using Simultaneity and Surrealism I morph my feelings and emotions into birds, fish, and an outpouring of faces, each expressing the myriad emotions I go thru each day as a person living with PTSD and Bipolar Disorder.I wonder how many animals you can find? It’s like a little joyride into my manic mind!
…the room seems to awaken with her…golden rays fall…like the petals of an opening rose…
this isolation is kind of nice, (she thought), it gives me time to explore my thoughts. But too much pondering of self is no good, (she thought to herself), it can get messy. Really, it is messy, all this thinking in isolation, (she remembered), because it makes me so sleepy, (she yawned), not doing the dishes, nor combing my hair, (she sighs), flummoxed, just flummoxed. I should try to eat something, (she groans), but there’s nothing here I want, (she moans) it all takes too much energy… e-n-e-r-g-y…(she sleeps…)footsteps recede, door closes.
Ahhhh, fresh air… Curtains of pale yellow blow in the morning breeze. We know it’s morning, hear the cardinals breakfasting at the feeder. A nuzzle of cold snout under the hand leads to the opening of an eye: Here is Izzy, the proud mom, ready to show us her new brood.
” Good Girl Za-Za!”, we exclaim, thrilled now to sit up, taking a long draw on the crystal glass of water at our bedside.
. “Hey, Kiki old-man! You gonna show us the grand babies?”
. Swing the legs over the side and stretch, then again before standing…
. With that, off they dash as we stumble along behind, into the hall then into the den. We can already hear the tiny grunts and squeals as the teeny pups angrily demand breakfast.
“Get in there, Izzy!” She’s already in the basket, dutifully cleaning little backsides as they squirm and nuzzle in for a teat. “Good Za!”
. She gives us a look of pure bliss, eyes narrow and smiling with a mother’s pride. Not to be outdone, Uncle Kiko, gives a little nose-nudge to the basket as if to say, “I helped too!!”
. ” Good Boy Kiko, you’re a trooper, indeed!”
In the quiet of the morning the scent of brewing coffee tantalizes our senses, and as we look up into the kitchen, there is Dad, in his Dad chair, reading the newspaper as he’s done ten thousand mornings before. He glances up from his cup, mid-sip, to wink and smile, mouthing a silent ‘good-morning’.
. We move down the hall towards Mom’s bedroom, still closed as she slumbers on. We can’t resist a peek, gently opening the door and gliding over to stand and caress her sleeping face with our eyes. She is so beautiful in her repose, a wisp of brown hair touseled over her brow. We must have made a sound, she stirs and the room seems to awaken with her, the birds chirp louder, the golden rays fall around her like the petals of an opening rose. She stretches, smiling, her hand reaches out to touch ours…
“…look into this inner world and I promise I will use my “INSIDE VOICE”.
Hello again, and welcome to the big show! I have begun what will become a Major Series of New Works entitled , “INSIDE VOICE” a series of works that speak to my inner battle with Bipolar Disorder’s lows and maniac highs, my way to shout out how the battle rages on inside even when silence prevails outside.
Many people who meet me may be uncomfortable being near a person diagnosed with mental illness, such as Bipolar Disorder. However, they are often surprised at how “normal” I seem. It has been my experience both with my current diagnosis, and with my original diagnosis of Chronic Depression, that friends and family are amazed that I don’t run around slathering at the mouth, or beating my head against the wall. They often try denial on, “No…not you…” or, ” You seem so happy, normal, well adjusted, calm, smart …”
Some have even gone so far as to comment on my family tree, as in, ” Well your Grandpa was a little odd.” Or the opposite, “Nothing like this has ever been on my side of the family…” In my family, on my Mom’s side, my Grandpa and his Brothers had come to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from Woodbury, Tennessee because there were good jobs to be had at the State Hospital, which was what insane asylums were called in the early 20th Century in the U.S. The treatment of mental illness was a whole different ballgame back then, my relatives saw many terrible and terrifying things, indeed.
Their positions within these huge hospitals required them to live on the Hospital Grounds in Dormitories, where they could hear the “lunatics” screaming and carrying on all day and night. It’s no wonder they were aghast at the idea that their kin were somehow linked to those poor souls in the “Looney Bin”. I am so glad to live in this century, and I am very grateful to all the poor souls who were the subject of many ghastly experiments and treatments, who helped behavioral science and the Mental Health Community to become what it is today. As a “50 Something” woman who was not properly diagnosed till the age of 32, my life now is a dream compared to the suicide attempts, the self medicating, the self debasing promiscuity, the manic spending, the jail time, the fate-tempting, death-defying thrill-seeking, mayhem-causing pain I lived thru before. The sheer energyit would take to put up a happy, smiling front…man, I needed a eight ball just to keep it up for a weekend.
But it would all unravel in the end. I was not OK. I was really, really not OK. Inside my head I was screaming, and my thoughts were rolling at warp speed. I was that cat on the electric floor in that Steven King movie, running up the walls. I would try to hold down a job, and this is after a year of sobriety, after a few hours I would go to the loo and hide, shaking like a leaf. After about a year and a half clean and sober, I got my hands on my first credit card and inheritance at the same time and bought 5 acres in the wilderness, had it cleared and levelled, had a well dug, fenced it and then went to the mall and purchased a bunch of tanzanite and diamond jewelry, winding up spending over 20 grand in 2 weeks(and ultimately filing a chapter 13 bankruptcy).
Interspersed between those bouts of mania, where I seemed so “normal”, I would cry. And cry. And Finally I just couldn’t take the pain anymore, so a dear friend said I should go to a local Mental Health Facility, called New Horizons. I was given this ancient psychiatrist who looked wizened, emaciated and nearly blind. But, bless her heart, she had me pegged. With her help, with my determination to stick with my med trials, with a great therapist and social worker, I have been able to stay alive there past 23 years, now clean and sober for 21 of them, come September.
. So, anyway…(whew, that was quite a tirade!)…I am painting this series to let you look inside a person with this illness, look into this inner world and I promise I will use my “INSIDE VOICE”.
…see what this work has gone thru on it’s journey to fruition…
. You know I like to keep working on my paintings, don’t you? I believe it comes from not having enough money for canvases , as well as not sketching out my paintings first, as well as total and complete impatience to put my idea down fast, for gratification. So I thought I would make a brief compilation to see what this work has gone thru on it’s journey to fruition… I will make a better video tomorrow… No sleep for me (again) last night…Can you say, “MANIA!!!!” It may Hurt later, but right now it’s SO EXCITING!! PAINT PAINT PAINT!!!
. This project was a couple years in the making for me, and was born from the bottomless grief I was dealing with then. As caregiver to both of my parents after a 23 year-long active addiction, and after a devestating breakup of my marriage when my ex went to Federal Prison, I was an emotional train wreck. I had not been creating visual art except for private sketches and some mural work, but I made a smart move during those early years back home with my parents by purchasing a Surface Pro in 2006 with all the bells and whistles. As a result, I did have a creative outlet in the new digital editing and photographic capabilities of this amazing device.
. During the long illness of my Mom, who was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in 2007 (after years of passing blood but afraid to get a colonoscopy!!!!), I had much pent up emotion to release. Any moment of freedom I had was spent exploring the new medium I now possessed. I think I was at an advantage due to the fact that I knew no rules about photography, so I was very free to experiment and play. As a computer illiterate during my long years away from civilization, this was both hell and Utopia as I navigated thru the most basic techie stuff. But I was enthralled. I could take a photo and make it a work of art!
. Alas, my next 9 years were so pain-filled, as Mom’s cancer progressed she and I had to navigate colostomy’s and ileostomy’s and her suffering was so acutely mine that I wanted to die with her. And a huge part of me did, on the first day of spring in 2010, her birthday and day of death. I wrote endless prose and poetry, keeping her alive in words and rivers of tears.
. That seemed like a joy ride compared to nursing my father until his death. Dad developed dementia even before Mom died, and it became full blown Alzheimer’s afterwards. He also had prostate cancer which had been diagnosed 20years before but had never been treated. Years of violent outbursts and vile language and hate filled conversation poured out of my Father for the better part of Six years, and out of my warped sense of love for my mean Dad I determined in my heart to never let him go to a nursing home.
During those years I had a catastrophic fall which injured my brain, neck, back, shoulder, hip and knee, causing me to undergo a 12 hour double neck and back operation so that I would only have one recovery and could be up and about within weeks to caregive again. Wow. Five levels in my neck were fused and a previous 3 level lumbar fusion was repaired and taken up another level. I had torn major cartilage in my hip, needed arthroscopic surgery there and in my shoulder, and also was left with a type if vertigo that still effects me on a regular basis 7years later! Oh, my. Need I mention my mental illness battles with rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder and PTSD from a history full of childhood sexual abuse, violent sexual assault and rape as an adolescent and severe emotional and physical abuse due to 7plus years of Domestic Violence? No, I really had given myself a heavy, heavy load to carry with Daddy. But somehow I did it.
. I cannot describe the last weeks of his life, as there was a lawsuit and a non disclosure agreement with the establishment that hastened his death. But his last night was spent in a hospital bed at home, alone with me, while he screamed and pleaded with God and me to help him. For hours. And hours. The morphine did absolutely nothing so I covered my ears with my fists and screamed with him.
. During this unimaginably daunting, heart-wrenching and overwhelming time in my life there was a story on the news that just planted itself in my brain, because it was so horrific. A group of 27 immigrants were being smuggled into this country from South America. My video is my interpretation of what they went thru, and also a cry for compassion towards all who suffer such indignities and trauma.
I must push myself to new heights. I want to. I am still th
th I used to think so. Especially in High School. My mind was ablaze with boundary pushing content, just under my skin and ready to burst out in neon glory. Most days it did, and if I had a dollar for every cool doodle I left in that building I would have at least 500 dollars . I was going to say a million, but….
Chicken Head Guy
. No, seriously-why am I so stuck? So careful? Who really cares if I am different anymore? In the Arts it is desirable to be different! Many artists feel they need a gimmick or a persona to excite interest. That is not always the case, however it really helped me drop my self-consciousness.
NOTE TO SELF: Take pride in uniqueness, courage to explore, new and untried substrate and media. I must push myself to new heights. I want to. I am still that artist.
It is beginning to pain me, keeping all my hair in a nice, neat ponytail. It is time to set the locks free, jump up and down, scream like a banshee!! Roll myself up in Saran-Wrap and hug the world! Paint my body, paint my face, paint! Paint!
. PAINT!! PAINT!! PAINT, GIRL!!!
I applied for a new grant today, and I have some prize money coming soon from the 2nd place award I won in “The Art of Possiblities” Show and Sale. These are certainly lean times for all of us. I am heartened by all the offers for grants and loans that can be found for all artists online, with just a few minutes searching. My advice is to just “Apply, Apply, Apply!!!” Fill out applications till your pointy finger turns blue!
Also, I have committed to walking more, getting outside and seeing! I will also write down 3 things I am grateful for each night before bed, and draw them. We mustn’t let our mind’s stagnate!!!
Shall I call it “UNBAGGING”? I told you that you would never guess my source photo, in the last post’s images. Well here it is:
. Here’s the deal: I was ready to take Kleo for her daily walk, mask on, prepared to face the outside world. I had just finished watching (another) horrible newscast about the indescribable suffering going on all around the world. They had pinpointed the lack of PPE(initials we now know by heart that stand for Personal Protective Equipment), and the total disregard for life being shown by leaders who shall remain nameless,. The glaring situation that faces those on the frontlines who work to save the sick and dying was very much on my mind, so when Kleo and I stepped onto the street I was shocked by what I saw.
. Up and down my street, in front of every house, were little pink plastic bags, big enough to slip a hand into. And they held a single folded newsprint page with a small sheaf of advertisements tucked inside. I had been upset by these exo-system destroying little plastic bags before, being tossed all over the ground by secret eco terrorists each night under the cover of darkness. I mean- No ONE HAD ASKED FOR THESE! NO ONE HAD ORDERED THESE, OR REQUESTED THEY BE SCATTERED ALL OVER CREATION!!!!
Well , excuse me, there was SOMEONE…
Like I said, this had already bothered me, but now? NOW?!?
. I had just viewed nurses in New York City going to work using “gloves” fashioned using sterilized newspaper bags, shopping bags ( using clean garbage bags for goodness sakes) to shield themselves, and their CHILDREN, AND PARENTS, AND STAFF, AND NEIGHBORS, AND YOU AND ME from the virus!!! So here I was, rushing up and down the street, very angry, very sad, and self-righteous over this waste. I wanted to SCREAM AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS AT THE INJUSTICE OF IT ALL!!
I may actually have screamed something, or at least shouted into my frayed cloth mask, which successfully muffled my words…I marched home with Kleo falling behind, tilting her head curiously, as if to say, “Mommy, I didn’t poop yet!?!”.
I paid her no mind, but kept up my March all the way to my couch where I threw the offending bags on my couch, and made an angry video about the whole mess of emotions I was feeling!
. Then I watched said video, and the old, grouchy Lady with the pink bandana (who was wielding pink plastic bags like a weapon) -well, she just looked pathetic. Very Ineffective.
Therefore I did what artists do best:I made meaningful art, and in doing so I made a statement, a loud statement… A SHOUT FROM THE ROOFTOPS, A SCREAM AT THE TOP OF MY PHOTO EDITING VOICE!!!
“HERE YOU MONSTERS! Here you UNTHINKING BOOBS!!!!” “SEE WHAT I THINK OF YOU!!”
“THERE WILL BE A RECKONING” Because my friends, it’s not up to me with my little pictures… No, the GREATEST ARTIST, the One True God, says in the BIBLE
” …AND HE WILL BRING TO RUIN THOSE RUINING THE EARTH!”, Revelation 11:18B
. Now with the situation reframed, and with me letting go of a job that my Higher Power is doing, way, WAY better than I ever could, I can be happy again. I can use the little pink bags for doo-doo bags for my Ragamuffin Dogs, and be eco-illiterate myself…or, I can make a collage with them and use the adverts also! Ooooo, this will keep me going till nightfall, anyway!!! Then I will have to search for a new, fresh bee to toss into my bonnet! Another vital quest for justice for little furry creatures!!!
. ONWARD, AND UPWARD MY FRIENDS! Let us keep pushing on to better tomorrows!!!
I don’t know about you , but I’ll starting to feel it…It’s like a weak electric current close to the floor , strengthening as each day passes… More awful news, more isolation and “distancing”-the current gets a little stronger moving to the top of my legs now. I’m getting antsy, and even though I have learned how to cope much better with my Bipolar Disorder-the tension is here. Little headache-y, a little grouchy, a little jumpy…
. Stress makes me hungry, and tired: I slept all day. All day. I didn’t go to bed before 6a.m., but still. One reason I’m getting stir crazy is because I’ve been told to stay home, just like everyone, and oooooh, its aggravating to be told to do anything…But I want to help save lives, and I am happily doing it. However, Bipolar mood swings really seem to occur more when I’m isolated. The undercurrent of sadness and negativity makes me want to eat poptarts, watch murder mysteries and worry…
I know what I must do: Work. On something-on anything, just like when I was in jail. If I have a project , something to engross myself in, then the anxiety can’t grow. If I don’t feed the elephant hourly negative news updates then maybe it will leave the room. Just like my Kiko-Dog does when he realizes the lunchmeat is all gone…
. This is the perfect time, as day blends into day, to start on all the furniture projects I have scattered in every room of my house. I am foregoing jello molds for a while, and instead working on tables, chairs, lamps, headboards, murals on my sheds, my laundry room, in my bathroom and all over my back fence!
KODAK Digital Still Camera
. I placed a huge order to Jerry’s Artarama, counting on my free Government Virus Check to pay for it. So instead of chewing the inside of my lip, I can do this:
Hopefully I won’t wig out , because my mind and hands will be making beauty, soothing my mania, and preparing me for a future of unimaginable wealth when I sell all thus stuff !!!!
Just a thought: I never want to seem insensitive to the pain and suffering of my fellow man. Not during these trying days, nor ever… But for me, for my sanity in coping with my own mental health issues, and depressive and manic upswells during stress, I MUST STAY POSITIVE. As an individual with PTSD, Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder and Complex Grief , it means my very life. This is my health regimen. My art frees me, my voice strengthens me, my faith saves me… I hope someone out there can glean a small token of comfort from the routines that help me, or from the art I create. Let’s keep pushing on! And, oh, by the way, my art is for sale! Yup, it really is!
*and don’t forget, if you need cheering up…there are always puppies!
Sleep has been a constant goal for me since I put down drugs and copious amounts of alcohol. Yet it has been the most evasive and endangered of species, teasing me with scattered glimpses of it’s eternal beauty. Oh, how I have longed for it’s soothing embrace, and so have everyone I have contact with; they also wish sleep would embrace me!
. The constant effect of losing this cherished companion is my surliness, my impatience, my wind-like changeability and undependability. Punctuality is no longer a quality I can claim, and it frustrates me greatly. Falling asleep in my oatmeal is also quite frustrating, as is stabbing myself in the eye with my mascara brush. Nodding off at redlights and nearly colliding with oncoming traffic are less than desirable effects of losing my Lovely Sleep’s company, also.
Bipolar Disorder, my particular breed of it, thrives on insomnia. The Manic high’s leave me strung out like guitar strings tightened to the breaking point, you can virtually hear my mind humming at high frequency when I walk into a room. The flying mouse-wheel of thoughts is now turbocharged , ready to escape it’s moorings and fly an oblivion my mind may never recover from. The longer she evades me with her unfaithfulness, the more my living quarters look like a battlefield, reflecting her absence in my life.
. It truly is a war. The other end of the spectrum in this battle is THE DARK. Each day of the mania leads me closer to the brink of devastation. At times THE DARK and the mouse-wheel cohabit my being, bouncing my sanity as if a Rubber ball has been thrown full tilt into a narrow alley.
. Then the fateful day arrives when my loss of Lover Sleep leads me to the pit, the abyss of THE DARK. It throws me in and pulls up the rope ladder in one fell swoop. Leaving me to stand waist deep in the most desolate places of memory. Abuse, Pain, Rejection, Rape, Loneliness, Fear, thoughts of Harm, Deep All encompassing Grief… They are all here, all come out from the darkness edges of this well of depression to shove and kick me about as I stand in the tiny spot of light that trickles down from the far above opening of this shaft of hell.
The level of Muck rises as each long day passes, and unless I can find the toolbox my years of mental health therapy has given me, or if I can find that lifeline of contact with my support network, or best yet, if I can find a way to kneel and call out over and over to my Creator, begging for the strength to claw my way out, all may be lost. Anyone who has fallen down this DARK, knows how close it gets to oblivion at times…
. Days can pass, this last round a month passed, as you can see by my lack of sharing here. The pen weighs a thousand pounds, the telephone a ton. At times my paintbrush is lost in the sediment, more often than not it is divine release. I let the Dark flow out of me and away, down from my battered heart and mind , then finally draining from my fingertips on to canvas, paper, cement block or found object. The level of sadness ebbs, I have the strength to climb and paint my way up the walls wet with my tears.
. As the light gets brighter, the colors on my canvas turn from Greys and browns to lilac and magenta, then colors of light and freedom. A few minutes of rest in Dear Sleep’s embrace , a gift from above then the final push into the light. The glorious light of freedom of peace, bathing my psyche in cooling water, releasing the bondage of all those fears, flashbacks mental anguish.
. My Creator saw fit to give me another glorious day, and finally the strength to reach for help from my doctors, my therapist, and my lifeline of freeflowing art, color, shape and movement.
Prayer for Magdallia, by Susan T. Martin 9 x 11 Marker on Board $50.00
Last Years Insights II WINNING Entry!
. Finally, my quest is completed, my medicine adjusted, which I take gratefully. Now with this elixer (and a new bipap machine) , some calming music and grateful meditation on all my blessings I fall gently into Sleep’s waiting arms. I lay my head on her motherly bosom, which happens to be my favorite squish pillow, and off I drift down the gentle stream of happy dreams…looking forward to a joyful, rested Awakening.
Pop goes the Color! My Bouganvilla in full bloom(it is over 10 feet tall and 20 feet around !
So Happy to Be in CHICAGO!
UNCHAINED, UNCUFFED, Mixed Media on Board, $400.00 (Available)
My first watercolor for Art Mundo’s Calendar Art Juried Show and Sale, accepted(sold)Susan T. Martin2016
Depicting my own image has been a starting point my work from the beginning. As a child my drawings were always of female faces, although I never consciously realized these were reflections of me. Even then, in my earliest work, the duality of my nature is blatantly apparent.
. The faces I drew were always divided, half usually in darkness, or different in other ways. I did not know I was Bipolar then, I just had a burning need to express myself artistically. I was not properly diagnosed until I got clean and sober at the age of 35 after a drugging career that lasted over twenty three years.
. I had always known I was different, I described the feeling of being “painted green”in a room full of “normal” folk. It was like having something tattooed on my forehead, a conspicuousness. When I dug into my diagnosis, learning all I could in the hopes of finally coming to grips with my self destructive life’s course, I could see all the familiar signs in the literature. It made SO much sense! Now, armed with my new sobriety and determined to stay the course on my psychiatric medication regimen, I set out to turn my life around-to leave the wasteland of my past far behind.
. There was a slight glitch in my plan, however. The new meds that I was taking had a very unwelcome effect. They dulled my creative impulses, they slowed my manic phases down to a crawl. Rather than my giddy highs and freewheeling episodes of excess that I had lived for, and that had been killing me, I was now just a level hum. No taught guitar string playing harmonics, I was now m e l l o w…Too mellow. Where were the bright colors, the whirling merry go rounds and my peals of crazy laughter? All of the sudden I was boring and frumpy, and immune to excitement. I actually slept…alot.
. This is the part of a healthy mental health regimen that causes so many Bipolar individuals to “go off” their meds…but I had lost that option when I decided to stay alive. I had to make this work, I had to stick this out, because the alternative was suicide. Whether thru a drug overdose or tragedy from high risk behavior, I knew that sticking this out meant my very survival. Would I have to be a zombie? Was my wildly creative side lost to me forever? What to do?
. Fortunately, I had a therapist (counselor ) who listened, and I had the determination to tell her my discomfort. It took the better part of two years, and many different drug combinations , much discomfort and many tears to find a plan that worked, but we did not give up. Finally, I felt comfortable in my own skin, most of the time.
I still have highs and lows, and I am still a rapid cycling Bipolar person with PTSD. I still suffer from chronic insomnia and flashbacks, severe depressive episodes and ideation at times. But I never, ever want to destroy this beautiful gift of life, or to disrespect my Creator. It’s a long road, but the view is great!
Now that all that is said and done, the point I was getting at was that at a point a few years ago, talking to my therapist about my art, and showing him my work I had an epiphany ! BI-polar, TWO-sided! All the faces I drew and painted had told the tale from childhood! As we continued to go through my portfolio, it came rushing home to me. I paint myself as I am, and thru my art I am able to understand and put together all my different facets! I am constantly learning, healing and growing as an artist, and I am
so grateful that I did not give up on myself!
. If anyone out there is fearful of a mental illness diagnosis, please give yourself a chance to get well. Don’t be afraid to seek help, because I’m here today as an example of the kind of life that is possible if one keeps pushing on! You can feel better!
Above are just a few recent examples of the many sides of my bipolar self I paint…
Yes! We all want to be a great “success” in our chosen field, and many artists have a clear idea of what they need to be successful. Speaking for myself, I thought success would mean the end of financial struggle, to a point. As a person with mental illness (Bipolar Disorder and PTSD for starters) and physical handicaps (use your imagination), I felt that my “happy day” would come when I could pay my bills and buy my art supplies, and eat what and where I wanted, with a few more bucks to put by.
I’ve been working toward that end for over 50 years now, and while my life has been unusual (to put it mildly), I fancied that with all my obvious creative talent my art would be sought after. Notice that I did not say “highly” sought after. No, I tried to be realistic-it would take some time to get well known, etc… Well, that day I envisioned, that “happy” future success day has not come. Big sigh, and big pity party…
. Wait. Just. One. Minute…
What am I talking about? All of my life I dreamed of a time when I could create my art whenever I wanted! I dreamed of pursuing My artistic vision! Did you, also? I have made that time for myself, I have chosen to pursue my artistic life no matter what my life circumstances. No time to paint? I get my paints out at 10 pm. some days. No where to paint? I live in a single wide mobile home, crammed to the gills with projects I’m working on! No money for canvas? I find things in the trash, at thrift stores, on ebay-cheap things that no one wants anymore- and I find ways to make them unique, colorful, extraordinary …
. At this very moment, right now, I have no bread in the house. No bread, about a half cup of milk and some ramen. (Not the “Cup o Lunch ” kind with the veggies either.) Not to get too personal, but 2-ply T-P. (Feel your little butt tighten up?) Am I crying the blues here? Making myself seem a martyr? An arter-martr? (sorry, I just had a silly moment…)
. No, I am telling you that I AM a success. I AM AN ARTIST SUCCESS STORY.
. Let that stew a moment: A 50-something improperly-art-educated-disabled-crazywoman-in-a-run-down-trailer-park-in-a-flood-zone-with-no-homeowners’ insurance-no-coffee-using-2-ply-TP is a SUCCESSFUL ARTIST?!?
Woop woop! Yup, that’s me!
. I have no looming prospects of fame, of a sudden, amazing “breakout” work, or even of a teeny weeny inheritance, but I am as happy as a clam in mud, happy as an accountant with a pen that works, happy as a rotund, pink, rather hairless, animal who squeals in a pile of feces!
I have chosen to live my Artist’s dream, to get up each day and paint a stroke, glue a something together, write a poem. I am not too broke to go get a gallon of milk or decent toilet paper, neither am I well off enough to buy the best brushes, or even decent canvas.
But I am an ARTIST. That is who I am, and that is what I make a conscious choice to do. Every day of my successful life. Hey, it’s wonderful to be on top, isn’t it?
. This is not just a litany of my own happiness with my art career, which I would define not really as a “career”, but as a life choice…No, I want to help YOU , dear reader, to see where your own happiness lies. What are you holding out as your carrot? What does your “success” look like? Are you, like so many, comparing where you are to what other artists are experiencing? Are you kicking yourself for not painting a still life, when that’s what Mr. Prize Winner painted in the last show? Were you let down when they announced the “winners” to the last member’s show you entered? (yeah, me too…) See what I mean? Are we longing for some recognition, some prize or award, another feather in our cap, while we miss the sensual sensation of paint flowing onto canvas ? Or the startling moment when that perfect shade of turquoise comes to life on our palette? Or, here’s one: The moment when you jump up saying ” Yes! I got it!” because the line you laid down is exactly where you want it to be?
. Yes, my artist friend, these are the true successes. I never want to be Michaelangelo wishing I was Davinci. Can you imagine? The creator of the “David” wishing he had painted the “Mona Lisa”? Thinking he was not a successful artist?
. Let us remember this wonderful gift we have now, and revel in it, delight in it! Then all of our art will be successful.