Art Therapy Season

I keep romanticizing about how great it would be to be an artist, a real artist. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to draw something that actually looked like the thing you wanted it to look like or paint a fantasy landscape of silver, violet, and green? When I wake in the mornings I often wish I could paint my dreams or sculpt a lion with a giant mane out of clay. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to be able to chisel a unicorn out of stone or carve a sparrow out of wood? I know people who can do these things and I confess I feel a tinge of jealousy toward them.

As it is I can barely sketch even the basic shape of a cat or a fish. And even then I can’t seem to master shading or a three-dimensional appearance. When I draw, I still draw like a child. Side-by-side my sketches look not much different than those I drew as a 10 or 11-year-old. Suffice it to say, I’ve no chance at a career in the visual arts. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try only it’s not for money or recognition. No, I create to maintain my sanity.

This week I pulled out the photographs I’d had professionally printed last year and thought of what I could do with them. I’m not so naïve as to think I could actually sell any of them. After all, the scenes were composed on instinct and I was rarely conscious of the “rule of thirds” or any other such compositional standard professionals insist are what make a photograph objectively “good.” I just took pictures because they felt right. And here is where I show my lack of skill as a writer as well. You see, I never seem to have the words for why I feel compelled to photograph a particular thing either. I just do.

For me, photography is therapy. When I take a picture, I’m focusing on what’s around me, not what’s inside me. Most of the time it’s hard to shut off my internal monologue, but the camera helps me forget about me and I need that.

Photography therapy is a kind of art therapy and art therapy was a main staple at most of the psych units I had the luxury of staying in. Usually there weren’t any instructions or strict guidelines imposed on us either. We were just taken to a room full of crayons, markers, paints, glue, paper, glitter, and other safe, creative tools and, under supervision, we could do as we pleased.

Since I was inept at drawing or painting, I tended to dabble in collage. There were almost always old magazines to rip apart and be expressive with. And so that’s what I did. I searched for words and images I could express myself with as well as something I could look at when I returned to my room and to remind me of all the reasons I had yet to live; all my dreams still left unfulfilled. 

I loved collaging so much in the hospital that I started to do it at home. Again, nothing of value to anyone but me. But the mere act of ripping magazines apart and trying to find new ways to lay out images is soothing to me. Today I (mostly) finished the one pictured here: a combination of a photo I took last year on Hollywood Blvd. and a bunch of old ticket stubs from the cinema. When it’s completely finished, I’ll hang it on my wall. I’m happy with my work, but I’m not convinced the world would be.

My dad, who happens to be my mom’s primary caregiver while she recovers from knee replacement surgery, has been out of town since last Wednesday on a week-long trip with his fellow MIT alumni to New Mexico, visiting (from what I gather) missile museums, radio telescopes (like the ones in the final scene of the 1997 film Contact), listening to lectures, and other stuff that none of the rest of us in this house would be even remotely enthusiastic about. He’d planned the trip around the original date Mom was scheduled for surgery and when the surgery had to be postponed, he kept his plans and it’s not been too bad. I mean, my sister’s here. Also, Mom’s been in recovery for about three weeks so she’s already doing quite a lot on her own. But she still can’t be left alone. She still needs help with the dog. She needs someone to drive her to her appointments. She needs help picking things up, carrying things, etc. In other words, whatever I do on my own time, it can’t be anything that would require a lot of uninterrupted time to complete. This includes novel-writing. 

So what have I been focusing on? Art therapy. And, as an extra bonus, Mom spends a great deal of he time in the living room where my craft table is so I can work and still be right there when she needs me.

As far as exercise, eating right – it’s all somehow happening, although my morning walks have turned into evening or nighttime walks. I imagine that will reverse very soon. The season of Hell is quickly coming and that’s when the walks will have to start at sunrise or earlier. I suppose that it’s all just as well that I don’t have a “real” job with all that life’s thrown at me lately.