I wrote this blog post in February 2019, on a blog I am not renewing the domain name for. Transferred a few posts to here. Since writing this blog post, I had two solo art as therapy exhibitions and published my first novel, Pet Purpose: Your Unspoken Voice.
Enrolled in a series of 4 lessons in landscape painting in acrylics. Last time I had lessons was over 20 years ago in traditional oils. I love the buttery texture of oils but not the slow drying time, the fumes of solvents and messy clean-up.
After not painting for several years, I more recently painted abstracts in mostly bright colours to help me process and integrate my emotions. My therapist said I've been doing my own therapy for PTSD. I'm quite excited at having a go at trying to paint realistically. Last time I attempted to paint a landscape when I was depressed, I didn't like it and burnt it in the fire when I was manic (bipolar disorder).
I didn't keep paintings from years ago. One traditional landscape painting was kept by a family member and the rest were thrown out. I sold a seascape and some abstracts in acrylics at a garage sale. I don't remember how much for.
Then when I was put back on meds for bipolar mania, I set a 'ridiculous' goal of exhibiting my art as therapy, which I did a year later. Much of my art was very 'childlike' in appearance. To my surprise, over a dozen pieces sold. It was scary to have an exhibition as I didn't want to feel critiqued (my social anxiety makes me feel anxious about negative evaluation). That's why I didn't put prices on paintings. I painted More Than Good Enough during the exhibition to depict the rollercoaster of emotions I felt.
Realism scares me a bit as I notice everything that's 'wrong' (the perfectionist in me that still exists, despite trying to let go of it). A bit like how when I learned classical piano, I noticed all the mistakes and it was hard for me to keep going and bluff and pretend that it was supposed to be like that (hard when it's a well-known piece). Whereas with contemporary, I could improvise and depart from the written music. I felt I could express my feelings more. I haven't played piano for years. It's become a trauma trigger for me, but I know I will play again one day.
I don't tell people what most of my paintings mean. I am thinking of incorporating a few of them into my novel Pet Purpose and revealing more or less what they mean. Painting and writing has been helping me heal. Creative expression is healing. It doesn't have to be 'perfect' to have purpose.
I am starting to feel like my art is 'good enough' even though I can always improve. Just like with music and writing - one can always learn more and improve. I like doing my own thing and breaking 'rules.' The arts seem undervalued these days, but they are valuable for mental well-being. Even if they aren't 'perfect'. There is healing in imperfection.
Below is a traditional oil painting I did in a class over twenty years ago under my former name after I had a breakdown and first suffered from depression. Only recently I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I didn't sign the painting (was an evolution recently for me to be able to sign my paintings). The painting was unnamed but was of Mount Taranaki from a photo from a calendar (sorry I can't credit the photographer as I don't have that information). I choose from a pile of cut out calendar photos a huge mountain covered in snow - symbolic for me as my emotions were shut down and I was depressed. So all these years later, I am giving it a name, Frozen and acknowledging the person who painted it - Miranda van der Mije, my former name. It would have been thrown out, like all my other paintings until recently but a family member kept it.
Xanthe finds creative expression including writing and painting to be therapeutic and helps her to manage her diagnoses of bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).