I wrote this blog post in March 2019. Will not be renewing the domain name of the blog, so moving some blog posts to here. Since writing this, I have had two solo art as therapy exhibitions and published my first novel, Pet Purpose: Your Unspoken Voice.
I've just painted two landscapes in acrylics, after not having painted landscapes for more than 20 years. I can only remember two landscapes I painted in oils. One was of a snowy mountain and another was of some trees along a dirt road - I was told by the art teacher and other students that my trees were too bright with too much yellow and that I reversed the lights and darks. I've come to realise that I like painting with brighter colours than are really there in nature. And that yellow is one of my bipolar mania colours.
In the past few years, I've painted symbolic abstracts which have helped me process and express stuck emotions. I haven't told people what most of my paintings really mean, but they have been therapeutic. I'm finding that starting to paint landscapes also has symbolism. Both my recent paintings are metaphors for me and my son.
I painted this sunset loosely based on a photograph, but put a lot more orange in the sky so it looked like flames - much like another painting I did while in mania, when I felt like my brain was on fire. I called it Sky on Fire. I added a small cloud which was initially joined to the large cloud. I felt the little cloud looked cramped, so I 'separated' it with blue sky. As I did so, I thought of it as a 'baby' cloud separating from a 'mother' cloud. It represents my son separating from his mother and going his own way. I shaped the cloud roughly into a wing shape. It also represents my desire for independence, which I have not been able to achieve yet with my illness.
This painting is based on a photo of Mt Taranaki viewed from Mt Ruapehu. I took the photo when I was with my son and we went up onto a mountain. He lives far away and I don't see him very often. I've added more depth than in the original photo which was more grey.
I painted Mt Taranaki more than 20 years ago using oils. Covered in snow. Fire and ice are metaphors for bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), two conditions I suffer from. This is a different view from up high. Being 'high' is a metaphor for mania.
The mountains are 150km apart but looked closer in the painting. When I named the painting Closer, I felt very emotional and cried. It's hard for me to express my emotions and I tend to shut down and my emotions get 'stuck.' I had a migraine before I finished the rocky layers on the bottom third) - it didn't work out the first time so I whited them out and had another go.
I felt emotional, because my son is so far away but he is close in my heart.
I see metaphors in everything. Creative expression enables me to express emotion that gets 'frozen' inside. There is a depth and richness that comes with suffering from bipolar disorder and PTSD. Despite all the struggles. Painting helps keep me going.
My next landscape which I've done the underpainting for already is of the local mountains over the lake. I am thinking of calling it Home (I ended up calling it No Place Like Home). It was hard for me to come 'home' after so many years away. I came home because I was unwell so was separated from my son. I am still healing. It's day by day.
I've been crying which has been easing my migraine. It's hard for me to cry. Emotions are only extremely intense for me when I'm manic. Painting enables me to express how I feel. Writing also. I'm still writing Pet Purpose but sometimes just need a break from it. Writing a book is an extremely challenging project and very emotional. It's also full of symbolism and metaphors and it's more revealing than my paintings, which makes me feel anxious as to how it might be received. Especially as it's semi-autobiographical. So then I procrastinate about writing it. But then I can paint. My room is full of colour, like my mind.
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).