I’ve been struggling with my art during this pandemic. When I’m scared, my ability to access my intentional creativity diminishes, and drawing specific things gets a lot harder. In times like this, when I’m so overwhelmed, just playing with color on the page is sometimes all I can manage.
I visited my friend Susan a few weeks ago, and as we were talking about what was happening in our lives and the world, she let me play with her new watercolor palette. I felt a lot of different emotions swirling around us…it was pleasant to sit with her and just let my unconscious take control of my brushes.
I worry too much, all the time, about all sorts of things. Whether they matter or not, are likely or not, regardless of the actual danger involved.
I did not think to worry about a pandemic, and now I find myself unprepared! What do I draw or paint when I don’t know how to begin to think about what’s going on? How do I visualize this virus that’s raging across the planet, on every continent but Antarctica? That we know so little about, and yet are becoming so intimate with?
Sometimes I can draw the thing that’s scaring me. I kept looking at the virus picture the CDC put out, the one with a gray body and red triangular spores haloing it. But I couldn’t get anywhere with that reference. It felt too real, too scary to caricature. So I went in a different direction and thought about the growth aspect of the virus, how it spreads so fast. Like a molecular pinball machine that sprouts with every bounce.
I love to doodle when I write. I like how the words and the visuals interact, and it thrills me when I subconsciously end up creating something that reflects what I’m writing about. I’m not entirely sure how to make it happen. Maybe it’s a kind of meditation… It works best when I don’t try to force anything in particular. Sometimes I draw towards a feeling, if that makes sense?
A few months ago, one of my older sisters sent me a box of scraps of paper, fabric, stickers, glass vials, and all sorts of oddments. A literal box of potential. She’s a wizard at artistic transmutation, so to have a box of stuff she chose for me that she would use in her own artistic endeavors is a little bit like being given a glimpse into how she sees the world and what she finds interesting.
This collection of stuff (for lack of a better word) made me think about how I can fall into the habit of seeing things on a macro level…where an object is already fully realized with form, color, texture, size and purpose. Where it is itself the destination, rather than a starting point. An end, versus a potential beginning.
I like to look for creatures in random shapes and patterns. I imagine that when I see them, I’m catching a glimpse of another world, one where the rules aren’t quite the same as here. Where a tree can have a mouth and eyes and something to say, if only I knew how to listen. Where there are improbable beings going about their daily lives, just as I am. A Through the Looking Glass sort of existence, where the normal and the strange are intertwined…a place where my oddness is unremarkable.
Like a lot of people, I struggle with anxiety and a host of other brainular issues. I have a few diagnoses that I could rattle off, but right now I don’t feel like the particulars matter. What is important in this moment is my conception of them, and how I use art to deal with their sometimes unwelcome presence in my life.
I call them demons. I’m not a particularly spiritual and not at all religious person, so I don’t mean demons in any literal “fallen angel” or “personification of evil” sense. It’s more that they have recurring roles and specific emotions associated with them. For example, for me, Anxiety is a demon that walks around with me every day, whether I’m consciously aware of it or not. Fear is another. It helps me to name them, to conceptualize them as having a physical form, and behaviors that I can learn to recognize and then counteract.