Tattoo Artist Friend

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This is a special calligraphy script that I wrote for a tattoo artist in Freiburg, Germany. The script is much Mir complicated than my usual calligraphy script, but I felt that taking the time to learn a style that fit the artist was the honorable thing to do. It was difficult, I threw away a lot of practice sheets of paper, but the end result is one that I’m proud of.

Artful Distraction From Easter

Today is particularly miserable. I’m getting hit from every direction with reminders of previous suicide attempts and a smorgasbord of past pains. It is like a horror movie reel on never-ending repeat.

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My new favorite instrument: the steel drum

I was able to get through the morning with the help of music. The clinic has a practice room with a pretty decent variety of instruments (but no string instruments *sad*). But they have a steel drum that I have fallen in love with. I have been teaching myself to become comfortable with it and just play without thinking. Flow. It is wonderful. Normally, I try to get at least one night per week in the room. But this weekend, I’ve been in the room for several hours every day (since Thursday or Friday). This room is awesome because the biggest rule is that we can only be alone in the room. This is great because it allows me to to relax and explore without concerns of another person coming in and hearing me.  One exception is in the case that we need medical supervision. In this case, a nurse is permitted. I don’t need supervision, but we have a nurse who is a good guitar and drum player. So when our schedules link up, we’ll go together and jam together for an hour or three. We just pick two or three notes to start, then build a song that just flows and floats along. We take turns being the melody, harmony or rhythm. It is fun and great therapy. I’m always super chilled and away from myself when I’m playing.

 

Unfortunately, the chillness doesn’t last too long once I step out of the music bubble. So, today, I decided to take refuge in my Good Vibes stickers. Because I have not been feeling well lately, I have been making stickers (relaxing), but not putting them out (not enough energy). Consequently, I have a ton of stickers just in a pile and filling up my jacket pockets. I decided that putting out some positive notes today, might make me feel better. I tried. It didn’t. But maybe on another day, when I see them, they will make me smile. What I’m feeling right now is more than a sticker can compete with.

Unfortunately, this sadness is one that I am all too familiar with. There really is no escaping it and no way to fast forward through it. It comes and sits, crushing me. It only leaves when it decides that there is nothing left of me to consume. I can only do my best endure the weight and horror of it, and remember that it will eventually be over. It is hell, but eventually, it will be over. I just need to hold on long enough.

This too shall pass.

Art Therapy – Strategic Pause

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the last days have been really hard. My emotions are a mess. I alternate between being unbelievably sad about everything and completely empty and caring about and feeling nothing. Neither situation is good because these tracks only lead to even worse things.

I have been working very hard to divert my attention into something positive. Even though I don’t feel like it, and feel nothing from it, I’ve created and put out some more stickers. Often this helps to jump-start a better mood. But it was not working today. I finally had to stop myself this morning because I was making poor decisions and, more importantly, it did not feel right to paste up a card that says “be happy” when I’m emotionally short-circuiting and on the verge of crying. I think I will take a break from exploring the streets for a bit. It’s just too much right now.

Somehow, I managed to get some nice things up before I forced myself to stop. Below are the pictures from last night and this morning. (If there are too many people around to be inconspicuous, or if the lighting is not good, I will sometimes put up a sticker, then come back later for the photograph… If I can remember where it was.) I’m too tired to make a slide show with Adobe, so we’ll see how WP handles this.

Because I make my cards by hand, it is a long, slow process. I have started to use spray paint to help speed up things, but my favorite cards are the ones that require the most time and the most concentration. These end up being the cards I am most proud of (and sadly, the ones with the shortest street life before they are taken).

For a long time I was hesitant to put anything around the clinic. But the smoking area just kept calling out to me. It is such an introspective and lonely area. I may meet disapproval from this, but I figure that until then, it is worth it. Then I expanded to other places where patients tend to pass or frequent. The two street car stops and cross walks have numerous stickers now.

When possible (when there is space), I like to join my street artist friends.

Of course I had to show some sticker love to Starbucks (but I tried to do so respectfully)

I am kind of saddened to take a break from street art, but I have nothing to give except hollow words. And that is not right. Maybe I will feel better soon and will feel the connection to the street and the city life again. I have a pocket-full of stickers eager to go. I just need to get my mind and my heart in the right place.

 

Art Therapy – Two Lives Into One

Two Into One

Two Lives Into One – This began with a painting about my conception of my new life and new life direction. The featured colors are blue (for myself and self identity), black (for my internal power and courage) and yellow (for my dreams, goals and hope). Then something told me to make a second painting of my “old” life. This painting featured red (for my friend and voices that want to stay with me), green (for my curiosity in life), and also black and yellow for the same reasons as the other painting.

Now I had two paintings an no idea what to do.
So I slept…

After a weekend of sleep, I understood the next step and why. I needed to combine the pictures. I can not and not honestly want a new life without my old life. Additionally, it is not possible to escape my old life. I must learn how to incorporate the old into the new. Simply a painting with all the colors combined did not feel quite right. The lives do not blend together. They interact, but maintain their identities. (How in the world do I do this?!)

Sleep…

When I woke, I had the answer. I needed to cut up both pictures, mix the pieces and glue them back to create something new. More than either of them alone. Far more textured and nuanced than a multicolored painting old provide.

I was surprised by how dominant the yellow (dreams, goals and hope) became with the new creation. And I was pleased that the red still was prominent and seemingly in balance with my self identity.

This pleases me. I think it is correct.

Operation: Good-Bye is underway and looking good (Sun 31Jan2016)

I spent yesterday putting up the mini-paintings and the self-affirmation statements. I started early in the dark of the morning so that I could perfect my technique up and and my speed down (I don’t want to draw unecessary attention when I’m having an intensely emotional moment). By the time the sun came, I had a good system that allowed me to give each piece the respect it deserved. When I finished, I could really feel the difference. I turned off my headphones for a few minutes to check the chatter in my head. It was still annoying, but there was a noticeable difference.

During the ceremony yesterday, I realized that she had entered my life by deceptively luring me to give up my freedom in exchange for protection (but only on her terms). Her protection was only available if I stayed inside of a tiny, rigid circle of her design. She would threaten that if stepped out of this circle, that she could not help me. And I believed that I needed her.  I know better now. I am stronger now. I can step out of her circle and push out the boundaries of my own which is exactly as flexible as I dream or desire.

For her protection I have suppressed who I am. Never again. I am creative, strong, courageous, and curious.

I will not do anything today because my heart needs a break. But here are photos from yesterday. I think, going forward, doing 5 per day is reasonable and manageable. With 30-40 pieces, I can do a few each evening this week. Say my “Good-byes” and take back my freedom.

 

Journal 29 Jan 2016 – I Will Be Free

Operation: Good-bye

Operation: Good-bye continues… I Will Be Free!

Journal 29 Jan 2016

Art Therapy – One Step Backwards

One Step Back - When I started this painting, I was excited to feature the color purple. I have never really done much with purple. Unfortunately, I was not paying attention and used the wrong weight of paper and the moisture warped the paper beyond anything I could use. I was very angry. I was about to throw it away, when I got a flash of an idea to use it support a new painting on the correct paper. Painting with pieces of paper is familiar, so I figured I could salvage my excitement and do it again. The I got the idea of trying the paint drips with the torn paper. I figured the paper would interfere with the drops for an interesting effect. I was too excited to be patient and do some tests. I went straight ahead, full-speed, and merely covered my painting with heavy paint. Everything I did to try to manipulate the drips just made it worse. I was livid. Two big mistakes in one week on a single painting. My inner voices were destroying me and loving every second of it. Before I did somethings might regret, I pressed the artistic [PAUSE] button, took a few deep breaths, and put it away for the weekend. Over the weekend, I was thinking about why life is always about moving forward. Strange thoughts. Then something clicked. I didn't know what. But something happened. When I got back to the studio, the secret was revealed: instead of always putting on more paint, what if I took some off? I soaked the painting in water to make the top layers loose again. Using a paper towel, I started wiping off paint. I stopped when I stated seeing things that were interesting. This is the final result.  To get where I wanted to go, I needed to be brave enough and confident enough take a step backwards. Backwards does mean failure. Sometimes after pushing hard to go forwards, the nest right step is behind us for any number of reasons. We have to trust our instincts, no matter how it might appear to other people.

One Step Back – When I started this painting, I was excited to feature the color purple. I have never really done much with purple. Unfortunately, I was not paying attention and used the wrong weight of paper and the moisture warped the paper beyond anything I could use. I was very angry. I was about to throw it away, when I got a flash of an idea to use it support a new painting on the correct paper. Painting with pieces of paper is familiar, so I figured I could salvage my excitement and do it again. The I got the idea of trying the paint drips with the torn paper. I figured the paper would interfere with the drops for an interesting effect. I was too excited to be patient and do some tests. I went straight ahead, full-speed, and merely covered my painting with heavy paint. Everything I did to try to manipulate the drips just made it worse. I was livid. Two big mistakes in one week on a single painting. My inner voices were destroying me and loving every second of it. Before I did somethings might regret, I pressed the artistic [PAUSE] button, took a few deep breaths, and put it away for the weekend. Over the weekend, I was thinking about why life is always about moving forward. Strange thoughts. Then something clicked. I didn’t know what. But something happened. When I got back to the studio, the secret was revealed: instead of always putting on more paint, what if I took some off? I soaked the painting in water to make the top layers loose again. Using a paper towel, I started wiping off paint. I stopped when I stated seeing things that were interesting. This is the final result.
To get where I wanted to go, I needed to be brave enough and confident enough take a step backwards. Backwards does mean failure. Sometimes after pushing hard to go forwards, the nest right step is behind us for any number of reasons. We have to trust our instincts, no matter how it might appear to other people.

 

Art Therapy – (In Process) Saying Good-Bye

In process goodbye

It is not very often that I know the title of a project before I finish it. Usually,  a project will not tell me it’s name until the very end. I knew the name of this project before I had touched a brush. This project is following a path unlike anything I have done before.

Typically I don’t paint on anything larger than 30x40cm. This is a self-confidence issue. I see so little value in anything about — or from — me, that using a larger surface is selfish and a waste of paper or canvas. In fact, if I’m using paper, I’ll often paint on both sides because I don’t deserve to waste the back of a sheet of paper. With the current project I made a bold new step. This sheet of paper is approx 1m x 1m. It is frightening and I am constantly filled with shame when I am working on it and when I see how much space it takes up. Simply selecting this large sheet was an exercise in assertion and self-confidence.

As I was preparing my work space, I knew immediately that this project had to be something to reflect my emerging strength and confidence. Within a few seconds I felt that I needed to begin saying good-bye to some things that I no longer need in my life. I will need much strength for this project. This project would be called Good-Bye.

The mixture of colors in the first layer represent the complexity of my relationship with the Blue Lady. I don’t need her anymore. It is because of her that I have accomplished many things. But it also because of her that I have such little self-confidence and self-esteem. Where the other pushes me to do more, she taught me to do more by ignoring pain (and any other feelings). There was a time when this was helpful, but I don’t want this in my life anymore. I want to feel.

The shirt represents my relationship with the military. By birth and later by profession in various ways, the military has been a huge part of my life. Certainly there were beautiful moments, but there has also been terrible damage. I can’t fix what was broken. I must stop holding on to it so tightly. I must open my hands and allow it the freedom to float away. It causes so much pain because it does not fit my life anymore. I can survive and be strong without it. My life is not a PT test.

I will not add any other elements to say good-bye to in this project. These two are plenty enough for now. After each studio session, I am completely drained from the emotional energy this project requires. Because of the weight of this project, the art therapist checks on me frequently, which I appreciate. (And I keep my penguin and smelling salts in my pocket in case I push too far and start to dissociate). So far, things are going well. I’m curious to see how this ceremony will end. I will just follow my heart. It knows what it needs to say Good-Bye.