Saturday, February 27, 2016

Long Dry Spell


I didn't put any paint on paper between September and February.  Not even during my last winter break, a blessed rest time when I normally can complete 4 or 5 paintings, was I able to go to the easel.

"Go to the easel."  It sounds like "go to the altar" or, I don't know, go to work.  I couldn't face it--"it' being, well, I don't know.  It was a rough spell--three or four months of not being myself at all.  I moved slowly and spoke as little as I could.  My friend,  in the painting above, said that when we hung out in December my voice barely modulated.  Eventually I went to the doctor and began my first experimental tryout of antidepressant meds.  Effexor was awful: all awful side effects, zero impact on mood.  Wellbutrin seems actually to be doing something. Certainly a month or so ago, I began to be able to find myself in a place of gratitude again.  My friend Cathy told me that her experience of antidepressant meds was of "a light turning on that she didn't even know was out."  I got a bit of a sense of that.  The indication I was looking for that things were turning right was going to be a return to the easel.  Ta da!  I do like this piece.

I wish I could explain the dry spell or understand why it occurred.  I can only describe it, I think.  I had begun a figure, a bust portrait actually, got the facial features roughed in and a first wash on the torso, and then I simply could not do any more.  Every time I turned to look at it, I felt an awful pressure and a sense of impossibility, and I fled.  I had no sense of ability or joy in having ability--no confidence in my skill or pleasure in having it.  It felt pretty damned awful.  I wonder now if my depression at the end of 2015 was a consequence or a cause of the painting block.  Almost certainly, it was a consequence.  The well of creative energy is such a mysterious, mystifying, fickle thing that there's no wonder that artists talk about courting their muses.

And does that whole dynamic feed into the male-gaze-oriented focus on the female, feminine face and figure?  Undoubtedly it does for me.  Could I have completed as many paintings as I have completed without this irrational, libido-driven, Oedipus-empowered fascination with feminine beauty, with the female other?  No, I don't think so.  There's only one subject, for me, that will ever drive this gushing, bubbling fount of creative energy.  For good and/or ill.

Now all I want to do is paint.