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ISOLATION BREEDS DISCONNECTION

Hello Friends,

First, I want to thank all of you who support me emotionally in my writing and art.  I appreciate it more than you could ever know.  I enjoy bringing a smile, a laugh or even tears to you.  This is another long post and a little you may know already…but this is where I’m at.

I have been going through a lot of emotional upheaval in the last few months – losing my brother to suicide, trying to figure out exactly what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, and both of our kids leaving the nest temporarily (tomorrow.)  Our son is gone during the week living and working with friends, but he likes to come home some weekends to spend time with us.  He will be going out on an 8-day trip with his crew from the California Conservation Corps.  Also, our daughter is going to visit a friend for a while, possibly the rest of the summer!

So…because of all of the things I just mentioned, I decided to do two things:

1)  Go back to counseling for a while

2)  Go to suicide survivors meetings

Last week I did both which I will continue a few more times.  I do not feel at this point that I am going to need to go to either for a really long time.  I have been in a good place mentally for quite some time now since recovering from some significant losses three years ago.  What is really great is that my counselor can see me in the hour before my meeting starts on those two Mondays every month.  Also, I met some great women at this meeting that I want to get to know.

Here’s what I learned at my first suicide survivors meeting:

  • I am not alone – suicide has touched almost every family. Survivors feel angry, sad, abandoned, and wish we could have said or done something to prevent it.
  • We feel guilty to some degree that we couldn’t stop it or didn’t see the signs.

Some people find their loved ones who died.  I can only imagine how emotionally traumatic that would be to a person.  Just hearing how my brother killed himself and hearing how people did CPR on him for at least 20 minutes, puts images in my mind that I will never forget.  Finding out that his best friend had brought my brother a wheelchair the day he died and didn’t see the signs of suicidal thoughts in him, helped me understand why my brother may have made this choice.

When he called me a few weeks before he chose to die, the last thing he told me was that his legs didn’t work anymore.  He said he could barely stand up or walk.  I always knew that my brother was a prideful man.  He never wanted to show weakness.  He was always sensitive, loved animals (whom he knew could love him back,) and I think he just felt out of place his whole life.  He was not a follower nor was he a leader.  He was determined to go his own way which he always did.  He didn’t confide in me or anyone else in our family about anything.

I can relate to some of this.  I have felt this way for most of my life.  Some may think I am projecting part of who I am onto my brother.  However, I would disagree.  He and I were a lot alike in many ways that I just never really thought about until now.  I will always miss him even though he never did let me get close to him.  For some reason I’ll never know, things were just always intense between us.

The difference between us, though, is that I hit bottom at 27 years old, reached out for help, and eventually began taking medications for depression and anxiety.  My brother self-medicated from his teen years on, what I believe, was some type of mental illness.  Thinking back over a lot of his behavior – his anger, impulsiveness, pride – makes me wonder if he had extreme anxiety which is why he drank.  Alcohol is a depressant, though, and he was not one to sit around feeling depressed, which is why I think he became addicted to speed.  All of this stuff can really mess up a person’s brain which just complicates mental health issues even more.  It is a vicious cycle!

The saddest part of all of this for me is that about three years ago he called me to apologize for how he had treated me most of our lives and tell me he didn’t deserve forgiveness; he said he wanted to quit the drugs but couldn’t.  He felt stuck, scared, and defeated.  I think he just had not hit bottom yet – until he saw that wheelchair.  Unfortunately, hitting bottom for him didn’t mean reaching out for help.  I believe he may have thoughts like:  “I am not going to become an invalid.”  “I will not become helpless.”  “I will not become dependent on anyone to help me with everyday things I can no longer do for myself.”  I knew my brother well enough to know that this is very close to what had to be going through his mind that last day.

Yet I believe human beings are made to need other human beings.  As much as some of us may not want to admit we need people – we do.  Isolation is not a solution to relieve anxiety.  Desiring to get away from people is natural – for a time.  But to stay alone for weeks, months, or years is to disconnect.  Disconnection from healthy relationships leaves a person in their own head where they can deceive themselves so easily into believing lies such as:

  • I’m ugly.
  • I’m not worthy of love.
  • No one will ever love the real me.
  • How can anyone love me when I am such an emotional mess?

These were some of my very thoughts, along with many other negative tapes playing in my head, from a young age.  Some of it came from emotional neglect and abuse that my brothers and I went through from our alcoholic dad.  I know now that our parents were probably both mentally ill, (my dad was depressed and my mom most likely had anxiety to some extent) but they did the best they were capable of in parenting us.  I think on some level my brother knew this, too.  I just wish he could have asked for help.  He lived in a trailer park and had some friends, but only one of them knew how depressed he was, yet he didn’t even recognize the suicidal signs that were there.  So…

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, do what could be the hardest things you may ever do – pick up the phone and call your local suicide hotline or the Suicide Prevention Services of America at 1-800-273-8225.

Lastly, please do not allow yourself or anyone you know to stay isolated.  Try your best to reach out.

Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug.   🙂

 

Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portraits

Hello friends!

I wanted to share with you something that I found on Amazon.com for 94 cents!!!  It is a hard cover book called “Vincent – The Complete Self-Portraits – All of Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portraits, with Excerpts from His Writings” by Bernard Denvir.  It was published in 1994.

vincent-book

The writer points out that Vincent “painted more than forty self-portraits” in a span of only four years “between 1885 and 1889.”  This really amazes me!  That, to me, is a lot of work in the area of portraiture painting.  I have done very few portraits and they have all been done from photos.  Also, I have not attempted a self-portrait…yet.

It is understandable that Vincent did so many self-portraits in such a short span of time.  He was practicing because he expressed to his brother Theo in his letters that he wanted to try and learn how to paint portraits well so he could earn an income.  He didn’t like being financially dependent on his brother Theo, but that is what happened for most of his adult life especially in his last years.  He did his last self-portrait in 1889, then died in 1890.

In my humble opinion I think Vincent van Gogh was much more handsome than he ever painted himself to look.  Perhaps this was because of his mental illness and he painted himself the way he FELT about himself more so than the way he actually SAW his physical self.  I don’t presume to know his thoughts.  However, his letters do indicate that he did focus on his feelings a great deal in regards to his art.  He felt things very deeply and had a sensitivity about him that really came out in the people he sketched as well as all of his other art.

In the book I mentioned there is a painting of Vincent that was done by John Peter Russell in Paris in 1886.  It is a striking portrait of Vincent which I think captures the depths of his soul in his eyes.  Isn’t it beautiful?

vincents-portrait-by-john-peter-russell

I really love this portrait of Vincent.  I love many of his self-portraits as well, but this one I think portrays him in a way that I want to ask him, “what were you thinking about while you were posing?”

I hope you still enjoy these posts about Vincent van Gogh that I make occasionally.  I feel like I can just never learn enough from this deep-thinker about life and art.

Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug!  🙂

P.S.  I am still painting the Dungeons & Dragons miniatures, and have been getting back to experimenting with Sumi-E painting.  I will show you what I’ve done in upcoming posts!

Vincent’s Thoughts on Colour

Hello friends,

I can’t believe it is February already!  This morning I was doing some more reading in a couple of books I have about Vincent van Gogh.  I found his letter #252 from The Hague, dated Monday, July 31, 1882, to his brother Theo very interesting.  In a great part of it he is relating his findings about color theory!  He enclosed this drawing he did which was called “Pollard Willow” and evidently was done in watercolors.

vincents-pollard-willow

And here are Vincent’s thoughts on color theory!  I hope you enjoy them!

“As regards black in nature, we are of course in complete agreement, as I understand it.  Absolutely black doesn’t in fact occur.  Like white, however, it’s present in almost every colour and forms the endless variety of greys – distinct in tone and strength.  So that in nature one in fact sees nothing but these tones or strength.

The 3 fundamental colours are red, yellow, blue, the 3 composite colours are orange, green, purple.  From these are obtained the endless variations of grey by adding black and some white – red-grey, yellow-grey, blue-grey, green-grey, orange-grey, violet-grey.

It’s impossible to say how many different green-greys there are for example – the variation is infinite.

But the whole chemistry of colours is no more complicated than those simple few fundamentals.  And a good understanding of them is worth more than 70 different shades of paint – given that more than 70 tones and strengths can be made with the 3 primary colours and white and black.  The colourist is he who on seeing a colour in nature is able to analyze coolly and say, for example, that green-grey is yellow with black and almost no blue, etc.  In short, knowing how to make up the greys of nature on the palette.”

“I also have nothing against making watercolours – but they’re founded on drawing first, and then from the drawing springs not only the watercolour but all kinds of other shoots that will develop in due course in me as in anyone else working with love.”

Then referring back to the Pollard Willow drawing above, he says:

“Where the black is darkest in this little sketch is where the greatest strengths are in the watercolour – dark green, brown, and dark grey.”

I thought this was a great reminder that color mixing can be fun!  I enjoy it.  I don’t always consciously think about how what I mix will turn out, but I am forever learning.  Sometimes I get impatient looking through my box of watercolors for the color or shade I want at the moment.  Perhaps it is time to go back to the basics of color mixing and re-learn some things afresh!  Especially mixing for blacks!  I am finding I don’t really care for using blacks straight out of the tube anymore.

Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug!  🙂

 

Vincent’s Self-Reflections

van-gogh-straw-hat-portrait

Self-portrait with Straw Hat, 1887, Vincent van Gogh

Hello everyone.  Today I want to get away from sharing just myself and back to my very favorite artist, Vincent van Gogh, to share with you some excerpts from one of his letters that is in my GIANT book of his letters!  I am going to write some quotes here from the letter, and then say a few words of my own.    This self-portrait of him in his straw hat is my very favorite self-portrait painting that he ever did.  Thanks for reading!

Letter #249/The Hague, on or about Friday, 21 July 1882/To Theo van Gogh (D)

“Today I made an agreement with myself, which was to regard my illness, or rather what’s left of it, as non-existent.  Enough time has been lost, the work must be carried on.”

“So, well, or not well, I’m going to draw again regularly from morning till evening.  I don’t want anyone else to be able to say, ‘Oh, those are only old drawings.'”

“My hands have become rather whiter than I care for, but what can I do about it?  I’ll also go outdoors again.  It matters less to me that it may strike me down than that I’m kept longer from my work.  Art is jealous; she won’t allow illness to be placed above her, so I’ll let her have her way.” 

“People like me aren’t allowed to be ill.  You must really understand how I regard art.  One must work long and hard to arrive at the truthful.  What I want and set as my goal is damned difficult, and yet I don’t believe I’m aiming too high.  I want to make drawings that move some people…contain something straight from my own feelings.”

“In short, I want to reach the point where people say of my work, ‘that man feels deeply and that man feels sublty.’  Despite my so-called coarseness – you understand – perhaps, precisely because of it.  It seems pretentious to talk like this now, but that’s why I want to push on.”

“What am I in the eyes of most people?  A nonentity or an oddity or a disagreeable person – someone who has and will have no position in society, in short a little lower than the lowest.”

“Very well – assuming that everything is indeed like that, when through my work I’d like to show what there is in the heart of such an oddity, such a nobody.”

 

I am amazed that some people wrote such long letters back then!  However, it was there only way to communicate long-distance so they really had no other choice like we do today.  Personally, I love handwritten letters and cards that I get in the mail.

These excerpts from Vincent’s letter to Theo are over 300 words, but there are at lease 300 MORE words to this letter!  Amazing, huh?

As you can see in this letter, Vincent was trying to carry on his work and put his mental illness behind him.  Even though he was allowed to do some art in the asylum he was admitted to, he didn’t feel free.  When he got out, he went to work immediately.  I think he conveys that he was trying to make up for lost time.

What I admire about Vincent most is his determination to leave his mark on the world, but it still saddens me that he never felt accepted or praised for his work by other artists and felt like such an outcast in society.  He wanted to express “deep sorrow” in his work, no doubt from the pain he was feeling about where he was in life but also the enormous compassion in his heart for others who were also considered to be “lower than the lowest.”

I have been where he was at many times in my life and even since I began learning to draw and paint over ten years ago.  I can identify with many of his thoughts and feelings.  I wish I could have known Vincent van Gogh as a friend; I think we would have been kindred spirits.  Kindred spirits are not always easy to find in life.  I am glad I have the good fortune to have several in my life.

If you made it through this post, thanks for taking the time to read.  What do you think about Vincent?

 

Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug!  🙂

P. S. (Hopefully tomorrow I will have a picture of the portrait of Mary I’m doing!)

 

Vincent van Gogh Quote: Letter #220

Hello friends.  Today I decided to get back to the wonderful Mother’s Day gift my family gave me last year:  the book called “Vincent van Gogh, Ever Yours, The Essential Letters.”

I was reading letter #220 which was written on April 23, 1882 by Vincent to his brother, Theo van Gogh.

In this letter Vincent is writing to Theo about his sketch “Men Digging” that he enclosed with the letter.  Here it is:

Vincent's Men Digging

“Men Digging” by Vincent van Gogh

He has told Theo about Tersteeg’s (the manager of Goupil in The Hague whom Vincent was well-acquainted with) discouraging comments to him reminding Vincent of past failures.  I found Vincent’s thoughts provoking and humorous.  This is what he had to say:

“It’s precisely because I have a draughtsman’s fist that I can’t keep myself from drawing and, I ask you, have I ever doubted or hesitated or wavered since the day I began to draw?  I think you know very well that I’ve hacked my way through and am obviously ever more keen to do battle.

Coming back to that little sketch – it was made in the Geest district in the drizzle, standing in a street in the mud, in all that bustle and noise, and I’m sending it to show you that my sketchbook proves that I try to capture things first-hand.  Put Iterson or H.G.T. himself, for example, in front of a sandpit in the Geest district where the dredgers are at work laying a water or gas pipe – I’d like to see the kind of face someone like that would pull and what kind of sketch he’d make.  Struggling on wharves and in alleys and streets and inside houses, waiting rooms, even public houses, that’s not a nice job, unless one is an artist. (Emphasis his.) As such one would rather be in the filthiest neighbourhood, provided there’s something to draw, than at a tea party with nice ladies.  Unless one draws ladies, in which case a tea party is nice even for an artist.”

I love Vincent’s humor!  Well, getting to the issue of drawing from life, back in May and today I tried to draw my hand.  This is the one from last year.  My Hand drawing in May 2015

This is the one from today along with some thoughts I had about Vincent’s drawing from life.  (I hope you can read my writing!)

My Hand and Thoughts March 2016

 

Drawing from life is not something I do a lot of.  I mostly draw from photos I have taken or practice things from others’ illustrations, etc.  I don’t have the greatest long distance vision so working outside like Vincent and most plein air painters of his time has never really appealed to me.  I have done it, but it frustrates me.

So these are just some thoughts I wanted to share today.  To close I am putting in one of Vincent’s drawing of hands.  Amazing, huh?  I really have a lot to learn!

Vincent's study of three hands

“Study of Three Hands” by Vincent van Gogh

 

Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug!  🙂

Van Gogh’s copy of Delacroix’s “The Good Samaritan”

Delacroix and Van Gogh's Good Samaritan

I have always loved the painting of “The Good Samraitan” by Delacroix, but even though in my art history class in 1990 I also saw Vincent van Gogh’s copy of it, I did not remember that he painted a mirror image of Delaroix’s original. I found that to be intriguing today, so I thought I would share it with you.

Honestly, I like Vincent’s version better because of the colors he chose. However, his painting came 41 years after Delacroix’s. And we all know Vincent van Gogh had his own style of painting!

Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂

“Vincent” by Don McLean

Here is a wonderful video of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings set to the song of “Vincent” by Don McLean. Enjoy!

Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂

Vincent van Gogh’s Thoughts

Vincent van Gogh photo

Hello, and happy Friday! I am sure by now you can see how much I have come to love Vincent van Gogh’s artwork! He really had a drive to learn how to draw and paint like so many artists I know! His letters are amazing. However, from early on in his endeavor to become a respected artist in his time, Vincent struggled with a great deal of rejection and judgment. He was known to be dirty and malnourished much of the time, even living homeless for short periods. For instance, in his Letter #158 from Cuesmes, in September of 1880 that he wrote to his brother Theo, he shared this:

“…at Courrieres, there was a coal-mine or pit; I saw the day-shift coming up at dusk, but there were no women workers in men’s clothing, as in the Borinage, only miners looking weary and miserable, blackened by coaldust, wearing pit-rags and one of them an old army greatcoat. Although this stage was almost unbearable to me, and I returned from it worn out, with bruised feet and in a rather melancholy state, I don’t regret it, because I saw interesting things and you learn to see with a quite different eye, there among the raw ordeals of poverty itself. I earned a few crusts of bread en route here and there in exchange for some drawings that I had in my suitcase. But when my ten francs were gone, I had to bivouac out in the open for rather poor shelter, once in a wood-pile and once, and it was a little better, in a haystack that had been broached where I managed to make a slightly more comfortable nest, only a fine rain didn’t exactly add to my well-being.

Well, and not withstanding, it was in this extreme poverty that I felt my energy return and that I said to myself, in any event I’ll recover from it, I’ll pick up my pencil that I put down in my great discouragement and I’ll get back to drawing, and from then on, it seems to me, everything has changed for me, and now I’m on my way and my pencil has become somewhat obedient and seems to become more so day by day. It was poverty, too long and too severe, that had discouraged me to the point where I could no longer do anything.”

Yet here is one of the drawings he did during this time:

Vincent's Miners

A month later he did this one:

The Angelus drawing by Vincent van Gogh

Then he wrote in his Letter #160, from Brussels in November of 1880 to Theo:

“…how is one supposed to learn to draw unless someone shows you? With the best will in the world one cannot succeed without also coming into and remaining in contact with artists who are already further along. Good will is of no avail if there’s absolutely no opportunity for development.”

Vincent had so much wisdom and longed for companionship with other artists. I am enjoying reading his letters a great deal as you can tell. I agree with him, because I feel I have grown from knowing and viewing so many other artist’s work, gaining encouragement from them, and learning to challenge myself to try new things.

The main reason I want to share these things with you is that I want to show others that there was so much more to the man, Vincent van Gogh, than the terrible things he did to himself! His mind was brilliant in so many ways. His heart was sensitive to others; he had true empathy for the down-trodden people he saw and met. He was a very hard worker. He worked constantly at becoming the best artist he could possibly be. Yet the sad thing is that I feel he was so misunderstood! For example, this is what he wrote in Letter #164, from Brussels in April of 1881 to Theo:

“…I’ll always be judged or talked about in different ways, whether within or outside the family, and one will always hear the most wide-ranging opinions being put forward.

And I don’t blame anyone for it, for relatively very few people know why a draughtsman does this or that.

Peasants and townsfolk, however, generally impute very great wickedness and evil intentions never dreamt of by one who betakes himself to all manner of places, corners holes that others prefer not to visit, in order to find picturesque places or figures.

A peasant who sees me drawing an old tree-trunk and sees me sitting there in front of it for an hour thinks I’m mad, and naturally laughs at me. A young lady who turns up her nose at the workman in his patched and dusty and sweaty work-clothes can’t understand, of course, why anyone visits the Borinage or Heist and goes down a coalmine all the way to the maintenages, and she, too, comes to the conclusion that I’m mad.”

Sometimes I wonder how many people ever really took the time to try to get to know him. I wish I could have, yet, I have his letters, so I feel I have his heart in my hands every time I pick them up to read them.

I have to say Vincent was a brilliant man who left us a legacy of amazing artwork to enjoy, learn from, and appreciate. Fortunately, his words were preserved as well so that we can see and hear for ourselves who he really was.

As Don McLean says in his song “Vincent,”

“for they could not love you, but still your love was true, and when no hope was left in sight on that starry, starry night, you took your life as lovers often do, but I could have told you, Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”

Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug. 🙂

Vincent van Gogh on Board

Here is a painting I did in Vincent’s style with the short dashes of paint that was inspired by one of his letters he wrote to his parents in April of 1876. He was traveling on a boat and described the waters as “quite dark blue” and the “sun went down and cast a streak of dazzling light on the water.”

There was a little more to his description that I had forgotten about, so I may do another one. I also didn’t realize until now that his yellow hat he was known for wearing is kind of shaped like a sailor’s hat! Well, back to the drawing board!

Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂

Vincent on Deck

Vincent close-up

Vincent van Gogh at 13 years old

THIS IS A QUICK DRAWING I DID FROM A PHOTO OF HIM WHEN HE WAS YOUNG. I DID WITH A GREY OIL PASTEL STICK. I WANT TO DO IT AGAIN, THOUGH, BECAUSE I DIDN’T GET HIS MOUTH QUITE RIGHT.

Vincent at 13

HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY, AND GIVE SOMEONE YOU LOVE A BIG HUG! 🙂

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