The art of catharsis

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Sure, most of the time I’m a happy-go-lucky person with a cherub-like demeanor. But once in awhile I let the world get to me, as I’ve mentioned plenty of times on the site here. I’ve found one thing, that I love to do anyway, that gets rid of the depression usually.

Chiclets.

Ok, that’s not true. While Chiclets are certainly a delicious treat, they don’t settle my brain any. Especially when the muse is being bitchy, I need something to overcome the problems and move on with life. Without a day job, needing to rely on art to survive, I can’t really afford to stop work just because I have a sad day.

But I have to sometimes walk away when everything is going wrong. That doesn’t get me anywhere though, all that does is put me further behind on things, which doubles the depression because now I’m further behind on things AND I can’t actually do any work.

It’s at these times, if I can catch it before it falls completely into M&M’s and TV mode, that I do more art.

I know, I’ve been talking about how the muse has left and I can’t do art, then telling you I’m going to do art. There’s a point here, just hang with me a moment.

Let’s take the current situation. I’m painting a large acrylic seascape, which is something I haven’t done on several fronts. One, it’s acrylic and not digital, so I’m already behind the curve some. While I’ve done a number of acrylic works, and I did airbrush years ago, this one is a totally different technique and idea. Next, I’ve not yet done a traditional painting so large (20″ x 30″), so I have to decide what works and what doesn’t at a size I’m not used to. It’s also a paying gig, for an important client with a great chance for doing more (and bringing in more money to feed the family), one that has specific guidelines.

It’s been fine until now, but I’ve reached that halfway point. If you’re an artist, or an author, or really any type of creator, you probably know the moment well. It’s that moment where you look at it, and it occurs to you that it may or may not be working. Sure, there’s lots still to do, and it will work out in the end. But the little voice has spoken, and scared off the muse. Which leads to the aforementioned depression.

M&M time? Not just yet.

I decided that, instead of wallowing in it, it was time to change pace. There are lots of deadlines right now, but I’m not getting any further anyway so it’s a good time to stop and reset things. So I put down the paintbrush, picked up the digital tablet instead, and just started painting in Photoshop.

I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have an image in mind. I just sat down and let it come out. I turned off the brain (after threatening to stab it with a Q-Tip) and just went for it. Just furious line after furious line, throwing in textures and effects and painting more and just getting the problem worked out.

It worked. While my concern with the seascape hasn’t necessarily gone away, rationality has returned. The depression is more or less gone, like a deep breath that I exhaled. The new art, very dark and very different from a nice seascape, has restored my faith some, and let me push the demons out.

It’s not the first time I’ve done this, and in fact some of the pieces that people have said are their favorites of my work are those pieces. A Violent Reaction, Eternity in the Old North Hall, Winter Holiday, even The Lost Nightmare (to an extent) are all pieces that are completely from the heart. Maybe that’s why people like them, they are an honest emotion set to paper (or, well, screen).

Here’s the new catharsis, I call it All Smiles and Work:

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