Art -v- Art Therapy

When a piece of artwork greatly excites me, it isn’t the artwork itself that contains this energy. The artwork itself is actually only an external inanimate physical object or perhaps, vibrating pattern, if music, or whatever. This ‘wow factor’ is actually only me experiencing myself. And if, I’m correct, this feeling is similar to what the artist was feeling when they created it.

During my early 20s while on Valium and an antidepressant for 4 years, I couldn’t express myself when painting though I tried. Perhaps these drugs had been preventing me from accessing my deeper feelings which, I greatly needed to paint from my imagination. However, I was able to draw a few copied photographs while taking these drugs — yet here, I was merely following the dictates or recording the photo's image onto another sheet of paper.

I know artists who laboriously paint copies of their own photos. They can spent hours trying to match the photo image using paint. Technically their ‘copywork’ might be amazing but when finished it’s nearly impossible to know which artist painted it. What I've noticed is that, when the artist does this copywork, they’ll often be very relaxed. Some even tell me that they paint because it relaxes them.

But then for me, I often feel stressed when painting — not often technically stressed, but stressed because I’ll be making decision, after decision, while, continuiosly destroying my previous decision every time I apply a new brush mark over my prior decision. On the other hand, 'copy artists’ rarely need to make these stressful decisions beyond their chosen technical applications of paint. And when they need to make a correction they know, they can resolve it by more precisely following the photo. Yet when painting from imagination, as I often do, all that I’ll have to guide me will be my intuition, my gut feelings, prior knowledge plus trial and error.

And because I’ll be lacking a set goal in creating a duplicate copy, I won’t have a comparison in which, to judge my accomplishments. Rather, my gut feeling will likely be my only means of determining my painting’s successful completion. The end satisfaction is very different.

Of those who write and compose their own music, they too, have only their gut feelings, prior knowledge plus trial and error in completing their work. Same thing for writers, poets, novelists, etc, etc. — those who create using their gut feelings rather than by following a particular dictate. There’s a huge different here yet, not every artist seems to recognize it.
I’ve often drawn intuitively from my imagination yet, never entered art therapy. But during my early 20s my imaginary drawing would evoke too much anxiety. I was fearful of my subconscious mind and that it might reveal something that I didn’t want to know about myself. However, my more intentional conscious artwork, such as copying, wasn’t disturbing. Rather, the suggestibility of my intuitive work evoked my anxieties too much. I feared something frightening might appear within my mind that, I couldn’t accept.

I mentioned this to my first T. But even before that time and taking amphetamines and little sleep, I was having intrusive disturbing daydreaming. I thought this was due to the drug and so, I stopped the drug, cold turkey, only to fall into a deep depression. And when I tried to explain this fear to my T, his said, this was only my imagination. I just couldn’t understand why my imagination would be randomly frightening me and for no apparent reason.

My imaginary drawings usually begin with large shapes, somewhat like mindless doodling. Then I’ll choose which shapes seem most significant to me though there’s still unknown objects. Every shape however suggests some sort of energy, an act of doing, a movement or stillness. Even the surrounding environment plays a significant role — is it calm or chaotic, seemingly dangerous or warm and inviting, etc., etc. Beyond the necessary handling of my art supplies these are the questions I'll ask myself and all are intuitively felt.

So where might I go from here — I might ask myself, does this shape seem to float or is it heavy and grounded like a massive rock. Does this shape seem to freely expand over the entire paper or is it seemingly constricted, squeezed as if, to be immobilized and unabile to breathe. Is this shape seemingly soft, gently curving, yielding and sensual or dangerously jagged, chaotic hostile or aggressive. Is this shape meek, delicately fragile or imposing and overbearing. Is this shape falling apart or has it a greater integrity. Does this shape mingle freely throughout its environment or is it rigidly self-contained, void of feeling, cold and empty.

These opposites and even the most negative serve a purpose. The subject matter chosen isn’t always important unless the artist means to use symbolism and a narrative. The colors choices always convey a feeling or mood just, as the artist's gestures and brush strokes convey their feelings.

It was either an art critic or Vincent Van Gogh, himself, that once wrote that Van Gogh had painted inanimate objects as if, they were living things. I think this has something to do with projection. And in that sense, Van Gogh’s paintings of inanimate objects (chairs, a plate of potatoes, a pairs of old boots) were also self-portraits.

I haven’t mentioned the drawing of people, here, because this process can be so technically challenging that the artist’s feelings might be hampered by their intellectual thoughts. This I’ve noticed when artists become so obsessed with accurately copying a photo that, they’ll deny themselves any freedom of expression.

I think that, the practice of ‘decision making’ plays a huge part in the creation of an artwork. Where else in life will I find this degree of freedom.