Self-Portrait, Study in Brush and Ink.

This time around I decided to use Indian ink, as opposed to the acrylic ink I used on the previous study. What I found is that Indian ink is definitely more consistent, but doesn’t seem to hold in the brush for as long as acrylic ink. So with Indian ink it’s not long before the dry-brush effect starts to happen, which, of course is useful if you want to exploit that kind of look, but my aim is more to find the best substitute for the pencil. This is because with arthritis you don’t want to be having to apply pressure to get those bold lines you sometimes need.

 

Self portrait study in brush and ink 001

Since there is no tonal variety in this medium, I chose to use directional line to indicate light and shade. The focused look in my eyes always makes me look like a psycho in self portraits, but this, like the previous study is intended to be just more collage material for larger works anyway.

Self Portrait: A Study in Acrylic Ink

I got the idea to try doing some good old sketching with a brush. I chose to use black acrylic ink instead of indian ink, because the acrylic ink isn’t dye-based, and therefore won’t fade like indian ink does. I have the distant idea of doing assemblage pieces in the future which may include handwriting and drawing, so acrylic ink, I thought, might be a good medium for this sort of thing.

Also, I am investigating methods which may be easier on the arthritis, and the brush has an advantage here, in the way it can be held gently, and doesn’t require any downward pressure for darker or bolder lines.

self portrait study 1

Developing My Skills

From when I left off in my previous post until I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, I didn’t have the burden of arthritis to hold me back, and it was a great journey in learning oil painting.  Having no teachers, and not being able to afford any even if I wanted lessons, I used to go to the public library a lot and look at Cezanne, Picasso, Van Gogh, and Modigliani to try to figure out their processes, and aesthetic theories. Here are some of my efforts:

white cup laying 2006

2 apples 2005       vermeer copy 2002

 

I also took the time to experiment a bit:

bar code boy 2005

bust of woman on blue 2005

rough idea 2000 for web      dancer 2004

 

I was just showing these works at local cafes. I was living in the inner city then, in a bedsit for a while, and then in a very grungy flat on Peterborough Street, apparently only a few houses away from where Phillip Clairmont once lived.

Being unemployed, I used to try to save money by turning the hot water cylinder off (which meant cold showers in winter), never using heating, hardly ever cooking,and skipping breakfast.

My daily routine consisted of going to a cafe, ordering a latte bowl, reading and writing poetry, and once I had the caffeine hit, I would go to the library, look at paintings, and then return home to paint for the rest of the afternoon. At this time in Christchurch, if you were an unemployed artist, you could get what was called the “Artist Wage”, which was overseen by the charitable trust known as “Creation”. If you were on it you had to be actively engaged in artistic projects and meet each week with organisers and fellow artists to discuss your progress.

My projects weren’t about the painting though, they were about self publishing books of poetry, and I managed to turn out three books while on the artist wage. Not that I’m very proud of that poetry now, but going through that process was indeed educational.

I should mention here that the epileptic seizures I was having were really starting to take their toll, so much so that I tried my first medication for it, Epilim, which seemed to be working, but what it was doing was delaying the seizures, so that I would have one every two months, and even more fierce than before.

I was put on what was known then as the sickness benefit, and I stopped taking the Epilim. Feeling pretty disillusioned with the options for epilepsy meds, I decided to again go without, but the art development continued:

collage #1 2008_resize    3 apples in a bowl 2008 resize

5 roses 2008 resize cup and green pot 2006 resize     woman with vase of flowers 2008 resize

2 circles 2008 resize

b&w sunset 2008_resize

 

It wasn’t long before a seizure would give me a back injury, which would see me bed-ridden for a few months, and having about 6 months of physio, where I learnt some basic Pilates to strengthen the core muscles to where they needed to be.

I opted again to try epilepsy medication, this time 600mg of Tegretol, which thankfully stopped the seizures, but also saw the introduction of fatigue and dryness. I had already been experiencing rheumatism previously, which was the result of taking Roaccutane, a medication which was prescribed for me to clear up acne, which I would get on my neck and back quite a lot. Before taking Roaccutane I had a blood test, which showed an antibody which meant that I could get a form of Lupus around the age of 40. They told me that taking Roaccutane could bring this on sooner, but I wasn’t bothered, and opted to take it anyway.

The memory of this was what helped the doctors know what to test for when I was getting the symptoms of dryness, fatigue, and arthritis. It wasn’t Lupus, but another member of the auto-immune family, Sjogren’s Syndrome.

When the diagnosis came, I was told that it was incurable, which was very depressing when I tried to consider how I would be able to write and paint. But at least now I had some understanding of what was happening to me. I accepted that I needed the Tegretol to stop the seizures, but was more wary now than ever of harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals, so decided against taking meds for Sjogrens, hoping to find a better way.