New Series in Progress

In August I started doing line drawings with fountain pens and Micron pens. Like a lot of my work, it started as materials driven; I had ordered a set of various thickness Micron pens and was playing with them during my daily drawing. At some point these images started repeating and I explored further. I started with small square paper.

At first I was limiting to the square format which I really enjoy. When I returned from vacation with a bunch of small squares, I decided to try to pick one and “copy” it to larger square wood panels, hoping to then follow that with larger scale oil paintings using the same image. I’ve been interested in using oil paints again all year and had a few forays into it.

It’s always interesting when you’re into a repeating type of line work what happens. Do I get more limited in repeating certain shapes? Do I cover the whole space? Do I discover new line work to add to the box of tools? All of these things happened. Color also became part of it through use of fountain pens.

There are plans and ideas you have as an artist and then the interesting left turns you take that are unexpected. How did I go from these:

To do hat happened the other day with a totally separate project, my Mandalas?

I had been making these mandala collages that were all chaotic and pieces together based on an old series from over ten years ago. On Wednesday I started adding ripped up tape and ripped up drawings to a blue mandala as shown above. The next day, I had this breakthrough where I had to follow an instinct to cover the whole piece in light blue oil paint. As I always do with mixing color, I didn’t mix it all first to keep the whole thing uniform. I’m not patient enough for that. So the color varies but it had the effect I needed of simplifying the piece that was feeling “too out of control”. I was inspired by discovering a British painter’s simple compositions, William Scott. While reworking the circle I planned to add linework similar to my drawings. As always with going from thin pen to oil paint, there is an adjustment. If you’re not waiting for the paint to dry, your lines will pick up the lighter color. And the lines are thicker. Depending on the brushes and nature of the marks, the quality of line changes and you have a kind of interrupted built up line.

The piece is called, “Find Your Center”, at least for now. I had added stitching work to the edges and inside which I don’t want to completely cover. I’m not sure yet if I want the stitching completely around the edges and how to make stitch marks as part of the line work, but it’s exciting to jump into this totally new territory that changes the nature of the pieces.

A client saw the drawings up in my office and said they were soothing. I’m hoping the circles will take on a soothing sort of simple quality, which is definitely a big turn from how they started. It makes sense that under this still blue circle, there is chaos and upheaval, symbolic of the meditation process for me where one starts with a “loud” mind and ends up with at least a slightly quieter one.

For sure I am feeling more inspired and excited about this work than I have been about anything for quite a long time…

The Fifty Minute Hour, or Thanks for the Clock, Kasa

I just wrote this piece that is mostly not about Kasa’s clock, but maybe all of it kind of is. She brought the clock to my studio when she was seeing some clients there and left it there and forgot to ask for it back.

The 50 Minute hour. That’s what they used to call it. Now most people do 45 minute therapy sessions. When I started private practice, I did hour long sessions; in art therapy often you take time picking out art materials and settling into the rhythm of the session. At some point I switched to 50 minute sessions, where I am now. 45 or 50 minute sessions, time still works like the Twilight Zone, where it gets stretched out like taffy. You can fit a lot of intense stuff into just 15 minutes.

There are many jobs that involve watching the clock. I can speak for mine that it is a strange aspect of the job. On the surface, any therapist will tell you that the built in boundaries of psychotherapy are an important part of the experience, the earthy reality stuff like price, session times and frequency, even the office itself. I had a client years ago who started with specific requests, it has to be every two weeks, and you have to not judge my alternative approach to romantic relationships. I had someone with a strong reaction to the studio space, saying it felt like a garage full of old paintbrushes and if we could meet in a clean space with comfortable chairs, he’d rather work with me there. He had to accept getting his therapy in a dirty garage. This was before the options of Facetime/video sessions were an option.

When I started private practice, I didn’t think too much about the clocks and placement of them until a client told me she needed to see the clock and be the one who announced the end of a session. When you’ve had a traumatic loss as she had, having control of the time is important. I brought in a second clock and placed it where she could see it. It was back when I still used a digital alarm clock with a loud radio alarm to wake me up. When I worked at a day treatment program and was doing an art group, a client pointed out that in all watch ads, the time is set as 10:10. It makes sense. If it was the visual opposite, 8:20, the hands would look like a sad face. Working at that program, I appreciated the stretching of time and the Twilight Zone of serious chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia, where time is in quicksand. One of my clients spent the whole day in a chair in the big group room. Another one had no complaints sitting in a dentist waiting room for 3 hours not even reading magazines.

Recently my clients and I noticed in the second room of my studio that the clock was not working. It’s an analog on the wall above shelves, meant to be placed for clients to see. I found a new one at Ikea this weekend, that even has Roman numerals. I also had a cool sun ray clock with actual pointy gold rays radiating from it that also stopped working recently.

I have a very small silver clock with the bells on top that I “inherited” from a friend. When she died in 2013, I realized I had her clock. It was so silly and obvious that time had run out for her and I better be enjoying as many minutes as possible myself. It had a loud ticking that one of my clients requested I put it in a drawer. It eventually stopped working, but I have it out on my desk with my stuffed “studio bunny”, a reminder of the well know rabbit with an anxiety disorder where he keeps looking at his pocket watch and freaking out. A little stuffed animal that I had lying around. Years ago a patient brought in her dachshund and the bunny was a great chew toy distraction for him while the client was working on a huge piece on the floor. He got pastel all over the bunny’s white body, and she then really was broken in as a true art studio bunny. As an art therapist I can get away with having a lot of stuffed animals in my office.

My Dad has been into clocks, watches and their workings since childhood. As a kid, really wanted his dad’s clock and got it, nothing fancy and had it a long time. My grandfather knew how to fix clocks. When I was growing up there were antique clocks all over the house that went off on the hour and my dad would take one of those old clock keys and wind them. They are still there. Last I counted there were at least ten antique clocks in their apartment. One’s entirely covered in gold, and has a cupid figure with a bow standing next to the square of the clock part on a pedestal. He has gold wings and is holding fruit over a bowl of fruit on top of the clock. Another one has marble columns and the pendulum is a gold sun. In the library there is a clock with a rooster on top. My favorite is a clock in the dining room, It’s a harp but symmetrical with a gold sun at the top and the clock part is the body of the guitar shaped harp. A few years ago, my Dad gave me his gold Omega watch and a pocket watch. He was giving his watches to his kids, not waiting for death. He used to wear suits with vests where the pocket watch would go, complete with bowtie and hangkerchief. I took the Omega to the guy below my studio who fixes shoes and watches; it’s a shoe repair, barber and make your own nailpolish shop all in one. It turned out the watch did not need a battery and is the kind you actually wind. Growing up I loved watches and my Dad would bring Seiko watches from Japan. I went through a phase as an adult where I stopped wearing watches and just wore watch rings. I collected a whole bunch of different watch rings and found it easy to look at the time without clients realizing because you see your hands more easily than having to move your wrist to check the time. At some point I went back to watches and started collecting watches again. I have a very large square one with a silver band that was the first fancy one that I got. It has Roman numerals on it.

In my own therapy which is five minutes less than the 50 minutes my clients get, I look at the time often. This is the first time I have a therapist like the white rabbit except he is not anxious about arriving late. When he is late, I set my timer to get my exact 45 minutes. One time I was on the way into the subway and he texted that he had to cancel as he wasn’t going to get to his office on time. As some other therapists, I tend to enjoy hearing about other therapists messing up as it makes me feel better about my own mess ups.

Time is also weird for me as an artist. People ask, how long did it take to make that drawing/painting. I now write the date on the back of my work as soon as I start it or restart it to know what date I did it, and I set 15 minute timers for drawing, but I never know exactly how long anything takes to make.