Sometimes someone will compliment my “talent,” despite the fact that I have none. What I lack in ability though, I make up for in willingness. Almost anyone can do what I do. What makes my art special is that they don’t (and I do!) Creativity? I get good ideas sometimes, but when I’ve got nothing that’s when the willingness really helps out. If I don’t know what to paint, I just go. Honestly, it’s mostly out of necessity. My brain is damaged and expressive art therapy is the best tool I’ve got.
It was Friday and I was upset. I had been at Tranquil Shores for six months so I had the kind of freedom that allowed me to go outside, cross the street, and grab a cardboard box off the curb. I spent the next two hours painting nothing, just moving colors around on the cardboard. When I was done, I was covered in paint and had a 72-inch panel of cardboard that was… also covered in paint. I let it dry and still had no idea what to do with it. I started looking for images that were already there and outlined them with black paint, adding details at will. Two hours later, I realized that I had one “canvas” but (the beginnings of) close to a dozen paintings. So I cut it up and spent the next two days finishing them. I did virtually nothing but paint for about 48 hours. Which is not really the kind of balance that one is taught to strive for while in recovery (and especially treatment)…
But that’s okay because that phase of my life was about to come to an (unanticipated) end. What had started fifteen months (and three facilities) earlier ended the following Tuesday. I gradually started moving out of Tranquil Shores and within ten days, fully transitioned to outpatient treatment. This is the first of those cardboard paintings I made between Friday and Sunday. There are ten in all and I consider them all part of a series that I call “The Weak End”.
The title of this first painting is an allusion to our first group session earlier that day. We had to perform a “talent” of some kind. I had been dreading it all week and tried to get out of it. Initially, I joked that my talent would be a demonstration: “how to cook GHB” (also known as 4-Hydroxybutanoic Acid) – something I learned (through doing) in my last year of law school. Then I joked that my entire life had been performance art and that I should be allowed to simply show up. That didn’t fly either. Ultimately, I brought in a painting, read a statement, and spoke off the cuff a little about it (all while Troublemake songs played in the background).
My apprehension turned out to be for nothing, as my whole “act” was incredibly well received. But as well as I felt about that, I was still off somehow. I think I knew that the end was coming and I was scared to move on. But I did move on and everything worked out really well. I didn’t fall apart the second I moved into the outside world and I actually started to enjoy life more than I ever had in the past. And I discovered that I could stay off heroin, out on my own, for more than three or four days.
One more thing about the title: it’s also (inadvertently) about fear. I hadn’t ever painted anything without some kind of caption but this piece felt right without one. Still, while any words I might add would feel tacked on, I felt a little vulnerable without one. That made it all the more necessary for the painting to have an absurd title for me to hide behind.
Today was a really great day and I think I’m finally starting to get my grip back. In case it doesn’t go without saying, I haven’t been using anything, but abstinence doesn’t equal wellness and it’s been a tough week. I decided this morning to start posting some of the paintings from this series and I’ve got the first four ready to go. The second one will be online soon with more to come…
Here are a couple photos from early in the process of creating “The Weak End” series of paintings.
“The Weak End” series includes:
- 4-Hydroxybutanoic Acid Talent Show
- Portraits of God, Nothing, and Fear
- Valuable Feedback
- Satellite Photography
- Friday Afternoons Spent in Mental Health Treatment Facilities
- Diminishing Returns
- No One Will Spit On Me and I Hate It
- So Smart I Got Life Lessons Dripping Out My Asshole
- Hard Feelings
- This painting sold in April, but signed 10×14″ prints are available in my webstore (and they look awesome)!