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Posts Tagged ‘art therapy’

What is D’ger to Me? I guess you have to go way back to the first Star Trek movie to get it, but replace V with D and it’s kind of me. And parallels in many ways my autobiography, except the resolution. Not sure I ever made it to that. But that’s okay I evolved into a different life form. I’m okay with that. Ok here’s the gist of it:
Star Trek Wiki: http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/V’Ger
First Star Trek Movie:

The V’Ger vessel

This Of course is not the Vger vessel of course below, but rather aspects of the “D’ger vessel” in the abstract:
scanned143.jpg
Nature: Vessel enclosed in energy cloud
Power: Twelfth power
Origin: Earth and Unknown
Diameter: Surrounding energy cloud diameter of two astronomical units, equal to that of the Earth’s orbit
Armaments: Plasma weapons
The massive entity that called itself V’Ger (also called Vejur or The Intruder) was one of the most extraordinary lifeforms ever encountered by the United Federation of Planets. It generated enormous levels of power and threatened Earth with destruction until it found a way to evolve.

The machine planet
V’Ger had an extraordinary ability to evolve. It was discovered that the evolution of this once simple probe into a complex, powerful entity began after it was pulled into a black hole shortly after leaving Earth’s solar system.

Voyager 6 emerged from the black hole in what was believed to have been the far side of the galaxy, and fell into the gravitational field of a planet populated by living machines. These beings found Voyager 6 damaged by its travels, and the identifying plaque attached to the probe’s exterior had been burned leaving only the letters V, G, E, and R legible; the inhabitants of the machine planet renamed the probe V’Ger.

These entities found V’Ger to be primitive, but of a kindred spirit. They discovered the probe’s simple, 20th century programming, “learn all that is learnable and return that knowledge to the creator”, and interpreted these instructions literally.

Reprogramming
Reconstructed through highly advanced technologies as a vast space-faring artificial organism, V’Ger was augmented with a three-dimensional data collection and storing apparatus magnitudes beyond anything previously known to Federation science. Likewise providing it with effectively immeasurable defensive and sensory capabilities, the inhabitants of the machine planet gave V’Ger the ability to fulfill its programming in a far more complete fashion than the scientists who originally built and launched the vessel at its core ever imagined.

Sentience
At the heart of V’Ger, the crew of the Enterprise found the ancient Voyager VI probe
While traversing the vast distance back to Earth, V’Ger collected data via its 3D imaging system, but it destroyed the objects that it encountered along the way. However, it accumulated so much knowledge that it eventually achieved consciousness and became, like its benefactors, a living machine. As a machine it was only capable of pure, cold logic with no emotion, but with its new-found sentience V’Ger began to question its own existence. It asked the philosophical questions faced by so many lifeforms: “Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?” The answers, V’Ger decided, could only be found with its creator on Earth.

Threatening Earth
With the cloud just 54 hours away from Earth, Starfleet dispatched the only starship within interception range, the newly refitted USS Enterprise, to determine both what it was and how to stop it if possible. When the Enterprise arrived at the cloud’s coordinates, it determined that the entity had an energy output surpassing that of thousands of starships.

By assuming a non-threatening posture, the Enterprise was able to deeply penetrate the cloud surrounding V’Ger and begin to gather information. During this critical time, however, the starship was cut off from all communication with Starfleet. As V’Ger entered the Sol system, spherical energy “bolts” similar to those that had destroyed the Klingons and the Epsilon IX station, only vastly more powerful, were launched by the entity. The energy spheres proceeded into courses that would place them into equidistant orbits around the planet, at which point it was predicted Earth’s entire surface would be devastated.

Realizing it lacked the intuitive, irrational elements which allow Humans to deal with some complex, non-scientific concepts, it came to believe that only its Creator could help it to leap beyond logic. In order to obtain the answers it needed, V’Ger wished to meet and become one with its Creator. To this end, it sought not only to receive the acknowledged signal from the Creator, but to merge with the Creator.

But V’Ger had been reprogrammed to such an extent that it had come to think of biological lifeforms as an “infestation”, and destroyed any that it encountered. When V’Ger encountered the crew of the Enterprise, its confusion over its true nature was so great that it could not comprehend what it was told – that it had been created by the very organic lifeforms it saw only as imperfections that must be cleansed.

In an effort to meet its Creator, V’Ger refused to accept the pre-programmed transmission that would signal it to transmit its accumulated data. The probe burned out a relay connection, hoping to force the Creator to come to its heart so that they could merge. Realizing that the only way V’Ger would understand was to add Humanity to its experiences, Captain Willard Decker, who was deeply affected by the loss of Ilia, his former lover, sacrificed himself to become one with the machine lifeform. Decker rewired the relay connection and keyed in the final sequence of the transmission manually. This prompted V’Ger to begin transmitting its data, effectively merging with Decker and the Ilia probe, thus taking V’Ger to a new level of existence. At last satisfied with its answers, V’Ger disappeared in a blinding flash of white light, leaving Admiral James T. Kirk, Commander Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy of the Enterprise to discuss the possibility that they had just created a new lifeform made of V’Ger’s logic and of Humanity’s ability to feel and to believe. What V’Ger evolved into remains unknown to this day. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

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Adaptation This very autobiographical piece done in my art journal in mixed media..pen & ink, colored pencil, watercolor, and acrylic.  It was expressed as a wordless journal entry, and I will leave only the image as explanation here.  You are free to interpret this image for yourself;  even those who know me well, have discovered facets of me in it that I didn’t even notice myself at first.  Since I can’t plan to draw anything at all, I didn’t decide anything consciously in creating this image, and am also discovering the messages as they are revealed to me.

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beaautiful creature s-p 052010 small file-1

This began as an elaborate graphite sketch in my small sketchbook, and I transferred the sketch to a notebook cover, then drew it out some more, and painted it in acrylic.    The image was not something that I thought about drawing; it sort of arose on the paper.  I later realized that it was very much a self-portrait, not perhaps in the literal sense, but maybe spiritually?  Everything about it says beautiful, natural, authentic, what I feel coming from it.  I think that I am perhaps more connected to this painting than many others, yet where is it?  Hanging on some wall of pride?  Nope.  It’s painted directly onto the soft cover of one of my notebooks.  You can see the curves on the edges, and lots of scratches.  I’ve recoated it a couple of times as it picked up stain and scratches.  I’ll have to put something a bit more durable, I suppose.

Does it make you think about beauty?  What sort of creature this is?  If it’s a self-portrait, what sort of creature am I?  Indeed, that is the question, is it not?  If you understand this creature, you will also understand how it is a mirror of me inside….

I’ll say this much, if you haven’t picked up from other posts:  I find creatures much more comfortable than people to be around.  They have an inner consistency and logic that I can understand and relate to.  Trying to play human rules is just plain stressful to me.  The rules they claim are broken more than followed.  Their social *intuition* usually gets them quicker conclusions about things, but wrong much more often than they will ever realize, and probably mostly won’t have to discover.  Their social intuition are more like blinders than wisdom, shorthand that they treat as if it’s longhand, and forget that when they fill in the blanks later, their shorthand may show that they missed it.  You probably have no idea what I’m talking about, but I am not socially intuitive with people, because people are filled with contradictions.  I “read” them, “read” the environment, “read” all the details, and do the math and figure out what things mean.  The rest of the creatures of the universe?  Social intuition is a fine thing, because they operate within their own logic, their own rules, and those can be understood.  They make sense in the context of the creatures.  But humans?  Not so much.  But when the intuitive process yields disaster, they call in creatures like me, to tell them what went wrong, and build a better working model, if possible.

When creatures like myself get themselves born, but they have a limited set of things in common with humans around them beyond what they actually look like, it can be tough sometimes to find a truly “familiar” face, a “kindred” soul.  But I do look for them sometimes, or at least keep my radar on, in case one shows up someday.  I’ll settle for a few humans who can accommodate a gentle creature like myself, who can leave me to be me and that’s just great for us all! 

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what not to do in pain management"Doctor, it hurts when I do this." "Well," the doctor says, "stop doing that."

 

Yesterday afternoon, I formed an intention to do a drawing as part of an art challenge in a terrific online community of women artists called Milliande Art Community around the theme of “holes”.  My intention was to do a drawing incorporating the holes as a concept and I had a few options for compositions that I thought would be fun and aesthetically pleasing, and intended to share the finished piece with the group. At the time I was feeling pretty good, low pain, plenty of energy, and excited about doing some art just for the joy of creating.  My mind was already in a creative flow around it, and I looked forward to drawing it up.  Well, here’s the drawing.  One can debate about whether it is finished or not, and reasonable minds may disagree about just how aesthetically pleasing this drawing is at this point either.  Assuming that throwing my sketchbook across the room in frustration and hoping to never look at it again constitutes “finished,” when I “finished” last night, nothing about it felt good for me.  In fact, I was completely frustrated and stressed throughout the entire effort, from the moment I began to look at the  sketchbook page and trying to imagine the composition on the page, to drawing, to the moment that I threw it aside in frustration.  The whole effort felt like failure to me, and I hated feeling that way.  Before I went to sleep, I remember thinking that I should just get up in the morning, and rip the page out, throw it away, and completely start over.

But after a fitful night of sleep and a little distance from last night’s frustration, sitting quietly in the gentle light of dawn this morning I was better able to reflect on what had transpired, and this yielded some clarity for me.  I am constantly reminded that we only actually fail if we have learned nothing from our “perceived” failures, and I was reminded of this again today!  I think I understand now why it is that this didn’t work for me, and what might have worked better, whether it be art or other tools that I am trying to use to enrich my life.  The key for me is recognizing that there are distinctly different processes that are appropriate to working with where/how I am at any given time, and the key is recognizing what condition I am in, starting from there, and using what works.  Instead, last night I tried to force reality to fit a specified process, rather than the other way around.  The resulting product was a bunch of media forced destructively onto paper, that in no way reflected the way an image had been in my mind earlier in the day, and the more I tried to “fix” it, the farther away from that image it became, and the more upset I became.  Instead, the image that evolved on the paper was me holding up a mirror to myself, and I was stubbornly refusing to see it until this morning.  There was no flow of inspiration; there was only fight, because at the time I did not recognize a very important fundamental truth:  My journey can only begin where I am, and it can only go where I take it.  Force of will of my “thinking” brain cannot alter this fact; resistance is futile! 

So what went so awry?  In contrast to earlier that day, by the time that I began working on this, I was in a high state of pain and serious distress, almost completely horizontal, with physical discomfort that prevented me from even carrying on a conversation.  But rather than start from how I was at the time and modify my process accordingly, I kept trying to forge ahead as if my mind were already relaxed and comfortable, already shifted into creative flow, rather than allowing myself to become calm, quiet my mind and gently allow things to open up and flow naturally.  Instead, I added stress and discomfort through critical thinking, controlling behavior, and placing unrealistic demands on my mind and body.  The result:  the demands of my “thinking” brain did influence the product, but not as intended.  But the journey went exactly where I took it, and where I took it was where I was capable of taking it, given my stubborn insistence on trying to adhere to a process that was entirely unrealistic.  My husband often says, “You just can’t go any faster than the car in front of you,” and he’s quite right.  It just took a while for my brain to realize that it was acting like a road-raging tailgater on a one-lane road behind the rest of me—not exactly a great strategy!

Having said that, I did actually succeed in incorporating holes into this image—in more ways than one.  I managed to dig very deep scratches into the thin paper, especially throughout the hole at the base of the tree that is also the pupil of the eye.  You see, as my “road rage” escalated,  I dug deeper into the paper with the pencils.  And this little drama that played itself out last night reveals the theme of holes, as well.  It showed me “holes” in my own thought processes, and in fact is a real metaphor for experiences that I’ve had in my larger life, as I have fallen into similar holes in other ways, using a similar strategy.  Food for thought! 

And as I look at the picture today, with a clearer head, it’s not as “bad” as it seemed to me last night, shredded paper and all.  In fact, it does show the beginnings of what I envisioned, and if I wanted to, I could probably transfer the existing image to some fresh paper and work from there.  If I want to.  We’ll see.  But no matter how a “new and improved” image might turn out, I think that this one is a keeper after all, because I believe that it has real value just the way it is.  When I think about it, notwithstanding the unrealistic demands of my “thinking” brain, it is clear that I began where I was at the time, that the journey went exactly where I took it based on constraints that I chose, and I learned something valuable from the experience.  For me, no matter how aesthetically pleasing or displeasing the image may seem to me or anyone else, this means to me that the journey was a successful one!

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This Is What I Had In Mind

So I hope I’m coming off a 2+ day flare (fingers crossed), and yesterday was really yucky, so I drew this last night in my 5”x7” sketchbook that I doodle in at bedtime, and yes, those are some tiiiiiiiiny lines!  I added the color this morning just for fun.  I’ve been working on a post to describe some options for accessing the power of your brain to improve pain, stress, and other discomforts, with references to the experts in the relevant fields, and links to more info, but the flare sidetracked me (can’t do words or critical thinking when flaring and trying to manage without meds), but still had the brain in the back of my mind, so I just went with it and let the flow just go with whatever came to mind.  As you can see, I have doodled this freely, and used a brain sort of outline to frame the doodling.  And, of course, whatever ended up in that frame was what spontaneously flowed out of my mind, with no plan whatsoever.  I really think that zentangles like this work best for me when I’m in a lot of pain, and they give me so much enjoyment, as well!  And while I’m actually doing them, my perceived pain levels are minimal for large chunks of time.  I’ve been told that the more I practice this during pain periods, the more effective it will be for me, and the easier it will be to tap into this powerful strength of the brain!  I’ve already seen improvement since I began doing this just over the last few weeks.

This was done in graphite, pens, markers, colored pencils.

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Come Fly With Me If you’ve read my early blog posts here, you know that I started art journaling as a form of therapy to deal with the emotional impact of “stuff happening”, like the onset of one illness or permanent surgical complication after another, that have left me permanently and severely physically debilitated.  A far cry from the body builder/singer-songwriter/can-do-anything person from the not-so-distant past!  I had a dynamic and brilliant career in the corporate world, picked as a “Top Talent” in the company, positioned to soar, and a true innovator.  And though I bravely fought back every time the flesh took me down, and returned to deliver even more amazing solutions to the company’s problems than before I’d left, one extended medical leave after another chipped away at the potential that was seen in me, and the periodic ravages to my body were stripping away my ability to do a job with any degree of consistency or predictability. 

In the last year, that has taken me down to the point where I spend large chunks of my day in bed or in a recliner, recovering between physical efforts, or riding out flares of pain, nausea, and muscle spasms.  I often need help with daily living functions like dressing myself and preparing meals.  I am quite literally deathly intolerant of pretty much all “mood management” medications for reasons that doctors have only been able to speculate about, the leading theory being multiple brain traumas.  Which means, of course, that if I become depressed, I cannot simply take Prozac or some other antidepressant and shake it off.  So I explored art journaling to keep my head together and to keep me from falling into depression or chronic anxiety patterns.  This has been far more effective than I’d ever imagined.

But there is more to cope with besides the emotional impact, and I live with chronic pain, nausea, and muscle spasms on a daily basis though in varying degrees of severity.  My medication intolerance extends to medications that control pain, muscle spasms and inflammation, as well.  So how does one manage these things without meds, when exercise is also not a realistic option at these times?  How does one experience a satisfying quality of life, and limit suffering under these conditions?  Since my philosophy about most things in life is that there are always options in tackling most every problem (maybe not all of them are desirable), my challenge has been to discover/develop solutions that could enable me to get through the bad spells, minimize stress responses that would aggravate them further, and find a way to “feel good” when my body doesn’t.  Many tell me that it is difficult to even imagine that I would be able to do anything more than just try to get life over with. 

But the thing is, that has never been me, or how I choose to experience life, and “there’s nothing you can do about it” has never impressed me as a life strategy.  I’ve heard stories of people who can walk on fire, sleep on beds of nails, do great things during times of extraordinary pain and devastation, without drugs or external help, in fact, with only the power of their minds at their disposal.  How do they do that?  What is the process to change how the brain functions, as needed, to control perception and filter out certain things while allowing other processes to happen?  I don’t pretend to have all of the answers; I am only beginning to discover bits of it through what works and doesn’t work for me.

So let’s look at how this process works for me, just using yesterday as an example.  Yesterday was another heavy pain day, so I had to come up with something to do that could push my brain away from pain focus and help me to be comfortable riding out the pain.  The challenge at these times is that I am well into the pain portion before it registers that I can’t simply ignore it by force of will, and it is so compelling that at that point, I’m not capable of choosing complex thoughts or organizing myself to do something in a linear, left-brain fashion.  I know that if I can access right-brain “flow” creative processing, I can get myself more comfortable while whatever is happening runs its course.  Watching TV only seems to exacerbate things—too much movement and noise–, and carrying on a conversation, or doing any kind of critical thinking or mental organization is too exhausting to try to start at this point.  I hit overwhelm easily and the next thing I know, the pain is escalating and I’m losing it, start crying, body tenses up, and I’m toast till I pass out from it.  Starting some emotionally intense art journal page is not a realistic option because the stress zone is not a good place to be while in this state.

Enter the doodle.  Given that I’m already in the pain zone, not in “flow-space”, making creative decisions of any complexity and other problem solving is out of the question.  I couldn’t even think of what to doodle, much less where to start.  So I printed off a freebie foot stencil that is used for spray painting, and thought I’d just doodle in that.  footprint-stencilNo critical thinking or real problem solving required.

So the conversation in my head at this point goes something like this:  “Ok, this should be pretty simple.  Focus on these simple lines, sure, I will try this.”  Pens are right by my chair, along with a cheap dollar store notepad that I use for doodling.  But as I looked at that foot stencil, and tried to make a decision about where to put a line, it occurred to me that this foot seemed too flat and was a little boring.  “What if I instead did it in a 3/4 view of the bottom of a foot, but what does that actually look like?  I don’t sit and stare at foot bottoms all day, or really, ever.  Oh wait, let me look at the bottom of my own foot, which, since I’m in a recliner in my pajamas, is actually easy to do!”  As I looked at this 3/4 view of my foot, I noticed the hills, valleys, angles, shadows, and interesting perspective, and I just started drawing.  How strange a subject, I thought, yet how fascinating it actually is!  Now, I was in the flow!

I started mapping out sections to isolate for patterns, like pieces of a puzzle, such as the bottom of the heel,  toes, ball of the foot, arch, etc., each of which had shape to play with dimensionally, and I laid in fun patterns in each, then I started applying shading and color with pens, just whatever felt good and flowed out of me.  As the flare raged on, I kept drawing and coloring, and adding layers of doodles, feeling good as long as I remained plugged into that flow, and creativity continued to expand and the drawing became increasingly more complex.  A couple of times I had to stop what I was doing, and focus on something else, like helping with some household organizational thing, or answering questions, which pulls me completely away from this mental state.  When this would happen, the pain would drift back into the body, not immediately, but gradually, and I would get the point where I had to cut it off and shift back to the doodle before the pain took over completely.  And so went my afternoon and evening.

Eventually, I finished that little zentangle, and scanned it into my computer, and here’s how it looks:

Put My Foot In It Again 

Fascinating what the brain can do when one can open up the flow state!  This is the exact angle of my foot as I looked at it, and the perspective is right.  Bizarre, yes, but I’m ok with that.  But wait, there’s more!  I started spinning this around on my computer, and chopping it up and combining the patterns (still in the flow), and I started to see other images in the patterns when manipulated. 

I saw the beginnings of a really cool moth, once I fused pieces of the image together, so I took these fused pieces, printed off this new image foundation, and drew the rest of it and shaded and colored it, and arrived at a new image:

Come Fly With Me

This one I really love!  The furry details in the body and wings, the tail, the way parts of the body seem to dip and others move up or away, all so dynamic and fun!  If that were a giant moth, I could see myself riding on its back to some magical destination.  And it’s clear that it is intricately detailed and elaborate, yet there is no way that I could have chosen to design this piece in the state of pain that I was in, which is the importance of the process of starting with something that I could wrap my brain around, like the stencil above.  I’m not a neurobiologist, so I don’t know if pain stimuli that are floating around in my body are experienced on any level by me, or to what extent they influence what is going on in the flow part of my brain, but I do know that just because I am in a flow state doesn’t mean that those parts of my brain aren’t functioning; they are, however, in a relaxed state, and are running more on a kind of autopilot.  They may influence the art in some way, but my subjective experience, at least, is one of relaxation, pleasure, creativity, and the resulting output gives me pleasure beyond the doing!  And the ravages of the body are meanwhile doing what they do, and I, at least, have done a very good thing to help my body with that by keeping the body as relaxed as possible while the flares run their course.

Summing up the process: when I find that I’m in severe pain or discomfort, I find something simple to look at and manipulate, and create an intention only to make marks of whatever kind arise spontaneously, no plan, no criticism, just make marks, doodle, make squiggles, doesn’t matter what, just the doing.  If my creative brain kicks in, it will create what it chooses and it will be fine.  If I fall asleep in mid-squiggle, that is fine, too, because the relaxation allowed my body to choose what it would do without the interference of my stress responses.  If I get energized around the doodling, flow has taken over, and I’m on my way to wherever the flow ride takes me.

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Water World St. 1

Ok, this is not the first phase of this new piece, just because I failed to scan the earliest step, but this will have to stand as Stage 1 (b).  Stage 1(a) was the background, which was drawn in graphite, then shaded to get values, then light colored pencils, followed by watercolor, and it isn’t finished yet.  There is still more detailing and shading to be done to the background.  Stage 1(b) was drawing the main image and adding gesso to it for opacity.  There is still more drawing and painting to do, including the hair and detailing of the image, and there will be an additional image that will be painted in, which will enable the background to show through.  There will also be an additional image incorporated that I drew earlier in the week.  Ultimately, this piece will incorporate graphite, colored pencil, oil pastels, various acrylic media, and layers of collaged tissue layers—all my original work.   While I think that it’s obvious that the beginning of my main image clearly has a mermaid in it, this piece will have a surprise ending, so stay tuned!

 

This is the first time that I have done the background (which itself is a significant image in its own right) before the main image—by accident, actually!  It was just an exercise in my sketchbook trying out watercolors for the first time (ever), and when I stepped back and looked at it, I realized that it was perfect for this piece.

 

 

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