The Painting That Landed Me In The Hospital And Its Importance


24″x48″ – Oils on Canvas

Alright, ladies and gents. It is story time!

I have covered this before on my old blog site in a brief post, but I figured it needed an actual post of its own.

So, a little bit of background. In 2010, I got into an argument with a friend of mine which resulted in ending that friendship, at least for the moment. In the heat of things, I was informed that I could not paint or draw and that I had no talent for these things. This was a moment in my life where I thought “wow, that’s 10 kinds of untrue”, but subconsciously, I think I believed it.

And I didn’t paint for 4 months.

One night, I had what I call an “explosion night”. All of my pent up creativity came flooding out. But it wasn’t quick. I literally sat on the floor, staring up at this large, blank canvas, and I was lost. More lost and scared than I ever had been before when facing a white slate. What do I do? What colors do I use? Do I use color at all? Where am I going with this? Why am I even trying? What if I really can’t paint?

I don’t remember a lot about the actual process of this piece. It was all done in one night. I used turpentine in a spray bottle for some effects, big brushes, palette knives, and at one point I used my hands. Even when I finished and felt that I had defeated my fears, I felt so overwhelmed by this painting. Its size – both physical and in meaning – was difficult to make peace with.

Skip forward to the next day.

Emotionally and physically exhausted after completing this piece the night before, I woke up and went to my job at the time. I began suffering from severe headaches and dizziness, and was sent home. Upon arriving, I couldn’t even sit upright in a chair to eat, and I had to sit on the floor. After this is when things got ridiculous.artandfearwip

I laid down and when I laid down, I’d dream…that time went by. I got up, went to work, chatted with my roommates, wash – rinse – repeat. I’d wake up, hating this headache that was “still” there after nearly 2 weeks, and laid down again. This happened repeatedly until I swore it was mid April, when it was really the beginning of February. I was “time traveling” in my short spurts of sleep. After becoming frustrated with my roommate not taking my story seriously (I understand why she didn’t though, it does sound like something I’d mess around about), I called my mother, who promptly drove into town at 1am to get me to the hospital.

I was unsure of my address or even my birthday, and my head was in so much pain that I could hardly keep my eyes open or think clearly. I remember being rushed back into the E.R. faster than I’ve ever been seen, and a doctor coming in and muttering something about “meningitis”. I do remember trying to explain I had been painting with oils, which I normally don’t do, but it must’ve been dismissed.

A spinal tap, a threat to bite the MRI technician, and lots of pain meds later, they were clueless and ending up just sending me home. I now (still) have a large pile of debt from this fruitless trip, even though I knew what had happened.

I painted with oils.
And solvents.
For many hours.
And had no ventilation in the room.

artistandfearFeeling better but still not fully coherent, I ended up spending the next week at my mom’s house, while my wonderful roommates moved the drying canvas and all my painting supplies to the garage to get the fumes out of my room.

The thing I feared most about going home was facing that painting. I had never been afraid to look at something once completed.

When I finally did, it occurred to me how scared I really had been. I had let words suppress my creative side, and in a really destructive way.

But I had painted.

It was an accomplishment, and I had overcome a painful blow to my artistic ego. It made me realize just how lost I am without my art, and that what I put on the canvas makes ME happy, and it is not there for anyone else but me.

This painting hangs in my tattoo studio, and it is interesting how many different things people see in it, and it is my most talked about painting. Sometimes I tell this story of how a painting landed me in the hospital, and its importance in me learning to overcome my artistic worries.

So, I called her Art and Fear.

I’d like to note that I hold no ill-will towards this person and we are in fact friends now. In the long run, I was incredibly thankful for the experience because I learned this important lesson from the whole thing. ❤

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