The Duality of My Artistic Self

Depicting my own image has been a starting point my work from the beginning. As a child my drawings were always of female faces, although I never consciously realized these were reflections of me. Even then, in my earliest work, the duality of my nature is blatantly apparent.

.  The faces I drew were always divided, half usually in darkness, or different in other ways. I did not know I was Bipolar then, I just had a burning need to express myself artistically. I was not properly diagnosed until I got clean and sober at the age of 35 after a drugging career that lasted over twenty three years.

. I had always known I was different, I described the feeling of being “painted green”in a room full of “normal” folk. It was like having something tattooed on my forehead, a conspicuousness. When I dug into my diagnosis, learning all I could in the hopes of finally coming to grips with my self destructive life’s course, I could see all the familiar signs in the literature. It made SO much sense! Now, armed with my new sobriety and determined to stay the course on my psychiatric medication regimen, I set out to turn my life around-to leave the wasteland of my past far behind.

.  There was a slight glitch in my plan, however. The new meds that I was taking had a very unwelcome effect. They dulled my creative impulses, they slowed my manic phases down to a crawl. Rather than my giddy highs and freewheeling episodes of excess that I had lived for, and that had been killing me, I was now just a level hum. No taught guitar string playing harmonics, I was now m e l l o w…Too mellow. Where were the bright colors, the whirling merry go rounds and my peals of crazy laughter? All of the sudden I was boring and frumpy, and immune to excitement. I actually slept…alot.

.  This is the part of a healthy mental health regimen that causes so many Bipolar individuals to “go off” their meds…but I had lost that option when I decided to stay alive. I had to make this work, I had to stick this out, because the alternative was suicide. Whether thru a drug overdose or tragedy from high risk behavior, I knew that sticking this out meant my very survival. Would I have to be a zombie? Was my wildly creative side lost to me forever? What to do?

.  Fortunately, I had a therapist (counselor ) who listened, and I had the determination to tell her my discomfort. It took the better part of two years, and many different drug combinations , much discomfort and many tears to find a plan that worked, but we did not give up. Finally, I felt comfortable in my own skin, most of the time.

I still have highs and lows, and I am still a rapid cycling Bipolar person with PTSD. I still suffer from chronic insomnia and flashbacks, severe depressive episodes and ideation at times. But I never, ever want to destroy this beautiful gift of life, or to disrespect my Creator. It’s a long road, but the view is great!

Now that all that is said and done, the point I was getting at was that at a point a few years ago, talking to my therapist about my art, and showing him my work I had an epiphany ! BI-polar, TWO-sided! All the faces I drew and painted had told the tale from childhood! As we continued to go through my portfolio, it came rushing home to me. I paint myself as I am, and thru my art I am able to understand and put together all my different facets! I am constantly learning, healing and growing as an artist, and I am

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Self Portrait 4AM(detail)
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Flashback 937(detail)
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“Peckish”(detail)
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“Mania Illuminata” sold
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“Mania illuminata” sold
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“Growth”(detail)
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“100 Must-Have Looks”(detail)
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“A Big Beak”(detail)
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“yearning”(detail)
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“Visionaria”sold

so grateful that I did not give up on myself!

.  If anyone out there is fearful of a mental illness diagnosis, please give yourself a chance to get well. Don’t be afraid to seek help, because I’m here today as an example of the kind of life that is possible if one keeps pushing on! You can feel better!

Above are just a few recent examples of the many sides of my bipolar self I paint…

Growth is Morphing

My recent Work in Progress is really becoming something special! I have been experiencing much personal emotional growth, and really am expanding my horizons! The featured Image and this top one are my current work in progress, and the following three images are of my last year’s entry into the Insights II Bipolar Art Exhibition. I was proud to win a spot alongside the other  ” founding” artist members of The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundations’ permanent collection, and my piece, “Crossing the Delaware, Well Aware” garnered more than it’s fair share of attention!

This year I again have the honor to have one of my works displayed in “Insights III” at the Zolla/ Liebermann Gallery in Chicago, on October 24th, 2019. I am working like crazy to get there this year as well, I just refuse to miss this show!

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I am so pleased with this little beauty in progress, some wondered if I were a “one hit wonder” and this piece gives the resounding “NO! I have so much MORE yet to give!”

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This is My Signature Style and there is No mistaking it! “Growth” a work in progress, by Susan T. Martin

 

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Crossing the Delaware, Well Aware, acrylic on canvas, Susan T. Martin, 8/11/17
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Detail, George from Crossing the Delaware WellAware, acrylic on Canvas, Susan T. Martin, 2017
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Detail, Crossing…Well Aware…Susan T. Martin, 8/2017

What Does Artistic Success LOOK Like?

Wouldn’t we all like to know, right?

Yes! We all want to be a great “success” in our chosen field, and many artists have a clear idea of what they need to be successful. Speaking for myself, I thought success would mean the end of financial struggle, to a point. As a person with mental illness (Bipolar Disorder and PTSD for starters) and physical handicaps (use your imagination), I felt that my “happy day” would come when I could pay my bills and buy my art supplies, and eat what and where I wanted, with a few more bucks to put by.80B2AA6A-B993-41D9-AC94-BE325A4F596C

I’ve been working toward that end for over 50 years now, and while my life has been unusual (to put it mildly), I fancied that with all my obvious creative talent my art would be sought after. Notice that I did not say “highly” sought after. No, I tried to be realistic-it would take some time to get well known, etc… Well, that day I envisioned, that “happy” future success day has not come. Big sigh, and big pity party…

.  Wait. Just. One. Minute…

What am I talking about? All of my life I dreamed of a time when I could create my art whenever I wanted! I dreamed of pursuing My artistic vision! Did you, also? I have made that time for myself, I have chosen to pursue my artistic life no matter what my life circumstances. No time to paint? I get my paints out at 10 pm. some days. No where to paint? I live in a single wide mobile home, crammed to the gills with projects I’m working on! No money for canvas? I find things in the trash, at thrift stores, on ebay-cheap things that no one wants anymore- and I find ways to make them unique, colorful, extraordinary …

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Success! From a Broken Cement Block!
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Intergalactic Dragonfly made of Trash
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Gutters, Plastic Containers,Spaghetti Forks!
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An Old Patio Table!
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Recycled Everything!
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My Dream in Progress
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My Dreams Taking Flight!

.  At this very moment, right now, I have no bread in the house. No bread, about a half cup of milk and some ramen. (Not the “Cup o Lunch ” kind with the veggies either.) Not to get too personal, but 2-ply T-P. (Feel your little butt tighten up?) Am I crying the blues here? Making myself seem a martyr? An arter-martr? (sorry, I just had a silly moment…)

.  No, I am telling you that I AM a success. I AM AN ARTIST SUCCESS STORY.

.   Let that stew a moment: A  50-something improperly-art-educated-disabled-crazywoman-in-a-run-down-trailer-park-in-a-flood-zone-with-no-homeowners’ insurance-no-coffee-using-2-ply-TP is a SUCCESSFUL ARTIST?!?

Woop woop! Yup, that’s me!

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my idea of an artistic selfie!

.  I have no looming prospects of fame, of a sudden, amazing “breakout” work, or even of a teeny weeny inheritance, but I am as happy as a clam in mud, happy as an accountant with a pen that works, happy as a rotund, pink, rather hairless, animal who squeals in a pile of feces!

I have chosen to live my Artist’s dream, to get up each day and paint a stroke, glue a something together, write a poem. I am not too broke to go get a gallon of milk or decent toilet paper, neither am I well off enough to buy the best brushes, or even decent canvas.

But I am an ARTIST. That is who I am, and that is what I make a conscious choice to do. Every day of my successful life. Hey, it’s wonderful to be on top, isn’t it?cropped-win_20170422_17_22_37_pro-5_li.jpg

.  This is not just a litany of my own happiness with my art career, which I would define not really as a “career”, but as a life choice…No, I want to help YOU , dear reader, to see where your own happiness lies. What are you holding out as your carrot? What does your “success” look like? Are you, like so many, comparing where you are to what other artists are experiencing? Are you kicking yourself for not painting a still life, when that’s what Mr. Prize Winner painted in the last show? Were you let down when they announced the “winners” to the last member’s show you entered? (yeah, me too…) See what  I mean? Are we longing for some recognition, some prize or award, another feather in our cap, while we miss the sensual sensation of paint flowing onto canvas ? Or the startling moment when that perfect shade of turquoise comes to life on our palette? Or, here’s one: The moment when you jump up saying ” Yes! I got it!” because the line you laid down is exactly where you want it to be?

.  Yes, my artist friend, these are the true successes. I never want to be Michaelangelo wishing I was Davinci. Can you imagine? The creator of the “David” wishing he had painted the “Mona Lisa”? Thinking he was not a successful artist?

.  Let us remember this wonderful gift we have now, and revel in it, delight in it! Then all of our art will be successful.

 

 

Isolationism

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What Kind of I am I, Digital Art Print by Susan T. Martin 2016

At times the Artist feels so exposed…so unlike the rest…so isolated from the rest of humankind… She express this as ,”Feeling like I am painted Green”.

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Isolationism, by Susan T. Martin Watercolor and Ink on Paper, 11″ x 14″ $150.00

A Saint Petersburg Artist Resident

It has been an enormously trying year and one half, year and 8 months , actually. I have grown SO much since I have lived here in St. Petersburg, I have learned to believe in myself, and in my ability to survive.

As An ARTIST.  In my own right, I have put in the footwork, stretched my boundaries, made the connections, painted the dreams, and PUT MYSELF OUT THERE! 

Wow!!!  I mean , WOW!

 

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After  All the Fear, Loneliness, Grief, Doubt, All chaining me down and holding me back… I did the impossible. I used my art and with God’s unfailing love, have set myself free! Yes, He saved me from the pit, and put my feet upon a crag, and then I, Susie, Sue, Susan Todd!cropped-c4c4baeb-e0d8-4b76-89a0-c5fbe582a12c.jpg

 

picked up the tools I gathered over the past 40 + years, and put them to Use! Hacking off the dead pieces, digging down to fresh clean soil to build this life on. This BEAUTIFUL LIFE, This Sensitive Life, This life of Love.

A life of true purpose and meaning… I am SO grateful, and full…I may just burst into a ball of colorful confetti!

I know it was not all me, but you know what?

I COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT ME!74AE89DF-B621-4273-B7EB-7D51034CBCF2

So here is my tooting of my own horn, soaking up the satisfaction of a job well done and a future of hope and joy!

I am very proud to share that The Morean Arts Center in Downtown Saint Petersburg, Florida, has granted me the honor of a little pop up show in their beautiful facility! A show that features my art, my way, my innermost feelings, fears and flashbacks all on canvas, and OUT of me. So that I can help someone else see that you CAN have a life after violent sexual assault. After  molestation, after rape, after domestic violence, after ALL the trauma … you can still find your own voice under all the rubble, and you can stand up, on your own again!

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I want you to know that you can recover, but you must work at it and be steadfast in your desire to rise from the ashes of whatever you have experienced. I was surrounded by a family who never wanted to discuss what happened to me, and who treated me like I was touched by some uncleanliness. As if the person I was inside was somehow changed. Soiled. Ruined.

I stand up today, that same child, that same teenager, that same woman and I shout from the treetops that I am clean, and loved, and strong, and Beautiful! I am NOT what happened to me. I am a whole, healed  woman. And I am an ARTIST.cropped-artwork-and-pictures-056.jpgcropped-win_20161110_20_51_35_pro-5.jpg80B2AA6A-B993-41D9-AC94-BE325A4F596C

We’re All Innocent by Susan T. Martin

This painting is Mixed Media on Canvas, 24″x 36″ signed and unframed.

It is the culmination of months of work and thought, and is now, finally, at a stage I can call finished. I think we have spoken to one another long enough, now I will let it speak to you. There are many ways one can interpret a work of art, and I am not going to dictate how you interpret mine. Let it speak to you in the language you understand. My work here is done.

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We’re All Innocent, mixed media on 36″ x 24″canvas, by Susan T. Martin $400.00
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Detail of We’re All Innocent, by Susan T. Martin
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Detail, We’re All Innocent by Susan T. Martin2018