Art Personality Disorder

"Vertical Hierarchy" 310 x 575 mm, finished on July 4th 2013.

“Vertical Hierarchy” 310 x 575 mm, finished on July 4th 2013.

Today I finished slaving over a drawing which I have called “Vertical Hierarchy”.   The drawing took three weeks and rather predictably ended with a bout of ‘art personality disorder’.  I get this affliction each time I have to pull a drawing together at the end stage.  Why can’t it just be a smooth and gentle process from first pencil mark until the finishing line?  That would be too easy.

Instead the stage is set for a battle royale each time an almost-completed drawing is taken off the drawing board (which I sit at to work) to the easel (where the remainder of the work is done from a standing position and I can observe the drawing from a distance).  Moods swing from triumphant – “I’ve done it!” to horror-stricken – “It’s NO GOOD.”  You probably think I’m exaggerating but I’m not.  If you have read my posts ‘Art Hell’ and ‘Art Hell 2′  you will know that some drawings end up being shredded.  The ones that don’t end terminally are still at grave risk in these final stages which can take several tortuous days to endure.

Family members are called up for their opinions.  Hands are wrung.  Eyes are half-closed with concentration.  Yesterday I wailed to Matthew “I’ve overdone the lantern.  It isn’t red enough; it isn’t standing out.”  We were just about to go out.  His considered reply was “Put more green around it.”  He said this as he was walking out of the room.  BOLT FROM THE BLUE.  My civil engineer husband just stated the absolute obvious.  Why didn’t I think of it?  (Golden rule: to make a colour stand out, surround it with its complement.)  I put a green pencil on top of my other pencils to remind me to carry this out after our coffee break up the road.

At the café, I was discontentedly mulling over the drawing.  I could hardly have been good company as all I could think was ‘I’ve ruined it.’  There was no reason to be unhappy other than art anxiety,  which is why I call this state ‘art personality disorder’.  In the process of working a drawing to its conclusion I go on a wild ride.  It can be fun and it can be awful…and WILL be both these things (one after another ad infinitum) in every case until some sort of conclusion is reached.

When we got home I made a beeline for that green pencil and got to work.  Of course it made a difference.  When I told Matthew how he had stated the obvious, he replied “You taught me well.”  That Matt!  After some more work I knew that “Vertical Hierarchy” was finally on safe ground.  The madness subsided…until next time…when art personality disorder and I will meet again at the easel to fight it out.

Vertical Hierarchy is the link for the work-in-progress page where you can see this drawing in six stages from beginning to end.

Since 2006 I have drawn six variations of this scene.    All six drawings are together on the page called “Subject 5:  Lantern Set”. 

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16 thoughts on “Art Personality Disorder

  1. Camilla Loveridge

    Exquisite work, Julie…love all five! You describe it just as it can be…that creative process where you are in your studio…lost in time…totally engaged and yet exhausted…can’t leave until there’s some resolution. Man, I’ve been there…and no doubt we are not alone! At least you know you are alive…well, for now dear friend!
    Camilla :)x

  2. iarxiv

    Amazing coloured pencil paintings! You’ve definitely shown me what to aspire to. I’m fairly new to art. I started out using coloured pencils and fell in love with them. Now I’m also exploring oils, but I think I’ll always return to pencils for they have a special place in my heart (although I am also very fond of the brilliance I can achieve when I apply solvent to my oil-based Faber Castells).

      1. iarxiv

        Um, I actually did have a technical question, if I may… I was wondering how you scanned or photographed your work in preparation for presenting it in electronic form? It is an unusual format, and certainly wouldn’t fit a normal scanner… Also it’s so nicely and neatly done, with clear colours and perfect lighting. Any hints would be much appreciated! (If you already happen to have written about this, I do apologise – please direct me to that page.)
        Thank you!

      2. juliepodstolski Post author

        Hi I’d be happy to explain how I get my drawing to digital form. I take my finished drawing out onto the balcony and lying it flat on the ground, resting it on a big piece of card to keep it from getting dirty, I photograph it from above with my Nikon D90 camera. (ie I stand over it with camera facing down.) I take several photos then come back in, connect the camera to the computer and transfer the photos. Using Adobe “Elements” I crop the photo at exactly the borders of the drawing. Then I save the cropped photo and use it in my blogs, emails, Facebook etc. Regarding the lighting, it is natural daylight but no direct sun on the work. Believe it or not I set my camera on ‘auto’ and 200 iso. I don’t do anything fancy. That’s all.
        ps what I DON’T know how to do, as you can see, is get your little picture onto my reply! Now how do I do that?

  3. occasionalartist

    Love your post. My disorder comes in much earlier. Not long after I have finished setting the composition and started on filling in the colour I decide it isn’t going to work, the concept was flawed and it is not going to match what is in my minds eye. I really have to push my way through this to get any picture done. Some drawings are worse than others and art hell was my gerbera picture that nearly did me in! Put pushing on is how we learn, and helpful comments from unlikely sources can be life savers. Karen

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Sometimes mine comes in earlier too, Karen. But it is more likely with me to be at the end because I have already invested so much work and time…that there is more desperation level at the end. Whereas at the start not so much of me has gone into it so if it doesn’t work the whole situation is less intense. Certainly, like you, I don’t just give up though, but try to push through. Sometimes, the pushing doesn’t end up working though….but sometimes it does.

  4. anna warren portfolio

    It’s a very nice series Julie – I like them all, but love the softness of 2008. They would be interesting to see exhibited together (although of course you can’t if some are sold). The subtle differences of light and angle enhance all of them. But on that agonising finish, I find if a piece goes too easily, I don’t feel respect for it – how perverse is that!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Ha ha – Anna I can relate to the perversity of not feeling respect for a work if it is too easy. Also when I started using coloured pencils I used to feel guilty because I liked using them too much. I didn’t think they were as ‘respectable’ as oil paints, which were my other medium. In the end I thought ‘blow it’ and gave away the oils completely. Isn’t it funny how we ‘let’ ourselves believe these wierd things.

      1. anna warren portfolio

        Oh it is! My first love in printmaking was lino (haven’t done any for a while, but still love it) and the initial response of any non-artist was ‘Oh, I did linocuts at primary school’ which was rather dispiriting and made me feel that lino wasn’t somehow serious art. But I think everyone has to find their medium, and obviously coloured pencils are yours because you can take them way beyond what the perception of them is.

      2. juliepodstolski Post author

        That response of people to lino cuts “I did linocuts at primary school” can equally be applied to pencils as who didn’t use them to colour in at school?! Whereas most kids don’t use oil paints at school, do they? At least not at the primary level.

  5. Robyn Varpins

    I get that same angst with painting but not with clay sculpture….it’s a much more gentle birth….but there arent the same number of issues….no colour, which is such an illusion, and requires a more complicated relationship…..”the things we do for love”


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