Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Peter, Peter, Bosch and Blake

More about my self-portrait from 1984, the second painting in my last post. As I stated in my comments, I made many drawings when I started therapy in 1982, after the birth of my 4th child. I experienced a very difficult post partum with extreme depression and anxiety, including debilitating panic attacks. I had not been making any art for several years (besides craft items, baked goods, decorating the house, etc) and my therapist explained that I was not acknowledging my darkness, or what she called my "shadow side."
She said to me:
"Run - don't walk - to the nearest art supply store, buy some paper, and start drawing."

I made a series of charcoal drawings about my anger and fear, and about feeling trapped. Even though we were adolescents in the 60's and 70's, my husband and I grew up in very 50's households. Our parents were not college educated. In our childhood homes, the father was in charge - he controlled the money and made the decisions, and our mothers were very submissive. These were our role models. Subsequently, we had alot of unlearning and changing to do in order to survive together as a couple!

My painting professor was extremely supportive, and he encouraged me to make a painting from my charcoal drawings. He told me that my drawings reminded him of William Blake, who I had never heard of, and yes, Hieronymus Bosch.

But it is this old nursery rhyme that is at the heart of my self-portrait:

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater ,
Had a wife, but couldn't keep her.
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well.


artslice said...

How nice to have such a supportive painting TEACHER! I had not thought of Blake, but of course, I see it now. Pardon the expression but it looks like you had a lot of 'dumping' to do on paper. It turned into so very cool work!

I had a similar experience when I quit social work and went back to school to get my art degree. I made all kinds of paintings about death and mortality. I didn't realize I had so much 'stuff' about my previous life as a social worker churning inside. It suprized me (and the rest of the class.) But, I had'nt planned on the anxiety I would feel during critiques and having to explain things in the work. It was pretty personal!

Martha Miller said...

Hi Brenda

Art making can be a powerfully cathartic vehicle!

I just have to add here the word verification that I am having to type for this message - it seems to fit. This could be a great word to describe a powerfully cathartic event:



Dean Grey said...


You were blessed to have such a supportive painting professor and therapist!

Just imagine if you weren't encouraged to express your thoughts and feelings through your art!