When I was a teenager, I was an artist. Painting was a therapeutic release for me. It helped me to outwardly express in a positive manner my inner anguish, anger and pain from abuse and other traumatic experiences in my life. It was part of my normal to paint and create something on canvas; expressing the emotions that I need to; and then repaint the canvas white and do something else.
I do not own any artwork from that period in my life. This is probably a good thing, as seeing some of the things that I created, might take me back to dark places and thoughts that while I have worked on, could cause me to be in a bad place.
Painting was always a therapeutic process for me. I did not paint to become a working artist or to sell anything. I painted for myself, to help myself work through what I needed to work through, all the displaced emotion that I had built up inside of me.
At some point in my life, art and trauma became intertwined in my brain; and it hit its peak in March 2005, when my grandpa was diagnosed with end stage cancer that progressed rather quickly; we lost him in July 2005.
During March 2005, I was already in college and I was enrolled in several art classes. It was during that time that I created my last “finished” art piece. I implemented several new techniques when I created my piece, and used a larger size canvas than I was accustomed to. Due to family circumstances and my helping to care for my grandfather during his final months here on earth, I needed to get my emotions out on canvas prior to going back to where my father and grandparents live; as I was unable to do so for the 4 months we took care of him.
The process of working on this painting was very therapeutic for me, and you can see the all the emotions and hope in the piece.
In the time since losing my grandpa in July 2005 till February 2012, I did not “finish” another art piece. I had one piece that I had worked on the year after I lost my grandpa but I could not finish it.
I had a “painter’s block”. The ideas were there. My mind is often filled with a thought or idea here or there. I could not start or finish anything.
There is this connection in my brain, between painting and trauma and pain and loss. They are all intertwined. When I try to paint I go back to the loss or the pain or previous traumas; like the process and everything goes hand in hand. Processing and expressing emotions are one.
Between losing Greg andFebruary of 2012 (23 months), I did not pick up a paintbrush and dappled in acrylics on a canvas to create a piece of art. I have done a few crafty things like putting blue paint on a canvas and writing a phrase over it that Greg always encouraged me with or covering a wooden frame with one color of paint (neither of which is “painting”) and I have done several other creative things (such as writing, blogging and crocheting, and creating things to decorate Greg’s grave) and recently, messed around with oil pastels just to mess with, but as for actually “painting” and creating a work of art, that is another story.
At first, after Greg’s accident I was just processing everything, instead of needed to express everything. That is a difference for me in experiencing sudden loss with Greg and anticipated loss with my grandfather.
After experiencing sudden loss, I was still in shock and absorbing what had happened and taking it all in, processing the loss; at the time that was what I needed to do, instead of expressing all the pain, emotions, etc. and letting it out in an artistic and therapeutic way. I was in shock and I needed to process and “take in” everything. Instead of when I found out about my grandfather and I needed to express and “release” everything.
I would like to be at a point where I can paint once again and finish something. I want to be at a point where while painting is therapeutic for me, it is no longer intertwined with my past trauma experiences, but it is once again a helpful outlet.
I would like to be able to paint again and express the emotions outwardly that I am unable to feel. I feel a lot of emotion on a daily basis but I am also numb as well. Some days I feel the emotion displaced in other areas of my body; when painting used to be able to help with that.
Since February of this year, I have off and on tried painting again. But it is a process in and of itself. I can sit there all I want and “wait” for it to come, or I can sit there and try to work on something but the “feeling” and connection are just not there.
I created a small 4×4 abstract piece that I call “Chaos”, fitting for my first project. It just painted through me. In many aspects after loss, our life is chaotic, our normal is no longer what it once was, we are no longer who we were before experiencing loss. It is much smaller than anything I have created before, but I think it is finished. I do not want to add to it and ruin it. That was in March and I have not painted since.
The thing about any kind of block, be it writer’s block, artist’s block, etc., it takes a while to work through. One day painting and trauma will not be as intertwined for me as they have previously been.
I used to be an artist. Somewhere deep inside, I still am.
All Material Copyright @ Brandi Reyna
I love this article, Brandi….It shows people that things that once were beloved and comforting can become a signifier of pain…but that doesn’t have to last forever. I have been very proud of you little lady, and Chaos the art piece is that, but it is also hope because you finished it! I’ve been hoping and praying that you continue on, but know that the fact you finished a piece can be a tad overwhelming and may in and of itself take a bit of time to digest. Some people, and I know you know I am one of them, turn to art to put the feelings into beauty, and wear it less on my heart and more on the canvas (or my skin as tattoos) for you it may become the same once you unwind the memories. My love, thoughts and prayers to you little lady. I have faith I’ll see a masterpiece from you before my time on this earth is over <3 <3 <3
Hi, Brandi. I am a friend of Lisa Brandel. She posted this on her fb page and I wanted to comment. I am a jewelry designer. I, also, worked hard and was consumed with genealogy and was involved with the local genealogical society. I was past secretary and was the president when my husband Neil died. I continued designing jewelry. That did not seem to be a problem. I kinda lost myself in it but the genealogy, I could not do anything in it. Granted it is not an artists block but still comes under the heading of having a block because I could not concentrate on it nor could I even look at any of it. I had worked on my late husbands ancestry for 6 years. My late husband was a wonderful man. He sorta rescued me from a very bad past marriage and showed me what it was like to have a loving and kind man. My sister died 2 years after my husband. She was the genealogy junky from the start and got me involved. That made getting back into genealogy even harder. I did not care anymore about any of it. Over the next few years I thought about genealogy and getting involved again but really had no real desire to do so. Two years ago I met a super awesome man. Under his love I have “come out of my block” so to speak. Though I did not have a block with my jewelry designs they have have gotten happier and more artsy looking. Last year I was contacted by the genealogy society and was asked if I would like to be secretary again. I said yes. I am now back into genealogy and loving it. I think I would have come out of my block without Steve. It just may have taken a little more time.
I think that you will once again be the artist that you were. I think that is something that will always be in you. It just needs that little opening to peak through. I know it will happen because you want it to.
I always dabbled in art bUT when my mom got sick I became obseseed I made furniture did pen and ink even tried making clothes. But my mom died about 3 weeks ago and I just don’t have the motivation anymore. I need art it helps me cope.