Redefining the Self: Another Watercolor Portrait on Fluid 100 Hot Press Watercolor Paper

October 4, 2019
Brush pen and watercolor sketch on 9 x 12 inch sheet of Fluid 100 Hot Press 140 lb. watercolor paper. I don’t use black paint. I mix complementary colors to get warm and cool neutrals.





I tend to work in a series and this was item three in a series this spring that started with the image I posted in September 16th’s blog post.

The second image in the series was the image in Monday’s blog post.

What Do They Have in Common That Holds Them Together as a Series?

They are all men with beards (that’s a really long-running series).

They were all done on Fluid 100 Hot Press  140 lb. watercolor paper (which has a lovely gelatin sizing).

They were all done predominantly with flats and filberts.

They were all done in a two day period where I was trying to prove to myself that I could paint without glasses if I had to (following cataract  surgery). 

Detail from this post’s painting. Having fun with dry brush texture over earlier dried layers of paint. That bright green—that’s Holbein Leaf Green. It’s the green we see in Minnesota everywhere we look in the spring.

And they were all done because I was hungry for color (having worked mostly monochromatically following the second surgery), and eager to push the paint around. 

The moment was difficult. I was already hunting for something that was lost.

Painting without crisp vision frustrated me. It induced headaches.

Because of the other side effects I was having following cataract surgery I had decided that I would force myself to return to color and keep working regardless of the difficulties. This is my usual response to difficulties: keep working. I really don’t believe we have any other choice.

I felt that the three paintings I’ve mentioned were successful, but they also marked a change for me.

I realized that because the complications post surgery were permanent I wouldn’t be sketching 5 to 10 hours a day any longer. My eyes were shutting down at 3 hours total. (Computer work, reading, drawing. No more marathons of anything.)

Rather than being sad about that unexpected change I realized with these three paintings I could walk away from sketching and painting, no regrets. (Sadness, yes; mega-grief, yep; but no regrets.)

I’m still in transition as of today, but that realization when I finished this painting has made the following days bearable.

It’s difficult to walk away from something you love. It’s difficult to walk away from something that has defined you throughout your life.

It is a good thing to think about who and what you really are at your core.

Often we like to think that we are living the examined life, that we are paying attention. 

Then life coldcocks us. 

We realize that maybe we weren’t paying attention; paying attention to the right thing; or standing back and paying broader attention to a bigger picture (which includes the thing we really needed to be paying attention to).

Or we realize that we were simply not embracing a large enough definition of self.

The next moment, the next action we take. That’s the one that defines us.

We always claimed we knew that. It’s easy to ignore that equation on a moment to moment basis when the stakes seem low. But aren’t the stakes always high?

I’ve been working on redefining my definition of self.

  1. Reply

    Dear Roz,
    I so admire the way you are handling this huge change in your life. I think it is much easier said than done, but you are doing it.
    I developed a chronic health condition, which severely changed everything in my life, over thirty years ago. It wasn’t easy learning to live with this illness, and yes, I grieved for my old life, but over time I have come to accept that ‘ it is what it is’, and I realized that I have much to be grateful for.
    I am wishing you all the best in all your future endeavours.

    1. Reply

      Trudy, I’m sorry your dealing with a chronic health condition. And I’m glad that you can reach back and comment from the other side. Thanks.

    • Susan King
    • October 4, 2019

    I know that you can do it, Roz. You are strong, smart, and resilient. Peace be with you.

    1. Reply

      Can do it isn’t the question any more Susan. Want to do it at what cost has not become the question. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

  2. Reply

    I love your blog and your style; I hope nothing ever stops you!

    1. Reply

      Thanks Rebecca for your kind comments. That’s for stopping by.

    • Paul
    • October 4, 2019

    This is a gorgeous series of portraits that belies the challenges you faced in producing them Roz. I feel these are as strong as anything I have seen from you over the years. I might even go so far as to say that your brush work and use of colour show a confident, raw emotional vibrancy that is more powerful than ever. Hang in there, these are so impressive Roz!

    1. Reply

      Thanks Paul, I value your opinion. The problem is that it was physically painful to paint these and stilted in flow compared to how I painted with my real eyes. I know the latter can be evened out over time as I learn to use the new eyes and their drawbacks, but the physical pain isn’t something that’s going to change, or the headaches. And I really miss not being able to squint!

      But all that said, last night before I went to bed I got out a pen and scribbled for a bit, habits are hard to extinguish.

        • Paul
        • October 4, 2019

        Hopefully the eyes will settle to a new norm that the brain can adjust to and stop causing you headaches. Pain is definitely NOT fun :o(…

    • Rachel
    • October 4, 2019

    My own vision continues to deteriorate, post cataract surgery. I am following you with great tenderness as you explore this new territory. I know I will learn from you, as I always do. Wishing you traveling mercies.

    1. Reply

      Thanks Rachel.

  3. Reply

    I read this post early this morning and wanted to comment but to say what? I agree with Paul on the quality of your work, but I know that’s not the issue. It’s different. It’s more difficult than it used to be or different than it used to be and that’s where the grief comes in. Still, you are handling that as well. What I wish is that there were more people out there talking honestly about dealing with physical changes, pain, etc. Not how to fix it. Because there often is no fix — no diet change, no physical therapy, no meditation, no whatever. Yes, there is attitude. There is how you look at things. But it’s hard. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate what you share here of your art and of yourself. Thank you.

    1. Reply

      Thank you Maery. I try to encourage people to keep working, and I try to model that. Sometimes the work changes though, I don’t mean the sketching or the quality, though that can change, I mean the actual thing that we do as work. It can be a bit of a discovery.

    • Tina Koyama
    • October 4, 2019

    You have always been so good about documenting everything you do and learn and try, and now it continues, even during this very difficult time. Thank you for that — it is helping someone now, and will help others in the future.

    1. Reply

      Thanks Tina for the kind words. I hope it does help someone get through whatever has come up for them. We have to keep chugging along!

    • Cindy Zick
    • October 17, 2019

    Dear Roz, I am so sorry for your loss, of the you that used to be, of your crisp and steady vision, of being able to make art 10 hours a day — I did not realize you are going to have such permanent limitation. You may not know I am a big fat witch, and believe in miracles, so I invoke a MIRACLE OF HEALING FIND YOU NOW!!! May it be so. as others have said, thanks for sharing your transformation. You are so inspiring.

    1. Reply

      Thanks so much for thinking of me Cindy. I can use all the witchy energy you can send!

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