An Exploration of the Colors of Memories and Identity

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I started this series on one of those days where I felt left behind by myself. My past self looked at present me and felt disappointed.

“You changed. We’re not the same anymore.”

But who is this past self?

Because when I look back so many of my memories are muddled together. They’re like shifting sands, they’re inconsistent, constantly reshaping and retelling themselves. Little details are filled in by a brain that I’m not sure I can trust.

Do you remember that tree stump you stood on and declared to the world your love for life and the skies?

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But I still have this sense of identity. This Andrewness that is me. I recognize myself as sensitive, playful and imaginative. I’m often sad, but I can have a lot of fun as well. I’m disorganized and impulsive, and rarely finish my projects.

Do you remember the tree you and your friends climbed and you would sit in for hours talking about something, and you called it the “Cow’s Tree,” or maybe it was “Bull’s Tree”?

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There’s specifics of my own personal life-story.

I was born in Anápolis, in Brazil, but lived most of my life in Viçosa. A college town, populated with hills and pot-holes and a beautiful sunset every day. I lived with my parents and 3 siblings, all of whom I had very different relationships with, and their different quirks interacted with mine to bring me here where I find myself studying Fine Arts at a Christian Reformed college.

Do you remember that keyhole you looked through, trying to see what was on the other side?

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Sometimes, if I don’t interact with someone from Brazil, it feels like my existence in Brazil was a parallel world completely disconnected from today. How do I know I’m the same person? The one who left Brazil behind for a college degree seems so different from the one writing this blog post. Sometimes I need to call my parents, or hear my friend’s voice to remember it all happened.

Do you remember the nose and lips, of that first kiss?

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But then, the memories I have, even if they seem so obscure, uncertain, and limited, they still inform my decisions, thoughts and feelings today. What I believe in or not is informed by those memories. I unconsciously choose to believe in these and live by these memories.

Do you remember that flower you plucked for your mother?

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Memories are often connected with our material senses. Which I think is incredible. Many people write diaries, and in those visual symbols they re-find their memories. There is that smell that reminds you of that hug right before you left. Or that soft humid smell that breathes with the air from where you came. There’s that touch that brings back memories of when we were.

We keep old objects: the baby’s shoes, or the wedding dress, the books and sketchbooks we filled. A t-shirt or mug from this place or event. Souvenirs of our travels to remind ourselves of the past, of where we were, what we did, but also who we are. We pin memories to physical, sensorial, and bodily experiences.

Do you remember those chubby fingers you had as a 6-year old?

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This is why, especially older people, are so preoccupied with pictures. They knew what I didn’t as a kid. That you forget things, everything changes. You move different places, leaving friends behind. And you can’t quite remember their faces and names. And your sense of self feels a little bit less steady and certain. Who are you, at the end of the day? As a kid you chased orcs with wooden swords, now you write angsty phrases that you put as your Instagram captions.

Do you remember that window you saw, when you walked back from the bus stop to your house, and you couldn’t help but imagine that someone lived in there, and that they had a life just as complicated as your own?

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And while I do feel a connection between me-7-year-old, me 16-year-old and me-today, slowly I’m realizing I’ll always struggle to reconcile the changes that I go through. The places I go, the people I meet, the goals I reach (and the ones I don’t), they’ll all shape me. They’ll keep changing me, even as I struggle to keep all my pieces together in a coherent shape within a single identity of Andrew.

Who are you? Who am I?

 

 

 


 

This inquiry into identity, and the connection to memories started with some philosophy video that I saw that questioned this connection between memory and self. At first I didn’t understand what he meant; I felt pretty safe in my own identity. Now, though, I see these questions haunting me a little. Sadly, I don’t remember where I saw the video, or what it was called, otherwise I’d share.

I’m trying to frame the watercolors depicted above, but it’s a pretty expensive endeavor. If you’d like to help me out you can check out my Etsy store. I updated it with prints of these watercolors as postcard sized, but also have a 25% discount on all other items!

I also wanted to try and work with a similar format to the previous one on depression. Hope you liked it.

Thank you for reading through this post, your support, time and attention means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. If you’d like to stay updated make sure to follow the blog – button is off to the side!

You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

 

 

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Drawing Series on Depression and Anxiety – Part II

(Continued from this post.)

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So it’s gotten better, but I want to go back to understand a little bit more of what this all was. Sometimes I think we’re quick to jump to the solution, we want to speed through the problem as fast we can—reach the other side. But we’re here on Earth, aren’t we? We’ll reach Heaven eventually, won’t we? We might as well learn to take it slow, and learn how to read our problems. We have time to figure things out. And that’s something I’ve learned, and am still learning: there’s time to figure things out. I guess sometimes the whole “You only live once,” makes us feel like we’re not enough in this moment.

Going back to the problem. Recently I felt the anxiety coming back again. This past year was hard. Everything in my life seemed to be spinning again. Things that were, weren’t anymore. The person I looked at in the mirror was different, unrecognizable. I felt like there was a hole in my stomach, a black hole sucking in everything I threw at it, never satisfied. And the ghost-like feeling started to come back.

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I asked a couple people on Facebook to maybe help me coin a word to sum up this feeling.

Alex Johnson came up with “Anonrious,” a combination of anonymous and vicarious. She explains that “vicarious living makes no difference in your own life,” while “anonymous” conveys the ghost sentiment.” Which I think works with the idea. As I see it, anonymity contains a certain powerlessness behind it. The anonymous are weakekend, while those who carry an identity are strengthened, and have power, and influence.Anxiety

Ian Nery Rocha came up with “Miere.” For his thought process, he said: “I would choose a short, seemingly unimportant [word], as the sentiment it describes.” I think this also fits well with the concept; the person dealing with depression often feels unimportant, asking for attention (and help) is an incredible effort in itself. They feel tiny, small, impossibly small, as I did.

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To tie it all together:

Depression is connected to problems of Body, problems related to physical sensations that we often shut out. Depression carries with it a ghost-like quality of life. Depression is tied to “I’m not enough.” It’s tied to “I should already be good at this—at living.” Depression brings with it a lack of identity, lack of importance and of influence. And we should understand more of this reality before we go throwing solutions at a friend dealing with these emotions.

I still carry my Sadness with me. There’s still part of me that is enamored with him; he feels like he’s a piece of me. I want him. He makes me more real. But through therapy, the practice of mindfulness, and through the help of friends and family, I’ve also learned how to not let him take over me anymore. I’ve learned to trust others to help me.

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This is all coming from my own experience. The world is big, and some people tell me that we have more than 7 billion people on this Earth. So please don’t assume that my own experiences encompass those of others. Each person may feel depression differently. They also will have different paths then mine, where therapy may not be enough and medication is needed. They may also find practices other than mindfulness and meditation that help them more.

The last thing I want to say is. Don’t feel like you have to worry about me. While I’m not perfect, I’ve grown a lot and have learned a variety of system-checks to keep my depression at bay. I’ve had the help of my parents and close friends. If my own life is ever at risk because of depression, I’ll let someone close, who can help me, know.


I wanted to talk about depression and anxiety. It’s something that I care deeply about, because of my own experiences and of those close to me. There’s a couple of other blog posts that touch a little bit on these topics. If you want to check them out here’s a small list of items relating to this topic, either by referencing it, or searching for solutions.

Liiiiiiiine

What Made Me Cry This Week – Yoga

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Thank you for reading through this story, your support, time and attention means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. If you’d like to stay updated make sure to follow the blog – button is off to the side!

You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

Drawing Series on Depression and Anxiety

 

 

Imagine me, younger, around the age of ten. my hair is longer and lighter. My nose hasn’t grown yet; it still has soft curves. My eyelashes and eyebrows are dark and heavy, hiding my eyes a little. I’m standing on this hill, just outside my house, my legs straight, my gaze firm as I look out into the city that fills the valleys and climbs the hills. The hill I stand on is covered in a green sheet. Not exactly the green you’re thinking of, but the green contaminated with a blue cold and grey tint; the sky is filled with soft shapes and gradations of clouds. Everything feels a little bit quieter. And I’m there on the hill, just quietly sad. My body feels empty, and so does my heart.

I have this memory from childhood, and I don’t recall if it’s been fabricated by my brain or if it happened.

I always was a little bit of a sad person. Even a sad kid really. I’ve heard from people that they see me as a joyful, calm and happy person. But I think I always carried with me a certain weight of sadness. Sure, I also had my happy moments, but there was sadness lurking about within. Almost like my happiness always had to be tinted with sorrow.

I don’t know where it comes from, why it existed. Why it exists. Maybe it’s my sensitive heart. Or maybe it started when my friend died in elementary school, run over by a truck when he was biking. I was 7, he was 6.

Maybe I’ve been enamored to sadness. Sadness has a richness of its own. It’s very nuanced, and feels real and tangible.

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Wherever it came from, this sadness hit the hardest in my teenage years.When I entered puberty and suddenly saw everything changing around me—my own body, my friends, the place I lived in—suddenly carrying my friend Sadness wasn’t ok anymore.

While I struggled to grasp my emotions, to gain some control of them, a friend committed suicide. He was almost an acquaintance really, but we were getting closer. This event ignited my own sadness, and suddenly it burst into thoughts of self-harm; and suicide made its space in my mind. Talking with my mom, we agreed that I should see a psychologist.

I had already struggled with a mild degree of depression, but suddenly I felt like the whole world crashed on me—anxiety was thrown into the mix. I felt unable to solve my problems and unable to be of any help to others. Looking back, I think I felt like a ghost. Unable to affect any real force or change, in the world, or in myself. My pain was cerebral, emotional, abstract. But to some degree I truly felt alienated from my body, and I decided to forget my body. Unable to enact change, I let myself slip more and more into the abstract self, into my head, away from the physical.

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Going to a psychologist for the next year or so really helped me. It helped me deal with insecurities, helped me see myself not as incapable, but as weakened. I could build myself up, slowly.

(To be continued)


I’ll post the second part to this on Thursday the 8th.

I wanted to talk about depression and anxiety. It’s something that I care deeply about, because of my own experiences and of those close to me. There’s a couple of other blog posts that touch a little bit on these topics. If you want to check them out here’s a small list of items relating to this topic, either by referencing it, or searching for solutions.

Liiiiiiiine

What Made Me Cry This Week – Yoga

Remember This 4

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Thank you for reading through this story, your support, time and attention means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. If you’d like to stay updated make sure to follow the blog – button is off to the side!

You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

 

Orange Unicorn – Remember This 12

Orange Unicorn - Webcomic - Waiting

Just a reminder that waiting is normal, sometimes we’re not where we want to be yet, and we have to wait.


 

Previous episode – Next episode

Your support means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. So if you’d like to stay updated with the webcomic make sure to follow the blog – button is off to the side!

You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

What Made Me Cry This Week – Yoga

So, usually I stick to books and movies recommendations. But, who cares about consistency? Plus, it still fits with this section’s title.

Today I cried because of yoga. Ok. I didn’t exactly cry, but I cried the way I cry when I watch movies: my lips quivered, I swallowed, and my eyes filled up. I made it go away so no one would see me cry. My eyes filled up like twice.

It’s hard to explain why.

Ever since the end of Thanksgiving I had been feeling this constant emptiness. Like there was something off. I was having a hard time finding energy to do my projects – school related or even personal ones. I did yoga on Monday, but it didn’t solve it. It all still felt heavy. I don’t think I breathed enough during that one.

Tuesday, I felt even worse than the day before. It felt like the day was never going to end, and I just had to live with myself. I wanted to get out of me, but, as with most of us, I was stuck inside.

Then today (Wednesday) came, and I just felt “meh.” I went to work and it was meh. I went to class and it was meh. And everything was meh. Then I did yoga.

It was the normal. Stretching, flexing, holding. Breathing. Trying to smile in painful positions. Then, at the end, we had “shavasana.” Which is basically lying there, resting, breathing. Letting everything flow – meditation.

As I breathed, I could just feel like my whole body was there. Everything was real and it just made me smile that I was alive. Then I felt like crying because it just felt like such a good happiness. A subtle one. A happiness made of breath, of presence. A happiness made of words like “I’m alive.”

 


Originally written last week Wednesday.

 

Be sure to check Orange Unicorn’s last update.

Or jump back to the last What Made Me Cry This Week.

Your support means a lot to me: it helps me keep trying. If you’d like to stay updated make sure to follow the blog – there’s a button off to the side!

You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

To Be a Flower

To be tender. To be frail. To be a flower: vulnerable and open.

That’s what I tried doing for most of this summer. To write blog posts and make art that mattered to me. That showed you parts and facets – of me. In the hope that, for some reason, those images, those pieces of me, also mattered to you.

A lot of the time it felt like I was just ignored. Writing into this void of the internet, where there’s already too much going on. Posting pictures and images that got few likes. After all that’s what it’s about, right? You liking my writing. You liking my paintings. My drawings. You liking… me. Right?To be a vulnerable flower - creativity

Every now and then I have to hide in a hole. When around people I’m constantly trying to please, to make them feel better, to add something of value to them, to offer something up – even if it’s some of my weirdness at times. So, every now and then, I must hide in a whole to just please myself, and not be constantly evaluating: Do they like me? Was that good? Was that worth their time?

Every now and then I need to hide my art in a hole. To make it only for myself. To bury the piece amidst all the files in my hard drive. To bury it within all the other papers. It’s art that doesn’t ask you to look at it. It’s just asking to exist for a second, only to be hidden and forgotten – it grows best in the dark confines of the earth.

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This is very hard, because in the end, the only way I can survive – to bring in the bread – is if I show my art to you. If I’m tender, frail, vulnerable and open like a flower. And trying to find that balance, between the art that I make for others, and the art that I make for myself, is a complicated one. The art that sprouts out in colorful petals and the art that hides under earth – gathering the nutrients.

 

Right now, I feel drained. My creativity has been flowing over this summer, and it’s running out. I know it can replenish itself, but it needs time. It needs time to allow the water to evaporate, condensate and to come back again. In that soft refreshing drizzle, that smells like summer and nourishes the earth.

If you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has set up — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM!

 

The Discipline to Create Art

Night Wolf - Illustration

This is something every artist struggles with. At least I do. It’s something I want to improve, to get better at: the discipline to make myself do art. The discipline to be my own boss. Why not write about it? Maybe it’ll make me more disciplined. And let’s be honest, I’m always writing for myself. So, whatever you get out of this, it’s a bonus.

How to be disciplined? Take one step at a time

If you read, watch, or follow other artists online, you’ll find out that, for someone pursuing a career in the field of creativity, “just surviving” college isn’t enough. School can only teach you so much. You need to spend time pursuing your own projects and your own dreams. One step at a time.

In fact, one of Jason Brubaker’s main pieces of advice from his book, Unnatural Talent, is to work on your personal project. Develop it, nourish it and make it grow. Something personal, that you feel passionate about.

So how do you do that? How do you discipline yourself to get your own projects done? I’m not sure, if I’m honest. I haven’t gotten to a point where I’m satisfied with my discipline. But I have made a couple of attempts at improving and learned some things from those. Here’s a list of suggestions and tips for you to try out:

 

Blog_Numbers1Choose a specific topic or style and stick with it for a week. See how you can say or show the same subject in a different way.

This can be a fun challenge to see how creative you can get within certain boundaries – like using a tool you’ve never had. Or making a series of 4 in. sized paintings. How creative can you be with the limitations you have?

 

Blog_Numbers2Get other people involved. Tell them you’ll work on a project for 7 straight days. Or let them have a sneak peek of your work in progress – put your honor on the line somehow.

This one is tricky, because if you don’t do what you promised you might feel bad about yourself and do even less. But it works great if it motivates to just sit down and do it. I usually tell one person about one project I want to work on, and to another person a different project. I’ll probably not do all of them, but at least one of those I’ll feel I need to get done, and indeed get it done.

 

Blog_Numbers3Set aside a time and place to work.

This is one of the most often-repeated-that-no-one-follows pieces of advice given. And hearing it again and again doesn’t make it easier. My tip is for you to find a special place where you can be by yourself, and spread out your materials and art. In that space that you have set aside eliminate as many distractions as you can. Turn off your cellphone, close all other tabs that are not-art-you’re-making-right-now-related. You might be amazed by how much you can do without technology distracting you.

Also, don’t be afraid to have a day in the week where you don’t do art. You need to rest from your art and just enjoy life! I consider it part of my self-care of the week. Making sure you don’t do art for a day will recharge you to come in super excited for the coming week!

 

Blog_Numbers4Look at yourself in the mirror. Stare deep into your eyes. Find your soul. Punch it a couple times until it realizes that making art is a necessity, not a commodity. And get to work.

Sometimes you just have to get to it. Stop making excuses and make art.

As I said. There’s no easy way to get discipline, or to keep yourself motivated. I’m still figuring it out for myself. But I think the last part of the trick is to never give up on being disciplined. Don’t stop trying to be disciplined just because you didn’t do art that one day, or that one week.

Never give up on being disciplined

Discipline can only come with a clear vision for what you want from your talent, natural or not. There will be days or weeks when you’ll be disciplined, and there’ll be days you’ll struggle with it. But just keep trying, for if you give up—there’s nothing we can do to help you out.