Thursday, March 14, 2013

Voodoo? No, SAD.


This is as far as I'm going with this one. Ended up using a palette knife all the way.
It's going to take forever to dry before I can fix the tree on the left. It lacks finesse.
(I had the beginning of this painting in this spot yesterday. I finished it this morning.
It's time to move on).


I did what I should have done months ago. I bought a SAD light on Ebay.

Follow the crumbs
to the lake.
The fact that I totally stopped painting January 22nd made me do it. My doctor had been telling me to pick one up  for four years. He diagnosed my winter slumps as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But I didn't listen. The lamps were two hundred dollars, money better spent on art supplies or a class if you had asked me. I also suspected this disorder was fictional and the lamps were akin to snake oil. Mayo clinic says no. SAD is real. There are people who have Fall/Winter SAD and, would you believe, folks who have Spring/Summer SAD?

After thinking  how I was this winter, I went on eBay, as a lark. Lo and behold, there was  a new SAD lamp  listed, direct from the manufacture, for seventy four dollars and change, shipped. I snapped it up even though I can't use it till the end of daylight savings time. I did pass the eBay info back to my doctor to pass on to his other patients who might not want to lay out the funds for some sort of voodoo cure for evasive symptoms.

Halfway to the Lake,  photograph,  by l.w.roth
There's plenty of daylight out now that Spring is springing. My symptoms are disappearing.  I painted yesterday for the first time, (I don't count my pastel experiments or my photography). While I didn't venture out of the house all winter long and lamented all the gray outside my window, the light was so inviting today, I took a walk  to  try out my refurbished knee and find the short cut down to the lake. I want to walk to the dock this summer instead of drive. I also want to take my plein air easel down there. (That's going to take some more muscle building. There's a real steep hill).

The SAD symptoms  I had were diminished energy,  social withdrawal, oversleeping, a craving for  (bad) carbohydrates, (potato chips are my absolute favorite junk food and I did add them to my otherwise healthy diet), and the worst, a total lack of interest in the activities I enjoyed--painting--and socializing. Feeling very reclusive, I think we went out with friends twice the whole winter. Not doing these last two things I love did make me anxious, another symptom to look out for.

A SAD light. One style of many listed
at a range of prices. 
 I wasn't a total goner though. I was reading non fiction, a sure sign  I wasn't depressed and escaping life; I was looking into it. I was also still playing the piano for a couple  hours a day, albeit Beethoven's Pathetique, which is pathetic, but moving.  I didn't gain any weight; I lost some having re-initiated my workout routine after the arthroscope.  So, though my energy level was lower than usual, I still had some--just not enough for me.

After looking into SAD, I'm wondering if the disorder could be a factor in creative blocks? It sure was a factor in mine. If you find yourself in one, don't exclude looking into this phenomenon and taking action. "They"say" just fifteen minutes a day of strong (10,000 LUX) natural light does wonders for the psyche. What the hell, this light could be classified as absolutely necessary art supplies if painting all year round is important to you.


28 comments:

  1. Dear Linda my sister had a severe depression (years ago and now outdated) due to the season with so much light. It seems impossible, we have the same DNA and  I live for the light. Going to find my teacher I was surprised by his studio ... He works with the Northern Light, which drops from a window from the roof inclined at 45 degrees. In the window there is a arm lamp, if there is no light he lit the lamp and this casts light on his easel ... a total efficiency! I returned home I went to buy a LED lamp with the light of day (the equivalent of $ 40) and I screwed my arm lamp that casts light on the easel ... I think that there is always the light of day in the studio even when it rains. So I'm sure that the lamps created for the use,that you say, will be even better!

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    1. Isn't this finding interesting? I really was skeptical for so long UNTIL this last winter when I was do down about so many nothing things. The truth will be in the pudding though next winter when I use the light as directed.

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  2. Fascinating post. This is the first winter that i've experienced some of the things you refer to and am now interested in ensuring that I take appropriate measures to avoid the lethargy that has had an impact on my painting life.

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    1. I'm sorry you had a difficult time too Mick. I'm glad I posted some info that could help next year. I spoke to a psychiatrist about it and he definitely verified the symptoms and told me how common the disorder is. More natural concentrated light helps/cures. Exercise, of course. No pills to be taken.

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  3. I have been afflicted with SAD for years, and it seems each year it is a bit worse. This year, I started taking vitamin D, which has helped. Exercise is good, and a good diet.
    What do the people do up closer to the Arctic circle, Norway and Sweden?

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    1. Well that is not uplifting news. Did you try the light therapy? --You never mentioned not wanting to paint or ride Bruno--doing activities that you love. How come I'm so quick to complain that something's wrong? Maybe because this was the first year in four that I didn't feel like painting. While my abstinence might have been from SAD, it also could have been from being introspective as to why I am painting anyway--also, as Julie mentioned--my mood could have been induced by that general anesthetic they used which set me back a couple of weeks? Whatever, I now own a light for next year. It may be a placebo, but placebos do have positive effects.

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  4. Your work has always been top rate and powerful to me. I have also thought you were an outgoing person so this was a surprise.
    The light therapy worked for a family member who moved to Oregon and found the winters put her in depression. At the start of her third winter she was placed on a SAD regime by her doctor and we were all thrilled it worked, but no one was as happy as she was.
    You have never mentioned if the surgery, the aftermath pain and pills could also had some part to play. That was a pretty severe op you went through.
    Anyway glad to know I can look forward to some more masterpieces.
    Wishing you only the best.

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    1. It surprises me too. I didn't believe it four years ago when my doctor said it when I complained that winter sucks. I figured the disorder was a catch-all for anybody who said they hated the season. But this winter I really did. You're right, I could have been adversely affected by the anesthetic of that knee procedure, which I had at the end of January just after I finished that painting of the little girl. I had never had general anesthetic before--not even for the mastectomy. I was always myself in twenty four hours after surgeries. Not this time. It took a full week before I was upbeat--now, I'm thinking, maybe more? Anyway, I bought the light. It will arrive and I will use it next Fall. Couldn't hurt. Maybe it works like a placebo? You're doing it, so you feel better. At least I didn't spend two hundred. (I owe my savings to my new trend to buy used books on Amazon and that's what made me think to look on eBay).

      You are so kind about my work. I know now, that I will never be a professional artist, just an amateur. I waited too long to get back to painting. I am not consistent like you. --I tried a little Julie yesterday and will do so again today. Yesterday, there wasn't enough paint on the board to work into. Today, maybe I'll loosen up? This is my first landscape in oil from this long distance point of view. I usually like to get up close and into nature's face. However it comes out, I'm just glad to be back in the studio. When those artificial lights are dark, it's really depressing. :-))

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  5. Hi Linda! We call it " winter blues " and of course it's the same thing every year. Lack of light and sun bring a lot of people down. That's why many fly to the south while others hide in their nest, and I'm not talking birds here.
    Your SAD light looks good to me, it should help immensely and going out too even when the sun's missing. I find oxygen is a fuel for good health and an overdose of Vitamin D does wonder.
    Your new painting is already well on the way. It definitely isn't lacking with warmth! Have a good one. Hugs

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    1. I'm going to look into the D vitamin--or more accurately my D levels. I take 800 mg a day with calcium, but maybe I need more? I'll have that checked out next Fall. What I do know is: I didn't like me this winter. I wasn't me. I wasn't directed. I wasn't enthusiastic. I was happy to stay in the barn and tuck my head under my wing day after day reading, not painting. Actually, I did wonder why I was painting at all and why painting even mattered to me. I was very introspective, not a good way to be.

      You are right about the fresh air though. This year I was afraid to take my healing knee out on the icy streets. So that could have had something to do with it. Now, I have no excuse, the streets are clean and walking in the cold was refreshing yesterday. Making it all the way down the hill to the park by the lake and home again was an accomplishment. Now I just have to make it all the way to the dock and back. I keep strengthening my leg muscles via the PT exercises, but I sure wish there was a bike rack.

      My little painting is too warm. I thought I cool it down today. It really is good smelling the oils and the mineral spirits again

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  6. Een heerlijk zonnig schilderij heb je gemaakt lieve groetjes Danielle

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    1. Thanks Danielle. Sun on one day. No sun the next--gray skies and snow. Will it ever be Spring. The 24th, Spring Equinox, is coming up next week.

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  7. Linda!
    I am so sorry about the SAD diagnosis! It must be very difficult to deal with! You hang tough! I can tell you are a fighter! I hope the SAD light helps! Good luck my friend!
    I love this latest piece. I love thick paint! I know what you mean about drying time!
    Take care buddy!
    Michael

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    1. No big deal Michael. I wasn't diagnosed with SADs; it was just a possibility four years ago based on some complaint I might have expressed at the time. Since then every time I went to the doc, he asked me if I had gotten a SAD light and I said no. This time I said yes. I have no idea if I was SAD this last winter or if I really do not like cold, dark weather? It gets dark in Florida and Mexico about the same time it gets dark here during the winter months, yet I am a lot happier in the dark,in warmer climates without snow in the winter months. By buying the light, I was both satisfying the doctor and covering all the bases.

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  8. Glad you reached the light at the end of the tunnel, Linda. I'm off for a few days to investigate some US history in (old) Hampshire, where the remains of the USS Chesapeake are built into the fabric of an old flour mill!

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    1. You did write about that flour mill in one of your posts--and had some photographs. Have a great time sleuthing material and take some more photos. I just downloaded an upgrade to Wikipedia on my iPad that offers more articles on historic events and relics. I'll look us the Chesapeake. It should be interesting reading.

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  9. I think we all have some sort of SAD symptoms...I don't like the Winter months..and I'm truly happy that Spring is coming soon..I don't like darkness.. If it was up to me, I would move in a warmer climate, but unfortunately, my husband's roots go down deep and he would never leave East Rockaway...Anyway, LOVE your painting! Painting with the palette knife gives it so much texture!
    Take care, my friend!!

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    1. The light came today--another blue day with snow. I didn't use it due to being on daylight savings time, but it is shockingly brilliant. I can't wait to see if it works next year. My husband is impressed that I bought it for a lot less than the literature my doc gave me four years ago. Looking up this particular model today, I found out I could have gotten it for even less money had I pressed on in my search. Try it. I'm going to. Enough with these seasonal depressions. --We're not going to leave the North either. Both of us love our house and the surroundings and the change of seasons--with the exception of winter.

      Thanks, I don't think it's very good, but it was fun to paint. I haven't used a palette knife in years--and when I did, I used acrylics, which were more agreeable with regards to dry times. I won't be making a habit of this.

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  10. This is fascinating and kind of sad. I have never lived in snow - never endured the cold winter weather. So I'm soft. This is by design. Years ago I decided I could never live in the North, and never went. (The secret - shhhh - I have never even seen snow! Except on distant mountains in temperate seasons). Down here when the temperature goes down to 50 degrees we bundle up and talk about how the rest of the nation can possibly survive with lower temperatures than that! In truth I have been in 20 degree weather in North Florida but that's it. So in Miami I'm GLAD, and not SAD. Next winter stay in Mexico, or better yet, come to Miami. I'll make room for you and your husband.

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    1. Thank you Dan. We'd love to. In all honesty though, snow is beautiful when freshly fallen and cold air can be invigorating. But I am noticing now that I'm experiencing the achy joints of aging, that that's why so many older folks do move to the warm--at least for the coldest months. I believe you call them snowbirds? Then when Spring comes (next Sunday, the 24th), they migrate back for the prettiest months of the year in the Northern states where the temps and the humidity are more humane than in the South. While I dislike snow, I do like my fur coat and my boots still Look hot. What really turns me off is the darkness of winter and it gets as dark in the South as it does in the North during the short days of winter in the Northern hemisphere. So I got a Sad light to brighten me up maybe?

      It would be interesting to find out if the SAD disorder is as common in the South as it is in the North. Then we'd have to discuss the effects of extreme temperatures on the psyche. --did you know that more discoveries were made my people who lived in the colder clime than in the hotter ones? Cold invigorates, simulates I think I read? Makes sense.

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  11. Hi Linda.
    I`m not too sure if this is your first attempt at Landscape painting, if it is, then you have done a brilliant job. Keep at it Linda, and you never know, you could well turn out to be another Constable. Although I don`t suffer from the Sad problem Linda, but I suffer from everything else I think. Glad that you have found a cure for your problem. All the best Linda and keep those lovely landscapes coming.
    Vic.

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    1. Tongue in cheek Constable! This is my first landscape with a wide angle vista. Every other one I've done, I've zeroed into the space and shortened the depth. So you're right and wrong.
      If we ever get out of the house again for some plein air, I'm sure you will see some more vistas around my neck of the woods.

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  12. Linda: It's not fiction. I taught for a year in Austria, where the winters were long, the sun never shined, and everything was gray. Everyone was depressed. I lived most of my life in New Hampshire, where we had about two weeks of summer each year, and people were listless. In Washington state, they set up depression clinics to deal with the constant rain and bleakness.

    My wife and I called it cabin fever and escaped every chance we got so as not to fall to the dark side with everybody else. Once we moved to Florida ten years ago, life changed drastically. Even thought we were always active and positive, we realized we were missing the vitality we had when we were younger. I hope 80 is the new 30.

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    1. Me too JJ. On the outside, I look like I'm in my fifties, but on the inside since breast cancer treatments plus the advent of DNA short comings kicking in in the late sixties, I feel my age--or older particularly in the cold, dark months. I thoroughly understand why my folks moved to Florida in their seventies and so many of our pals are taking longer and longer winter breaks there. Our biggest conversation is do we want to rent a condo for a few months over the winter months or continue to go to Mexico and live the hotel life for a couple of weeks? The way this winter has been, I'm for condo rental--then two minutes later I change my mind when I recall the vacations we've had in Mexico the last eighteen years. We're betwixed and between.

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  13. Well here in the UK the Spring-equinox is taken as the start of Spring. Theoretically then this is the third day of Spring... and outside we have a blizzard. But no sad or SAD here, we got back from (Old) Hampshire yesterday night having had lovely weather and a great break.

    You can stop these stupid 'Anonymous' comments, Linda: Go to your Google 'Settings' - click on 'Comments' and then check the box 'Registered User etc' and make sure the other boxes go unchecked. I nearly got swamped by the Anonymous Spam until I did this.

    Mentally, dear girl, you have just reached 35 and are maturing nicely :0))

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    1. Like fine wine. Google settings or Blogger settings? Anonymous comments are a pain in the butt--just like this persistent winter and my persistent cold! I'm glad your trip was good weather-wise and hopefully, photo-wise. There will be lots of good drawing coming our way, I'm sure.

      It's not a blizzard outside, but there is still snow in the air everyday, all day long with temps in the thirties, instead of the forties where they should be. My SAD bargain light came and it is unbelievably brilliant. I will be curious to see if it has a positive effect on my psyche next winter or I just bought snake oil as Ellis says, or the truth is I just hate winter plain and simple. :-))

      Meanwhile, I am doing more history reading than drawing. McCullough just captured my curiosity and I downloaded a wonderful upgrade of Wiki on my iPad that gives me more comprehensive information in the form of encyclopedia-like articles on historic subjects. The book I was reading on Andrew and Rachel Jackson got me started going back to find out everything I ever wanted to know about the Louisiana Purchase, the Whig Party, McKinley, Garfield--the other two US Presidents who were assassinated. One subject just leads to me others. A lot of fun is being had for an hour each morning in front of the fire waiting for some green to show in those sunny, but bitter cold woods.

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  14. Wonderful warm colors in this painting!
    I have an ott light--I've read that "full spectrum light" is all one needs. It's very dark and gray here (in Oregon) so I know this problem! One year in particular I really wanted to hang myself (overstatement...but you know what I mean). Hoping you feel your old self again. I see nothing wrong with reading instead of painting for awhile...just don't make a habit of it! haha! Hope to see some of your charcoals soon!

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    1. Soon. The light came and I was pleased that I had thought to go on eBay in search of a more reasonable price. I couldn't believe how brilliant it was. I'm hoping it will help to make next Winter better than this one.

      This winter has been the pits! Colds, floods, car accident, kids in turmoil, stress and worry on top of dark and cold and snowy days beat me down. Art slipped from the forefront. This little painting was a stab at a comeback. The interesting part of it is, I really sort of did it plein air. I immediately painted it after a walk down to that spot to see how hard it was going to be to wheel that easel down to the lake later on. It isn't going to be easy. It's a steep incline.

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