How to battle a panic attack

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Why did I bother? This is way too difficult. There is just way too much to get to that I won’t be able to tackle. Your mind starts to wander in the first ten minutes, after the initial excitement of the assignment wears off. It takes so much strength to convince yourself to keep going, to keep breaking it down into sections, to handle their treatment one at a time.

Isn’t this what good therapists say to avoid panic attacks? Break it down to mini problems. Your mind refocuses, reconfigures boundaries. You keep going. The trouble with painting practice is that there’re always these waves of self-doubt, these peaks you climb and valleys you need to fill. It’s not always clear where you’ll land after each round of battles with your alter-ego. Sometimes you lose to a gnawing voice of self-hatred. But you know, I think it’s that you didn’t ride that wave fully. You gave up too soon.

I wanted to do two quick sketches of butterfly wings today in watercolor. I imagined it would take about a half hour. I looked up works by Damien Hirst. I thought I had it all figured out with the bleeds of paint and the thin outlines. But then the butterflies weren’t just sitting there with their wings spread out, ready for me to depict them in all their glory. It’s so different in real life. They’re moving constantly, or sitting in profile, with the backs of their wings facing you. They have so many intricate patterns, and the patterns aren’t at all symmetrical, or the same throughout. There’re all these nuances in form and color and line. I was ready to cry when I really started to get into the nitty gritty. But on my third butterfly, pushing myself as I hard as I could to focus, I got it right. I just kept telling myself: “You’re here to record what you see. Just follow the lines, the shapes and the colors. Turn your mind off”.

As soon as that happened, the watercolor took shape. The process took two hours and not the anticipated half hour. But it came out beautifully, and it was chosen as a sketch for a large 60 inch by 75 inch canvas. I am one of six artists chosen for an international exhibit. I will represent America in an exhibition that will travel to six countries. It will be titled “Wings of the World”, and people will take photos in front of these wings and think of what they would do if their super powers let them fly. How would they help the world if they could fly…

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