Art by Autistic Artists
Art Collection by Keira Fulton-Lees
Art In Many Forms in Black and White Autistic Thinking to To All Colors on the Spectrum
Kicker: Art Inspired by an AA Meeting
Title: Spectral Fluidity
Subtitle: A Flower as an Metaphor for a Higher Power
This artwork was inspired by a tiny lone blue flower that was planted beside the Potter’s House, an AA support group meeting place located at the Oceanfront in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The building to the left is a Methodist Church and the Potter’s House is to the right. The actual flower was but a mere 2–3 inches in size, but I wanted it to be represented as something bigger than that what you see wiih you eyes, as that was exactly the way I felt about the meeting I had just attended. Just as your higher power is grander than the imaginable, the people you meet and see at these meetings are much bigger people what meets the eye, by just having the courage and vulnerability to share their darkest days, and to finally recover from something bigger than themselves.
As I carried a few art supplies everywhere I went, directly after the meeting I sat on a curb and sketched the flower with my trusty Ticonderoga pencil right then and there. It was a grand night. The organizer of the Friday Night Speaker Meeting was a man named Mickey, and I will always remember him saying that the Friday Night Oceanfront Speaker Meeting was “the greatest show in town”. No doubt, he was right about that.
Miami Beach Art Deco
When I was a teenager, I spent my time beween two homes: One with mother who lived in Virginia, and the other home with my father, who lived in Miami,
My time in Miami was back around the mid-to late seventies, and I was just a socially awkward little Autistic hippie chick. My father was a pharmacist. Back in the day, Miami was a crazy place to be, and let’s just says I followed in my father’s footsteps and became quite the connoisseur of pharmaceuticals myself as Miami was (and probably still is) a drug-users paradise. But, that was along time ago, and I am now for many years firmly against substance abuse of any kind, except for the rare exception of an ice cold Belgium Ale.
I use simple tools when I do my artwork. Usually just colored pencils, Foray 1.5mm pens of all colors, highlighters, and for sketching I use a a fat yellow #2 “My First” TICONDEROGA pencil. If you didn’t know otherwise and you looked through the things in my Artwork bookbag, you would think it belonged to a elementary school aged child, with the exception of the Sponge Bob Square Pants lunchbox. Hmm, maybe I’ll get one!
After a trip to Miami Beach with my brother, I was a bit disappointed in the disrepair that many of the smaller motels and rental cottages had fallen into along Collins Avenue, and I reflect that in the buildings uneven structure and sight lines. But as always, there is just something about the palm trees, the sun, and the sky in Miami that has always left me mesmerized.
Welcome to Florida!
As a teenager and later on as an adult I lived in Southern Florida. Everywhere from Miami, Delray Beach, Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, to Coconut Creek. I always loved it that I lived in a place named Coconut Creek! It’s just so beachy sounding, and what’s also cool about Coconut Creek is that it is the known as “The Butterfly Capital of the World”.
If you know anything about Southern Florida, you know that there are more Salamanders than there are Butterflies. So much so that as you get off the plane in West Palm Beach and head down I-95, there is a tall sand colored wall in the median separating the North and South lanes that has huge impressions of Salamanders carved into the wall!
The idea behind this was to create a 1960’s style Florida tourist postcard impression. As usual, I used my simple art tools: Highlighters, Foray 1.5mm pens, and of course my trusty Elementary School “My First” Ticonderoga #2 big ole fat yellow pencil.
Flower and Butterfly – Sea and Sun
The Six Pāramitās
There is a backstory to this artwork. For many years I lived in an Oceanfront Apartment in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Although I loved my apartment, I was in a perpetual state of depression, and to soothe the pain and to become more social I developed a drinking problem. At the time, I had been misdiagnosed as Bipolar, and it was not until many years later that I was formally diagnosed with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. Looking back, the drinking problem was a coping mechanism to compensate for my lack of Social Skills and to numb the depression. Note: Absolutely NOT a good plan.
My therapist at the time insisted I attend AA meetings, and although I did so at first begrudgingly, slowly I warmed up to it, to finally realizing that it changed my life in so many ways.
The Friday night Oceanfront Speaker Meeting at the Potter’s House became my Home Group. I was brought to tears so many times as each speaker bared their souls and darkest days in front of a crowd of strangers. I admired their courage, and one day I plan to make a trip to Virginia Beach to tell my story too — a coming home of sorts.
One of the members of my Home Group gave me a book titled “The Buddha Walks Into a Bar”, by Lodro Rinzler, and told me it would change my life — and it did.
The purpose of this artwork was not so much for its artistic quality as it was more of a reminder of what I learned of Shambhala Buddhism. The piece was simply created using a stencil and highlighters.
In Sanskrit, the word Pāramitā, can be defined as “A Transcendental Action”. It is a compound word of two parts: Pāram, which can be translated as “Other shore”, and itā, which can be translated as “arrived”.
The artwork reflects this arriving at another shore, as the cascading yellow bordered by the orangish/tan colors represent the suns rays moving towards the sandy shore.
At the root of the Pāramitās, is the Sanskrit word Bodhisattva, which refers to “an awakening”, In Buddhism, one who seeks awakening (bodhi) literally means “an individual on the path to becoming a Buddha.”
So, despite popular misrepresentation, Siddhārtha Gautama is commonly known as “The Buddha”, but the truth is anyone can be a Buddha.
This artwork was drawn during an Inpatient Psych Ward staycation At St. Mary’s Hospital In Richmond, VA. The Psych Ward Wing is called 7-West .
I’m not in the least embarrassed or ashamed to say I’ve dealt with Mental Health Issues over the years. According to The World Health Organization, Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Unfortunately in the U.S., the Mental Health System is a disaster compared to other countries, and too many people go untreated or misdiagnosed. In regard to diagnosis and treatment, the Psychiatric Profession in the states is little more than a guessing game of prescribed pharmaceuticals. A Psychiatrists job could in all reality be eliminated and replaced by your local Pharmacist, as they know more about the drugs that are prescribed than the psychiatrists do.
I was misdiagnosed for many years before anyone realized I was Autistic. For me, what were actually Autistic Meltdowns were diagnosed as Bipolar Manic Episodes. It took many long agonizing years before I was finally correctly diagnosed, and due to the former misdiagnoses, I landed in the Psych Wards a total of ten times. See my Poem “Ten Times In” for more about that.
If you’ve spent any times at all in a Psych Ward, you’d know that the only structured times are meals, med-time, and group-time, leaving you with a lot of idle time on your hands. All I really wanted to do is stay in my room, but as I found out over time, staying in your room will only keep you locked in the ward longer as they view it as being uncooperative, and not receiving treatment.
To fight the boredom, everyone hangs out in the group room. You’d think they might have more adult-oriented things available to pass the time, but in every psych ward I’ve been in all you get are things like jigsaw puzzles with too many missing pieces, crayons, decade old books that found a place to die, and tiny little pencils with no erasers, construction paper, and this overly unavoidably rippable recycled paper to doodle on. It’s as if their model for recreation was aimed at treating adults with mental health issues like children.
On my first night in my assigned room, I was having trouble sleeping. Well to be more exact, everyone has trouble sleeping in a psych ward since all they give you to sleep on is the same bed that you would find in a prison cell, but this time it was more than that.
It was a windy night, and outside my window their was the group of swaying barkless trees that in my sedated state looked like bones, which scared the hell out of me as I reflected these swaying bones as if they were a symbol of what I had become and what I was reduced to.
I created the drawing the very next day using the crayons and doodle paper in the group room just to get the image of the tree bones that beckoned me the night before out of my head. The day nurse saw that as a sign of progress. A Gold Star Sticker for Keira! Now can I go home?
Hand Sketching of Hand Sketching Zen Pixie
This drawing was quite a difficult task to pull off. Four major factors were influences in the creation of this drawing:
- The tragic news about the tragic death of Joni, my BFF during my teenage years growing up in Miami.
- Major Cervical Spine Surgery, called ACDF, which is an acronym for: Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion. Now, that’s a mish-mash of medical turns of words that in layman’s terms means that the surgeon removed discs, replaced them with composites, and then fused two of the vertebrae in my cervical spine together with titanium plates and screws. I now have limited motion when turning my neck to the left. When I turn my head it looks sort of like like the slow motion movement of an overly sedated sloth.
- Surviving the worst pain I have ever experienced, that was far beyond the human ability to endure. An MRI result showed extensive damage to two of my cervical spine vertebrae. I needed surgery, and needed it expedited as soon as possible, however due to limited hospital availability of a surgical rooms, and the surgeon’s full schedule, I had to wait two weeks. I was on the schedule, but there arose several extreme complications that changed the surgery scheduled date twice.
During the extended time that led up to my surgery, I was in the most pain I have ever felt in my life. With no physical relief, I was put on a high dosage of Vicodin to help ease the pain. It didn’t. So in my desperation, I made the mistake of self-improvising an additional measure to help with the pain. My choice? Vodka — Straight up on the rocks.
This choice is definitely AMA (Against Medical Advice), and dangerous as I would soon find out, but the surgeon would not up the dosage of Vicodin any further, and in my state of mind it seemed to be the only accessible addition to relieve my debilitating pain.
During the two weeks prior to the surgery scheduled in two weeks, I ate Vicodin like candy and Vodka like Kool-Aid. It did the trick as far as pain management, but it also turned me into an alcoholic. I no longer just just wanted to drink to ease the pain, but now I needed to drink as a dependency that overcame me.
Then the worst of event happened that pushed me over the edge. It was winter, and it began to snow — and it snowed a lot, with temperatures in the single digits. The next morning the ground was deep in snow and the roads were too slick to drive safely, and even worse, the weather forecast called for more snow over the next few days. As a result of this snow storm, the hospital called me to reschedule my surgery for another 10 days out. This news pushed me over the edge, and fast.
I had by then became so tolerant of alcohol that it no longer eased the pain. I was literally going insane due to pain.
I had to do something, and I did something very wrong.I has been a cutter in the past to redirect emotional pain to physical pain. Then in my delusional state of mind, I rationalized that I would start cutting as to redirect my focus on the pain of the cervical spine damage to the pain of a razor slicing through my skin. It seemed at the time the lessor of two evils. First I started cutting my arms in long shallow cuts parallel to my arms. Then due to the abuse of a higher than normal dosage of Vicodin and a fifth of Vodka in my system, things gor out of control, and severe depression set ib, I was in so much pain I wanted to die. I then wrote a Suicide Note dripped with the blood from my cuts.. Then I started cutting deeper. This time, I started cutting vertically across my wrists closer and closer to the main veins. I was bleeding profusely by now, and was staring to get dizzy from the loss of blood. I would be dead right now if not for a miracle that happened. My cell phone rang. I was hesistant to pick it up, but in a moment of clarity, I came back to reality and picked up the phone, On the other end of the line was a co-worker named Mike calling after-hours about a work issue that he needed help with. The only words I was able to say was:: ”Mike, I am in big trouble. Please call call 911 for me and send them to my address…”, and I gave him my address.
No sooner than ten minutes, police and paramedics came through my door, say the bleeding arms and wrists, and took my in an ambulance to the hospital, where I was triaged and eventually TDO’d to a psych word in the areas,
- And lastly my recent adventure into the world of Buddhism and Spirituality.
As I studied the medical articles and anatomical diagrams of the inner and outer human body I just happened to notice that my right thumb was still numb even after surgery.
So, I picked up my sketch pad and began to doodle to see if the numbness affected my other drawing hand, and to my great distress it did. I then began trying out each finger to see of there was any other numbness or that pins-and-needles feeling like I experienced before surgery was still occurring and for the most part I was okay except for a little bit of tingling in my pinky.
I studied my hand and fingers with great attention to detail and then compared them to the clinical robotically drawn diagrams of the hand in the anatomy articles and the diagrams just did not give me a good feeling as being anywhere near realistic.
So, with a numb thumb and a tingling pinky, an idea hit me to draw my own hand. I started out with drawing my left hand, but something about it didn’t look right. Yes, I acknowledge there is a pun there, but I’m not going to say “No pun intended”, or “Pun intended”. I neither intended it to be a pun or intended it not to be a pun. I saw it coming, and the only thing I will relent to is to say that is honest is: “I am indifferent to your feelings of if the pun was intended, or if the pun was not intended”. Is that a weird way thing to say? Most definitely. Do I care? No. I am Autistic. Do I care if you care that it is a weird thing to say? I already answered that.
So, toward the goal of accurately drawing a hand in the act of drawing, I set about my task. To keep the drawing in the same perspective, it meant that I could not under any circumstances rest my numb and tingling fingers as they tired, so this was done in one very long drawing session as I wanted as much detail to make it as realistic to form as was possible. And OMG did I toss the sketch pad quickly aside and run to the bathroom as fast as I could the second I was done!
Lastly, I was very much a dedicated Buddhist back then, abd I meditated a lot. Sometimes for hours. And I meditated in the formal lotus position on the floor. In fact, although I had just bought an apartment full of beautiful furniture, I still nearly always sat on the floor. Is that weird too? I defer you to the previous paragraph. Did I ever achieve enlightenment after all that meditation? I will never know; but then again, I always will be.
So, that’s the story of the Hand Sketching the Hand Sketching the Zen Pixie. And they all lived happily ever after. The end. Night night…