Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mania and the energy of the bipolar artist

The ups and downs of bipolar illness can be frequent or they can come around gradually. My illness manifests its moods over long periods of time. I’ll go for a few years stable in my moods, then all of a sudden I will have a hiccup; a period of time where I will go way up or way down quickly. Lately, and untypically I’ve had to deal with going up – way up. Although the manias I experience aren’t as high as those who have bipolar illness type 1 (mine is type two called hypomania), the difference in me is still noticeable and keenly felt.

Twice, relatively recently, I experienced temporary highs; one which I didn’t notice at first and the second which was painfully apparent. The first was a day where I walked into work feeling good. I mean, FEELING REALLY GOOD! A coworker acknowledged me as I walked past and my response was a very loud “HI!” emphasized with an over-aggrandized wave. As I walked down the hall, my arms swung in broad motions and a big smile remained plastered across my face as I thought of a myriad of things that kept me happy. At some point I became aware that I was bouncing off the walls feeling a bit too good and I thought that it was not good thing. The second temporary high hurt. And I mean that literally. It hurt to feel that good. With that mania came agitation and the need to keep in motion. I could not sit still. I rocked back and forth in my seat and flexed my knees as I pondered running up and down the stairs. As I had experienced many times over my years of this illness, an energy built up within me that I felt was only being held in by my skin, and as such I felt the need to want to rip my skin off to get it out of me. This is why I say it hurts; it’s pent-up energy that can’t go anywhere. So, what can I do? Wait it out, keep taking my meds and get someone to talk to while I go through it.

How it affects me as an artist…Well, it depends on the day. If I’m in the middle of a motivated painting spree, it’s a spark to my mind, which starts flowing with idea after idea, which appear in my head like the way popcorn pops, suddenly, frequently and ever increasing.

It has been said to me that bipolar artists go through times of great production, then times of great scarcity in their work. It is certainly true of me. Currently, I am in that ‘up’ state, not in a physical mania, but more in my mind, where the ideas are flowing freely and quickly and I can’t paint quickly enough to keep up with the ideas. This is actually good for me this time around, for I have made some goals which I aim to attain during this period. I intend to milk this energy for everything I can get out of it and produce as much artwork as I can. (I’ve recently painted 3 paintings in 3 weeks). That is one of the ways I’m learning to deal with my gradual ups and downs; by taking hold of them and using their inertia to my own ends.

If you are bipolar or know someone who is, how do you/they get through manias?

Please see my art blog at

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sammy Rhodes' 6 ways to love a depressed person

This is a post from Sammy Rhodes at called 6 Ways to Love a Depressed Person, in a post from Nov 22, 2013. I think his article would be very helpful to anyone in this situation. I know I would find it to be so if when I was in a depressed state my loved ones heeded this message. There is one line that really sticks out to me and it meshes well with the spirit of what my art represents, "...if you listen closely enough to laughter you can hear the echoes of hope."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Icon painting #2

This is my second day of icon painting with my instructor, Peter Pearson at the Holy Cross Monastery. Here are the next in process photos of an icon of St. Michael the Archangel.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Icon Painting

am staying for the week at the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park NY, where some may know that I am considering becoming a monk of the order. I’ve come here this time for a retreat called ‘A Brush with God’, a retreat taught by Peter Pearson, a renowned iconographer, priest and teacher. You can see his website at I am learning the art of painting an icon. What a fascinating history icons have had andthey have very specific rules to painting them. Some of the techniques I am learning have reawakened me to techniques I used to use in my painting, (like glazing, which I stopped doing for some reason) while some are totally new and are ones which I will start to use. The most important thing I’ve learned about painting an icon is that it is to be done as a prayer, and in an attitude of submitting your painting to God. It doesn’t matter if the final image is “beautiful” or not, it’s all about your attitude. I thought I’d share the stages we’ve done so far. We are painting an icon of St. Michael the Archangel.

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Happy Pens Have Arrived! What a great gift for the Holidays! Free Shipping!

Guess what time it is! GUESS WHAT TIME IT IS! It's time to get moving on your Holiday gifts and a great gift is a 'Happy' Rollerball Pen, Business Card Case, or the 2 piece Duo, at, designed by Thom Reaves for ACME Studio. This is my first pen design for ACME Studio and I'm so proud to have my work included with the likes of other famous designers, architects and artists. ACME Studio fine writing instruments make great gifts for anyone who loves a fine writing instrument that feels great in your hand and writes especially smooth. Acme pens and card cases are collectible with a hand-applied lacquer finish. Each pen comes in a custom, embossed, foam-lined tin in a black slipcase with one ink cartridge. The Happy Business Card Case comes in a black slipcase and holds 12-14 business cards or 2-3 credit cards. You can order right from My supplies are limited, so order now for the Holidays! Free shipping! Happy Thom

Friday, November 01, 2013

Interview with Natasha Sherman: Artist with Bipolar illness

This is a TV interview I did for the Natasha Show with Natasha Sherman, regarding my living as an artist with Bipolar illness.

Natasha from Princeton Community Television on Vimeo.


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Thom Reaves now has two blogs

Thanks for visiting I now have a second blog. Whereas this one focuses on my art in relation to my bipolar illness, my newer blog focuses more on my artwork only. Please visit the "Imagery of Joy Blog!" at See you there. :-)