Fifty-something, quirky, arty wordsmith (wyrdsmith). I live in South Wales, UK.
Illustrator for Color Me Calm and Color Me Happy, released Nov 2014, and many more since then.
Freelance artist, digital artist. Available for commissions.
Wibbly-wobbly sculptural columns and arches surrounded by layers and layers of abstract bubbles, ripples and swirls of thoughts, wishes, blessings. Well, that’s what came to my mind as I added the architectural details.
No highlights, no sparkle, limited pattern and texture. Just flowing line work, for the most part. I’ve even left some ‘white space’ in the design, which is becoming less unusual for me.
Rounded arches with patterns reminiscent of Romanesque architecture. The columns are, however, more delicate, which is more reminiscent of the move towards Gothic architecture. Both forms or architecture have long been a source of artistic inspiration for me.
Soothing, relaxing and meditative to draw. Circles and spirals, arches and patterns are always comforting and endlessly fascinating to me.
Drawn using Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens on paper coloured by PaperArtsy Fresco paints. The drawing is approx. 2½” x 6¾”.
I used a variety of PaperArtsy Fresco paints to colour a 5¾” x 3⅜” piece of ClaireFontaine Paint-On mixed media paper. I chose, for me, an unusual mixture of colours. It’s ended up looking like old, distressed and grungy painted walls.
Next, I drew the abstract design with Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pens. I did the basic outlines, leaving my decision whether or not to add details for later on.
Then, I tried adding some colour to the background with Inktense Pencils and a damp brush. As this is a sketchbook page, I tried different colours out to see which ones would work well with the background. The finish on the Inktense-d areas was rather chalky and dull, though a subtle colour was achieved on the acrylic paint background. I’m not sure if I like it or not.
I find it difficult to resist a bit of shimmer and shine on my art, so I used a Uniball Signo gold glitter gel pen to fill in some of the circles in the design.
Finally, I added some more complex patterns to some areas in the design. I could’ve filled in more areas, but I’ve decided that this is enough.
This wasn’t the only piece of paper I coloured with the Fresco paints. As they’re for the sketchbook, I coloured each piece on both sides. So, I now have quite a few prepared pages in my custom sketchbook to draw on as time goes by.
I think I’ve finally settled down after the trip out on Tuesday. I seem to be more settled, for sure. Meditation, self-care, self-soothing and enough rest has worked it’s magic once again. Sunshine today is helping as well, along with the refreshing breeze that is gently flowing in through the windows.
The simple things in life are often the ones that bring most peace to me – art, meditation, quiet times, sunshine.
Last weekend, I made a small sketchbook that would hold approx 4″ x 4″ pieces of paper that was held together by book binding rings. I thought this would be a good idea as I like to work on small pieces of paper.
Then, last night I tried taking some prints from alcohol ink designs on A5 paper. I really didn’t want to cut them up to fit into the smaller custom sketchbook. I also didn’t want to use the metal binding rings again.
I woke this morning with the idea to use a disc binding system to create a custom sketchbook-come-art-journal.
I have been using an A5 Arteza mixed-media sketchbook for this, but it has rapidly become very, very wedge-shaped. I also realised that I want something where I can add a variety of sizes and types of paper, as well as move them around to suit my needs. A disc bound system seems to be the best way for me to do this.
I’ve yet to work out a way to make a hard cover for the sketchbook. For now, I made each cover from two sheets of A4 pearlescent card glued together. They’ll be sturdy enough until I work out how to reinforce them in some way.
I decided to place the disc binding on the landscape edge, just for a bit of a change, no other reason. I’ll be able to take the paper out of the binding to work on. This actually suits me just fine as the spines of sketchbooks really irk me when I work in them, be they sewn or spiral bound.
What I also like about the disc binding system compared to the book binding ring is that the holes in the paper are much closer to the edge. It’ll be much easier to leave a ‘margin’ on the paper.
Of course, there’ll be plenty of times when I’ll work in a commercially produced sketchbook still, especially as I’ve now rediscovered the joy of using one again. However, the ability to colour paper, use different kinds of paper and sizes of paper really appeals to me as a variation on the sketchbook theme.
The different sizes of papers also add a bit of intrigue to the sketchbook. There are glimpses of other designs and backgrounds further on that add to curiosity.
I can choose to add notes either to the back of the work or on sheets of dot-grid or squared paper I’ve added.
Nor am I precluded from adding journaling elements such as envelopes and pages with pockets, for instance.
The top page is an abstract drawing I completed this morning. The colour and pattern on the paper (a piece of ClaireFontaine Paint-On mixed media paper) was added by taking a print from alcohol inks on Yupo paper.
I spent some time yesterday evening experimenting with alcohol inks on Yupo paper (a synthetic paper). Once I was happy with what I’d made, I added some Alcohol Lift-Ink and used a brayer to spread it over the design. Quickly, I placed a sheet of mixed-media paper on top and allowed the alcohol inks to be transferred. If you’d like to know more about this technique, pop over to the Lavinia Stamps YouTube channel; they have lots of videos showing how this is done.
The inks lose their vibrance and become more muted when this is done, but it means it’s much easier to draw on the design without wrecking pens in the process.
I used Pitt Artist Pens by Faber-Castell to draw the abstract design on the paper. Once I was happy with the design, I added some metallic/pearlescent paints in shades of orange and yellow to some of the white/pale circles in the design. Sadly, the photograph hasn’t picked this up.
I decided to not to cover the whole paper with the drawn design. I wanted to leave some areas of the background as they were.
I really enjoy working like this – creating a colourful, textured background which I then use as inspiration for the line-work. It is, for me, a very meditative process. Of course, patterns and forms appear that I can then use in future artwork.
Of course, I could choose to intensify the colours in select places using any variety of media. Today, I have chosen to leave this as it is. I may scan it in and try this out digitally at another time.
Digital or Traditional Art?
Both! For me anyway. I do love working in both ways, and using them in concert too.
I love the portability and smaller scale of paper and pen/pencil, as well as using other traditional art and craft media.
I also love creating art digitally, sometimes using backgrounds I’ve created using traditional media or pen and ink drawings.
Each has their pros and cons. Each allows me to do things that the other can’t.
One thing I do know, however, is it takes time to become skillful in each and also to find your own artistic voice (or voices) for each medium used.
Which I use at any given time depends on the style of art I need to do, what kind of ‘finish’ I want with it, and also what my arty heart and soul requires at the time to be content and happy.
No matter which I use, I’m constantly trying new things out, or revisiting old techniques with fresh eyes and ideas. Of course, changing media and methods also freshens up my art and recharges my motivation when it’s in ebb rather than flow.
Stress, motivation and inspiration
This week has been dominated by stress from venturing forth from my home for the first time since March. When I’m anxious/stressed it can be incredibly difficult to settle to anything. Also, I can easily feel overwhelmed by even the simplest tasks. Activities that usually soothe me can irritate me. My ability to focus on anything approaches a vanishing point rather rapidly.
Working in a sketchbook has helped; there is then no pressure to create a finished piece of work, or even to finish any sketch or artwork. It’s just about doing and enjoying and exploring. I let go of my expectations of artistic success and replace them with expectations of finding some peace and contentment in the whirl of emotions I experience at times like this.
I find it hard to be motivated to create, and even more difficult to find inspiration. I tend to slip back into old, familiar and self-comforting styles of creating art.
Hence this style of abstract art.
Even when I do slip into a familiar style, the art produced may be familiar, but it’s moved along, altered either subtly or more noticeably showing the progress I’m making artistically. It also reflects the current variations in the particular fugue that my artistic voice wants to sing to satisfy it. My artistic voice, song, doesn’t have one tune, it has many, plenty of which are yet to be discovered.
It all began with a drawing in my A5 sketchbook. I then wanted to use it for digital art, and this is the result.
I’m really happy with the flower design. The black lines work in this instance; they give a stained-glass feel to the design.
I’m not at all sure about the background, however.I think I’ve just gone over the top, again. I just can’t seem to leave ‘white space’ in my art.
As a result, I tried some gold patterns on a rich, dark colour. Whatever I tried, just didn’t seem to work. Perhaps I could’ve created the line art in gold instead of black before adding colour. That may have worked out OK.
I’ve left it as it is, for now, as I’m tired and hungry. I’ll look at it with fresh eyes at some point. For now it’ll do, even as an example of art to remind me to work out when enough is enough!
Even though I’ve ended up a bit frustrated with my efforts on the background, I still enjoyed the process of creating this morning. It does make my inner light shine that bit brighter, and we all really need that extra bit of shine at this time of pandemics and more going on in the world.
I wanted a quote that went with the art, so I chose one about blooming and that sums up how I feel when I create, be it art or crafty pursuits. Even when the art goes in a direction I’m not happy with, there’s still a happiness inside that comes from just creating. There’s also a positive feeling about things not working as I want them to, artistically. It’s an opportunity to learn something, either artistically or personally. Today, the lesson is a reminder that I need to learn to leave ‘white space’ in my art.
It’s free to join the group, and the template is a freebie for members of the group.
This week, I created a mandala design with a background of geometric, repeating patterns.
I’m still recovering from the stress of my first trip out since March 2020. Drawing (and colouring) mandalas is an incredibly peaceful, relaxing and mindful activity. So, it was natural that I drew one.
The mandala design is based on some of the abstract art I’ve been doing of late. It’s a bit unusual for my mandalas, but I really do like the organic flow of the lines.
Even though the design is abstract, the repeating symmetry of a mandala bring some structure to the design. I am looking forward to seeing how members of the group add colour to the design.
The geometric patterns in the background also result in a soothing, repetitive rhythm for colouring; a rhythm that results in soothing and calming ones mind and emotions.
I have been totally shaken by the level of anxiety/stress that resulted from my trip out on Tuesday. I am beginning to feel more my contented and calm self. However, I find I’m still irritable and grumpy and have withdrawn from social media and the like for most of the day.
It was a sobering thought when I realised I’d lived most of my life constantly at elevated stress levels, often as higher than what I experienced in the past couple of days.
It’s also a wonderful realisation that I can recognise this now, and I also am able to allow myself self-care time to let all the stress hormones leach from my body. It’s been a long time since they peaked in this way.
It makes me extremely grateful to my therapist for her years of patient work with me. Experiences like the Tuesday Trip remind me of how I used to be and show me how far I have come in recovery from cPTSD.
Yesterday, after my social media post, I binged watched the Harry Potter films from The Order of the Phoenix. I found I was irritated by crochet. I tried cross-stitch, which irritated me too. Eventually, I settled on knitting, which, oddly, soothed me. I think it’s because I could knit and watch the film. Knitting allowed me to channel my irritability into something creative. As I can knit without looking at the knitting, I could also watch and immerse myself in the films at the same time.
My fingers are itching to knit again, now I’ve thought about it.
Even though I slept well last night, I’m still feeling really tired today. This happens as part of the post-stress come-down. It can last a few days. I’ll not be rushing to nap, however. Napping has a knock-on effect on my ability to sleep at night when I’m like this. My naps tend to end up as periods of deep sleep, so I try not to take them unless it’s absolutely necessary.
It was a morning for some simple art. Art just for fun, relaxation and self-soothing. So, I thought that small watercolour gradient panels with really simple drawings on them and metallic and pearlescent paint highlights would be perfect.
For the first time ever I managed to create smooth colour gradients with watercolour. The secret, for me, was using a mix of water and gum arabic to wet the paper before applying the colour. Of course, working on such small pieces of watercolour paper helped. Still, it’s a personal achievement!
Once the panels were all done, itseemed a good idea to mount the little panels on some 4″ x 4″ blank cards. So I did just that and added a few more cards to my stash.
Stress and self-care
I had a really poor night’s sleep after the stress of my trip out to the pharmacy yesterday. I woke around 2:30am with a splitting headache and found it hard to get back to sleep. When I did, my alarm went off and woke me with quite a jolt.
I’d set my alarm last night as Wednesday is my delivery day with Able & Cole, and I like to get the deliver in and stored asap.
Once the delivery had come, around 6:30am. I had breakfast and then went back to bed to sleep.
I’m feeling a bit more centred and content now, but I’m still exhausted. So, today will be a quiet, self-care kind of day for me. I’ll be doing my best not to give in to the temptation to take a nap this afternoon so that I can sleep myself our properly tonight.
Yesterday, I wrote about trying out a black line drawing with watercolours and comparing it to similar artwork but with pencil lines. Here are the results. Well, the works in progress any way.
Drawing the design lightly in pencil has been my usual way of working with watercolour.
I like both. The black lines give a much more ‘stained glass’, dramatic kind of vibe to the artwork and also make the colours seem a lot more vibrant.
The pencil lines lead to a much more delicate kind of artwork. Even though the colours are just as vibrant, they seem a lot more muted.
I like them both, I think.
Either way, it was an interesting way to spend a few hours yesterday.
Finally venturing forth
Last night, I took the huge step of taking my car for petrol and going for a long drive to recharge the battery. The Welsh ruling on ‘stay local’ has been lifted, but we’re asked to observe social distancing and to stay home as much as possible, with only essential journeys being made.
My car needed petrol. It’s battery needed charging. It’s smart media system needed updating and wouldn’t update with the battery low. So, I decided that a drive around, with me not stopping, would be fine to do. Especially as it gave my emotional health a boost and helped me with some of the anxiety I felt about leaving my home for the first time since the middle of March.
Driving turned out to be a lovely experience. I felt safe, isolated in my little car. It was weird to drive again after so long, but it was also exciting. I’ve always loved driving, so it was a pleasure to do so once more. A bit of a reward for following all the guidelines.
I was scared about getting petrol. However, I was the only one at the petrol station and it turned out to be just fine.
Seeing the countryside closer up was also a refreshing change. It also made me a little sad as I realised how much of the change of seasons I’ve missed this year. It’s like all of spring has been cut out.
I was hoping to stop by a small, usually quiet supermarket on my way home, to see how I got on with that. But I just couldn’t. So, I came home.
This little trip was important in other ways. I knew I had to go out to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription this month. To make that my first trip out would’ve been too much in one go.
So, early-ish this morning, I went to the pharmacy. It was so quiet in the town. There were cars in the car park, but very few people were around and about.
I did have to queue outside the pharmacy, but there was just one person ahead of me and so we chatted, over 2m apart until one person had left and she could go in. I had quite a wait before I could go in, and then a wait for my prescription to be filled (they’d had it for quite a few days, so I was surprised it wasn’t done; next time I think I’ll phone the day before and ask if can be ready the next day). When I came out, there was quite a queue outside so I’d timed my visit just right.
It was straight back home for me after that, for a late breakfast.
I’m pleased that I found the strength and courage to do this errand. I am feeling absolutely drained though as I must’ve been a lot more stressed than I thought I was. So, it’ll be a self-care day today.
Yesterday, I made a pair of covers for a custom sketchbook. I also spent some time cutting up watercolour and mixed media paper to go into it. Each piece of paper is approx. 4″ square.
I then added colour to both sides of four of the pieces of mixed media paper (Claire Fontaine brand) using PaperArtsy Fresco paints, Daler-Rowney gold acrylic paint and a piece of Cut’n’Dry foam from Ranger.
I also added watercolour to four pieces of watercolour paper, just on one side. I used this as an opportunity to just play with colour, no idea in my head of what to create.
Later on in the day, I wielded Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens on one of the Fresco paint coloured pages (the one on the right). I just wanted to draw. No preconceptions of what would appear on the page.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve created art like this and I actually got a great deal of satisfaction out of the process. That surprised me, as black lines on colour had really not felt right to me for a long while now. It may be that I just needed a break from this style of art.
This morning, I took another piece of the Fresco paints coloured paper and drew a different design. Again, it was something I really enjoyed doing.
I’m really quite pleased with both designs. I think I’ll be using them for inspiration for some watercolour pieces in the near future. My only problem is whether to draw the designs out in black ink, dark pencil or faint pencil before adding watercolour! I think I’ll need to try these out before settling on a method.
What I also really like is working on a small scale. I’ve always been a ‘dainty’ artist; I find it hard to work on large scale artworks. It’s the fine, intricate detailed drawings and paintings that I enjoy creating, as well as abstract art.
Also, I really like the texture the Fresco paints leave on the paper – both for drawing on and the visual interest they create in the background. I’m so glad I haven’t done that destash and tidy-up yet as I know these paints were some of the items that were due to go. Now, they’ll be kept. I’m also glad I have a good supply of the Cut’n’Dry foam too.
I wish I’d placed the holes in the covers of my custom sketchbook closer together. That way I’d be able to add rectangular pieces of paper more easily. That’s something for me to consider the next time I make such a sketchbook.
I have some discs and a punch for disc binding in my stash. This may be something to consider using for another custom sketchbook as it would easily allow the inclusion of different sized papers in the sketchbook. Now my mind is working on using that! I think I need to jot my ideas down in my journal.
What I like about these kinds of systems is the ability to add different papers in where I want them – to shuffle things around as needed.
Last night, I bought a book called “Paint Yourself Calm” by Jean Haines. It’s about playing with watercolours and colour to gain a sense of calm. Not for any other purpose. Not to create great art. Not to produce anything. Just for the sheer enjoyment of working with watercolours and colour.
The concept appealed to me. I do find it hard to let go of the idea that I have to create finished art. I think that’s part of the instinct to start up a sketchbook practice again too. There’s no pressure to complete finished art in a sketchbook.
So, I was taken by one exercise in the book, which is to draw a shape, with watercolour, around five blank areas on the paper, and then colour the rest of the page with watercolours.
I grabbed one of the A5 Arteza mixed media sketchbooks I have. The paper isn’t the thickest and it did warp, but the colour does bloom and flow when the paper is wet in almost as good a way as it does on the high quality 100% cotton papers I have. I was just playing around and, despite the advice in the book, I just couldn’t feel I was wasting some of my best paper.
I used yellow to start with. I needed some sunshine yesterday evening. It had been a dull, grey, high-windy, wet day here in Wales, UK. So, sunshine was needed, and watercolours could provide it.
Once I’d got the area around the white spaces wet with watercolour, I dropped some oranges and reds into it. Small drops that blossom and bloom like tiny flowers and then flow one into another to create patterns of colour.
I also ran water down the page in rivulets to move the colours some more. And I added some pearlescent gold acrylic ink to these rivulets and let it flow and move, blossom and bloom as it wished.
Once it was all dry, I felt the need to add patterns in black pen. I ended up with patterns that remind me very much of plant cells under a microscope.
The whole process was very calming, meditative and settled me down to go to sleep.
Art Journal Covers
To the right of the watercolour, you can see two covers I’ve made for an art journal. I used some really sturdy cardboard and punched two holes in each. This way I’ll be able to use book binding rings to assemble the covers and internal pages. Each board measures 4.5″ x 5″ and I’ll use papers that are a maxium size of approx 4″ square in it.
I covered both sides with white gesso before using PaperArtsy Fresco chalk paints to colour them in a patchy, grungy way. I’m so grateful I hadn’t got rid of them, as I am thinking of having a major clearout of my stash at some point in time.
I wanted the colours to look a bit like the verdigris on weathered copper. Once dry, on the fronts, I added some medium grain texture gel. Once that was dry, I dry-brushed copper paint so it picked up the texture on both the back and fronts of the covers. Finally, I used the copper paint to edge the boards.
You can’t really see the copper in the photos, but it is there! I’m quite pleased with this.
It’s taken me a couple of days to complete this small watercolour. The paper is approx 5¼” x 3¼”. So, it’s tiny and rather detailed.
I stuck to my intention of using blues, teals, greens and purples. This palette gives a rather calming and tranquil feel to the artwork. That was also the mood I was doing my best to create for myself.
I’m usually calm, content when I create. However, events in life can disrupt that to some degree, mainly my ability to relax and settle into my artistic or creative pursuits.
I do enjoy doing these abstract watercolours; the lack of black lines is a change for me, but something I’m learning to be comfortable with. It’s taken me a long time and many, many trials with that. Digital art has been the medium that has helped me find that sense of comfort at leaving out the black lines.
It’s nice that I’m able to translate those skills into more traditional media, particularly watercolours. I love the way watercolours work, but I’ve never found a way for them to work for me. I’ve struggled with them time and time again. However, I think that these abstract watercolour art experiments have helped me.
I love to see people create beautiful botanical watercolours, especially the looser kinds. Whenever I try it, as successful as I may be, it never seems right to me. It never sits ‘right’ in my creative soul. It’s another case of finding out what isn’t me to help me discover, or accept, what is me.
In that vein, my sketchbook is gaining small drawings of abstract designs. Whether I use all of them for paintings is a moot point at the moment. Making use of a sketchbook again is something that seems important at this time. In some ways it’s nice as there is no pressure to get something right or perfect. There’s still quite a bit of the hyper-perfectionist in me, though I’m better at recognising when something is ‘good enough’ to be finished.
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