Swallow skull, Clathus Ruber and Lola tangle pattern.
This one is a riot of colour and I’m not entirely sure it works. However, I took my colour inspiration from the Clathus ruber fungus and thought green would play nicely against the reds, oranges and yellows. I’m not at all sure about the end result.
The swallow skull was simple to draw, so I took the opportunity to try colouring and shading with it to gain some depth and dimension. I think I achieved it, though the contrast between shadow and light could be greater.
The skull was so small so it lent itself to being drawn in a mandala-style ring; that’s how I ended up drawing another mandala today.
I definitely stylised the Clathus ruber fungus, with it ending up looking more like a holey autumnal leaf than the fungus itself. However, no one said the fungus had to be realistic!
The lola tangle pattern formed the two outer rings of foliage.
I worked digitally using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Surface Pen and Surface Studio from Microsoft.
I’m using Inktober 2019 prompts from these lovely people on Instagram – @book_polygamist (animal skulls), @nyan_sun (mushrooms) and @havepen_willdraw (tangle patterns).
A little later today I’m going to wend my way to Llandudno for an overnight stay in preparation for an event tomorrow, which is mental health day. I’m attending the Wales Health at Work Partnership Summit to set up a small stand and to take part in two ‘Open Minds’ workshops, which will focus on mental health and wellbeing in the work environment.
I’m feeling a bit anxious, which is normal. I’ve never been to Llandudno. I’ve not travelled further north than Llandridnod Wells (which is on my route). I’m travelling alone, overnight, for the first time in many, many years.
Challenges for me will be eating. I’m not good at going into unfamiliar places by myself to eat, especially at night. I’d also like to take a walk along the seafront and I’m hoping I’ll be able to manage that too. I also would like to stop along my way for a late lunch.
I’m feeling a bit tired. I had a really weird dream that relates to the anxiety I feel about the trip.
So, I’d better finish posting Inktober day 9 across my social media and then myself packed and sorted for my little trip.
I decided to colour the bat skull and mushrooms to contrast with the graphic nature of the zentangle patterns I used to draw the background mandala.
For a bit of fun, I added an eerie glow to the eye and nasal sockets of the skull. Well, bats, spooky and October-Hallowe’en just go together! Of course, black, white and purple makes for a spooky colour scheme too. I think I’ve made the purple a bit dark, but it’s good enough! I can always, always rework my design in the future if I need to.
I wanted to keep the skull and mushrooms quite stylised rather than realistic. That’s hard for me to do when I’m working from photographic references.
In the past, I have drawn objects in an almost scientifically accurate kind of way. However, I do think that one of my strengths as an artist is being able to simplify and stylise whatever motifs and design elements I’m working with.
I have used Inktober 2019 prompts on from three lists on Instagram for today’s drawing:
Animal Skulls by @book_polygamist
Mushrooms by @nyan_sun
Tangles by @havepen_willdraw
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
Yesterday’s EMDR session was productive if a bit painful and distressing with the thoughts, emotions and body feelings that arose during the session. I was left feeling a bit dazed but not too bad; I even managed to stop on my way home and wander around three shops, though I did baulk at the fourth one and decided it was time to head home.
After having something to eat and a bit mug of tea I was cwtched up in bed and asleep before 8pm. I didn’t wake until past 8am this morning. Between a late night on Sunday and EMDR yesterday I must have been absolutely exhausted. I’m still feeling a bit tired now.
Although I do feel a bit tired, I’m also feeling quite content. That is helped by it being a sunshiny day and sunshine always helps my mood.
Back to EMDR. I’m working with a physical sensation in my body at the moment. There seems to be no memories of trauma associated with it. However, that may be because there’s lots and lots of similar traumas rolled into one, or I may have dissociated from the memory – the memory being too painful to remember. However, the trauma is stored in the body and emotions and it is being processed.
I’ve experienced a foul, nauseating smell, a horrible taste in my mouth, a sensation that my heart can’t ‘breathe’, a feeling of tentacles being wrapped around my heart, nausea, pains in my abdomen, back, neck, head, my face going numb, my fingers feeling as if they are being burned, electric shocks in my feet and hands, lumps in my throat, a feeling of being restrained by my upper arms, fear, disgust, overwhelming sadness, and a heavy emptiness inside me. There’s also been a an awareness that I just don’t feel right, a feeling of being out of balance, of not knowing what someone or some people expect of me, that whatever I do is never right or good enough. I haven’t experienced these things all at once as I process this particular trauma; each comes and then goes as I just let it ‘happen’. All this happens in the 25 to 45 minutes an EMDR session lasts.
So much goes on in my body, with my emotions and with distressing memories that I can be left exhausted afterwards.
Yet, I know it’s working and helping me have a healthier relationship with myself. That feeling of being content is proof of that!
Pen drawing with digital shading and texture added.
I’m quite happy with this one, though I messed up a bit with the twiddly swirly foliage. I also can see how I could’ve had the flowers growing out of some of these curly bits. However, if I ever choose to rework this drawing I can do so at another time.
This one is much more stylised than yesterday’s drawing of a chameleon skull. I like how I’ve used a combination of patterns and stippling to add shadow and depth to the skull. I also like how I’ve kept the rest of the design fairly simple in contrast.
I decided not to add colour to this, for now.
To draw the design I used Sakura Micron and Uniball Unipin pens on an 8″ x 8″ piece of Claire Fontaine Paint On multi techniques paper.
For the digital texture and shading I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio.
I wanted to try to create a series of templates that could be used as frames for quotes. This is my first one. I remembered to save it as tiff file in layers so that I can easily change the background.
I didn’t start with the intention of creating waves filled with zentangle-type patterns, but that’s how it intuitively flowed from the tip of my Surface Pen onto the screen of my Surface Studio. So, I went with it.
It’s a very comfortable kind of art to create, whether you call it zentangle, zentangle inspired, entangled artwork, line art, doodled art. It’s just about filling space with patterns and lines, using them to add depth and dimension.
It was an enjoyable process that I could complete in a few sessions in-between a hectic few days.
The saga of the keyboard.
Saturday my Bluetooth keyboard decided to not connect to the Surface Studio. It had been finicky for a few days. I changed batteries, I tried disconnecting it and reconnecting it and following all the trouble-shooting processes I could find. All to no avail. This is why I’ve not done any blogs and been quiet around social media, along with life being a bit busy too.
It also worked out that the warranty on my Surface Studio and all it’s attendant bits and bobs had run out just over three weeks ago. Yes, I do have software I can use the Surface Pen with or a keyboard that pops up on the screen that I can tap with my fingers or mouse or pen, but they are so slow and frustrating to use in comparison to the speed at which I can type. I do love to handwrite, even on the screen. However, as I can’t turn the ‘paper’ or ‘writing window’ to an angle that makes it comfortable for me to write at I don’t do as much as I could.
Of course, I’d forgotten I still have, and use my Surface Book. However, when something goes wrong, my mind goes into instant ‘oh my gosh, I’ve got to sort that out as there’s no other way to get things done’ overwhelmed and panic mode. It’s only after I have solved the problem and calm down that I can see that I had alternatives open to me.
So, my brain told me my only option was to buy a new keyboard. Then I had a decision to make. Should I go for a wireless one or a wired one?
I decided on a wired one as that should always connect to the ‘puter. I also was beguiled by a keyboard that has pretty rainbow lights beneath the keys. Sparkly and colourful always attracts me.
So, I now have a keyboard and can email and write and do everything else that requires words from me quickly once again.
World Suicide Prevention Day 2019
Warning – this may contain emotional and mental health triggers.
The World Health Organisation says that one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds.
In the UK, two people take their own lives every day.
In the UK, men account for approximately 75% of all suicides.
In the UK, suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20 to 49.
They also say that one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in suicide prevention is the stigma and taboo that surrounds suicide and mental health problems.
The stigma and taboos that surround talking openly about suicide leads to a lack of awareness about suicide, and also about mental illness.
I am a champion for Time To Change Wales, a campaign whose aim is to get people talking about mental illness to break down the stigma that surrounds it. This also includes suicide.
As a champion, one of the things I do is to go to organisations and other groups to talk about my experience of mental illness and the stigma and discrimination I have faced. This includes self-stigma.
Thanks to self-stigma, I was in denial that I was experiencing mental and emotional ill-health for many years. It led to me not seeking help until I had nearly broken my mind. I ended up being off work as a teacher for almost a year. I went back to work for just eight months before I had another ‘breakdown’ for want of another word.
What I don’t often mention, and what I think also needs to be discussed here, is suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts. These are thoughts about wishing to die, wanting life to stop, hoping that one would not wake up in the morning. Not actively planning suicide, but wishing that life would end to bring the mental and emotional pain to an end.
For a long as I can remember, right back to being young, I can remember wishing this upon myself. I often wanted to die in my sleep and not have to face another day like the one I just had. I didn’t feel loved or valued in any way, and the constant bullying, name-calling, being ignored and neglected. I felt a burden, a bother, a nuisance, an irritation, a problem to my family. I thought they would be happier without me. That the world would be a better place without me. I never thought of actively taking my own life, but I certainly wished to die.
That belief about myself has followed me throughout my life. Sometimes it would be quiet, at other times it would be shouting through a megaphone in my head.
I remember driving to work most days in the last few years of my teaching career wanting to just keep driving and never come back to my life as it had become so very, very painful for me and I could see no way out of the pain.
I never did drive off towards the horizon as I didn’t actually know what I would do. Also, the thought of my cat and how he’d not cope without me would pop into my head. And so I would get myself to work so I could look after my cat.
At the time, it felt my cat was the only living thing that was consistently and unconditionally there for me, sharing love and affection with me. I still miss him now, a bit more than a year when I had to say goodbye to him.
I owe my life to my cat, and to the one friend (now my brother of the heart/choice) who kept nagging me about getting help, and the GP who knew the right words to say to me to get me to understand I needed help and a break from work and also from my mind. Now, I am also so grateful to my EMDR therapist for persisting with me.
I have tears flowing down my face as I write about this. The tears represent the sadness that I feel that I was ignorant of what good mental and emotional health is and of the stigma I held about it in regards to myself. Oddly, I never had those thoughts about others who were experiencing mental illness, having helped others during their own crises. I feel sad that I have lived most of my life with poor mental and emotional health, thinking that was how everyone else was. I feel sad that only now am I learning what it is like to have a touchstone of contentment and optimism to hold onto when times get tough.
The tears are also ones of gratitude that I’m still here. I have come through the darkest days of my life. My career has changed, and my life is gradually changing for the better, as is my mental and emotional health.
I rarely have suicidal thoughts now. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did. That says something about how far along my healing journey I have come.
If someone had told me in my darkest days that my life would be as it is now, with that contentment within me, an optimism for my future, I might not have believed them. In fact, I most probably wouldn’t have.
However, I am here to say that I made it through it all. Through my childhood and adulthood and now into middle age.
I wish I’d known what I know now as a child. Maybe I would’ve sought help sooner in my life.
What I wish for everyone is that every person on this planet is given the information about what good mental and emotional health is. I want mental and emotional health to be seen as important as physical health with the links between them fully recognised, and support is available to all who need it.
No matter how bad life seems, there are always options to improve it. This is something I’ve had to learn. In fact, I’m still learning about it. When I get overwhelmed, or something goes wrong, I tend to slip into the black and white thinking mode.
That’s what the black and white borders to today’s art is about. The complexity shows just how crazily my mind was working during the darkest days.
For the space between them, the background on which the quote sits, I chose colours that remind me of a sunrise. A new day, with a fresh mind and eyes always comes with new options, if only we can see them.
My story has not ended. It will not end until my life is naturally completed. For the first time in my life, I have a feeling of optimism for my future. It may have taken me two severe episodes of mental ill-health and several years of EMDR therapy and counselling to get to this point. But I’ve got there.
No matter how much of my life I have left, it will be lived with some contentment, peace and hope for my future. I wish the same for each and every person.
This morning I thought I’d try out a little experiment. Instead of drawing the design first, I used my Chameleon markers to lay down colour shapes and gradients and then add the line art.
I remembered to take a photo of the colour pattern I created, so you can see where I started. I had started adding some line art on it.
After adding the black line art, I then added gold embellishments using a gold gel pen. These are mainly on the background, where I wanted to add some interest.
One thing I’d change if I could do this over is to keep the same pale yellow to pink gradient background instead of the blue section to the middle left. I also meant to use pencils to add some depth of colour to some of the flat-looking areas. It would also have been a good idea to use them to increase the illusion of 3D in some of the patterned regions.
Do you know, I often say that I should’ve added some shadows when I post what I think is a finished piece of art. I need to put a huge post-it note on my Surface Studio to remind me about this!
My final step was to use a piece of foam to sponge some black Distress Ink around the edge to give it a bit of a border. I’m not so sure this was a good idea; the edges are a bit more defined, but they also look a bit dirty and grungy. One lives and learns, eventually.
It certainly was an experiment for me with traditional media. The method I’ve used here is a bit like the method I use when creating digital art. There, I start with a block of colour for the section I’m working on and then add shadow and light and ‘carve’ patterns into it using various methods.
Let me know what you think about this little design.
Oh, it is a little design. The card blank is aprox. 5½” by 4″ (14cm x 10cm)and the design is approx. 3″ by 4¾” ( 8cm x 12cm)
So, Angela, how are you doing today?
I’m doing ok. I had a good night’s sleep and so am feeling more alert and upbeat. I’m still a bit achy in the lower tummy area, but it’s nearly completely gone now.
Yesterday was a self-care day. I didn’t eat much; my appetite had departed me almost entirely. What I did eat made me feel sicky. That’s better today, as in I’ve had breakfast and though I didn’t eat much before I was full, I did eat.
I wasn’t happy with any art, or just about anything else I did; I just got frustrated with it and myself. Instead, I did spend a lot of the day cwtched up warm, crocheting and listening to Audible (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire read by Stephen Fry). Eventually, I settled down to sleep a little earlier than usual.
I’m glad to say that my mood seems a bit brighter and more stable today.
This morning, I’ve been busy ‘art-ing’, and I need to pop out soon. Errands to do and I need a bit of a walk as well. It looks like it’s going to stay dry for a while. That’s always a good thing. The temperature outdoors is more refreshing than it has been of late, which will make walking far more pleasant for me. It will help to blow the cobwebs away. Maybe it will also help with the stiffness/tenderness that those abdominal cramps have left in their wake. I may also find some inspiration for some more creative words in my journal too.
Yesterday, I got round to colouring my little reef drawing. And it is a little drawing – the paper is just 4″ square (10cm square).
To colour it, I used my Chameleon pens – both the Color Tones and Color Tops. I finished the illustration off with some small dots from a white Uniball Signo gel pen.
What I didn’t expect was that the pigment from the Uniball Unipin pens bled somewhat. I don’t remember that happening before. Mind you, I usually scan and print my black and white line art and colour the print. I didn’t do that today — something to remember for future reference. This is why some of the colours look a little dirty.
All the same, it’s a colourful, happy little illustration. I also like the thickness of the main lines with the variation in line thickness in the details. Diversity in line weight is something I need to remember when I draw digitally. Looking at my latest colouring templates, I think I may have used a line that was too fine. Again, this is something that I need to consider in the future.
It’s always lovely to do artwork like this, using traditional media and working in a familiar, comfortable style. It gives me a chance to reflect on what I’m doing elsewhere and to adapt and change what I’m doing to improve it.
Creating this artwork has given me ideas for some projects in the future. More on that when they come to fruition.
So, Angela, how are you doing today?
I’m doing OK. I’m feeling a lot brighter as the aftermath of Monday’s bombshell fades.
I’m aware I really don’t get out of the house and move my body around much. I either get engrossed in art and the day slips past me quite quickly. Or, my anxiety rears up and try as I might to overcome it, I just can’t seem to make it out of the house.
After a conversation with a friend the night before, I remembered that I like to walk around cemeteries and that my local cemetery might be the perfect place to go for a stroll.
And I did. Go for a stroll.
My love affair with cemeteries started when I used to walk to and from school when I was 11 and 12 years old. Walking to school was always a bit of a dash. However, I could take my time on the walk home to wander and explore the cemetery.
Even on the gloomiest, darkest winter afternoons, I never got freaked out by the cemetery. The dead have never scared me. The living, however, are an entirely different matter. The living people around me were the source of my traumas and CPTSD. The dead could do nothing to me that was any worse than the living.
I found the variation in headstone styles fascinating. I found I could chart the change in fashions over time. I also found reading them fascinating as some of them could tell me about the deceased and their families. It was history related to real people and brought them back to life. It wasn’t the dusty, dry, uninteresting facts in the history lessons I had to endure in school.
And so began my love of wandering around cemeteries.
I find them soothing, calm places to be. They’re quiet, not many people visit them. And there’s plenty of wildlife in them if you’re quiet and take the time to look.
Perfect places for me to walk and explore. Even on the days when anxiety stops me going to more people-y places like towns or parks, a cemetery can offer me that quiet space I need to take a walk.
If you’d like to see some photos and read some words about my walk and the cemetery, then please visit my other blog, Curious Stops and Tea Shops.