Autumn Equinox 2017 and the first pumpkin of the season!

dav Autumn officially arrived here in the Northern Hemisphere yesterday, astronomically speaking.

And with autumn comes the desire to knit pumpkins.  I have no idea why, but it’s something that I did last year, followed by knitted christmas trees and stars.

I think it may have something to do with the nights drawing in, the cooler temperatures, the cosy and candle-lit home.

It may also have something to do with the fact that as it’s getting cooler my cat thinks I’m warm-blooded furniture again and he requires lots of lying on and cuddling up to me.  Drawing is nearly an impossibility with him on my lap, but he will let me knit; he doesn’t even try to play with the yarn or needles.

So, as the nights grow longer and the days shorter, my workspace may end up being increasingly on the bed to keep a kitty happy and lest pesky, and that’s fine by me.

That was something that started when I had my first extended bout of depression/anxiety 3 or 4 years ago and I just wanted to be in bed, a pattern that was repeated during my second extended bout.  Indeed, in the first few weeks of the medication that’s the only place I could be for several hours a day as it zonked me out totally.  I think the cat got really used to my presence in his domain; he loves the bedroom and rarely ventures out of it.  Indeed, he’ll become a total pest if I’m downstairs and he wants my company upstairs so he can settle down for big sleeps.  I’m usually happy to go and spend the short time it takes for him to settle in that instance.

Having said that, he’s taken to being pesky and testy if I overstay my time in the bed and he wants to get under the duvet to settle down for big sleeps now the weather is cooler once again.

Yes, I have one crazy cat, and I love him very much. He’s nearly 16 years old, so he’s entitled to be the boss and make demands I think.  He’s also been a really good companion for me through some of the darkest times of my life.

I wonder if he’d let me weave … most probably!

Still, the first pumpkin of the season has arrived – it’s approx 5.5″ across and 3.75 inches high.  I knitted it in chunky weight yarn on 5 mm needles.

Playing with colour

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I’ve been quiet around ‘tinternet for a couple of weeks – problems with my mood, instead of starting many new things I’ve been spending time organising a reference collection of my favourite patterns and designs of things like fungi and buildings and creatures and so on and its very much a work in progress!  The process of going through the familiar and organising them is comforting to me …

I have done some new drawings for the Eerie project for Dover – not many left to do for the book, then the hard work is deciding which two I would like to colour in the most, always a problem.

Plans are afoot for a change in my online presence too … more as that happens!

The above images show one artwork I started last night and finished this morning.  Most probably about 8 or 10 hours of work.  Distress Oxides, Cosmic Shimmer watercolours and a Sakura Glaze pen were used. When light strikes the artwork at just the right angle, the metallics and iridescents bring the artwork to life; it’s like it lights up all by itself.  A joyful feeling for sure as I look at it.

It was nice to work with colour and the more traditional media rather than digital art, though, yet again, I noticed how drawing with the Surface Pen on my Microsoft Surface Book are having an effect on my work on paper.

One thing I did enjoy was adding the sparkle and shimmer to the artwork, something I’ve not found out how to do digitally (or even if you can!).

So, I now have satisfied a need in me to work with colour and pen and I can turn my attention back to the illustrations for the Eerie book, and on to other things after that is done.

For today, I head off soon for counselling/EMDR, and to have my acrylic nails removed once again as they really do get in the way of me typing, art-ing, using my phone…and no doubt I’ll do some drawing while I have a late lunch between nail removing and counselling.

Art and my healing journey

 

 

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A page of floral sketches from my sketchbook.

This is a little bit of a different blog post from me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I experience CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder), which presents itself in many ways, including anxiety, depression, and a low self-esteem.

I’ve had lots of counselling over the past eight years or so, and for the last two and a half years I’ve had a lovely therapist who specialises in EMDR therapy.  It’s taken a long while for me to get to the point where I believe that such a gentle kind of therapy works, and works for me.  It’s still a slow process…but progress is being made.  A major change in employment nearly a year ago seriously helped with that.

Last week, my counsellor suggested I read a book called ‘Tapping In’ by Laurel Parnell.  In the book, Laurel Parnell describes how the process of bilateral stimulation by means of tapping the knees or outer thighs can be used to reinforce a safe place, helpful guardians and other tools to help during both therapy and everyday life.  My own therapist has successfully used it to reduce anxiety during a dental appointment as well as aiding in sleep.

She suggested I read the book and we do some work on the resources I need before continuing with EMDR as the last few sessions have left me rather upset, fragile, and, unsually for me, unable to find my ‘safe place’ at the end of a session, so that I can leave the fragile and upset state behind.

So,  yesterday we worked on my safe place, with me coming up with a new one and ‘tapping in’ the contentment, peace and safety I feel when I imagine myself there. The bilateral stimulation from alternating taps to the outer knees, helps to reinforce the feeling of the place, and actually helps to intensify it.

I have no problem imagining places I can go to in my imagination; I’ve used guided meditations over the years for various purposes.  When it comes to me coming up with my own imaginary places, it never ceases to surprise me what these places are like!

The other thing that was suggested after I’d verbally described my place, was to spend time over the week drawing/painting/creating images of this place, as well as practicing the process of tapping in my safe place and using it to help me manage my current high anxiety levels.  (My anxiety intensified greatly yesterday, not as a result of counselling, but by the decision to hold a ‘snap general election’ and my worries about what is happening in this country, in the world, which then gets transferred to worrying about finances as I’m now self-employed, and so on and the constant chatter of anxiety winds itself up if I’m not careful).

Me being me, I get to it almost straight away…starting with these mandalas

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Mandalas based on the feelings I get when I’m in my ‘safe place’.

Carl Jung used mandalas to represent/express the current state of the self:

“My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which was presented to me anew each day…I guarded them like precious pearls….It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation. ” – Carl Jung

So, I started with some abstract, intuitive mandalas to try to express the feelings I have when I think of my safe place, when I remember the feelings I have when I’m there.

Next, I wanted to draw some kind of representation of a view from one of the windows of my place.  And this is what I came up with, though the view changes all the time!

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Yes, I know water isn’t yellow, but in my inner world it can be!  It also shimmers with gold and has lots of shining gold and blue ‘dots’ in it.  Lots of happy creatures and colours there, all entertaining me … diverting my attention away from my anxiety.

Yes, I use art to help me manage my mental health.  When anxious, doing art helps me become less so; when depressed, art lifts my mood.  I’m sure the inner critic chatters away even when I’m ‘arting’, but the art takes my attention so the critic’s voice can be ignored.

Oh, before I drew anything, I took time to write a clear description of my safe place, as words are how I build up mind images.

I’m looking forward to ‘tapping in’ help for creativity, amongst other things… I’m also looking to intuitively drawing and creating some more of the living things that I can see from my safe place – all friendly and protective of course, nothing scary allowed there!  Which suits my tendency to rather whimsical, cutesy, artistic style.

So, I’ve shared a little of my ‘safe place’, but I’m keeping a lot of details to myself – no offence, but I don’t want any gate crashers there!

Artistic journeys…

Mixed media

IMG_0650My previous blog post about a mixed media work in progress is still on hold, although I have added a crackle paint to it in places, which has added some texture to it.  I’m pleased with the result, but I still am not sure what else to do to complete it.

I have completed a very textured background for some mixed media work; you can see it above.  What I’m going to do with it I’m not quite sure, but I’m sure it will all come together at the right time.

Abstract Line Art

I’ve been drawing more ‘Doodle Worlds’ images from time to time and now need to gather them together to see if there’s enough for another ‘book’ for the Colorist app.

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I also turned my attention to colour and pattern and the two images above are the results of around three to four days work.

I used A4 300g/m² smooth watercolour paper and applied distress inks to create the coloured areas.  I wanted to create the illusion of shadow and light in these areas.  Next, I used various drawing pens to add the patterns.  On the green piece, I’ve added copper and gold coloured metallic highlights.  The pink one isn’t quite finished yet.

Sketchbooks and my artistic journey

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As the days are becoming lighter and warmer, my thoughts are going to getting out to visit places and to do some sketching/drawing (intense anxiety and intense self-consciousness allowing).

With this in mind, I’ve prepared pages in an A5 and an A4 sketchbook.  I’ve used Distress and Distress Oxide Inks.

The image above shows the first page in my A4 sketchbook, a page full of daisies, worked using different media, trying out different styles and degrees of detail.

I like to work on a coloured background, I don’t know why, I just do.  I think it may be that I like to add shadows and highlights to create and image from the colour on the page.

I’ve not done much in the way of sketchbook work for a long while, but the need to revisit and to continue to explore different ways of expressing myself artistically has surfaced.  I think this is a much over-due response to the surfeit of work on colouring books in the past three or so years, as well as the struggle I’ve had with my mental health.

My energy, when mentally able, has been focused on completing the work I was contracted for with various publishers.  I enjoyed the work, the subject matter pushed my boundaries in the subjects I tackled.  I’m so grateful for that work as well as it allowed me to make changes in my working life that helps me to take care of my mental health.  It was/is also an activity that helps me manage my mood.  I lose myself in drawing/creating, finding myself ‘in the flow’ where my mind stills, or, rather, where I no longer pay attention to the inner critic.

However, the colouring book work was the focus of my artistic energies for much of that time, and I had little energy left to explore other areas of artistic expression.  I didn’t mind that at all, as I’ve said, I enjoyed all the work I did, and I will continue to create templates.  However, that is not all I want to do or to create.

I now have time to revisit ways of artistic expression I put to one side in my focus on the work for publishers, and I have the chance to see how my skills and expression have developed/changed.  I also get the chance to explore and discover new ways of expressing myself, using new media.

In this way I can continue to discover, practice and refine my artistic voice and vocabulary.  I still feel like a toddler in the world of art.  I wonder if I’ll ever progress from that state.

The biggest obstacle to me doing this is the lack of belief and confidence I have in myself and my artistic abilities.  I also have a problem in deciding on what to draw.  Then, there’s also the issue of finding themes/styles/media to explore that will challenge me just enough that I feel I can make a good attempt at them and gain confidence in them, but not so much that it overwhelms me and I fail before even trying.

The most important thing for me, however, is to enjoy my artistic journey, no matter where it leads me.  The pleasure and peace I get from creating will be something that will serve me extremely well throughout the rest of my days on this planet.

 

Hope – flowerpunked. Art and my mental health.

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Just finished this one.

Hope.

Sometimes I have to walk away from something I’m working on as I despair it will work out to be anything near good enough.  Actually, it’s not sometimes, it’s most of the time!  However, I do persevere.

When I went to bed last night, this one was looking horrible.  I had the background done, the first layers of collaged patterned paper and the kind of hessian looking die-cut added too  I really wasn’t happy with it at all.

However, a good night’s sleep and a bit of inspiration on waking meant I knew where I wanted to go next, especially after I sorted out the jumble of die-cuts I have (note to self-get some way to organise these!).

Once started from the point of inspiration, the picture just grew to it’s finished state (well, I think it’s finished, that may change when I look at it again later on).

Hope.  A really good word here.  There’s always hope that no matter how bad I think something looks, , pushing past that often results in something good.  Indeed, sometimes the work can just be cut into pieces for use in another piece, which is how the iridescent, textured circles came to appear in this one.

Hope.  Making art always gives me hope that I can overcome the trials I face when my anxiety/depression/complex post-traumatic stress disorder kitcks itself up a few or several notches.  Art always gives me a place where I can lose myself in something that is meditative, mindful, self-soothing, and shows me that I can succeed even when the self-critic is telling me I’m useless, I can never get anything right, nothing is good enough, I’m a failure, and so on.

This past week or so, challenging myself to work with mixed media – something I’ve tried in the past and not really felt I was successful at – has been good to help me with the aftermath of a couple of rather strong anxiety attacks.  I’ve not had any for around a year now.

I was surprised by them and at their intensity and how they have impacted on how I live my life at the moment.  I find it difficult to go out into the world, want to hide away from people, and when I do go out it’s often in the dark hours so I’m not seen.

It also surprised me that this is how I used to live every single day for a very long time, most probably most of my life, until a few months ago.

Even though these two episodes have happened, I know I’ll get past them; I have in the past, and I can learn more about the triggers for them and also where this all comes from, which will help greatly in the counsellinge process.

So there’s hope I’ll improve in the long term, and blips are just that.  Just as I’ve hoped that my confidence and skill and expression via mixed media would improve.  I’ve just had a look back at the mixed media I’ve done in the last fortnight or three weeks, and even I can see how it’s all developed, in a positive way.

What’s made the difference for me with mixed media is finding the confidence to do my best to do it my way and to explore it in my way.  I have a lot more exploring to do, and a lot more confidence building in what I do with it. I will journey along this road, along with my drawing and illustration skills, maybe even writing, and with healing what I can of my mebtal health issues.

So, choosing the word hope for it to appear on this piece of art was most appropriate.

Time to Talk day, Hirameki fun and a partly coloured doodleedoo.

Time to Talk 2017

Yesterday was Time to Talk day; a day with the focus on encouraging people to talk, especially about mental health in order to help to end the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness experience.  Many celebrities and organisations supported this day, which is brilliant!

I’m a champion for Time to Change Wales.  This means I volunteer to go to events, businesses and organisations to encourage people to talk about mental health, as well as to tell my story of my mental health problems and the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced, as well as the help and understanding I’ve been given and the little things that employers did that helped me to remain in teaching for as long as I did.

It was quite appropriate that the first time I went to tell my story was on Time to Talk day!  I went to Remploy in Pontypridd and talked to both the employees and some of their service users.  Bev from Time to Change Wales was there to support me the first time I did this.

Getting the powerpoint presentation sorted was a major job for me and showed me how much my concentration has been affected by my extended bouts of anxiety/depression in the past few years.  It took me forever to add just five slides to the presentation!

Telling my story was easy, yet at the same time it was difficult.  It opened up some sores, brought back things I thought I’d left behind when I left teaching, and had me in tears at some points, which resulted in me making some self-stigmatising statments such as ‘sorry, I’m being stupid with these tears’ and then saying that was self-stigmatising.

I got through it.  Bev, the longest serving champion who’s done over 100 anti-stigma talks, said I did well.  People thanked me for sharing my story.

It was a good thing to do.

I came home emotionally drained and well out of sorts though.  I’m feeling a bit more me today, but still drained.  It was still worth it, still a good thing to do, especially if it gave one person what they needed to get the help or to talk about mental health themselves.

Arty goings on

One of the things I do to help re-balance me when I’ve been drained/overly emotional/triggered as I was yesterday is to have a nap.  The other thing is to do art.

Art has been my great source of solace and peace for me during my worst times, and it continues to be so.

I partly coloured in a doodle-type drawing, using my Copic markers this time.

After the talk yesterday, I had a wander to Churchill’s stationery in Pontypridd to pick up some art supplies.  There, I found a little book called Hirameki:Draw what you see by Peng and Hu.

“In the beginning was the blot.

A flash of inspiration, a light bulb moment, a stroke of genius…

With just a few strokes of the pen and a dash of your imagination hirameki gives a sublime and unexpected sense of satisfaction and delights the hand, eye and mind.  The little blot will reveal its true self.

Hirameki: pleasure from the smallest things.”

From ‘Hirameki: Draw What You See’ by Peng and Hu.

So, I had to have a go at this!  Here’s my first go at it…

I had a lot of fun, both making the blobs of colour and then trying to let my imagination run free.  I found out, however, that my imagination isn’t what I thought it was, or that it is rusty and out of use.  I will persevere, however, as there are some characters/objects there that I can make use of in my doodly style of art!  They’ll be added to my visual vocabulary/library in my zibaldone.

Happy 2017, and a personal review of 2016

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See the end of the post for the line art version if you’d like to download, print and copy for yourself!

I know, it’s a little early, but I thought I’d post this today, as well as a bit of a personal review of the past year.

2016 has been an interesting year for me, one of some major changes in my life.

It started with me being a science teacher, off again on long-term sickness due to a recurrent bout of intense anxiety and depression.  I was so distressed about having to return to work as a teacher, about what else I could do.  I couldn’t think straight.  My capacity to read and understand what I was reading or remember it was severely impaired.  I had trouble going out of my home.  Anything to do with my job caused me an intensifying of these symptoms and the most distressing nightmares I’ve ever had.

Teaching has changed so much in the 28 years I was a science teacher.  The pressures have increased, both in terms of workload and behaviour/attitudes of the students that is a reflection of how society has changed too. All of this resulted in triggers for my depression/anxiety/low self-esteem/low confidence.being overwhelmed by even little things.  No matter how well people told me I was doing as a teacher (senior teachers, colleagues, inspectors (I never had less than outstanding in the last two inspections I was seen teaching in), I never believed them and thought it was just a fluke.

Because of this, I kind of knew that I’d have to leave teaching, but didn’t know if I could do so financially.  I’m single, responsible for all my bills and so on, so whatever I did I had to make sure I had some kind of financial security.

Eventually, I made the decision to leave teaching and to become a self-employed artist/illustrator based on the success of the adult colouring books I’ve done (of which there are now many – listed on my amazon author page), and that happened in the early part of the summer, officially.

This was, arguably, the best decision I’ve made for a long time.  The difference it is making to my mood/mental health, as well as progress in counselling is quite remarkable.  My only worry at the moment is my first tax return and tax bill in the early part of next year!

I know I have a lot to do to create a portfolio and to come up with projects that will keep contracts coming my way, but I do have some breathing space at the moment, with just one book to be completed asap.

On the back of this decision, my home had a major clear out, again in the early summer.  Though it’s not entirely finished, enough progress has been made for now. I now need to have a major de-stash of art materials to make space for either new, or just easier organisation of the materials i use most often.

I also discovered I have quite strong views politically about how our society should be a lot more caring of those who need help, for whatever reason, and how important the British NHS is and how much more it should be valued by those in power in the country, and not just seen as a cash cow for their buddies and supporters.  It took me a long time, but I finally worked out that my beliefs/views politically mostly aligned themselves with the traditional Labour Party (not ‘new Labour’, which seems to me just a lighter shade of blue than the Conservative Party).  So, I joined the Labour Party.  Yet to make it to my first meeting, but no doubt I will do.

I also have become involved with Time to Change Wales as a Champion.  This is an organisation whose campaign is to end the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness.  I’ve yet to tell my story at an event, but that’s on the cards for sometime in the early part of 2017.  Again, this is something I have strong feelings about, especially the self-stigma that prevented me from recognising and accepting I had a mental illness (complex post traumatic stress disorder(cptsd)) and seeking help.

I am really grateful that I did recognise the cptsd, and have made the major change of going self-employed as a way of looking after myself and being happy in how I earn a living, and it doesn’t even seem like work most of the time!

I’m grateful for those who have stuck with me through thick and thin, offering me the support and encouragement that they are able to.

I’m grateful to those who have created difficult circumstances for me, and those circumstances have either shown me how far I’ve come along in healing, or where I need to focus some attention on as my counselling continues.

So, thank you 2016 for moving me forward in my life with the challenging events, for showing me how far I’ve come along in my healing journey, and for the fun and laughter that have helped me keep going.

Thank you to all those who have believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, who have given me amazing opportunities to create and share art with others via the medium of adult colouring books, and I look forward to all the opportunites that come along in 2017 for me to continue to create and share with others.


Here, as promised, is the line art for the image above.  If you’d like to download/print and colour, please do so.  All I ask is you respect my copyright, you use it just for personal use, not for commercial gain, and if you share your coloured image, please link back to my blog.Enjoy, and thank you!

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