Today’s morning warm up art – a mandala, drawn digitally. I added the colour with a gradient tool. Maybe I’ll go back and add colour section by section at another time.
I used my usual tool trifecta – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface studio.
The soundtrack to my work has been The Killers Station on Amazon Music.
My mood isn’t wonderful today. Seems the effects of EMDR on Monday are lingering still. I do need to write about some thoughts I had while doing this mandala. Complex swirls and circles of my life, but also how throughout my life I’ve been conditioned to think and feel as someone else has told me to think and feel. Started early in life, an easy pattern for others to make use of later in life. A pattern that has led to repeated trauma time and time again.
I’m now aware of it though. So it’s something to be processed and released in EMDR and replaced with a better way of thinking and acting. That’s not easy as it’s a totally new way to be learned, not just a reinstatement of an old, healthier way of being. That’s the problem with childhood trauma; it’s the way I’ve forgotten much of my early life, even the good bits. I’ve realised that I’ve never known anything other than constant anxiety and depression, amongst other things. I don’t remember any times where I was genuinely happy and at peace.
Each time I recognise something in me, a way of thinking and acting that is not healthy and bring it to the light and the ‘magic’ of EMDR, the closer I get to that tipping point of having dealt with more trauma from my past than the trauma left to deal with. The problem is the stuff that’s left is the seriously tricky icky stuff.
Any way, it looks like today is the fourth self-care day in a row. Not sure what I’ll do today, though I do have some errands to run this morning.
This year, in my role as a champion for Time to Change Wales, I’m giving (at the moment!) four anti-stigma talks to various organisations this week.
The aim of the Time to Change Wales campaign is to help to bring about an end to the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental health. In my anti-stigma talk, I talk about the campaign and tell my own story of my mental health issues.
It’s not a secret, I have complex post-traumatic stress disorder (cptsd) that has resulted from constant trauma from emotional neglect, emotional and mental abuse from a very young age and that persisted throughout my life until the past two or three years.
EMDR therapy with a fabulous therapist is really helping me and my mental health is so much better than it used to be.
If I help just one person through my talks, then it’s a worthwhile exercise.
For myself, it’s helping me to ‘own’ my own story and to not minimise the effect the traumas of my life have had on me, on the way I think about myself, about how I behave to avoid triggers or more trauma, and to begin to live a healthier more rewarding life.
Art is not only how I make a living now, but it is also my therapy, my way of helping myself when I’m anxious or depressed or stressed. It helps me to find my balance again, even if temporarily.
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.
Autumn is nigh and it’s a lot more glorious because…
September has arrived at long last, along with the promise of the fiery blaze of glory that is autumn in a few weeks time.
Cooler mornings and evenings along with warm enough days, the quality of sunlight is softer, more golden too.
I really love this time of year, it’s my favourite!
Even more so that I no longer have the long fear/anxiety of returning to school as a teacher.
I don’t miss teaching one little bit! I miss friends I had. I miss the more social interaction I had and the fun and laughter I had with colleagues and pupils. What I don’t really miss is the constant fear, anxiety, worry, stress, pressure, bad attitudes, poor behaviour and constantly being looked at and assessed. All the things that led me to some very dark places that I found difficult to get out of. No, it’s not ‘I don’t really miss’ these things – I really don’t miss these things, though I still get moments anxiety verging on panic when memories of various situations arise from the depths of my subconscious.
I’ve finished all the black and white line art for Eerily Entangled – my latest colouring book for Dover Publications. I have two more to colour in for the book, but I’ll wait to see what my editor and her design team would like me to colour – there are so very many, if not all, I’d love to colour!
As well as this, I’ve spent quite a bit of time starting to organise my ‘pattern library’. It’s something I like to do when I’m too tired to do anything else, when I’m feeling down and need a comforting not challenging activity, and when I’m lacking in inspiration; sometimes the patterns bring the inspiration I’m searching for, sometimes they just allow stuff to well up to the surface of my subconscious mind where my conscious mind can grab them and make use of them.
As a change of focus, I decided to draw some autumn themed mandalas, the one at the top of this blog entry being the first.
I’m a bit rusty at creating them after focusing on other things for a while, but the skills soon come back, often with new ideas or twists to old ideas, as well as new skills learned by my use of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro with my Microsoft Surface Book, which I used to create this mandala.
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.
Once I’d finished applying the wax, I wasn’t happy with the result on the dragonflies, so I used Daler Rowney System 3 acrylic paint in Rich Gold to re-colour them. I was much happer with the results, especially the dragonflies that I’d coloured pink/red.
The next step was to have a furtle through various coloured diecuts I have in my stash. Every now and again, I spend a day cutting out various die cuts (mainly cogs, flowers and foliage, but sometimes other things too) and then colouring them to add to my stash. It saves on time when I have the urge to do some mixed media work. It also makes use of my rare urges to do die cutting, which I find a very tedious process.
After a good furtle, I found some cogs that would work on two ACEOs that had just the dots on the background. I couldn’t find anything I’d want to add to the dragonflies; I was just happy with them as they were.
The very final step was to add some sparkly gems, and they were done! Once all is dry, I can add my information to the back and so on, and I have some ACEO cards to use on other mixed media projects or in my art journal.
Other arty news
Over the past week I’ve been keeping myself artfully busy learning a bit more about Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and how it works for me; you could say I’m building up a relationship with it.
For now, I’ve been drawing LOTS of mandalas! I’m keeping them back from t’internet as I hope to publish them (some are already spoken for by the Colorist app), and other people asked if I was going to make some available for purchase. So, I’m building up a collection of them for that purpose – either with a publisher, or I’ll self-publish if necessary. I’ve also done a couple more small mandalas that work nicely as designs to be coloured and made into greetings cards, kind of like digital stamps.
Talking of digital stamps (digi stamps), there are some ideas rattling around my noggin that I’d like to try out, so there’ll be more news on this later on no doubt.
It looks like I’m going to be doing a colouring book of spooky templates in the near future, so if anyone has any ideas for ‘spooky’ or ‘eerie’ then feel free to share!
I also have a few ideas for written books rumbling around my noggin; however, it’s really hard for me to do something with them as I doubt myself so much, think they’re silly ideas, and so on. The ideas aren’t wholly in my noggin, I do have notes on them on the ‘puter which need tidying up…but I’m finding it difficult to do this because of all my self-doubt and self-criticism. I just need to keep saying to myself, ‘But you have recorded these ideas so they are there for you, so you have made progress).
Other things going on in my life
A week ago, I finally had the hedge at the front of the house removed, as well as the back garden completely cleared. My garden is tiny, but it’s amazing how much space was hidden by the cotoneaster and forsythia! I do have some clean up to do, but there’s no great rush on that. I also need to consider what to do with the back garden.
The process of getting this done has caused me great anxiety, but there was an ah-ha moment when I realised that some voile panels in the windows in my front room would help me to feel ‘safer’ and more ‘private’ while letting in daylight. For a long time I’ve hid behind curtains; well, I still am, but at least I can see out through the voiles even if people outside can’t see in! Why I didn’t think of this a long while ago, I don’t know, but thank goodness I did!
I’ve done a couple of anti-stigma talks for Time to Change Wales, and I’m seriously wondering if I’m really making any difference as my story is so bland and ordinary … after all it’s not a dramatic tale to tell, and I really don’t think it’s anything people haven’t heard/seen on TV on the soaps and so on…so I’m really feeling quite downhearted about that at the moment.
I know it may very well pass, but at the moment … it’s difficult….my therapy? Art of course!
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
“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!
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!