Tomorrow is Time to Talk Day

©Angela Porter 2019

I’ve created two coloring templates for Time To Talk Day, which is tomorrow, and the art above was created using one of them, but more about that later in this wittering.

Time to Change Day and mental health

The whole idea of the day is to get people talking about mental health. Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 of us, yet people are still afraid to talk about it. There’s still a huge stigma surrounding mental ill-health and that leads to discrimination of those experiencing mental illness.

I’m one of the 1 in 4. My cPTSD means that I am constantly anxious and it’ doesn’t take much of a trigger to get me into a full state of panic. I can have bouts of depression, nowadays not as deep or dark as they have been in the fairly recent past. I get emotional flashbacks to times of trauma. I don’t remember many traumatic experiences, but my body remembers the feelings associated with that trauma and I experience them yet again, retraumatising me.

Thanks to EMDR, however, these emotional flashbacks are less common and sometimes aren’t quite as intense, sometimes just as intense.

I have a whole host of other issues related to cPTSD and a quick google will bring back lots of information if you’re interested.

Tomorrow I will have my champions hat on for Time to Change Wales as I go to give an anti-stigma talk to a group of police officers in Ton Pentre and then on to man (woman?) a stand in Port Talbot after that. That means I won’t be parking in the police station car park again after my last experience there!

The anti-stigma talk has me telling people a little about Time To Change Wales, the statistics for mental illness, what stigma and discrimination there are and then I tell my story of my mental illness.

The talks wipe me out emotionally. I end up exhausted and often with what I call an emotional ‘hangover’ – I feel headachy and spaced out, sometimes quite upset too.

However, I consider that a small price to pay if my talks (and my blogs) help one person to recognise their mental health isn’t what it should be, or to find the courage to seek help as they know they are struggling.

It’s also important as meeting champions who have experienced or are experiencing mental health problems helps to break the stereotypes of what people with mental illnesses look like and behave.

I’m well on my path to recovery. I don’t know if that will be a full recovery from cPTSD or whether it will be a good enough recovery that I’m resilient to lifes ups and downs, that I’ll be able to form meaningful relationships, trust people, be able to travel by myself, be able to go places because I can go there not because I have to have some reason…and more.

I know that crowded, noisy places are always likely to be a no no – I don’t appear it, but I am an introvert. I learned to wear a mask of extroversion (among other masks) when I was very young and that mask kind of protects what is beneath it. Wearing that mask is exhausting.

So, back to the art.

I’ve created two coloring templates for Time to Talk Day 2019. Originally they were for the colouring day being run as part of Time to Talk Day at the Welsh Office! I’ve also made the templates available to Time to Change Wales and Mind have copies of them too, so they’ll be available over social media.

I’ll also be adding them to my facebook page – Angela Porter Illustrator as well as on the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group too.

To create the art above I used one of the templates as a basis for the art. I think you’ll agree that this is a very different piece of art from me. It’s rather graphic and quite 1960s psychedelic too!

I had a lot of fun doing this artwork and I’m surprisingly happy with the result.

It is digital art; I used my usual trio of Microsoft Surface Studio, Microsoft Surface Pen along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to create it, along with my creativity.

February dangle design

©Angela Porter 2019

Friday is dangle day here in my arty world, and as it’s the first day of February the dangle needs to relate to that!

I created this design for members of the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group (where today is furbaby friday). If you pop over then, join, then you can download the template to colour yourself.

The world is still in the grip of winter; I woke up this morning to a coverlet of snow covering everything. Yet again, I’m am so grateful that I work at home and don’t have to go out until it clears, even if that takes a day or so.

I wanted the colours in the dangle to reflect winter, but I also made Valentine’s Day a focus for the design, and I used that as an opportunity to include some more bits of hand lettering.

I did sketch the design out on Rhodia dot grid paper then scanned it in. I then re-drew the design digitally using my usual trio of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Book.

Today, I have a template or two to create for a colouring day at the Welsh Office in Cardiff on Time to Talk Day next Thursday. Time to Talk Day is the day where we’re encouraged to talk to people about mental health and well being. I don’t have anything to do on this day for Time to Change Wales, yet, or at any point in the week. I do have other projects to work on as well.

My own anxiety seems to have slid back to it’s usual constant background level after a stressful time earlier this week. It takes time. Mindfulness meditation helps somewhat, but it does take time for those stress response chemicals/hormones to leach out from my body even when I calm myself down.

Doing art does help too.

My book that takes you through drawing and designing dangles step by step – A Dangle A Day – is now published. Lots of ideas and examples of dangle designs are included in the book.

RSPB Newport – a mandala

Yesterday I took a short trip for a short visit to the RSPB reserve in Newport, Gwent.

With dark, leaden skies with golden sunshine pouring through gaps in the cloud cover the lighting was dramatic; it caused the winter colours to positively glow against the dark blue-grey of the sky.

This mandala is my response to those colours, along with some very stylised motifs from the things I saw – arching branches, dancing golden grasses, fungi and more.

I took photographs as I took a walk around part of the reserve. I also stopped to record my observations, my thoughts, in words in my journal.

I surprised myself…

It was all a bit of a spur of the moment decision to head to the wetlands reserve. I was still feeling headachy and emotionally drained after my Time to Change Wales talk to the police yesterday. I needed to do something to help shift this and to lift my mood and getting out and about is something I do struggle with, hugely. Anxiety about being around people kicks in and I can become almost paralysed with it. However, today I didn’t. Perhaps because the reserve is familiar to me; I have been there a few times before. However, I’ve never really taken much of a walk around it. That has always been a problem for me.

But not today. Today, I walked along some paths that were unfamiliar to me. I didn’t go all that far, though my walk took an hour. I did fear getting lost there, but I kept my eye on some fairly obvious landmarks such as wind turbines, the lighthouse at Nash and the huge powerstation. Being able to see these gave me some confidence that I knew what direction to head in to return to the visitors centre. If I strayed from where I could see at least one of them, I backtracked and took a different route.

Most of the people walking and visiting the reserve smiled and said hello, as did I, and that helped me feel at ease too. That, and the rhythm of walking, the sounds of nature – birdsong, rustling leaves in the breeze – and I took pleasure in moving my body, which is something that is new to me.

It’s also something I need to remember and try to get a walk into my schedule most days, somewhere where there’s nature but also where I feel safe to walk. In the wilds by myself is not a good idea, but somewhere like RSPB Newport, with it’s structured. signposted paths is a good idea. Or the beach…somewhere I’ve not been since July, yet it’s only a 40 minute drive away from me.

I forget all too easily how good it is for my mental health to take a walk where there’s nature, birdsong, and not too many people.

As I walked, I could feel the tension leach from me, down through my feet into the forgiving and loving earth. With each step and each breath I felt the anxiety ease little by little. The headache began to lift as well. By the time my walk was over I felt much better. There were still cobwebs left by the headache, but they were manageable.

When I returned to the visitors centre, I browsed in the shop and finally managed to find a raven pin badge! I also bought a small guide to trees. I also had a nice lunch and a very welcome mug of tea in the cafe there, where I continued to write and reflect in my journal until it was time to return home ahead of the rush hour traffic.

Back to art…

I love the stained glass feel of this design. I did try working with the colours in the style of my latest mandalas, but it just didn’t seem to work out for me. Perhaps I was trying to work a step, or several steps, too far for me to be comfortable with that change.

There’s also something about the black lines that gives a definite form to the mandala and this reminds me of how in winter I can can see the underlying form, the architecture that usually is hidden beneath leaves and flowers.

As is my way, I used my Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to draw and colour this mandala.

I used my photos of my visit to get the colour palette I used. And for me this is an unusual colour palette, but it reflects very much nature’s palette on the day and time that I visited.

There’s a bit more about my visit on my other blog – Curious Stops and Tea Shops.

Another blue mandala

©Angela Porter 2019

Yes, another mandala, but I enjoy creating them so much! I’m also exploring how to create them in a different way than I would usually; instead of drawing with black ink then colouring, I’m drawing in colour itself.

An unusual choice of colour for me too – a navy blue. I must admit, I’m enjoying working in monochrome for these mandalas. The colours are always harmonious and while I love a riot of colour, it’s much harder for me to incorporate that into mandalas like this. Well, at this time it is. Who knows how this is going to evolve.

Yesterday was a busy kind of day that had me away from my workspace from mid-morn. It was fierce chilly out with wintry showers of sleet and heavy-duty hail interspersed with bright, clear winter sunshine which did little to raise the temperature but did raise the spirits.

I was still feeling quite calm after my therapy session on Monday, still having that gentle, subtle inner smile, which I’m doing everything I can to hold on to, gently of course!

It’s always nice when I can find a sense of some kind of balance within me. I sense that these periods are getting longer and longer. However, that means that any downward blips in my mood and state of my mind feel more extreme in comparison. I do have to mention though that the downward blips, though sometimes scary and worrying, don’t seem to last as long as they used to.

Back to my mandala. I used my usual tools trifecta – Microsoft Surface Studio, Microsoft Surface Book and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. I love that I’ve discovered that I love to carve basic colour shapes into these intricately patterned mandalas.

Shades of pinky-red mandala

©Angela Porter 2019

I created this mandala after I returned home from EMDR therapy yesterday. I knew that my time today would be limited, so thought a bit of chill-time would be good for me before heading out for another commitment in the evening.

As is my way, I sat down with a blank concentric circle grid for mandala drawing on the screen of my Microsoft Surface Studio, Surface Pen in hand, and chose a colour to draw with. I had no idea how this mandala would unfold as I started to draw the first shape at the centre of the mandala.

As always, the lines and shapes just flowed from the centre out, one by one. In this case interlocking in a way that is a first for me.

I drew the whole design in one colour, before adding lighter and darker shades and blending them out to give some interest and dimension to the design.

As I worked, as the lines and colours flowed, even where I had to make adjustments or erase and start again, I could feel myself relax and my whole body started to breathe.

The whole mandala took a little less than 2 hours to complete, thanks to the magic of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro which does the work of repeating my motifs around the circle and makes it so easy for me to fluidly, organically develop and adapt the design elements as I go.

I firmly believe that digital art is allowing me to create art I wouldn’t have created for a very long time, if ever, if I were still using pen and paper. I’ve said it before, I say it now and no doubt I will say it again – digital art is opening doors to my creative expression I never thought would be possible, especially with the styles of mandalas I’ve been creating of late.

Drawing really does help me to relax, except when I’ve become overwrought as last Saturday and then nothing I do seems good enough to me and just serves to compound the unsettled nature. Finally, I’m aware of this part of my cPTSD and in future I can, hopefully, manage it better by doing something other than art to help to shift the mood.

Therapy yesterday was a combination of a loving-kindness meditation so my therapist could see what happens to me during one and then we used the physical pain I experienced to do an EMDR session. Lots of body stuff went on during that session – lots of pain and sensation. But by the end of the session I wore a gentle smile – not just on my face but throughout the whole of my being.

I felt content, at ease, for the first time in a few days.

I still feel that way this morning.

I had recommendations from my therapist for some loving kindness meditation cds to try by Tara Brach. So, two are downloaded into Audible for me to use later today!

Monday Mandala

©Angela Porter 2019

Monday morning.

I am so grateful that I work at home and don’t have to face the rush hour traffic any more. Rush hour traffic? That’s an oxymoron if ever there was one! Anyways, I digress.

Working at home means that I can take my time to come around, organise my days as I need to in order to satisfy the needs of contracts, appointments and self-care for myself. Including taking my time to fully wake up in the morning. I do wonder when was that point when I no longer woke totally alert and dashing to the shower was replaced by a slow, gradual ascent from sleep to awake enough to find my way to the bathroom. I

Today is one of those days where my day is peppered with things – my weekly therapy appointment, a commitment this evening, a prescription to pick up and have filled – that the day seems broken.

On days like this there are some things I do to help me balance myself. I sort out my BuJo for the day. I catch up in my journal. I do some art for the sake of doing art, for pleasure, for relaxation, for peace and calm.

Over the past week I’ve been doing loving kindness meditations at 11am. However, given the way I reacted to the last couple and how they affected my mood for the whole day I’m going to try scheduling them at the end of my day when all I need to do without being affected by any triggering of the cPTSD inner beasties is done and I have time to sit with the results of the meditation rather than try to fight them so I get done what needs to be done.

Talking of cPTSD, my mood is ok this morning, though I do have my EMDR therapy in a little while. That can unsettle me so I’ve decided to put off the loving kindness meditation until later today.

Art really can help me manage my mental health. Art can soothe me when I’m having a troublesome day. When it doesn’t, like on Saturday, I know that there’s stuff there that needs to be worked with. And that’s difficult because it’s difficult for me to even think about these things let along talk about them. However, I do know I can do ‘blind’ processing where my therapist doesn’t need to know what has triggered me, just what I’m noticing during the therapy.

So, that’s ahead of me in a little while.

This morning I felt I needed to create a mandala. So I did. Soft purples, lilacs, lavenders and a grey-ish blue. Not sure the colours work, but I enjoyed the process of creating this one, as I do all my mandalas.

Mandalas do seem to be one of my ‘things’ when it comes to creating stuff.

Of course, my Microsoft Surface Studio screen as my paper, Microsoft Surface Pen as my drawing tool and Autodesk Sketchboook Pro as my source of colour and texture media are more of my ‘things’ that help me to express my creativity. And they were used to help me create this mandala.

Blue Mandala

©Angela Porter 2019

I have had an artsy kind of day so far. A lot of the gloom, anxiety and troubled thoughts that descended on me have lifted, but not all. Once provoked the beasties that are my cPTSD take a while to settle down again. I also feel tired – mentally, physically and emotionally tired, despite a fairly good nights sleep.

I managed to get some work done on a template for my next book for Creative Haven by Dover. I got to a point, however, where I wasn’t happy with how it was going so I thought a break was in order.

So, for my break I thought I’d work on a mandala, and this is the one I’ve created today.

I didn’t consciously choose the colours or patterns I used in this mandala. However, the blues bring to mind water, rivers, the sea. I love to be near the sea. I find the rhythm of the waves calming, no matter how gentle or wild they are. The salty wind helps to blow away cobwebs in the mind, cobwebs that not so good thoughts have stuck to. I love to look at the patterns in the sand, rocks, pebbles. There’s so much more I love. So perhaps by choosing blue I’ve identified an unconscious need to visit the sea soon.

A lot of the patterns that have found their way into this mandala remind me of waves or shells. They’re all organic and flowing. Though there are some rather architectural arches and patterns there, lending some form to the design.

The ocean is used as metaphor in mindfulness meditations. I am the ocean. The waves are my emotions that ruffle the surface of that deep, calm body of water. Meditation is about finding that calm and being in touch with it in daily life.

Carl Jung believed that drawing a mandala daily helped to reveal what was going on in the subconscious mind, the things we need to bring into awareness and work on in order to heal.

Curious that this one speaks to me of water, the ocean.

Yesterday’s meditation stirred up the waves for sure. A veritable tsunami resulted of emotional, mental and physical pain. It’s freaked me out a little and I’ve been reluctant to meditate today, well not until I’ve done everything I need to do today.

I did draw this mandala digitally. In fact, returning to digital art let me exhale a little and relax a bit more into art. I also didn’t want to revisit my frustration with traditional media that I had yesterday.

I find working digitally wonderfully liberating in many ways. I know that I’m no expert in the use of mechanics of digital art – I use it more like I would traditional media. However, whereas I feel I struggle with colour and techniques with traditional media these days, I feel none of that with digital art.

Now that’s a surprise to me! I never, ever thought I’d feel that way about working digitally.

My digital tools are my Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. The screen of the Surface Studio is my paper, the Surface pen is a multitude of pens, pencils, brushes and colours in one instrument. Autodesk Sketchbook Pro is the software that allows me to work so intuitively, so naturally as I would with pen on paper, but with other tools and techniques I can use that I wouldn’t be able to reproduce with traditional media – I don’t have the skills to do that.

So, some insights about myself from the mandala, and also some realisations about myself and my relationship with digital art and how much that relationship has strengthened and deepened – and there’s still a lot more to learn and discover about digital art and myself.