Saturday is becoming sketchbook Saturday with a vlog on YouTube!
As well as showing the most recent page(s) in my sketchbook and talking about the media/techniques/inspiration, I spend some time working on the current, higgledy-piggledy page.
I’ve become intrigued with using the humble biro / ballpoint pen in art, especially as they are waterproof. There’s some amazing portraits and other work out there by seriously talented artists.
However, I’m working out how they may work for me, especially in my sketchbook when out and about (when that finally happens!).
As well as talking about the various techniques and inspiration for the art on this page, I also talk about how I want to include more writing in my sketchbooks. I’m intrigued with using creative writing record my experiences, feelings, thoughts and the presence of place alongside any sketches done when visiting somewhere.
I’m also thinking that if I take photographs of what interests me, then sketches and further work could be done later. This is going to be important when I’m not by myself and don’t have the luxury of spending as much time as I’d like.
I’d like to create a story that is in words and pictures, recording my whole experience. Perhaps, I may want to share this with others, so that they can get a glimpse into my mind and emotions.
I’m not too bothered about creating a work of fiction, but to capture all those abstract feelings and observations and communicate them with others…
Actually, it would be about sharing them with myself by becoming more aware of them and giving an outlet for those abstract thoughts and impressions I rarely verbalise as I’m unaware of them unless I’m asked to verbalise them.
Something else I’d like to do is to revisit typographic art with all of this in mind. Finding a way to incorporate words and imagery that expresses who I am, rather than taking quotes from other people.
I do love words, always have. During this past year, I’ve had so few opportunities to speak out loud, that I’m finding it hard to dredge up the right word at times. Previously this was so easy for me. So, it would be good to give my vocabulary a good work out as well as add new words to it!
It’s going to be a work in progress for sure. I doubt I can do this, or that it will be interesting to others, or that it will be any good at all. However, if I don’t take the first tentative steps on this strand of my life’s tapestry, then I may never discover if it is something I can do, nor will I discover where it will lead me.
All that it will take are basic supplies, and to create a new ‘habit’ of writing throughout the day, whether I’m at home, or elsewhere, and drawing things that are of interest/importance to me at the time.
I woke at around 4:30am again today and couldn’t get back to sleep. So, I got up, made tea, and did some work on my art journal / sketchbook.
Making Distressed Paper
I spent a good two or three hours making the papers you can see to the left. I used the following:
printer and layout paper, cut to A6 in size (UK size)
Distress Oxide Inks
5″ x 7 ” Gelli plate
small Brayer roller
water in a spray bottle
pieces of cut and dry foam
metallic inks and paints
For some of the pieces, I brayered the Distress Oxides onto a Gelli plate and then pulled the print onto a piece of paper. For others, I used the Brayer to apply the ink to the paper. I also used the black side of a piece of cut and dry foam to apply ink to some of the papers.
I sprayed the papers with water to activiate the Distress Oxide, and used the heat tool to dry them. After doing this, I crumpled up a lot of the papers and then used the brayer to flatten them out. Both of these techniques resulted in textured paper. So, I used the cut and dry foam and some Distress Oxide ink to lightly brush the paper to help to accentuate that texture.
Finally I used cut and dry foam to brush metallic paint or ink over the paper to add some shimmer and shine. I used some textured cut and dry foam to add patterns too.
I now have quite a stash of very distressed papers to use in my art journal in the future.
Both the printer paper and the layout paper are much thinner than I would usually use for such a task. The light spritz of water on each, however, created a lovely, bumpy texture. They were also easy to crumple up, adding that kind of leathery texture.
The subtle shine that the gold metallic ink gave is rather lovely, though I do like the bright, shiny gold of some paint I found in my stash.
I can see me using these papers for collage, for making pockets/envelopes and other bits and bobs for a journal, and no doubt for other things I’ve not yet thought of.
Storing my custom papers.
I realised the papers I’ve made over the past couple of weeks have been piling up and I really needed to do something that would let me find them easily. So, the quickest and easiest solution was to use A4 poly-pockets and a ring binder, both of which I had to hand! That certainly has let me have a tidier desk, and I’ll be able to find the papers easily too.
Art journal pages.
I also finished up the two pages shown to the right. I attached inchies, to fill in some gaps.
I used simple paper hinges to attach the ATC cards on page seen in the bottom image. If I ever wish to remove them to swap/share/gift, then I can remove them easily. That simple solution has relieved my anxiety about adhering them permanently into the sketchbook!
I’ve also folded some squared paper, used distress inks to colour the edges and folds, and put them in the vellum pockets I’d made earlier, all ready for me to journal on. Unusually for me, I made use of some washi tape to embellish the pockets.
I’ve also noticed that I’m very ‘regimented’ about how I put things in my art journal. I much prefer carefully cut paper to torn edges most of the time. Everything needs to be arranged ‘just so’ with me. Just as it is with my line-art – precise and neat. I suppose it’s another example of me expressing my personality through my art.
So, Angela, how are you today?
I’m exhausted. I’m practically falling asleep as I type this; that’s what happens when I wake up at stupid o’clock once again. I’m now officially overtired! I may try to get back to sleep soon; I do have work I need to do today!
As far as me being under the weather goes…
Well, I still have a sensitive digestive system and I feel nauseous from time to time. I did wake with a bit of a headache today, but that could just be lack of sleep, as is the tiredness I feel. I have eaten and my tummy doesn’t seem to be objecting as it has done. This all makes me hopeful that I’m almost over this bout illness. I was really quite grumpy about it yesterday, and I’m entirely sure I’m not grumpy today!
Other than that, emotionally I’m doing just fine. The sunshine helps with my mood for sure, as did being able to hear the bird song as the world was slowly waking up this morning.
I’ve been creating a lot of little bits of art that I just don’t know what to do with. They’re often little experiments. Sometimes I mount them as greeting cards, other times they end up in a drawer.
This morning, I woke with an idea to start a sketchbook-come-journal as a place to keep safely and annotate some of these artworks. The annotation is important; it’s lots of notes to myself about the techniques and materials I used to create a specific type of effect, thoughts, ideas for the future, inspirations.
I dug out an A4 Goldline sketchbook to use for this. The white pages just looked uninteresting and stark to me. So, I added some colour using a piece of Cut and Dry foam and Distress Inks followed by a quick spritz of water. A blast from a heat gun, and the pages were ready.
I did prepare a couple more spreads with colour. I realised that if I did this after I’d attached my art to the pages I’d get all kinds of lines and marks that I wouldn’t want. So, I need to make sure I add coloured pages each time I add work to the journal.
I adhered the artwork to the pages using Tombow Mono liquid glue, outlines them with either a metallic or plain black pen, and then set to annotations and notes.
It also gives me a chance to practice my hand-lettering and to use design elements used in bullet journals or planners. I have to say that my handwriting appeared far more than hand-lettering. I used the hand-lettering for headings though.
I also let some of the design elements from the artworks to spill onto the page. I have a problem with leaving white space! This gave me a chance to remember media I have in my stash, such as the Chameleon fineliner pens, which I haven’t used much.
Some dangle designs appeared in one of the drawings, so I redrew them above it. And, of course, metallic gold gel pens add a touch of sparkle.
One thing I ‘discovered’ (maybe rediscovered) is how fab Copic Markers work to add colour and shadow to the Distress backgrounds. White gel pen adds bright highlights.
One thing I wanted to do was add notes about my digital art. I’d like to add prints of my art, but I only have a black and white laser printer. So, I’m going to see if I can have sheets of images printed via the web and posted to me so I can then use them in my journal too.
Part of me knows I could do this via One Note or similar, but there’s something lovely about having a physical record of the art completed and with notes to reflect on or get inspiration from in the future.
I am sure this is something I did in the past, but it’s time to do this again. It’ll be fun to add journal elements to the pages, like envelopes or pouches for notes.
I’ll have to be less of a perfectionist, something I still struggle with. I’m hoping it will help me me to recognise the value of work I’ve done that I may not be happy with, but can learn from and make notes about this, and ideas that arise, for future reference.
Today, I have a simple dangle design greeting card along with a coordinating envelope. If you’d like some more ideas, inspiration and step by step instructions for drawing dangle designs then my book, A Dangle A Day, is a good place to start.
Materials and dimensions
4″ x 4″ Strathmore Bristol paper with a vellum finish 5″ x 5″ acid-free white card blank White envelope that card will fit in Distress inks in Tea Dye and Rusty Hinge Small piece of foam and a mini foam blending tool A piece of card with a 1.5″ x 0.75″ window cut in it to use as a stencil. Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens in F, S and XS Ruler and pencil Adhesive Glass pen and coppper ink by J Herbin
Making the card.
Use the card stencil and a small sponge dauber to apply a rectangle of Distress Ink in the top left of the 4″ x 4″ top layer. I used Tea Dye to colour the whole rectangle in, followed by a subtle gradient of Rusty Hinge from the bottom up.
Use a mini foam blending tool to add Tea Dye Distress ink to the edge of the top layer.
Use a pen to draw the rectangles around the colour block. I like to do this free-hand as it gives a more organic, human feel to the design.
Draw the sprigs and add the lines to the border. Dots help to add some interest to the more empty parts of the design.
Use a ruler and pencil to lightly draw a vertical line as a guide for the dangle. Also, draw pencil lines as guides for the position and size of the hand lettering. Sketch in the letters of the greeting.
Draw round and diamond shaped beads to form the dangle. I like to finish my dangles with a ‘heavier’ or larger bead.
Ink the letters in. I did some faux calligraphy where I made the down-strokes thicker. I added some lines and shading to the top line.
Carefully erase the pencil lines.
Attach the top layer to the card blank.
I used a glass pen and copper ink to add copper dots to highlight the dangle design and the hand lettering. I also drew a box just inside the top layer and another just outside it on the card blank. Again, I free-handed the lines, embracing the wobbliness.
Making the envelope
I used Tea Dye Distress Ink and a mini foam blending tool to edge both the front and back of the envelope.
I then used a sponge dauber and the card stencil to add a rectangle of Tea Dye ink in the top left.
I drew the design on the envelope as I had on the card, including adding a line border in copper ink.
Finally, I drew similar sprigs on the envelope flap, using the glass pen and copper ink.
Once I’ve addressed the envelope, I’d apply a thin layer of Distress MicroGlaze to the front and back of the envelope to protect the Distress Ink and drawing from the elements. I’ve done this to other cards and they have traversed the UK and US postal systems with no problems.
Ideas for using the design.
Although I’ve presented this dangle design as a greeting card, which is, I think, a lovely way to share a little bit of artistic loveliness with others, there are many other ways the design could be used, with or without any hand lettering.
In a BuJo, journal, planner or diary it would make a lovely little design to fill in a blank space.
This is a design that would work really well as a bookmark.
I’m sure it would look charming as part of a scrapbook spread.
I also think it would look lovely on a ‘with compliments’ slip or decorating the edge of a hand-written letter.
I’m sure there are many other ways and media that this design would be suited to.
I’m really enjoying drawing these kinds of dangle designs. They’re simple and elegant, to my mind anyway. They’re also quite easy to draw.
I do prefer to free-hand the lines and let the wobbliness be part of my signature style. It gives that human, hand-made, hand-crafted feel to the finished project, and a warmth to the finished project.
I work hard at finding a way of drawing digitally that lets me keep this uniquely ‘Angela’ way of expressing myself through line and pattern. I’m still working on it and sometimes get frustrated that, to my eye, my digital art seems too, well digitally perfect.
It’s all part of the process though – learning, developing, experimenting, trying out new ideas, techniques and methods. That’s what helps me grow as an artist.
Friday means it’s time for another dangle design, this time a ‘thank you’ card and coordinating envelope.
In previous weeks I’ve had some fun adding patterns to small blocks of colour. So, I thought I’d run with that idea and turn one into a simple dangle design. The steps I used were the same for the card and envelope.
The card is an A6 card and I cut a piece of Winsor and Newton Bristol paper to 5″ x 3.5″ for the card topper. The envelope came with the card blank so is A6 in size too.
I started by drawing a square of colour using the BL3 (Sky Blue) Chameleon Color Tone pen – no gradient, just pure colour.
Then, I added a gradient of BL6 (Royal Blue) over the base colour. I added pure blender to the Royal blue bullet nib using the mixing chamber. I didn’t use the Color Tops to add Royal Blue to the tip of the Sky Blue pen as I wanted a more subtle colour gradient.
Next, I used a Tombow Fudenosuke pen to draw around the block twice. Then, I added a filler pattern of spirals to the colour block. On the card I used a gold Uniball Signo sparkle gel pen. On the envelope I used the fudenosuke pen.
Now the colour block was decorated I turned my attention to the dangle.I decided to draw one dangle as I thought the design would look too crowded if I ad more. Sometimes, less really is more!
After drawing a faint pencil guide-line, I used a combination of beads, daisy-like flowers and a heart for the dangle. I wanted to keep it nice and simple.
Then it was time to add colour to the outline and design elements. I used the Chameleon Colour tops to add very simple colours. I didn’t do any gradients as the designs were so small. Instead I coloured them in the lightest colour, added a touch of darker colour where I wanted shadow and blended that out with the lighter colour.
I decided to hand letter ‘Thank you’ on the card using a soft nib Fudenosuke pen. I also added some tiny daisies to some of the loops and swirls to tie the hand lettering in with the dangle design.
I then mounted the card ‘topper’ on the card blank and added some gold glitter gel dots around the designs. I also added a gold line around the card topper.
Before I post the card, I’ll use some Micro Glaze from Ranger on the envelope to protect the Tombow pen from water damage.
Reflecting on the project…
Overall, I’m quite pleased with this. In hindsight I wish I’d used the Tombow Fudenosuke pen to draw the spiral pattern on the card. I think it’s a cute, simple and versatile design.
It would make lovely stationery, such as note paper or note cards, along with coordinating envelopes. There are lots of ways the design could be used in BuJos, Planners, Journals, Scrapbooks, and Art Journals. The vertical nature of the design means it would make a lovely bookmark.
How would you use this design? I’d love to hear, so leave a comment!
If you have a go at drawing and using this design then please share your finished products with me – I’d love to see how people use dangle designs!
If you want to learn more about drawing dangle designs then my book ‘A Dangle A Day’ is a good place to start. There’s over 120 designs for you to use as they are or for inspiration for your own designs.
Nearly every Friday I publish a new dangle design on my blog for more inspiration.
Yesterday I decided to make a second card with a coordinating envelope. I wanted to try out using the Chameleon fine-liners to add colour in the form of lines and cross-hatching. Finally, I added some gold dots to the points of the petals on the flower design.
To draw the design and execute the hand-lettering, I used a Uniball Unipin pen. I then used various pairs of Chameleon fineliners to add the colour.
I prefer this way of adding colour with the Chameleon fine-liners, though I’m not entirely happy about it either. Looking at it now, in the clear light of dawn, I think I could have added a flat colour below the coloured lines. I may go and add that colour in a little while. After all, it’s just a card, an experiment, and if I mess it up, I can always make another one! A lesson learned, an experience gained is worth the few pennies worth of materials and the time it took just as long as I remember the lesson in the future.
I’m also not happy with my hand-lettering; I like the idea of the letter layout, but it’s not centred between the arcs.
I do like the ‘banner’ I’ve used to enclose the hand-lettering. However, there’s something about the rectangular ribbons and the patterns within that I don’t particularly like. I’ll work out what it is in time.
For now, I’ll try adding flat colour to the coloured sections to see how that works out and not worry about messing up the card. I’ll use it as a learning experience.
And that reminds me, I’ve still not set up my One Note journal for my private critiques and what kinds of methods and techniques I use in my art.
A piece of yellow card cut to 4″ x 11″, scored and folded in half to make a top-fold card measuring 4″ x 5½”.
A piece of white card approx. 4″ x 5″ for the top layer.
A We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch board and an piece of paper measuring 7⅞” x 7⅞” or a blank envelope that will fit a 4″ x 5½” card.
A pencil and ruler for the guide-lines and a good eraser to remove them.
A black fineliner pen for drawing and hand-lettering; I used a Uniball Unipin pen.
Pens to colour the design; I used Chameleon fineliner pens.
A gold gel pen for the dot embellishments; I used a Uniball Signo gold gel pen.
If you’d like to learn more about dangle designs or are looking for some more inspiration for them and how they can be used in cards, BuJos, scrapbooks, bookmarks, journals, and more then my book ‘A Dangle A Day’is a good place to start. It takes you through how to draw monograms and dangle designs for all kinds of occasions around the year in simple steps.
Today, I have a dangle design card along with a coordinating envelope for you. I’ve kept the construction of the card simple with just one layer on the card blank. The dangle design and hand lettering are also quite simple as well as whimsical in character.
If you’d like to find out more about drawing dangle designs, then A Dangle A Dayis my book about dangle designs with plenty of inspiration and suggestions.
Materials and dimensions of the card and envelope
The yellow card blank is 5½” x 4″ in size with a top fold. So, I started with a piece of card measuring 11″ x 4″.
I also cut a piece of Winsor and Newton Bristol board to 5″ x 3½” for the top panel.
Next, I used some thick printer paper to make an envelope. I used the We R Memory Keepers Envelope Punch Board. The size of paper needed and the position of the first score line are printed on the board. This tool from WRMK makes it so easy to create custom envelopes.
To make an envelope to fit a 5½” x 4″ card I needed to cut a piece of paper measuring 7⅞” x 7⅞”. I used 120gsm white printer paper for the envelope.
Before I started, I used a ruler and pencil to draw in some faint guide-lines for the banner ribbon and the hand lettering on the top layer. I also pencilled in the hand lettering.
On the envelope, I added some guide-lines on the left and bottom to give me a border.
Hand-lettering and drawing the design
I started by hand-lettering the sentiment, then I drew the ribbon banner around it.
My next task was to draw the dangle comprising of beads and hearts.
Finally, for the top layer, I drew in the arrangement of plants and added some shells and butterflies.
I didn’t use a pencil to sketch the design before I drew it in ink simply because I’m confident in drawing these kinds of designs. However, it is a good idea to do so if you’re less than confident. I started with the central flower pot and let the design grow out from there.
I then took my attention to the envelope. I started by drawing in the ledge on the bottom. Next, I added the plants, flowers, shells and butterflies. I then drew a black border around the envelope, just inside the edge. This line gave me something to hang the dangle from; I added a dangle similar to the one on the card.
With all the drawing complete, it was time to add some colour.
I’d received my Chameleon fineliners yesterday, so I thought I’d try them out as there are lots of small areas in this design. I love my Chameleon markers, but using them to add colour to tiny spaces can be a little tricksy.
I did try the Chameleon fineliners out yesterday for drawing lines and hand lettering. I found that they give a very long gradient, even with the shortest of touches of the cap to the pen. I thought this might work well in colouring the flowers in. I achieved a pleasing change of colour of the petals on each bloom from just one blending process. This blending also worked well for the butterflies.
What I did notice is that the fineliners moved some of the black pigment from the Uniball Unipin pens that I used to draw the design with. That was a bit disappointing. It may be that in the future I will need to draw, scan and then laser print the design out. That’s a bit of a faff, but it’s doable.
I’ve never been a fan of fineliners for colouring; I find they leave lines and tend to pill the paper. This is just a personal gripe about all fineliners.
The Chameleon fineliners are pleasant and comfortable to write with – comparable to other fineliners. So, unless I want to add colour using lines and cross-hatching, writing is going to be my primary use for these pens.
To colour the pots, banner, leaves, cacti, shells and ledge, I used some of my Copic Ciao markers. I chose to use these as the brush nib lets me colour tiny areas. Also, I wanted to use pastel-ish colours to tone in with the colouring from the Chameleon fineliners.
I did add some very simple Copic shading to the design.
The Chameleon fineliners had spread the black dots I’d added to the flower centres. So, I broke out a gold Uniball Signo pen to colour in the centres of all the flowers. I also used it to add a sprinkling of little dots around the design.
I enjoyed creating this card and envelope. It was a quick, simple project. I also do enjoy drawing whimsical designs.
I like the sunshiny yellow card blank; it makes me smile, especially as it is currenty a grey and rainy day here in the valleys of Welsh Wales.
I think the card may benefit from the use of a bit of Wink of Stella to add some shimmer and shine to the wings of the butterflies and maybe the hearts.
I could’ve ink blended a background to the design using Distress Inks. I also could’ve added a drop shadow around the design to give it some dimension. Today, I chose not to do these things to keep the card relatively simple.
I also only added one layer to the card. I could’ve cut a piece of contrasting colour to go beneath the top layer to give a bit more of a layer. Alternatively, I could’ve used amarker to colour the edge of the layer to give a border, or ink blended some distress ink around the edge. Again, I chose not to do so; I wanted to keep the card simple and easy to do.
I think the result is cute and whimsical. I now have to find someone to send it to! I think that I’ll use some Distress Micro Glaze to protect the artwork on the envelope before posting it though.
I agree that handwriting does matter. Handwriting is as unique and individual as the person creating it. It’s also a much more personal way to communicate with others. It takes longer to handwrite a letter, note or memo and then deliver it either to the person or the post office.
It’s always nice to receive chatty, friendly emails from friends, and of course this is a quick and instant communication. However, there’s something to be said about the slower nature of communication by traditional post and that personal touch that handwriting gives.
I make these cards but rarely send them to another person, let alone include a handwritten note or letter. The cards sit around my home and never get shared with another person.
I think that needs to change, don’t you?
Not sure how to go about it, but if anyone who reads this would like to receive one of my cards and maybe a letter then leave a comment or contact me via social media or email.
I actually do love to hand-write; I always have and I’ve always taken a lot of pride in my handwriting. I remember making a huge effort to change it when I realised it was looking like my mother’s writing.
My preferred way of learning was to write and re-write my notes, condensing them into just a few lines of ‘memory joggers’. If my notes in lessons or lectures were messy, I would make it my task to tidy them up as soon as I could, which was also a way for me to review, consolidate and learn.
I have the facilities to hand-write digitally. I could keep a journal by writing on the screen. However, such activities frustrate me as I can’t turn the writing area to the angle I like to write at!
Also, as much as I love working digitally in so many artistic pursuits, there’s nothing quite like the feel of pen on paper, and I do love pens! I have a bit of an obsession with stationery, even though much of my work is digital these days.
Handwriting and therapy
Nowadays most of my handwriting is in my journals. It’s not as neat as I’d like it to be. I make mistakes. I like to hand-write my journals as the process of putting pen to paper slows my mind down. It gives me a chance to reflect and review what’s been going on in my life and also with my emotions.
Of course, reflecting on my thoughts and emotions, catching them in action is important to me as I continue with my journey to recovery from CPTSD. It also helps me to record events, emotions and thoughts that need to be discussed in EMDR therapy.
Handwriting vs Hand Lettering
Handwriting is that almost unconscious way we write things down – thoughts, notes, memos, to-do lists etc, as well as our signatures.
Hand lettering is a much more deliberate activity. It is like drawing the shapes of letters, not writing the whole word in one go. It’s consciously deciding what the shape, size and embellishments of a letter should be.
I enjoy hand lettering and I do tend to use the shapes of letters that I use in my handwriting. But that’s where the similarities end for me.
Do you still hand-write? How do you make use of handwriting? Do you think it’s still an important skill?
Leave a comment, I’d be really interested to hear what you think?
As it’s Friday it’s time for a dangle design, and here it is. All in monochrome, well nearly. I added some subtle colour to the photograph.
If you’d like some ideas and step by step instructions on drawing your own dangle designs then my book “A Dangle A Day” is a good place to start. Just saying like.
I decided to use one of the images from the ‘Photobooth’ collection in the Idea-ology range by Tim Holtz. I thought that around it it would be nice to create an entangled frame, and to add a simple dangle design to this frame.
With the vintage nature of the photo I thought that the hand lettered sentiment of ‘golden memories’ would be a good one to add.
In keeping with the vintage design I thought a monochrome colour scheme would be appropriate. Mind you, a color palette of subtle vintage colours would work quite nicely too. It would be nice if I’d changed the colours from greys and blacks to sepia tones.
I drew the design and did the hand lettering with Unipin pens on Winsor and Newton Bristol board. I then cleaned up the scanned image, and added the subtle colours to the photo, using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio. I also added some subtle grey shadows to the design.
This would look absolutely charming framed, a lovely way to display cherished photo-booth images. I drew this image on a sheet of A4 paper (approx. letter size).
However, this would work on a smaller scale for a scrapbook, journal or even a BuJo. It would also make a lovely greeting card or note card for someone too.
It’s also an idea that can easily be altered for a more masculine tone, perfect for father’s day or a male birthday.
Yesterday I sat at a table lit by the golden light of the late spring sun, enjoying the feel of a soft breeze contradicting the warmth of sunlight on my skin while the glorious sound of birdsong gently caressing my ears in the café at the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre. On the table was a lovely pot of tea and a home-made fairy cake (small ‘cupcake’) topped with vanilla buttercream icing and my journal-sketchbook into which I would be recording my thoughts and observations. This was a treat after picking up a batch of mugs that I’ve had printed with a piece of my artwork and a short greeting for my lovely year 11 class who are leaving on Thursday. That will be a day filled with tears and joy, a liminal moment for the pupils as they stand on the threshold of the next phase of their life. The leavers’ assembly being an opportunity to mark this transition point, a liminal point, with celebration, with laughter and with the memories of experiences.
The view from the window was of the neglected graveyard attached to St Peter’s Church which falls away towards the valley bottom as the café abuts the eastern edge of the graveyard and I realised that I was sat at a liminal place, but not one of one phase of life to another. This liminal place marks the boundary between the living and those who have passed out of this earthly existence.
As I realised this, a pair of magpies flitted from tree to tree, their tails twitching as they settled on branches, and sunlight on their plumage revealing the iridescent purples, blues and greens that are so often missed. A solitary cabbage white butterfly careened from plant to plant, it’s pale colour standing out against the brown tangles of brambles and the bright greens of spring growth, signs of life surrounding the memorials of those long dead.
Magpies are associated with bad omens, and one such superstition is that if you see a single magpie on the way to church then death is close (myth-making at blogspot). Considering that many churches have a graveyard around them or close to them, then that is quite true! I love magpies and the other members of the corvidae family of fine feathery friends, despite their gloomy reputations.
As one thought bounced to another, I realised that I too, was at a liminal point in my life as I continue to work on unravelling the tangles of the past through journaling, meditation, self-hypnosis, gratitude and pennies-dropped-epiphanies as I’m becoming more aware of the inner critics and their continual sussuration of negative messages about me. I’m learning how to dis-empower them, little by little, and I may be approaching a turning point for myself in how I view myself and what my beliefs are.
The grave markers were splotched with lichen and algae, patterns reminding me of growths of penicillin on laboratory agar plates or stale and mouldy bread. Tumbled tangled brambles wrapping round them, seemingly pulling them down, down, down into the ground, the Earth reclaiming what had been taken from it, and with it the memories of those long passed. Despite the pull of time and neglect, the taller columns and headstones bravely rose above the tangles, holding their heads up high in the sunshine, proud of their leprous appearance, suggesting age and longevity, that they remember even if the living no longer do.
Others, however, seemed to be surrendering to the gradual depredations of time. Their sharp leaning stance, the first phase in laying down, showing an acceptance of their fate. No one alive who remembers them, who cares for them enough to tend to the memorial of a life once lived. The connections between the present generation and the past generations fading and weakening with time as symbolised by the tumble-down state of the gravestones. This was reflected in the laughter and chatter of the living enjoying beverages and vittles in the bright, warm, life-giving sunshine. The proximity to the necropolis and it’s visible symbols of death, funerary rites, and grief having no effect upon the high spirits of the living.
Perhaps that is because a wall, a visible boundary separates the activities of the living from the area of the dead. If we were to dine and party on their graves, perhaps we may feel differently, irreverent perhaps; an attitude maybe not unique to our own culture or time. I saw this video about dining with the dead in Georgia on the BBC news website earlier this week, and an example of how different cultures approach death and the places of the dead and how rigid and solid the boundary between us, the living, and our deceased friends and family are.
Death is, essentially, a great leveller; the great and the good lie alongside the poor and meek. Only the memorials tell us who is who,and only a skilled osteologist would be able to tell which was which were their skeletons disinterred and separated from any clothing, jewellery or other funerary offerings that they were interred with. To most of humanity they would be the remains of people, equal in death as they were not in life. Given enough time, all return to the Earth, return to what we were created from, very few leaving traces that will last for centuries, millennia or the aeons of time.
Traces remain in the bones that remain of their lives; hardship, luxury, adversity, ease all leave their marks in the bones. As the flesh decays, as memories fade, so do the individual stories of each person’s life, the stories that make each of us unique. The funeral monuments may tell us about them, there may be hints of their life in written records, but so much about them, such as whether they were kind or cruel, loving or neglectful, are lost.
Gloomy thoughts? Not at all! I like what the we can learn of our ancestors from their funerary rites, from records, from stories still held in the memories of the living, maybe experienced first hand or tales handed down through the generations. It matters not whether they are iron-topped tombs of the magnates of Blaenavon or the ring-barrows of a person from the Bronze Age, or the fossilised remains of our distant relatives. For many, we can only make educated guesses about their life and times, sometimes more educated than others when written records exist.
Of course, the choice of a place for cemeteries is a story in itself. In ancient times where a lot of effort was expended to bury a few in monuments such as cairns, ring barrows, cists, long barrows, then they weren’t just plonked in the nearest available place. The choice of place had meaning, just as the choice of place has meaning to us whether it’s where we go on holiday, where we choose to live and experience life. We choose places that give us meaningful experiences, be they linked to happy or sad times. The same is true when we choose places for funerary rites, whether we choose them ourselves before we die or whether we choose them for our loved ones who have passed away. My father’s cremains were buried beneath a sapling plum tree in a country lane where he used to collect all kinds of fruits and plants to make wine from. A friend’s father’s ashes were sprinkled from a bridge to return to the sea which he loved and sailed while serving in the Navy. Another friend’s father’s ashes are to be buried with his brother, if permission can be gained from her aunt.
If we take time and care to choose an appropriate resting place for the physical remains of our loved ones, I’m sure our ancestors did so too, even though it may not have seemed so to us as in many cases we have no ideas of their beliefs and the practices that stemmed from them. Nor do we know for sure why certain people were accorded such seemingly prestigious and important funerals, whether they were the great and the good or whether their deaths had a different meaning and the funeral a different purpose than commemoration and a reminder of our connections to the people of the past, to our ancestors, to those who have shaped the society we life in at any particular point in history.
I couldn’t help but wonder what stories the land could tell us if we could access it’s memory. I’d love to know what events the stones beneath my feet have witnessed in their long aeons of existence. What lovers’ trysts and promises. What betrayals, joys, toils, griefs. Whose feet have passed over them and what is the story of the lives. I don’t just want to know about the great and the good, people whose lives are most probably fairly well documented. I want to know about the ‘ordinary’ people as well. Everyone has a story to tell, everyone’s life experience is unique to them due to their unique perceptions, beliefs, actions, reactions and personality, and what thoughts and beliefs they had about themselves and others.
Perhaps the land, the position of the cemeteries, their relationship to the use of the land in the past and the present, the stories told about the land, it’s people all serve to keep alive the memory of the ancestors, aiding in remembering their stories and the stories previous generations and in so doing keeping the ancestors alive, in memory, and our connection to them stronger. The scape surrounding the cemetery becomes woven into the stories of the recent ancestors and the myths of the more ancient ancestors, acting as aide-memoires to the tales. Each feature in the land around the cemetery is not devoid of emotion, of meaning, and for each feature these would change as the time of day, the season of the year and the weather changes. We interact with these scapes through the feelings and meanings and the way that we make use of them and that induces a feeling of belonging to them. Ideas such as these are propounded by archaeologists such as George Nash.
I realised then, how much I’d enjoyed writing my thoughts, how going to a different place other than home allowed me the inspiration I needed. It’s also brought up links between things that are occurring in my life at present, and that will help to unravel any tangles knotted by the inner critics in the past.
Self-love, journal writing and letter writing to heal.
It’s been a while since I last blogged something.
Life has been both interesting and uninteresting. I’ve had a lot of thinking to do, a lot of ‘down time’ has been needed to recover from the emotional stresses and strains of my working life.
I’ve spent a lot of time reading, the latest books are about using a journal as a method of self-love and healing oneself from the events of the past. Something I need to do.
I have kept a journal for many years now, and I do vent and rant in it and find my way to some kind of clarity. I have become a little disheartened at times as I seem to end up ranting about the same things over and over. The books I have read ( Writing to Heal by Jacqui Malpass and Journalution: Journal writing to heal your life and manifest your dreams by Sandy Grason) have shown me that this isn’t a problem, that it may take many times through the same thing to come to clarity, forgiveness (of self and others) and to let go and move on. In other words, I need to be kinder to myself and not be such an overachieving perfectionist! And I mean that kindly
My plans for my journal today are to make a list of people who I need to write letters to for the hurts done to me in the past (even if such hurt and pain was not their intent) and to people I’ve not had ‘completion’ with. These letters that will never be sent but will allow me to let out of myself the anger, fear, hate, upset, disappointment and so on, and work my way towards forgiving them and myself.
I’ve swallowed down hurt and upset and anger and fear and so many more emotions with copious quantities of food. The emotional reactions have been locked away, though they burst out at times, quite explosively at times, and it scares me that this ‘ice maiden’ has such energetic emotions. I’ve spent a lifetime of nearly fifty years suppressing my feelings, not sharing how I feel with others for fear of rejection, embarrassment conflict, hatred. I’m not good at putting into words what I think and feel if I’m upset in anyway. I am, however, much better at writing things down, as shown in my journaling of the past decade or so.
I won’t keep the letters either. I’m going to burn each one as it’s finished. If I need to return to the same person or group of people over and over again to clear things up for me, then I will do so. I will keep doing this until I can write a letter that forgives them, and one that forgives me too.
Some of the letters may be apologies for the way I behaved. I do have a tendency to cut people off, dead, if they upset me or betray me in any way. To keep myself safe, I walk away, ignore them when they are around. If I’m expected to work with them I can be cold and short with my words, protecting myself with such a thick wall of icy feelings and icy words.
This is kind of a scary thing to do. It’s not the first time I’ve tried this, but this time has the feeling of ‘the time is now’ about it. Pennies have dropped about the purpose of the letter writing, of letting out all the things I’ve kept bottled up for years inside me in a controlled manner, the writing being the control.
Art has been pretty much on hold as I struggle with the idea that I deserve to love myself, finding out what self-love and self-esteem are all about, and just letting ideas filter through the conscious to the unconscious mind. Inspiration for art has been, maybe not lacking, but put on the back burner for a while. However, there are some creations, some that are works in progress, others that are finished pieces.