Entangled Art WIP

Today, I finished drawing this entangled, zentangle inspired kind of floral/botanical design. I did start this yesterday afternoon, but continued it this morning before I settled back to sleep. I’ve had a poor night’s sleep thanks to yet another upset stomach, so after my Wednesday delivery from Abel & Cole, I drew and then settled back to sleep.

I’m still feeling very tired, my digestive system is still uncomfortable, delicate, upset. But I have to run an errand today. I’ll get to that soon enough and then I’ll see how I feel and how that dictates how I look after myself for the rest of the day. I suspect more sleep will be needed.

Anyways, this drawing is on an A5 piece of Canson Imagine mixed media paper. I used a 0.3 Unipin pen to draw the design, and I’m now adding colour using a fairly limited palette of Zig Clean Colour Real Brush pens:
*green gray
*pale dawn gray
*olive green
*deep green
*ochre
*bright yellow
*pale rose
*lilac
*english lavender

I’m considering adding a couple of browns to this palette, as well as using some olive green over the grays.

These pens do move easily with a barely damp brush on this paper making it so easy to get a colour gradient. It’s also easy to add more colour to intensify the dark area.

I have recorded my morning art session as vlog.

In the vlog I talk about how the pressures of being constantly productive turned me into a workaholic when I was a teacher, and then fed negatively into my self-image which ultimately led to my burn-outs/breakdowns. I have learned that taking time for myself, to just be, to relax, to do things I enjoy, to look at ‘goals’ in a realistic kind of way to limit the pressure I put on myself.

I no longer have the external pressures of my career as a teacher, and one of the many hard lessons I’ve had to learn as part of my healing is how to value self-care time, and how that time can change from day to day. It’s so important for me, otherwise life’s own stresses and strains can take their toll on me and leads to physical, emotional and/or mental exhaustion or even ill-health.

Taking time to rest, to relax, is being ‘productive’, but in an important way. The productivity is investing time in one’s self and one’s own well being. And that is so very important.

This is why I take time nearly every day to create art just for myself, for the pleasure of creating, of exploring and experimenting, with no pressure on myself to create a completed work of art or for commercial gain. Just for the simple joy it brings.

Admittedly, I can fixate on art and forget about doing other things I enjoy, such as playing my flute, or learning to play my harp or tongue drum, or reading, or journalling, or even getting out for a walk, or combining my walk with sketching.

I know this is something I do need to work on for sure. But, like everything else, it comes together in it’s own way, in it’s own time, when I am ready to do so.

Friday work in progress

The artwork

Started yesterday evening, worked on during my hours of mid-night waking, and on waking this morning, this measures 21 cm x 21 cm (approx 8.25″ x 8.25″) The paper is natural coloured Claire Fontaine Paint-On mixed media paper coloured with Aged Mahogany Distress Ink. The design is being drawn with a mix of 03 Unipin and 01 Sakura Micron pens.

I’m using a mixture of Stadedtler Triplus and Chameleon Fineliner pens to add colour to the design, along with a barely damp waterbrush to spread the colour out. Interestingly, some of the colour lines added remain visible, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on how much I work the colour with the waterbrush. Also, I’m finding that I really enjoy adding colour and texture like this.

The finishing bright white highlights are added using a Sakura Gelly Roll pen.

I find the fineliners used in this way give me much greater control over how much the colour spreads in the small areas in my drawing. They also don’t spread as much as, say, Tombow Dual Brush pens or Inktense pencils. That helps to control the spread of colour too.

I rather like the vintage-y look that the palette of browns and olive greens confers on the design, helped along by the background colour and texture of the paper.

Oh, I do intend to leave a ‘hole’ in this first layer of designs. I’m not sure I’ll do inside the space; a quote, more layers of design. For now I’m not sure. But once this first layer is done, I can scan it in and use it in different ways digitally.

There are lots of my favourite motifs appearing in this one, rather organic ones for the most part. What will appear from the tip of my pen in the rest of the design? I don’t know yet! It could be more of the same, or not. All I know is that the intricacy, detail and revisiting old favourite motifs is making my arty crafty heart smile.

Cognitive dissonance

“The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change.”

Finally, the penny dropped as to why I’m feeling so out of sorts. Oddly, it was while I was listening to a documentary about the cult NXIVM as I was drawing during the stupid o’clock hours of drawing. Don’t worry, I’m not a member of a cult! However cognitive dissonance was mentioned and that was the ‘ta-da!’ moment for me.

Cognitive dissonance causes emotional distress related to holding contradictory beliefs or values. I’ve experienced this before during breakthrough moments in therapy where I’ve had to accept that I was a victim of trauma, that I really do have CPTSD and I’m not (as my mother would tell me) making it up, for example.

I’m poised on a knife edge, wanting to make a decision to leave something, but feeling guilty about thinking that way. I need to find a way to find some clarity to help me make that decision, and it has to do with my core values and beliefs.

Recognising this doesn’t make me feel any better, but it helps me understand what is going on, and that understanding will help me work my way through it! Making a decision won’t make it any easier for me to act upon it as there’ll be a lot of guilt and the old reactive feeling of believing I’m letting other people down.

However, I can’t put other people ahead of my own mental and emotional well-being. It’s never been easy for me to say ‘no’ to people, to leave organisations or people who are contributing to emotional and mental distress in myself. But I have done so occasionally, more so in the last year or two. And I will do so this time if it’s what I need to do to find that sense of balance, harmony, peace in myself once again.

Template Thursday

It seems like both an age and no time at all since last week’s coloring page / coloring template for the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group.

This week’s offering is a mandala. I always find mandalas soothing to draw and colour. The circular form and repetitive nature are beguiling, relaxing, soothing and magical in some way.

This week’s is quite simple, as colouring templates need to be. It’s also quite botanical in nature. The colour palette I’ve chosen is full of sunshine, growth, peace, harmony and self-care. I haven’t quite finished colouring it, but that’s fine. It did what it needed to do for me.

I’m well out of sorts today. I really didn’t want to get out of bed. But I did, and showered.

I know what’s causing my emotional and mental turmoil at the moment. I just can’t seem to actually act to bring that to an end. Guilt, grief, and other emotions are causing me problems. I know I’ll act when I’m ready to do so, but it’s so difficult to let go. But I need to do so for my own emotional and mental well being.

Talking of emotional and mental well being, today is Time to Talk Day. It’s a day where Time to Talk Wales, along with sister organisations, encourage everyone to have a conversation about mental and emotional health. All to help to end the stigma and discrimination that exists around mental health.

This year’s theme is ‘Small things’. I’ve written on facebook about three small conversations I had that have led to me healing from complex post traumatic stress disorder. Not completely. I’m not sure you can completely heal as part of surviving complex trauma is hiding that trauma deep inside. I am, however, healed enough. I’m just waiting for the lockdown to end so I can start pushing my boundaries a bit.

Anyway, I’m going to finish all the social media stuff now and then I’ll be returning to arty pursuits. Maybe a nap too as I’m feeling so tired today. Emotional turmoil exhausts me. Also, sleep is one of my coping strategies when I’m stressed out in some way.

Meh. Just meh.

Sunday morning art

I wasn’t in the mood to continue with the watercolour work in my sketchbook, soI made some Distress Oxide backgrounds on some Bristol board (5.5″ x 4″). I thought I’d do some intuitive drawing on them using metallic gold ink. So much for what I thought I’d do.

Brush and FW pearlescent Mazuma gold liquid acrylic and a brush didn’t work for me. I was getting frustrated with it. So, I tried a gold metallic Gelly Roll pen, which also didn’t feel right. I followed this by a white Gelly Roll pen, a gold glitter Signo gel pen, and finally a black Pitt Artist pen, none of which allowed me to feel I could settle into some art.

Whatever I did I just wasn’t happy with. It seems that this morning I’m not meant to be doing any art.

Feeling Meh

I am feeling meh this morning, meh meaning a lack of enthusiasm, interest and lacking in inspiration. I feel flat, fed up and still emotionally exhausted. This is finally expressing itself in my art today.

So, today is a day to do something different I think. I’ll most probably do some crochet and read.

I started reading a book yesterday by Rupert Sheldrake – “Science and Spiritual Practices”. I’ve long enjoyed reading Sheldrake’s books, after discovering his theory of Morphic Resonance (thanks to the ‘It’s morphic, innit?’ statements in the Discworld books of Terry Pratchett). I also have an interest in what consciousness is, where it resides, and so I find books that tie science into spirituality and a non-mechanistic approach to consciousness and life quite interesting.

For a number of years, I’ve found it difficult to read and focus on reading for any length of time. I experienced burnout, and with it the depression and anxiety related to CPTSD all my life, had become almost unbearable. With these, my ability to read and process written information mostly vanished. That happened nearly seven years ago now. Slowly, my ability to read and understand and retain what has recovered to where I can now enjoy reading, though it’s not always a natural activity to return to.

Today, however, may be the perfect day to snuggle down with a good book, decent mugs of tea, as it’s grey and damp outside. Nice music on would be good too.

Feeling uninspired

This happens to me on a fairly regular basis. I need a break from art and to do something different. I may do some quick, easy, familiar and comforting types of art just to keep my hand and eye in. I do, however, give myself a break from trying to work at any challenging projects. It’s like a short holiday from art. In time my energy, enthusiasm and inspiration returns anew and off I go again.

Learning to be kind to myself, giving myself permission to take a break, hasn’t been easy. It’s taken a long time. On days like this, though. Days when I feel flat, sad, exhausted, it’s easy to beat myself up about being ‘lazy’.

It’s not being lazy at all; I’m busy taking care of myself. I have to work hard at reminding myself of this. And busy taking care of myself means slowing right down and doing activities that soothe, calm, relax and allow my energy to recharge. Today that means rediscovering the joy of reading, something I used to take for granted, and now it’s something that I will appreciate so much more.

Sketchbook Saturday

Very much a work in progress

I’ve been working in my Arteza watercolour sketchbook (A4 in size). I’ve continued to add some colour to the larger design. As this is a sketchbook and nothing has to be perfect or finished and is a place to experiment, I decided to try adding black lines to the bigger design as well as to draw a smaller design in black pen first.

I’m still not all that comfortable with my entangled kind of designs without black lines it seems. Or maybe this is just a function of me being totally out of sorts over the past few days if not weeks, possibly months.

The black lines add structure and form to the design, but there’s also a colouring book feel to it too.

I am thinking I’ve not yet worked out how to get enough contrast in the watercolours to bring out the volume of the various design elements and to separate them one from another clearly enough.

I also tried adding white lines using a Signo gel pen. That worked out nicely in terms of adding highlights. The shapes of the lines also helped to add the illusion of dimension.

Finally, I tried adding some metallic watercolour in a pale gold. I tried adding dots as highlights,but I also tried a very dilute glaze of the watercolour over the paint. Now I liked that very much, but it has to be dilute and blended out quickly. Sadly, the photo doesn’t show this well on the purple weird mushroomy thingy on the top of the big design.

I’m telling myself it’s all learning, experimenting, finding my way. I just don’t know what my way is at this moment.

Art and my emotional and mental wellbeing

I am tired today. Emotionally drained. and I’m finding it difficult to be satisfied with anything I’m currently doing, even artistically.

This is definitely affecting my ability to ‘art’ at the moment. I lack focus, energy, inspiration even. I am getting frustrated with myself all too quickly, and fed up of what I’m working on too easily.

These are sure signs that I’m out of balance, emotionally more than mentally. However, my emotional health does have an effect on my mental health if I’m not careful.

It feels like some self-care time is needed, with activities that won’t overwhelm me but will help to soothe me and give me the time and space to find that inner balance and contentment once again.

The touchstone of contentment is there, in my heart, but it’s hidden by the shadows the clouds of emotional disturbance are casting within me.

Like all weather, the current unsettled emotional weather will pass. It has lessons to teach me and adjustments to be made. I am resilient enough to do this, to work through this mood and exhaustion, as well as to know how to take care of myself in times like this.

As I reflect backwards, it wasn’t all that long ago, just over a year, that I discovered the touchstone of contentment within me and found that it was OK to look after myself, take time out for myself, to have quiet, non-busy days to myself.

I never feel guilty about doing this any more.

I know if I try to do things that need to be finished, done well, then days like these are not the days to attempt them. The frustration kicks in and just unsettles me more.

I’m not sure if it will be Ben and Jerry’s and Star Wars that will help me, or something else. But I will find my way back to my usual, default, contented state of being.

Productive? Busy?

Everyone could do with learning that we need time to relax, to give ourselves permission to do nothing other than just be.

Society expects us to be constantly busy, productive, on the go, making the use of every single minute of waking.

But all that does is to drain energy, pile on the guilt if we’ve not completed every task in our planners, journals, diaries, and so on.

Social media is full of videos and memes and blog posts about how to be more productive, successful, famous, noteworthy. All of which can make a person feel guilty, useless, underachieving, unworthy.

There seem to be relatively few saying how important it is to look after your mental and emotional health as much as your physical health. So few messages about how important it is to take time out to recharge your energy, to stop and just be rather than forcing yourself to get something done, even if the frustration with the task means it’s taking longer and longer to do.

It’s not easy to give yourself permission to take time out, to relax, recharge just be, watch the world go by, read, listen to music, create, day dream, just for the joy and peace they bring. No, it’s not easy at all, given all the pressures that come at us from every direction.

These kinds of activities are just as important as the ones that are ‘productive’. They are activities that are productive in a different way – you are productively taking care of your energy levels, your mental and emotional well being, feeding your heart and soul with the tasks that soothe and heal.

It’s all part of self-care, making sure your needs are catered for. It’s not being selfish; it’s recognising that you need to take care of yourself as much as you take care of others. It’s about balance in life.

I am hoping that through the pandemic more and more people realise how important it is to slow down the pace of life, to take time to do things that feed heart and soul.

Today, my heart and soul need soothing and caring for. Everything else can be put on hold until I’m able to face them without frustration and rapidly getting fed up of them.

That Friday feeling …

Mandala

Today’s art is a simple mandala. A cool grey, black and white colour scheme on a soft, calming green background.

Drawn in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro using a Microsoft Surface Slim Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

Confusion

I am emotionally drained, confused and overwhelmed again today. I don’t have much in the way of focus. I was surprised I could complete even this quick and simple mandala.

I don’t have the focus or energy to reflect on the choices of colours and symbols in the mandala and how they relate to messages bubbling up from my unconscious mind.

I feel trapped, caught between a rock and a hard place. I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. The stress of it all is giving me a migraine, upset digestive system and is dragging my mood downwards.

Heck, even the mandala looks like it is either sinking down, pulling itself up or hanging on by the chains of teardrops. That is how I feel, and I had no idea that was how the mandala would appear when finished.

Art for heart’s sake.

Experiment in watercolour

It’s WIP Wednesday, so here’s a work in progress I started this morning.

I woke thinking it was about time I tackled rendering one of my abstract, stylised, imaginary botanical designs in watercolour.

I think I’ve gained a bit of experience with watercolours, kind of have a feel for them and how I like to work with them. Or so I thought.

Anyways, I started by drawing the design lightly in pencil. I used a 0.5mm mechanical pencil by mistaked; I had intended to use a 0.3 mm one instead. No matter, this is an experiment, a trial in my Arteza watercolour sketchbook.

Once I was happy with the drawing, knowing I can always add more to it or alter it before painting it, I started to add colour.

I started with the bottom right blue seed-poddy/stylised flower motif. I thought I’d use two different shades of blue alternately around it, adding shadow and depth. That didn’t work out too well. I tried dry brushing on the ‘spokes’ of the motif. My reaction was ‘yeuch! Angela what were you thinking???’.

I didn’t give up at this point, though it would’ve been easy to do so. I continued on, reminding me this is an experiment, I’m trying something out that I’ve not had much success with in the past; just keep going.

So I did. And I know I have work to do to recognise when the wet paint has dried enough for a different wet colour to spread nicely, but not too much, when dotted into the first colour.

As time was going on, I was becoming more comfortable with how I was adding colour. I was working out that adding glazes was a way to darken areas, and that I could gently blend the edges out while the glaze layer was still damp so I didn’t get harsh lines.

Slowly but surely I coloured in different motifs, careful not to do wet next to wet.

All in all, I’ve worked on this painting for around three hours. There’s a lot more to do, but I can pick at it from time to time.

What I have noticed is, however, how much I want to add colour in the same way I do when working digitally. An interesting observation, the implications of which I have not even started to unpack yet.

Therapeutic art once again…

Once again, I turn to art to help me manage my unsettled emotions and thoughts. I am so tired, again. The stress of the past week or so has taken it’s toll. However, like the heavy rain and rather windy weather we’re experiencing here in the Valleys of South Wales, these will eventually blow over and I’ll be able to focus on my contracted work.

I’ve learned that when I’m all out of balance, it’s best for me to focus on art that is soothing, that no one expects anything from me, that I don’t have to worry about messing up. If I try to do art that others need to be happy with too, then I get frustrated and negative about myself, doubt myself.

So, for today at least, I will be creative in ways that will give me the time and space to heal my frazzled emotions and gradually work my way back to mental and emotional well-being once again.

After a life-time of putting everyone else’s needs and happiness first, I’m gradually learning to take care of my own needs first.

I felt guilty and selfish to say ‘my own needs first’. But it isn’t selfish to look after myself. It’s a recognition of being responsible for myself and my own needs and well-being.

And so, today I art, for art’s and heart’s sake.

I just wish it wasn’t so darned rainy and blowy. The rain alone I’d be happy to go and walk in, or the wind alone. But not both together. It is forecast to ease off in a couple of hours, so maybe I’ll get a walk this afternoon, with brolly and waterproof jacket. I’d like that. But for now, I’m going to go and drink tea, draw the design for Template Thursday, and have the quiet time I need to heal, recharge and refresh.

Watercolour Art Therapy

Art to calm and soothe

More art therapy was required yesterday and today. This time I messed around with watercolours and botanical motifs.

Some I like, some are hideous, but all resulted in me finding some calm amidst a maelstrom of emotional and mental pressures being exerted against me.

Although I’ve not yet tried to express my emotions via colour and pattern today, working with motifs from nature is soothing in it’s own way.

Perhaps there’s more of me expressing my needs in creating botanical art. I do feel the need to be out walking where there is nature. With Covid19 still doing the rounds, my places of choice are cemeteries; so few people visit them and I feel safe there in a way I don’t feel safe in nature when I’m by myself.

So, as it’s fairly overcast and there’s a good breeze, I’ll head out as soon as I’ve completed my social media stuff for the day.

Materials and method

I used mostly watercolours, but I did try out the Inktense paint palette I received yesterday for one motif. For some of the motifs I used a faint pencil outline. On others I darkened that outline once I’d painted the motif. And I tried black outlines using a Signo DX 0.38 pen on some others. I also used white Signo gel pens to add highlights. Finally, I splattered some gold watercolour over the page, and added some bigger dots of gold.

Oh, I worked on one of the smooth textured pages in my A4 Arteza watercolour journal.

Coloring Page / Template

Colouring page / template

It’s Thursday. The pandemic is still in action. That means it’s time for a new coloring page or template for members of the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group.

It’s free to join the group, and the template is a freebie for members of the group.

This week, I created a mandala design with a background of geometric, repeating patterns.

I’m still recovering from the stress of my first trip out since March 2020. Drawing (and colouring) mandalas is an incredibly peaceful, relaxing and mindful activity. So, it was natural that I drew one.

The mandala design is based on some of the abstract art I’ve been doing of late. It’s a bit unusual for my mandalas, but I really do like the organic flow of the lines.

Even though the design is abstract, the repeating symmetry of a mandala bring some structure to the design. I am looking forward to seeing how members of the group add colour to the design.

The geometric patterns in the background also result in a soothing, repetitive rhythm for colouring; a rhythm that results in soothing and calming ones mind and emotions.

De-stressing

I have been totally shaken by the level of anxiety/stress that resulted from my trip out on Tuesday. I am beginning to feel more my contented and calm self. However, I find I’m still irritable and grumpy and have withdrawn from social media and the like for most of the day.

It was a sobering thought when I realised I’d lived most of my life constantly at elevated stress levels, often as higher than what I experienced in the past couple of days.

It’s also a wonderful realisation that I can recognise this now, and I also am able to allow myself self-care time to let all the stress hormones leach from my body. It’s been a long time since they peaked in this way.

It makes me extremely grateful to my therapist for her years of patient work with me. Experiences like the Tuesday Trip remind me of how I used to be and show me how far I have come in recovery from cPTSD.

Yesterday, after my social media post, I binged watched the Harry Potter films from The Order of the Phoenix. I found I was irritated by crochet. I tried cross-stitch, which irritated me too. Eventually, I settled on knitting, which, oddly, soothed me. I think it’s because I could knit and watch the film. Knitting allowed me to channel my irritability into something creative. As I can knit without looking at the knitting, I could also watch and immerse myself in the films at the same time.

My fingers are itching to knit again, now I’ve thought about it.

Even though I slept well last night, I’m still feeling really tired today. This happens as part of the post-stress come-down. It can last a few days. I’ll not be rushing to nap, however. Napping has a knock-on effect on my ability to sleep at night when I’m like this. My naps tend to end up as periods of deep sleep, so I try not to take them unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Summer Solstice 2020

Tonight, at 10:43 BST, the Sun appears to enter Cancer, as viewed from the Earth. Of course, it’s the Earth that is moving around the Sun. Today, marks the official start of summer, but it also marks the time when we have the days of most light here in the Northern Hemisphere, and we’ll soon notice there’s not quite so much daylight at the end of our days.

This year, English Heritage are live-streaming the solstice sunrise tomorrow morning on their facebook page. You’ll have to be up early (or just not go to bed!) as they start streaming from 04:07BST, with sunrise at 04:52BST. I’m certainly going to do my best to watch it. This is one of the good things to come out of the pandemic. The live stream hasn’t been done before. I would never go to Stonehenge on either Solstice as there would be too many people and far too much noise and bustle for me, but this is a nice way to see it as it happens, not recorded and shown after the fact.

I’ve always felt an affinity with the cycle of the seasons and marking the solstices and equinoxes has felt far more natural to me than any religious celebrations. The scientist in me appreciates the facts around these dates in the calendar, my heart and soul appreciate them in different ways that are personal to me.

I found this quote about the solstices, and it sums up a little bit about how I feel about them.

The artwork shows a lot more about how I’m feeling today – not quite with it, spaced out, emotional and well out of sorts. I had an idea in mind, but I just couldn’t execute it to my satisfaction today. It looks like I need another self-care day. Which is fine. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s best to go slow in order to go fast. By taking time out from commitments, I return to them in a better frame of mind and emotional state and I’m more able to fulfil them to my satisfaction for sure.