Mandala WIP and thoughts about CPTSD and stigma

Warning – there are triggers in the CPTSD section of my blog today.

Mandala WIP © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Mandala WIP © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

A little more work done on this mandala before I start back on a colouring template or two today.

It’s progressing quite nicely, though colour choice for latest ‘ring’ was an issue for the ‘shell-like’ green arc. It was a blue, but that didn’t seem qutie right, so I changed it for a green with a hint of blue. I’ve not quite finished with this section yet, but I want to let it ‘sit’ for a while and I can come back to it with fresh eyes.

I had thought the previous, darker ring was going to be a mis-fit. However, now I’ve added this latest ring, the darker one gives some much-needed contrast, and a bit more dept too. The inner part of those pointy arches makes me think of windows with a view out on the starry sky. Of course, the pointy arches make me think of gothic arches in churches and abbeys, with a more modern, sci-fi feel perhaps.

It’s not quite finished yet. But working on it one section at a time and then taking a break really helps me to see what I’m trying to do.

As usual, my tools are Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Surface Pen and a Surface Studio from Microsoft.

So, how are you doing today Angela?

Gently contented

I’m doing ok I think. I am feeling tired though due to not quite a long enough night’s sleep. I have that gentle contentedness with me again today, which is a good thing.

See, EMDR can cause upset, but all of these days of that quiet contentedness and a greater self-awareness are very much worth the difficult minutes, hours, days or even weeks after sessions.

This too shall pass.

Quite true. The fallout from EMDR does pass as processing continues or as my body needs to come down from an emotionally distressing time in some way. Sometimes that takes just a few hours or overnight. At other times it may take a couple of days or longer.

A small price to pay for days like today where I have that gentle contentedness. I’ve had precious few of them throughout the entirety of my life, most of them have been in the past few months or so thanks to the work being done in EMDR.

Warning – The following sections may contain triggers concerning abuse, narcissistic abuse, childhood abuse

Just forget about your past.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been told this by well-meaning people who have no understanding of CPTSD at all. I try to explain why it’s not possible, but they just seemingly don’t get it.

I think people think I spend all my time replaying my past memories over and over and over. Nothing is further from the truth.

Yes, I make statements about what has happened to me. That doesn’t mean I constantly play the events over and over again.

What plays over and over again is the anxiety, the fear, the feeling of being unsafe that these traumas have created in me, that live in me still. Various events can trigger an emotional, behavioural and/or thought-process responses from the anxiety, fear and unsafe feelings I carry all the time.

Also, I have very few memories from my past, particularly my childhood. I’m aware of some of the negative beliefs I have about myself. I get emotional flashbacks. But I have very few memories of situations that have contributed to these things.

How can you forget about a past you can’t remember?

With CPTSD the body, feelings, thoughts and behaviours are stuck in the past. Even now, no part of me feels safe in this world very often. Maybe when at home. Sometimes when I’m out and about with a companion. Rarely when out and about by myself.

Everyday life is fraught with danger for me. Maybe the danger is not real, but my body, my emotions believe it is and so my mind reacts accordingly.

Every single day of my life for as long as I can remember, right the way back to the few earliest memories I had as a child.

One of my earliest memories is of being a toddler and living in Cheshire. The back garden of the house backed on to a wheat field. I can remember going through the fence or hedge into the field, just to the edge where I actually was quite safe, to watch the combine harvester in action. As it was moving towards me, I became so scared I was frozen to the spot and was screaming in fear. My mother shouted at my older sister for not watching me, she came and shouted at me for daring to leave the garden. I can’t remember if my mother and sister argued, but I remember a lot of anger and fear with me. I have a memory of being told to stop screaming and crying or I’d be in trouble.

Even now, I get anxious at the thought of that memory. I can feel the fear of that younger me; not just the fear of a big, noisy machine heading towards me, but the anger around me. I don’t remember being comforted, reassured, calmed. I just remember anger from those present.

I do know that there have been many other instances in my life where I’ve been in that kind situation again – where I’m scared and I freeze, but don’t scream or speak out. I learned at a young age not to speak up or scream as that just made the people I looked to for caring or safety angry.

I remember a small number of these instances, but so many more have been ‘forgotten’ by locking them away where I can’t access the memory itself. It’s a self-protection strategy that happens. It’s not a deliberate action. It’s what the mind does to protect itself.

However, the conscious mind may not be able to access them, but the body, emotions, instinctive reactions, behaviours certainly do remember them.

So, does this explain, a little, why I can’t just forget about my past and move on? I hope so.

The stigma surrounding mental and emotional suffering.

Would any of us tell someone who has broken a leg to just forget about it, not get any treatment, and continue to go about their lives as if nothing has happened to them?

Of course we wouldn’t.

Well, not unless you’re someone like my mother who wouldn’t believe I’d hurt my leg and made me walk around for three days before calling the doctor. I remember the doctor yelling at my mother that I should have been taken to the hospital A&E straight away as I’d broken my leg. I seem to remember being in trouble for breaking my leg and getting her into trouble with the doctor.

Oh, I was blamed for her being shouted at too. Everything was always my fault. That’s what happens when a narcissistic mother makes you a scapegoat.

Anyway, caring, compassionate, loving people wouldn’t hesitate in taking a child for medical treatment or encouraging an adult to seek medical help if they needed it.

Yet some of the same people who’d encourage medical treatment for a physical illness somehow think that with an injured mind or emotions you should just get along with life as if nothing has happened.

The emotional distress through anxiety that I feel daily doesn’t go away just because I ignore it.

Anxiety stops me from doing things I want to do because I get so scared that I just can’t do it. I freeze. I need to retreat to my safe place which can be my home or my car.

Putting a brave face on is like putting a sticking plaster over a manky, infected wound. The wound now looks better, but underneath it’s festering.

Emotional and mental damage done by trauma is the festering, infected wound that hasn’t been treated properly. They don’t go away on their own, in the same way a broken leg won’t heal properly without treatment.

It’s not the memories themselves that are the problem. It’s the behaviours, feelings, responses that come from trauma damaged mind and emotions that are the problem.

I wasn’t ever helped through any trauma in my life, ever, as I was a child and into adulthood too. I was never helped to learn healthy coping strategies, to understand what happened, how to feel safe again. I was never helped to be resilient.

I learned unhealthy coping strategies that I still use. I also learned to wear a protective mask of happiness, confidence that belied the very scared, insecure, unloved, self-hating person within.

EMDR therapy is helping to undo the trauma and replace it with healthier ways of thinking about myself and living my life.

EMDR isn’t a sticking plaster for me, it’s like the hip-height plaster cast that I needed for three months to help the broken bone in my lower leg to heal. It would’ve taken less time and a shorter cast if I hadn’t been forced to walk on my leg as if there was nothing wrong.

I absolutely believe it is time that society starts to change the way they think about mental and emotional illnesses. The suffering they cause to the people who experience them is no less great than for physical illnesses.

This is one reason I include my journey to CPTSD in my blog, along with my art. I tell my story to help some people gain understanding. I tell it to let others know they’re not alone. I tell it to let people know it’s not just the big traumas in life that can affect someone – war, major accidents, life threatening events, rape, sexual abuse, physical abuse.

The constant daily actions of emotional neglect, emotional and mental abuse, bullying, scapegoating, an environment full of conflict and drama, can all take their toll on a person, especially a child who hasn’t had the help to learn the tools to be resilient.

It wears away at a person like the gradual drip, drip, drip of water on stone can wear a hole in it over time.

A child being abused by it’s parent(s) doesn’t stop loving it’s parent(s), it stops loving itself.Shahida Arabi

I’m guilty of minimising the effects my upbringing has had on me. Until fairly recently I thought everyone was brought up in a home just like mine and I was weak, pathetic, useless, a whinger, a complainer, for thinking it had affected me, and a liar for thinking this had really happened.

I’m only just becoming aware of the gas-lighting done to me. Recognising the ‘you’re a liar, you’re just attention seeking, don’t bother me with your nonsense’ self-beliefs created in me has having come from another isn’t easy.

We need to stop categorising some traumas as worse than others.

What is important is how deeply a person has been affected by the trauma producing experiences, experiences where they feel unsafe.

Mandala WIP – update

Mandala WIP - update © Angela Porter 2019 - Artwyrd.com
Mandala WIP – update © Angela Porter 2019 – Artwyrd.com

I have to say I am really, really pleased with how this mandala is working out. It’s not at all what I expected in the first instance, but I am so chuffed with myself.

I also think I am really getting the hang of this digital art malarkey too. I can also say that there is no way I would have been able to create this using traditional media – I’ve tried similar things in the past and it all ends up such a mess with me.

Digital art is the media I think I may have been waiting for. It’s taken me three years to get to this artistic level with digital art. Even in this mandala you can see how I have learned and developed ideas as I’ve worked from the centre out.

I absolutely love my Microsoft products – Surface Pen, Surface Book and Surface Studio. I cut my digital art teeth on the Surface Book (not literally!) and found I enjoyed digital art and when I felt I could I got a Surface Studio as the smaller size of the Surface Book screen was frustrating me a little.

The change to the Surface Studio is what has enabled me to really take to digital art. The size of the screen, the ease at which I can change the angles at which I work with the Surface Studio, the speed of the processors, the sensitivity of the pen on the screen…

I just love it! So much so I’m on the point of destashing nearly all my traditional art media and gifting them to a worthy cause.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to draw with pen on paper, that won’t ever change so my pen collection won’t be going anywhere. But the way I can use colour and texture digitally is an absolute dream. It’s also mess-free!

I hope you noticed that I said I’m really pleased with this mandala. It’s not often I’m able to say that about my art. But today I can and I am. I am actually smiling when I look at this mandala.

My only problem now is that I’ve changed the design of the mandala in the latest ‘ring’. Oh well, I can adjust accordingly or just create a new design around this one. I’ll see how I go with that.

I also quite like the ‘ghostly’ outline mandala design as a background, though silly me managed to leave the outline above the coloured design. One of the wonderful things about working in layers is that things like this aren’t a problem!

I think I may celebrate my progress with this mandala and also my digital art skills with a nice mug of tea!

Entangled Fantastic Fungi – coloured

Entangled Fantastic Fungi © Angela Porter 2019 - Artwyrd.com
Entangled Fantastic Fungi © Angela Porter 2019 – Artwyrd.com

Yesterday, I took some time to finish colouring my ‘Entangled Fantastic Fungi’ drawing from the other day.

I’ve said it before and, no doubt, I’ll say it again: colour brings my drawings to life. It also takes me a lot, lot longer to colour the artwork than it does to draw it! I think it would’ve been quicker with traditional media, such as Chameleon marker pens. However, I like using digital tools for coloring and I use opportunities like this to explore the different settings and various brushes so that I can add to my range of techniques I like to use and the effects I can get.

It’s a slow process for me, and it can be both enjoyable, satisfying and rather frustrating! However, I think I’m making some progress in finding my way through the plethora of options available and gaining some understanding of what they do and how to make them work the way I’d like them to work for me.

I also am enjoying drawing on paper with these Tombow Fudenosuke pens. Using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to add colour to my drawings is me having the best of both words for sure!

There’s also the addition of a background texture, which, I think, makes all the difference. The pale grey tone of the background helps to tone down the brighter colours in the image, enhancing that kind of vintage kind of vibe I was going for.

Of course, it goes without saying that I used my Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio to colour the image. Being able to use the pen on the screen, just like pen or brush or pencil on paper, is fantastic! I’m finally getting to grips with making use of the pressure sensitivity of the pen and exploring ways in which I can use it, as well as setting up brushes to suit my needs.

When I think back to when I bought my Surface Book, my aim was to draw templates for coloring books digitally so I didn’t have to scan in paper. It was also to make it easier to clean up the images. I had no intention of colouring the images digitally.

I think I’ve come a fair distance since those early days. I’m still surprised at how the ability to create digital art by using a Surface Pen on the screen of the Surface Studio as if the screen was paper, has opened doors to creative expression for me.

Easter Dangle Design

Easter Dangle Design © Angela Porter 
From 'A Dangle A Day'
Easter Dangle Design © Angela Porter
From ‘A Dangle A Day’

This cutely whimsical dangle design is from my tutorial book ‘A Dangle A Day’, which has the step-by-step instructions for drawing this design. They really are simple to draw, and the hand lettering is based on your own writing style too.

For this design, I chose spring-time colours, more pastel than bright. Of course Easter eggs and a bunny balloon had to feature, along with all the lovely spring flowers and a sprinkling of hearts. I even snuck a star in, hearts and stars being some of my favourite motifs to include.

This design would make a really cute greetings card or notecard. The dangles can easily be drawn shorter. It would also make a lovely bookmark. As a BuJo page, planner page or an element on a scrapbook page it would be lovely.

Using Nuvo drops or Ranger’s Stickles or similar to make dots where the beads are as well as a sprinkling of them around the top of the design would add some lovely dimension and sparkle for sure.

I do hope you give drawing dangle designs a go. They are so much fun and a lot easier to do than you think they are. They can also be used in many, many ways, especially when it comes to sharing love with others at different times and events throughout the years of our lives.

About the drawing…

When it came to designing the dangle designs and monograms for A Dangle A Day, I started off by sketching the idea out on dot grid paper using either a pencil or a pen. I could then adjust the lines and draw guidelines in to help me with the design quite easily.

When I was happy with the sketch, I scanned it in and then re-drew it in a digital form. For drawing digitally I use a Microsoft surface pen directly on the screen of a Microsoft surface book or surface studio. This is like drawing with pen or pencil on paper, or even painting or colouring.

So, although my designs were created in a digital environment, they were still very much drawn by hand.

I used very little in the way of smoothing lines – only enough to remove the wobbliness that comes from the great sensitivity of the pen and screen position sensoring stuff, and never used the predictive line tools available in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. I worked out how to set up pens that would leave a line texture similar to the pens I like to use to draw on paper with. I determined I wouldn’t make everything perfect, that there would be that perfectly imperfect human touch to everything that I created. I also made sure I included examples of dangles drawn and coloured on paper and turned into cards, bookmarks and BuJo pages too.

Working digitally to draw and then colour the designs allowed me to edit, erase, adjust and keep the image free of smudges and blots that would require re-drawing. It also made it a lot easier to make the edits my lovely editors suggested to improve the work.

It certainly saved a lot of time scanning image after image in – something I find extremely tedious.

Although I may have used digital tools to draw with, the techniques I used were the same as if I’d drawn on paper with pen and then coloured with various traditional media.

I also have to say that the year to year and a half ago when I was colouring these I was only just starting to explore the realms of digital colouring and I hadn’t quite worked out exactly how I’d like to do it. They worked out good enough, but now I think I’d approach it a bit differently.

I had such a lot of fun creating the dangle designs season by season, month by month, celebration by celebration and I hope you have the same amount of fun doing this too.

Joy – hand lettering

Angela Porter Joy 13 August 2018

I did hand-letter this one, though I did do it digitally using a Surface Pen on my new Surface Studio.

I love my Surface Book, which was a joy to use most of the time. However I was beginning to become a little frustrated with turning the screen around and losing the use of the keyboard and not being able to see the whole image I was working on at the actual size it would be printed.

So, as I officially take my teacher’s pension early today as I reach the illustrious age of 55, I decided to invest some of the lump sum in a shiny new Surface Studio for my business of art, illustration and writing.

The Surface Studio isn’t without it’s frustrations, not least of which were the hours and hours it took to download and install all the upgrades for Windows and the Surface system, and then installing the software I used (not done all of it quite yet).

I did get a Surface Dial with the Surface Studio, and it works interestingly with the free Autodesk Sketchbook, but it doesn’t work at all with the Autodesk Sketchbook Pro version, which is the one I prefer, perhaps because I’m familiar with it and find it easier to access the functions I make use of.

These are minor things, the Surface Studio is a joy to use (though I do need to remember to change the tip on the surface pen to one that glides more easily on the screen!)

So, it seemed appropriate that today, the day I turn 55 and become a semi-pensioner, that I hand letter the word Joy, in my own inimitable style.

I actually quite like the neon colours on the black background. I have a feeling I’ll be doing more like this now my mind has worked out that I can do stuff like this digitally.

Will I be turning my back on more traditional art? Not at all! If anything, I treat digital art as if it is traditional art – the pen means I draw like I would on paper.  All it means is I have access to tools that make some styles a little easier, the ability to use colours and textures that would be difficult for me in traditional media possible, and the ability to edit without frustrating use of white inks a dream!

Don’t forget, I do tend to work directly in ink on paper, often with no pencil lines at all.

Joy is also an appropriate word as I share my artwork because I share my joy in creating it with others, and I trust that viewing it (and hopefully my witterings like this one) joy for you.

What doesn’t bring me joy is when I find my artwork is shared or used without my permission, particularly when people use it to make money for themselves without any regard for the creator of the work. I try to protect my work by watermarking it, signing it, sharing at a low resolution, but still I find people steal my work.

That is not joy. Not joyful at all.

It is stealing too. I don’t know where people get the idea that artwork shared by artists on the interwebs means the artists give up their copyrights.

We DO NOT give up our copyrights in any way.

I sometimes create ‘freebies’, but even then there are limits to how they can be used – personal use, not for resale either coloured or uncoloured, not for inclusion in publications, and so on.

People who steal work like this, and let me be clear it is stealing, make me feel very un-joyful and on the point of removing all my accounts where I share art so people can view it and enjoy it, sometimes even buy it, or prints of it or products with it on, but not to steal it and use it without my permission.

I’m sure those of you who read this will agree with me on this and don’t need to read it, but if my words reach just one person who takes the work of others for their own personal gain in someway, without asking permission of the artist, without even crediting them or providing a link back to where they got it from, stop to think about the harm and upset they are causing to those of us who want to share our joy in our vocation with others, then my words will have done some good. Pricked a conscience or two maybe.

Perhaps then the days of me getting upset and writing emails that go unanswered to websites where I find my artwork offered to others will stop, and there will be more joy.

I can hope this will happen.

Returning to the theme of joy rather than not-joy, I do hope you find my little artwork of today brings you some joy too. Do let me know if you’d like to see more like this, or if you have suggestions of words that you’d like to see in this kind of style!

Finally, do have a joyful day yourselves. Do something that brings you peace and joy, be it art, coloring, baking, reading, dancing, playing music, a sunset walk in nature … whatever it may be, do something joyful every day.

Friday quote

Angela Porter 1 June 2018

I am so lucky being self-employed, doing something that brings me pleasure and never feels like work; it always feels like the weekend for me!

I sketched the words and part of the design on paper, photographed it and opened it in Autodesk Sketchbook, then used my Microsoft Surface Pen on my Microsoft Surface Book to hand-draw the letters and flower wreath.

Yes, it is hand-drawing, even though it’s done in a digital environment. I use my Surface Pen as I would any pen or pencil. I do make use of some of the tools in Autodesk Sketchbook to speed up the drawing – such as the symmetry tool, and the ability to move elements in the hand-lettering around (I’m learning not to be too fussy about size and arrangement in the sketch; that just gives me the general idea of lettering styles and sizes).

All the same, it’s a nice way to start a Friday with a decorated #fridayquote, just to get those #weekendvibes going with #thatfridayfeeling #fridayfeeling.