It’s the penultimate day of Inktober 2019 and today’s drawing features a whale skull, a bowhead whale skull to be precise, complete with baleen.
The mandala in the background has the Nik tangle pattern forming the wider geometric patterned ring. The outer ring is a line drawing of Xanthoria elegans – the sunburst lichen.
I wanted the skull to stand out, so I coloured the mandala in a softer, paler version of the background colour.
I felt quite teary as I was looking at whale skulls and skeletons. They reminded me of the last time I visited the whale skeleton and leatherback turtle in the National Museum and Galleries of Wales, Cardiff. I was overwhelmed with sadness then too. This is a sure sign that I’m emotionally vulnerable once again and that I need to take a lot of care of myself, my emotions in particular.
This is digital art, drawn using my Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio as the digital analogues of pen and paper, and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, which allows me to do this.
Armadillo skull flower? I thought I’d try a different number of skulls arranged around a mandala. They sure do look like petals of a flower. Armadillo skull is the prompt for today’s Inktober drawing from a list by Instagrammer @book_polygamist. I’ve also used the tangle pattern crescent moon from the list by @havepen_willdraw.
I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio as my tools.
I’m also enjoying using these grungy texture backgrounds, of which I am altering the colours as needed.
I can’t believe that Inktober is nearly over; just four more days remain. I’ll reflect on this year’s experience with my last Inktober drawing.
Today’s Inktober features a flamingo skull and a mandala.
I really can’t seem to get away from the woodcut style drawing at the moment. I am enjoying drawing in this style, and it is a bit of a challenge to work out which direction the lines and the thickness of the lines need to go in order to give that sense of dimension to the artwork.
The second ring from the centre of the mandala is formed using today’s tangle pattern – Ratoon. The fourth ring out has stylised drawings of the birds’s nest fungus (Cyanthus striatus). The rest of the mandala I just let flow as it needed to.
The colours I used for the mandala are from the plumage of flamingos. I needed a dark background for some of the colours to show up well, so I used a grungy texture which I coloured a murky, algae-green. The skull appears to be resting in the mandala thanks to the way I’ve used the colours.
This is, again, digital art, drawn using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
The Inktober prompt lists I’m using come from the Instagrammers @book_polygamist (skulls), @nyan_sun (mushrooms) and @havepen_willdraw (tangle patterns).
I enjoyed creating this simple, for me, mandala; I am pleased with the result.
It’s not been without the need for editing along the way and changing some of the design elements. That’s the beauty of working digitally; being able to change the design when I realise that some parts just aren’t working.
Of course, it helps if my mood is in the right place too. Last night and today I’ve found my balance once again and the oompf to create. This mandala is a reflection of that.
I also reset the colour palette I’d been using in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and created one with a limited palette.
Even though I’d limited my colour choices to twelve colours plus greyscale, I think that may still have been too many. So, the next mandala I create will have a smaller palette.
I particularly like how I’ve created texture and dimension in the ‘rings’ and also the central circle. It’s subtle but effective, I think.
One thing I would, perhaps, change if I was super-critical, are the leaves and the background to them. These seem brighter than the rest of the design. However, part of me likes that contrast.
I’m pleased with myself for persevering with this and changing colours that didn’t work as the design unfolded. I think I’m achieving a more coherent design as a result of using a limited palette.
Every time I create digital art, I learn new things and develop accordingly. Today, I have found it a satisfying experience. Even swapping colours hasn’t been the frustrating experience it often is.
So, onwards I travel on my journey of discovery and development as an artist working with digital media. If I look back, I can see how far I have come in the past three years since I bought my Surface Book. Acquiring a Surface Studio and its large screen has allowed me to explore and develop my art even more.
It’s definitely a sampler of patterns, ideas, and playing around with digital techniques.
It is, however, quite an accomplishment – at more than one point along the way I just wanted to give up on it.
Looking at it now, there are parts I’d want to change, such as that ‘waterfall’ of green scales in the bottom centre of the A.
I have learned quite a few things, and put together other stuff too in a simpler way.
I’ve also learned that starting with a sketch may be a good idea in future – a sketch with at least the main beams of the supporting structure and main design elements in place, even if just in outline shape form.
At one point, I’d had an idea about continuing some of the ‘tubes’ to the edge of the canvas, maybe making them appear as if they were diving down into the paper, and popping up along their path, acting like laces holding the crazy A down.
However, I didn’t do that this time. Matching up colours, shading, patterns etc would be a tad awkward and frustrating for me, especially if I just wanted to carry the ‘tube’ on from the edge of the letter.
It is, however, something I can consider trying to do in the future.
Despite me thinking it yesterday, I haven’t left any white space in the letter itself, just leaving the white space around it. I tried, but it just didn’t feel quite right in this particular design.
I have no idea how many hours I’ve spent on this – many tens of hours I would think – with very few frustrations along the way.
I think I have some fish to finish along with the ‘Be Brave’ design I was working on before I wandered off to have a go at this idea for a crazily entangled monogram.
So, between them and work for the next colouring book I have quite a bit of stuff to keep me busy for sure.
All I need to say now is that I used my usual trio of tools – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
I’ve managed to get a bit more of this design done today.
I’m finding I’m enjoying working ‘freeform’ i.e. without a sketch. I’m just adding shapes and patterns that I particularly like and trying out colour combinations that may work well together and alongside others.
Also, I’m finding that the more I work digitally, the more my head is getting around this digital lark.
As usual, my digital tools are Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pen along with a Surface Studio.
So Angela, how are you today?
I had a good night’s sleep, sleeping through to nearly 8 am from just before midnight. I felt really upbeat and ticketty boo, once I’d come around. It takes me ages to wake up properly these days and I have no idea when that crept up on me!
All the same, I felt up to some ‘adulting’. Today, that involved posting a couple of packages off and doing some shopping.
I also have to say that I’m quite content, and today I don’t seem to have much anxiety. I noticed yesterday that I kept trying to find it or to make myself anxious so that I could feel it.
When did this happen that the anxiety has not vanished but diminished noticeably.
And here’s me thinking that Monday’s EMDR didn’t have much of an effect …
And that is all I have to say about that today, other than I do have to go and do a bit more ‘adulting’ in the form of cooking a healthy meal. I really fancy a curry … one with lots and lots of veggies!
I’m having a little bit of whimsical and cute artistic fun this evening, with fish!
After drawing my fish dangle design yesterday I really realised that I enjoyed it very much and that it could be fun to explore whimsical illustrations of funny, cute and colourful fish. So, that’s what I started today.
My first step was to sketch out the basic shapes and some patterns with pencil on paper. I know, traditional media. However, working on paper on a scale that my mind can take in and look at the balance of the design and it’s intricacy is a good idea before I launch fully into creating the art digitally.
After scanning the sketch in, the fun of creating these cute fishies in colour.
This is also giving me the chance to try out ideas, hone my skills and understanding of the various digital ‘brushes’ I like to use and just see how things develop.
Naturally, my digital tools are Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pen and a Microsoft Surface Studio.
I’ve had some fun this morning! I wanted to create a cute and whimsical dangle design for today. A cute fish came to mind, so I went with that. See, you can create a dangle using any kind of design elements!
I also thought that it would be fun as well as a bit of a challenge to use the digital art techniques I’ve been using lately.
If you just focus on the outline shapes, it’s not a complex design. There are many ways to fill a fish shape with pattern and colour and you can make it as simple or intricate as you like.
My love of bright, almost psychedelic colours, has also crept out for the fish and I love the happy smile on the fish’s face.
The shell is a bit out of place, perhaps. A bit too realistic in colour and so on. But that’s OK. It’s shown me that I can digitally paint more realistic, if quite stylised, designs. That’s going to be an interesting path to explore.
The seaweed forming the ‘string’ for the dangle is very stylised and I just thought some pearls would be in keeping with the ocean theme.
This isn’t a design in my book “A Dangle A Day“. However there are many, many other designs that I give step by step instructions for within its pages.
I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pen and a Microsoft Surface Studio.
So, Angela. How are you today?
I’m fine today. Content. It’s warm here in the Valleys of South Wales so I think it’ll be a quiet day for me. I don’t do well in the heat; I wilt.
Nothing else about CPTSD, mental health, emotional health or EMDR today. Not after that humongous blog post I did yesterday.
I do need to sort out my anti-stigma presentation for Time to Change Wales as I’m giving a talk next week and it’s time to change things around and change the focus of my talk from my life story to ■ what CPTSD is ■ more about how CPTSD affects me ■ the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced ■ how people have supported, helped me ■ what support I would have liked to have from people
I’ve already created a CPTSD ‘graphic’ to use in the presentation. I do need to gather information together.
Ha! I’m glad I’ve written this as I now I have a clear outline to follow to create my presentation. I was fretting and worrying about that.
Before I do anything else, I need some tea I think.
Warning – there are triggers in the CPTSD section of my blog today.
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?
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.