Custom Sketchbook

The sketchbook

Last weekend, I made a small sketchbook that would hold approx 4″ x 4″ pieces of paper that was held together by book binding rings. I thought this would be a good idea as I like to work on small pieces of paper.

Then, last night I tried taking some prints from alcohol ink designs on A5 paper. I really didn’t want to cut them up to fit into the smaller custom sketchbook. I also didn’t want to use the metal binding rings again.

I woke this morning with the idea to use a disc binding system to create a custom sketchbook-come-art-journal.

I have been using an A5 Arteza mixed-media sketchbook for this, but it has rapidly become very, very wedge-shaped. I also realised that I want something where I can add a variety of sizes and types of paper, as well as move them around to suit my needs. A disc bound system seems to be the best way for me to do this.

I’ve yet to work out a way to make a hard cover for the sketchbook. For now, I made each cover from two sheets of A4 pearlescent card glued together. They’ll be sturdy enough until I work out how to reinforce them in some way.

I decided to place the disc binding on the landscape edge, just for a bit of a change, no other reason. I’ll be able to take the paper out of the binding to work on. This actually suits me just fine as the spines of sketchbooks really irk me when I work in them, be they sewn or spiral bound.

What I also like about the disc binding system compared to the book binding ring is that the holes in the paper are much closer to the edge. It’ll be much easier to leave a ‘margin’ on the paper.

Of course, there’ll be plenty of times when I’ll work in a commercially produced sketchbook still, especially as I’ve now rediscovered the joy of using one again. However, the ability to colour paper, use different kinds of paper and sizes of paper really appeals to me as a variation on the sketchbook theme.

The different sizes of papers also add a bit of intrigue to the sketchbook. There are glimpses of other designs and backgrounds further on that add to curiosity.

I can choose to add notes either to the back of the work or on sheets of dot-grid or squared paper I’ve added.

Nor am I precluded from adding journaling elements such as envelopes and pages with pockets, for instance.

Abstract art

The top page is an abstract drawing I completed this morning. The colour and pattern on the paper (a piece of ClaireFontaine Paint-On mixed media paper) was added by taking a print from alcohol inks on Yupo paper.

I spent some time yesterday evening experimenting with alcohol inks on Yupo paper (a synthetic paper). Once I was happy with what I’d made, I added some Alcohol Lift-Ink and used a brayer to spread it over the design. Quickly, I placed a sheet of mixed-media paper on top and allowed the alcohol inks to be transferred. If you’d like to know more about this technique, pop over to the Lavinia Stamps YouTube channel; they have lots of videos showing how this is done.

The inks lose their vibrance and become more muted when this is done, but it means it’s much easier to draw on the design without wrecking pens in the process.

I used Pitt Artist Pens by Faber-Castell to draw the abstract design on the paper. Once I was happy with the design, I added some metallic/pearlescent paints in shades of orange and yellow to some of the white/pale circles in the design. Sadly, the photograph hasn’t picked this up.

I decided to not to cover the whole paper with the drawn design. I wanted to leave some areas of the background as they were.

I really enjoy working like this – creating a colourful, textured background which I then use as inspiration for the line-work. It is, for me, a very meditative process. Of course, patterns and forms appear that I can then use in future artwork.

Of course, I could choose to intensify the colours in select places using any variety of media. Today, I have chosen to leave this as it is. I may scan it in and try this out digitally at another time.

Digital or Traditional Art?

Both! For me anyway. I do love working in both ways, and using them in concert too.

I love the portability and smaller scale of paper and pen/pencil, as well as using other traditional art and craft media.

I also love creating art digitally, sometimes using backgrounds I’ve created using traditional media or pen and ink drawings.

Each has their pros and cons. Each allows me to do things that the other can’t.

One thing I do know, however, is it takes time to become skillful in each and also to find your own artistic voice (or voices) for each medium used.

Which I use at any given time depends on the style of art I need to do, what kind of ‘finish’ I want with it, and also what my arty heart and soul requires at the time to be content and happy.

No matter which I use, I’m constantly trying new things out, or revisiting old techniques with fresh eyes and ideas. Of course, changing media and methods also freshens up my art and recharges my motivation when it’s in ebb rather than flow.

Stress, motivation and inspiration

This week has been dominated by stress from venturing forth from my home for the first time since March. When I’m anxious/stressed it can be incredibly difficult to settle to anything. Also, I can easily feel overwhelmed by even the simplest tasks. Activities that usually soothe me can irritate me. My ability to focus on anything approaches a vanishing point rather rapidly.

Working in a sketchbook has helped; there is then no pressure to create a finished piece of work, or even to finish any sketch or artwork. It’s just about doing and enjoying and exploring. I let go of my expectations of artistic success and replace them with expectations of finding some peace and contentment in the whirl of emotions I experience at times like this.

I find it hard to be motivated to create, and even more difficult to find inspiration. I tend to slip back into old, familiar and self-comforting styles of creating art.

Hence this style of abstract art.

Even when I do slip into a familiar style, the art produced may be familiar, but it’s moved along, altered either subtly or more noticeably showing the progress I’m making artistically. It also reflects the current variations in the particular fugue that my artistic voice wants to sing to satisfy it. My artistic voice, song, doesn’t have one tune, it has many, plenty of which are yet to be discovered.

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.

Watercolour greeting cards

Greeting cards

It was a morning for some simple art. Art just for fun, relaxation and self-soothing. So, I thought that small watercolour gradient panels with really simple drawings on them and metallic and pearlescent paint highlights would be perfect.

For the first time ever I managed to create smooth colour gradients with watercolour. The secret, for me, was using a mix of water and gum arabic to wet the paper before applying the colour. Of course, working on such small pieces of watercolour paper helped. Still, it’s a personal achievement!

Once the panels were all done, itseemed a good idea to mount the little panels on some 4″ x 4″ blank cards. So I did just that and added a few more cards to my stash.

Stress and self-care

I had a really poor night’s sleep after the stress of my trip out to the pharmacy yesterday. I woke around 2:30am with a splitting headache and found it hard to get back to sleep. When I did, my alarm went off and woke me with quite a jolt.

I’d set my alarm last night as Wednesday is my delivery day with Able & Cole, and I like to get the deliver in and stored asap.

Once the delivery had come, around 6:30am. I had breakfast and then went back to bed to sleep.

I’m feeling a bit more centred and content now, but I’m still exhausted. So, today will be a quiet, self-care kind of day for me. I’ll be doing my best not to give in to the temptation to take a nap this afternoon so that I can sleep myself our properly tonight.

Watercolour Wednesday

I know, it’s been a watercolour day nearly every day for the past week or so. However, I do like alliteration. As did the Anglo-Saxons, who used alliteration in their poetry rather than rhymes.

Anyway, a fair amount of watercolour being done here in the past day.

Painting (1)
This one is now finished. It was an unusual one to do as I didn’t start with a sketch, but just added shapes as the painting grew. It’s colourful, for sure, which is my usual way of working with colour. I know I needed some colour to brighten my heart up yesterday.

Painting (2)
A work in progress, this one is on a piece of Arteza Premium watercolour paper, which is 100% cotton. It works in much the same way as the other 100% cotton paper I have, but it’s slightly more offwhite, with a yellow-ish tone, than the Khadi paper. It also has a different texture that is finer and not quite so bumpy. I’ve yet to work out which I prefer.

I’ve decided to complete this painting in shades of blue, green and purple, mostly. I’m sure I’ll end up changing that idea, or sneaking in other colours here and there.

With the 100% cotton paper, I am starting to become comfortable with dropping wet into wet and letting the colours spread and blend with each other. Judging the quantity to get the depth of colour and a smooth gradient is still a tricky task for me.

Painting (3)
I don’t know what got into my head this morning, but I felt the need to paint a mandala in much the same way that Carl Jung would to start his day with an idea of what is going on mentally and emotionally on a subconcious level.

I also had a kind of bright idea to use a diecutting machine to cut out circles of paper, in this case Daler-Rowney Mixed media paper.

With the first circles I tried watercolour and had really unsatisfactory results. This surprised me given the fairly pleasing experience I had with the ClaireFontaine mixed media paper.

So, rather than use watercolours, I thought I’d try Inktense pencils, using a damp brush to pick colour up from the pencil nib. I also used a solution of gum arabic to help keep the colour wet for longer. Gum arabic also increases the translucency of the pigments, and can add a glossiness to the colour too. This helped the Inktense colours to work more like watercolours.

I also added dots of gold Daler-Rowney FW Pearlescent acrylic inks to the design here and there. To finish the design off. I had thought of adding patterns in gold to the blank areas, but that just didn’t feel the right thing to do. It felt finished, white space and all.



The aim of this painting wasn’t to create a work of art, but to give an insight into what is going on within me at this time. I’ll keep my observations on this to myself. What I will say is I’m feeling out of sorts and rather sad and low today. I have a lot of confusion, anxiety, fear and despair surrounding various things going on and I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed by it today. It’s all just emotional weather – just as the clouds cover the sun, they will move along by and the sun (or moon) will shine bright and clear once again, so it is with emotions.

Abstract Watercolour WIP

What a grey, cool, windy and showery/rainy, changeable day it is here in the Valleys of South Wales, UK. Such a huge contrast to the three days of a heatwave earlier this week. Mind you, I’m one of those people who prefers to be cool rather than too hot, and on Wednesday and Thursday it really was too hot for me!

I’m still not quite right in terms of mental focus and emotional balance. After the rollercoaster rides I’ve had over the past month, it takes a while for the stress hormones to leach from my system. Each time they had started to lower, I found myself on that rollercoaster once more.

This is nothing that is affecting me directly, other than emotionally. However, it’s the emotional stuff that makes it difficult to deal with, despite me meditating and self-soothing and losing myself as much as I can in creativitity. That’s hard when I can’t settle to anything.

I do find I can settle somewhat more today, but I am still tired and my mind still feels fuzzy and unfocused. So, I won’t be chancing doing any work that requires my absolute focus, not today.

I was up early-ish this morning for a delivery. While waiting for it, I cut up a sheet of St Cuthbert’s Mill Bockingford watercolour paper and washi taped a 5½” x 4″ piece of it to an old cutting plate. I then took a 3mm mechanical pencil and sketched out an abstract design based on clouds, believe it or not.

I’m now part way through adding colour to it with White Knight’s watercolours and a size 2 Graduate round brush by Daler-Rowney.

Yesterday, I thought that this Bockingford paper was the one I’d used for the first of these abstract watercolours. It turns out it isn’t. I’m begininng to wonder if it was some mixed media paper as it is a brighter white than either Bockingford or Canson Moulin du Roy. It definitely wasn’t Daler-Rowney aquafine paper nor Tim Holtz’s watercolour paper. Nor was it the 100% cotton paper either. How curious.

I have enjoyed the process of drawing the design and starting to add colour. The colours are softer than yesterday’s watercolour, but more vibrant than the one I did earlier this week. Perhaps the change in colours is a sign I’m continuing to settle back to my usual chilled out, calm and content state.

So, I’m going to take a break from arty stuff for a little while. My concentration is wavering and I’m tempted to go back go sleep. However, I know that will prevent me from sleeping well tonight.

Abstract Watercolor

This morning, it was lovely to settle down to some watercolor work with the air much cooler and after a good night’s sleep.

I used a 5½” x 3″ piece of Canson Moulin du Roy watercolour paper for this one. I have to say, I’m not at all fussed on this paper. I much prefer the Bockingford paper from St Cuthbert’s Mill that I used for the last watercolour abstract I did. My favourite, though, is the 100% cotton rag Khadi paper, but as I’ve been feeling my way through this, I thought I’d use paper from my stash that is OK but not my favourite.

Oh, I used White Knights watercolour paints, which are usually much smoother and cleaner in colour. The off-white Moulin du Roy paper mutes them down. Also, the colours easily re-wet and move when adding glazes. Definitely not my favourite for this kind of work.

I’ve had heck of a couple of days, again, that have been emotionally draining and mentally exhausting. I think that shows in my choices of colours, which are not as harmonious as the previous version. I was also frustrated with how the colours didn’t appear as I expected them to.

I’ve also made the colours a lot more saturated. I’m not sure if I prefer this, but it could be a reflection of how I’m feeling and what I need at this time.

Nonetheless, there are parts of this piece that I am pleased with, the pointy teardrops as an example.

Still, I really think the colours I used feel really uneasy, which is a reflection of the lingering remains of the emotions of the past couple of days in particular.

Even though I slept really well last night, I’m still exhausted and feel the need to sleep again. That tells me it’s another self-care day. I hope that will recharge my batteries so I can focus on the editing and work I need to do by the end of the month. I fear not focusing well at the moment would result in me not saving edited images correctly so I lose some of the art I’ve done. It’s a necessary, but tedious, task and I need to be able to focus and think clearly. Today is not that day.

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.

Watercolor Greeting Cards

About the artwork

I needed a quiet morning, again, today. So, I thought I’d dig out my Caran D’Ache Supracolor Soft watercolour pencils and try some stuff with them.

I wanted to use them to draw a flower, or two, and then use water to create a watercolour effect. The result you can see on the left-hand side card. I’ve left loads of white space on this card, which is unusual for me. I couldn’t resist, however, adding some gold dots around the flowers. The colour of the petals was so delicate that I used a 2H 3mm pencil to outline them and the leaves. Just for info, the piece of watercolour paper measures 4″ x 4″.

For the other cards, I just wanted to work with the pencils to create gradients and abstract patterns in colour. I drew on the little panels using a 0.25 Copic Multiliner SP pen and added some lines and details with metallic gold watercolour. These cards are approx 3″ x 4″ in size.

Watercolor pencils are nice to use when it comes to drawing in colour with them, then activiating the colour with water. They really glow on 100% cotton rag paper (bottom right) compared to the other cellulose papers.

Cute and whimsical cards, some very detailed, one not quite so. But a nice way to spend my morning.

Self-care time, again.

There’s a situation going on around me that is draining my emotions greatly at this time. I’m doing my best to not become overly emotionally involved in it, but it’s difficult when it’s to do with people you care about.

It all has a knock on effect with me. I’m anxious, tired verging on exhausted, really grumpy, irritable, and lacking patience at this time. I’m also not able to concentrate too well. These are all behaviours I could do without in dealing with this situation. Yet I’m exhausted by it.

I have been meditating, making sure I take time to do self-calming and self-soothing activities, such as my morning art, Though I have work to do for contracts, I need to take a day away from everything, if I can.

I know there are lessons for me to learn about myself in how I’m reacting ot the situation, stuff from my past that wasn’t processed during my EMDR therapy. If I can work out what it is, I can work through it myself now. Organising EMDR therapy isn’t possible at this time, with lockdown still very much in operation and me being very nervous of going out into the world as well.

So, I’m going to make time today to drink tea, meditate, journal and try to get to the bottom of my own issues and start doing what I can to work through them and heal the past traumas that are causing my reactions at this time.

I think I’ll also take time to crochet (I started a mosaic blanket earlier this week) and watch films or crafting shows on the TV. Eat healthily – I have a yearning for brussel sprouts, of all things! And take time away from social media and news. I may even pick up my flute and play it, for the first time in months and months.

#MondayQuotes

I found this appropriate quote this morning, and thought I just had to try to add some pretty art behind it, and this is what I came up with.

I worked digitally and used some symmetry tools. I’m not entirely sure about it, but it let me try things out and let my mind work out some things, including how I’ve really been doing things a hard, long and laborious way in the past, digitally speaking. All part of the learning process, of course.

Yesterday, I had to take a total self-care day. I’ve had a very stressful couple of days, and that does take its toll on me. Today I feel less emotionally overwhelmed, I can sense that touchstone of contentment inside me, and the maelstrom of emotions concerning the events has mostly calmed down, and I hope the stressful situation will have done so, for a few days at least!

Shatterpoints of change causing stress and distress for someone in my circle, and supporting through it has been…difficult and unpleasant for me. Still, I think the situation has calmed, for now at least. The quote is really relevant to this situation, far more than for this person than for me.

As difficult as it has been, I have been able to see how far along my healing journey I have come. I can also see how my relationship with myself has become so much healthier. So that’s the positive pay off for me in all of this.

What is self-love?

Self-love is a concept that isn’t fully understood. It took me a long time to understand it, or to accept that it is possible.

Self-love isn’t about ego, grandiosity, boastfulness. It’s not about thinking you’re perfect or the most beautiful or the cleverest person in the world.

Self love is about accepting yourself as you are, strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, mistakes and all. It’s about accepting that all these, and more, make you who you are and that it is OK to be perfectly imperfect.

It’s about learning to treat yourself kindly, not to be so hard on yourself. It’s about being compassionate towards yourself.

Self love is about nurturing yourself, taking care of the needs of your body, mind, emotion and spirituality.

It’s about having a high regard for your own happiness and well being. It’s about not sacrificing these to please others. It’s about not settling for less than you deserve, about setting healthy boundaries.

It’s a practice, some days it will be easier to do this, others a bit harder. But it’s an importance practice for mental and emotional health.

Over the past few days, I’ve had to practice a lot of self love and self care. I don’t profess to be an expert; I’m constantly learning more about it, as well as constantly having to refer back to what it means and what I need to do.

So, I thought I’d do a blog post about it, as well as some arty stuff. I’ve not done much digital art of late. I became lost in the world of watercolour and journal making and paper crafting. This morning I felt the need to do some digital art. I dug out a sheet of small designs I’d created back in January 2020 and picked one to colour. The rest just fell into place.