The dos and don’ts of self-care.

The do-s and don't-s of self-care © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
The dos and don’ts of self-care © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

Dos and Don’ts

Yesterday was a quiet yet busy arty day. I worked on some projects, but by the evening, I had a hankering for ‘comfort art’ to soothe my fragile emotions. I’d seen a similar list on facebook and thought it would be nice to do one of my own. Naturally, I just had to add some embellishment in the form of my style of drawing. The drawing then needed some colour. So, I started to add colour.

After typing out the list using Affinity Publisher and printing it out, I used a 08 Uniball Unipin pen to add the drawing. Next, I scanned the design in and then started to add colour in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro using my trusty Surface Pen and Surface Studio, both from Microsoft.

My lines are a little less than perfect in the drawing. I’ve noticed a few tiny smudges and some places where the lines have overrun each other a little. I’ve left them as they are, this time.

I thought it might be a good idea to make the colouring a little less than perfect too; so I added a background texture.

About my art and my emotional state.

I seem to have started a lot of projects and not finished them of late. I’m not quite sure why that is. I know I’ve had a really tough time of it emotionally speaking over the last couple of weeks. I think that has a lot to do with it.

I have managed to settle down to get work done for a commission. The main artwork is now done, it’s just doing all the other stuff to go with it. Today isn’t the best day simply because I’ll soon have to sort myself out to go off to EMDR therapy; that’s likely to be emotionally distressing as there’s been a confluence of events in my life that have all triggered emotional reactions. I’ve also not had that much time to let the emotional waves calm. There have also been changes that need to become familiar too.

Today is the first time in a few days I’ve felt anything like settled. Yet I’m not settled fully. I keep having waves of fear followed by tears rising up for no apparent reason.

I think I know what the fear is about. The way I think and feel about a part of my life is changing. It had started to change before the experience, but now it’s really settling in. A yearning in me to ‘belong’, to have that sense of companionship, has been awakened once again. I’ve been given a taster session of what it’s like. So, I’m grieving the lack of that in my life, and fearful I won’t find it going forward. Kindred spirits are few and far between.

This is all part of the journey towards releasing trauma and healing from cPTSD. It’s also about replacing old, unhealthy outlooks with more positive and healthier ones. Grief is involved; even if the old beliefs are harmful, they have been a part of my life, and it’s still a loss. But go they must so something healthier can replace them.

Change is never easy, but it is necessary; for growth, for healing, for a better life.

Mail Art – sneak peek

Mail art – sneak peek © Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

Making the mail art

I woke this morning and had a fancy to make a card along with a coordinating envelope. I’m going to be sending these to someone, so I didn’t want to show the whole design, so a sneak peek it is. I don’t think it gives much away about the mail art. I hope it doesn’t spoil the surprise for the recipient.

I used a pre-made card blank and envelope. The card is nearly 8½” x 4¼” in size and is plain white.

I cut a piece of Winsor and Newton Bristol board to 3½” x 7½”. I added some score lines ⅛” in from each edge and let them overlap to form little squares at the corners. To do this I used a score board and bone folder. I’ve never done this before, but it actually adds a nice touch. It also gives me an even border to work within, which is always useful.

My next step was to add colour to the top layer and the envelope. I decided to do some ink blending with Distress Inks. Here’s a list of the colours I used:

  • scattered straw
  • wild honey
  • crushed olive
  • candied apple
  • evergreen bough

Once I was happy with the colour gradient, I broke out my Uniball Unpin pens and started to draw the design. As I had a coloured background, I made use of lines and patterns to add texture and dimension.

When I was happy with the design, it was missing something. It needed some colour or shading. I decided to add some colour with Copic markers, being mindful of using colours that would work harmoniously with the background.

My final step was to add some dots of gold glitter to add some ‘bling’ to the card.

My attention then turned to the envelope.

First, I added some pencil lines to help me keep my hand lettering level and neat. I then used a black Tombow Fudenosuke pen to brush letter the recipient’s name. I then used a grey Tombow Fudenosuke pen to add shadow to the letters.

I then used a Uniball Unipin 08 pen to add the address. For this, I used simple capital letters for the hand-lettering.

My next task was to draw the design on the envelope. I used some elements from the card for this, plus a couple of extra ones. I also added texture and shadow with lines.

My final task, after I’d written my name and address on the back of the envelope, was to seal the envelope art with a thin layer of Distress Micro Glaze, carefully avoiding the area where stamps will be affixed. The Micro Glaze creates a waterproof layer so the Distress and Tombow inks shouldn’t run if they get wet.

Once the recipient has the card, I’ll post a full image of the mail art, carefully obscuring their information.

So, Angela, how are you today?

I’m ok today. I’m a tad tired, but I don’t seem as emotionally fragile as I have been. There’s still a bit of ‘flatness’ or ‘heaviness’ inside me, but the contentedness is of equal or greater intensity.

Today I need a quiet day at home; the last week or so has been crazy busy with either emotional upsets occurring or commitments I have to keep. The next commitment I have is on Thursday evening, so I’m going to make the most of the time I have to myself. Creating mail art was one activity in self-soothing.

I doubted that I would find this more settled state any time soon. That it’s appeared today is a real bonus. How long it stays for I don’t know as I know what is in my diary.

I’m not going to worry about that, well not much. I’m going to enjoy the contentedness and Use my quiet time to soothe my still fragile emotions.

Yes, I feel mostly content, but I also know that it won’t take much to provoke me to tears and some emotional distress.

One thing we talked about in therapy on Monday was the need for me to protect myself in situations where I’m emotionally vulnerable. I’ve had a lot of time interacting with people over the past few days. I now need time to relax, breathe, re-energise.

I enjoy being with people, but it also drains me. That’s one of the consequences of being an introvert. When I’m socially exhausted, it makes me more emotionally vulnerable than I usually am. So, I need time to recover from this.

I will recover. Nowadays, I always do given enough self-care and self-soothing time.

I also am self-aware enough to know that to start important projects is not a good idea at this time. It becomes all too easy for me to find fault with everything I do and for me to end up spiralling downwards into a mood where I am harsh to myself.

It is still hard to be kind to myself on days like this. There’s a nagging voice that I should be doing this or doing that and not indulging myself in activities that help me to heal. Other inner critics join in, telling me I’m worthless, useless, a failure, unloveable then join in, sensing the vulnerability in me. So, I’m learning to ignore that voice, even if I still feel a little guilty. As I feel better, refreshed and re-energised and more emotionally resilient, the inner critics become inaudible once again.

So, as hard as it is to accept that I need to be kind and to spend today doing what will help me heal, this is precisely what I am going to do. And that starts with me writing a letter to accompany the mail art. I also want to create some designs that I can print to colour and use to create greeting cards.

Experimenting digitally…

Experimenting digitally ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Experimenting digitally ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

My experiment laying down areas of colour with Chameleon markers then adding colour inspired me to try the same idea out with my digital art tools.

Here is the result of several hours trying the idea out.

I’m not at all sure about lots of parts of it. I’m not happy with it at the moment. I have some things to think about going forward.

Firstly, the way I have my pen brushes set up is giving a black line that seems to be way too stark against the colour. Black ink in fine line pens isn’t quite so opaque. So, I need to play around adjusting this.

Also, I have the edge of the pen brushes set up as ‘sharp’, so I do get that very sharp edge to the line. I need to play around with adjusting this as well. It’s not enough to have an uneven line edge; if anything, the sharpness of the rough edge jars my senses.

The background colour is quite OK if perhaps a tad complex. Again, I need to spend time playing around with various brush types, properties and textures to work out the best way for me to create such backgrounds if this is a route I’m going to go down in digital art.

As always, by taking time to do experimental art (not that all art is experimental I think) I explore the tools, effects, settings, and so on that are available to me in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. Of course, I use my Microsoft Surface Pen on the screen of my Microsoft Surface Studio to create my digital art.

What’s important is that I make the time to do this regularly. It’s the only way I can learn and develop my digital art ‘voice’ as well as understanding how the different brushes and settings work.

So, Angela, how are you today?

I’m OK. Tired, but much better than earlier this week.

I’m tired from not enough sleep last night, but also from dealing with some difficult issues around a member of my family. I don’t mind myself becoming drained when it’s about helping another person. I know how to take care of myself now so that I recover and don’t stay stuck in this emotionally exhausted state. That’s what self-care is all about.

I did go out yesterday with my younger sister. We visited the Roman baths in Caerleon and ended up at the Honey Cafe in Bronllys for a late lunch.

I popped to the toilet at the cafe, and I got stressed out there. Children loudly screaming with a very loud hand-drier caused me to become anxious, stressed, hypervigilant. The children weren’t distressed at all, just screaming with the noise of the hand-drier for fun. Their mother was with them, so they were safe. So, I have no idea what my reaction was all about. All I know it’s grist for the EMDR therapy wheel.

Oh! The joy of the CPTSD triggers that hide from me. Well, this one has now come out into the light of a startle, so it can’t hide any longer!

Still, the startling left me twitchy, jumpy, on-edge and on the point of tears for quite a long while after this. Any slightly loud noise, someone walking past me in the cafe and I’d jump and catch my breath.

When I got home, I felt exhausted and collapsed into bed and slept for a couple of hours.

I did sleep well through the night, even though I went to bed a bit later than usual. However, I still feel tired, exhausted today.

I know it will pass. Self-care is required. I have some ginger chai that I’m sipping as I write this blog. I know that art, crochet, naps, music all help to soothe me. I’m not sure a walk in a people-y world would be a good idea today, well not if my by myself. I think I’m still on edge. It does take a good while for the stress hormones to leave my system so that I return to a less aroused emotional state.

Hmm, thinking about that, I do have this sense of anxiety today. There’s nothing I’m stressing about, nothing that is worrying me, so it’s just those hormones flooding my system still.

I think I deserve some gold stars for noticing that! Becoming self-aware, aware of my emotions and thoughts, is part of the healing process. It still amazes me when I see something that in the past that I would either ignore or bury deep inside me and put a happy smiley face on and carry on as if nothing was wrong.

Mostly gone are those days. I say mostly; there are times when I still return to the default setting of ignoring my emotions and needs to make sure whoever I am with is happy, even if it causes me great pain or a feeling of vulnerability and feeling unsafe.

I still find it very difficult to voice my own needs if I think someone is going to dismiss them or ignore them. Admitting I have needs make me feel even more vulnerable.

I am aware of this now, so that is a step forward. Progress is made through a series of small, manageable steps. In therapy, the first steps to change are recognising something that needs to change for healing and a healthier relationship with myself to occur.

Abstract art card design

Abstract Art Card Design ©Angela Porter - Artwyrd.com
Abstract Art Card Design ©Angela Porter – Artwyrd.com

This morning I thought I’d try out a little experiment. Instead of drawing the design first, I used my Chameleon markers to lay down colour shapes and gradients and then add the line art.

I remembered to take a photo of the colour pattern I created, so you can see where I started. I had started adding some line art on it.

After adding the black line art, I then added gold embellishments using a gold gel pen. These are mainly on the background, where I wanted to add some interest.

One thing I’d change if I could do this over is to keep the same pale yellow to pink gradient background instead of the blue section to the middle left. I also meant to use pencils to add some depth of colour to some of the flat-looking areas. It would also have been a good idea to use them to increase the illusion of 3D in some of the patterned regions.

Do you know, I often say that I should’ve added some shadows when I post what I think is a finished piece of art. I need to put a huge post-it note on my Surface Studio to remind me about this!

My final step was to use a piece of foam to sponge some black Distress Ink around the edge to give it a bit of a border. I’m not so sure this was a good idea; the edges are a bit more defined, but they also look a bit dirty and grungy. One lives and learns, eventually.

It certainly was an experiment for me with traditional media. The method I’ve used here is a bit like the method I use when creating digital art. There, I start with a block of colour for the section I’m working on and then add shadow and light and ‘carve’ patterns into it using various methods.

Let me know what you think about this little design.

Oh, it is a little design. The card blank is aprox. 5½” by 4″ (14cm x 10cm)and the design is approx. 3″ by 4¾” ( 8cm x 12cm)

So, Angela, how are you doing today?

I’m doing ok. I had a good night’s sleep and so am feeling more alert and upbeat. I’m still a bit achy in the lower tummy area, but it’s nearly completely gone now.

Yesterday was a self-care day. I didn’t eat much; my appetite had departed me almost entirely. What I did eat made me feel sicky. That’s better today, as in I’ve had breakfast and though I didn’t eat much before I was full, I did eat.

I wasn’t happy with any art, or just about anything else I did; I just got frustrated with it and myself. Instead, I did spend a lot of the day cwtched up warm, crocheting and listening to Audible (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire read by Stephen Fry). Eventually, I settled down to sleep a little earlier than usual.

I’m glad to say that my mood seems a bit brighter and more stable today.

This morning, I’ve been busy ‘art-ing’, and I need to pop out soon. Errands to do and I need a bit of a walk as well. It looks like it’s going to stay dry for a while. That’s always a good thing. The temperature outdoors is more refreshing than it has been of late, which will make walking far more pleasant for me. It will help to blow the cobwebs away. Maybe it will also help with the stiffness/tenderness that those abdominal cramps have left in their wake. I may also find some inspiration for some more creative words in my journal too.

Colouring Reef Illustrations

Coloring Reef Illustrations © Angela Porter - Artwyrd.com
Coloring Reef Illustrations © Angela Porter – Artwyrd.com

This morning I started to colour the reef illustrations I posted yesterday. I’m using a mixture of Chameleon marker pens and pencils to do this. My photograph of the work in progress isn’t brilliant, but you get the idea I’m sure.

In the larger motifs, I’m using the Chameleon Color Tones markers along with the Color Tops to achieve gradient colouring. Flat colour is added to smaller areas using the pen.

Then, I use Chameleon pencils to add depth and dimension. I’m also adding more depth and dimension by using a white gel pen and a fine Unipin pen to add highlights and texture.

I’m enjoying the process, but I must admit I’m finding it more ‘fussy’ to do than when I digitally colour! Continually swapping pens and pencils is a little frustrating for me.

Maybe that’s just today as I’m tired. I didn’t sleep at all well last night. Stomach cramps were plaguing me throughout the night, though they do seem better today. Painkillers have stopped the pain completely today; yesterday, they merely dulled it.

Also, when I woke, my mind was very active with flashbacks related to my EMDR therapy yesterday. It was a very emotional session, lots of tears and upset. However, my therapist tells me I’m making good progress. I believe her.

Today, everything seems like hard work as I’m so exhausted, not just from the lack of sleep, but emotionally too. These feelings will pass; they always do.

I don’t know how much more I’ll do today. I don’t think I’ll get a lot of colouring done. I do feel I need to draw though, so perhaps I’ll do that after I’ve done some errands today. Typical of ‘adulting’ to get in the way of self-soothing and self-care.

Mandala WIP

Mandala WIP 31 July 2019 ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Mandala WIP 31 July 2019 ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I’m still in self-soothing mode after Monday’s emotionally draining trigger and EMDR session. I’m feeling a lot brighter, content, and not worried, but I’m tired as the stress from Monday is still affecting my sleep. It takes days for the stress hormones to leak away from me, bearing in mind I always have an elevated level thanks to the CPTSD.

Any way, back to art…

My self-soothing arty activity involved adding some patterns and motifs to my visual Zibladone (kind of a journal thingy). Always a soothing kind of experience for me. It also gave me the practice with pen on paper that I’ve discovered I need to do daily.

While drawing these patterns and motifs, I knew I wanted to try to create some of them in colour, with a lot of texture and dimension. So, the best way for me to do this is with a mandala. Well, that’s what I ended up starting work on. Originally I wanted to create a page similar to one in my Zibladone, with examples of motifs and patterns that are drawn/coloured digitally.

I may turn my attention to that after I’ve had some lunch. I’ll see.

Yesterday, I also completed the August template for the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group. I’ll post an image of it tomorrow, but it’s up in the group already, along with a colour palette challenge for August. The template is exclusive to members of the group, and new members are always made welcome there. I’m always blown away by the beautiful and unique ways in which the members of the group bring my line art to life with the magic of colour.

The magic of colour – WIP

The magic of colour WIP © Angela Porter 2019 - Artwyrd.com
The magic of colour WIP © Angela Porter 2019 – Artwyrd.com

The line art for this particular entangled drawing is now done and I’ve started to add colour and texture.

The magic of colour is to bring the design to life, to really accentuate the layers by adding depth and dimension. It’s also very much a personal expression of the colours I like and how I like to put them together.

I finished drawing the design with Uniball Unipin pens on Winsor and Newton Bristol board earlier this morning. After scanning the drawing into the ‘puter, I edited the image and cleaned up smudges before starting to add colour. My tools for this are my usual trio of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

I feel a little inspired to start another drawing in this particular series of inspirational words along with entangled art. As well as leaving some white space. I can now see the value of white space in my art. It helps to define various areas of the design. I also like the way the design seems to float above the background too – another bit of magic.

I still like to create areas of dense pattern, but I’m seeing the value of balancing them with either white space or areas of simpler pattern.

I know that the use of colour will help to separate out the different motifs and patterns within those denser areas.

And how are you feeling today, Angela?

I’m actually not too bad today, so far at least. I’m feeling calm, a tad tired, quiet but quite content. I’m actually quite happy with my artwork and not doubting myself with this particular design as I was yesterday. That’s an improvement on the past few days for sure.

I seem to be rising up from the trough of the tsunami that resulted from some emotional triggers that has overwhelmed me during the past two weeks or so (or maybe even my whole life – though that could be a very complex image of many, many tsunami, storm waves, freak waves that have resulted in CPTSD … but lets keep it simple for now!).

No need to rush climbing that wave though; give it time for some of the energy it carries to dissipate so it shrinks in size and the journey up will be a little easier and a lot more stable I think.

So, being gentle to myself is what I’m trying to say with that rather muddled metaphor.

Gentle means self care, accepting that where I am now is good enough, and not to put so much pressure on myself to do things that I’d like to do but perhaps am not quite capable of at the moment due to my proximity to the trough of the ebbing tsunami.

Today I think that means art, working on a lovely shawl I’ve been crocheting (which is in ombre shades of pink from a delicate pink to a deep cerise) and I’m awaiting the delivery of some bluetooth, noise cancelling headphones which will be great for guided meditations, music and audiobooks – both at home and away from home.