I’ve been feeling out of sorts for the last day or so. It’s gradually intensified. A broken night’s sleep really hasn’t helped. House freezing cold (deliberately so!), Angela boiling hot in waves (not illness, just age).
I did draw in the darkest parts of the night when I couldn’t sleep, but what I produced was just a reflection of my ‘out of sorts’ mood. I added words and reflections to the drawings to try to elucidate where this has come from. And then that went to how I could use art in a journal, could I create journal pages, little areas for thoughts/words of meaning, and so on. So I jotted those ideas down.
The larger drawings I was doing in the night just overwhelmed me. The more work I did, the more overwhelmed and dissatisfied I felt. So, in an attempt to create some art that would soothe rather than disturb, I decided to create some small pieces of art and some borders seemed the right thing to do. This quartet of drawings is the result of that solution I sought to help me with my mood and my attitude to my efforts at drawing.
Do you know the kind of days where it’s hard to get out of bed? Days when your body and soul need a day cwtched up safe and warm in bed? Well that was today for me.
A day spent doing very little. A bit of art. Watching geology videos on youtube. Playing games on my phone.
I’m now vertical, at my desk. I’ve scanned in one of my little drawings (approx 3¼” x 4″, or 8cm x 10cm) and digitally added a background, shadow and highlight. The shadow and highlight are a tad patchy, but they do help to bring the drawing to life.
I took a 6″ square Strathmore artist’s tile and coloured it with Distress Inks. Next, I used Sakura Pigma Sensei 04 and Pigma Micron 01 pens to draw the design. Finally I added some graphite shadows.
This zentangle inspired drawing contains the Zibu symbol for ‘nurture’. Nurture is all about growth and expansion which involves encouraging, nourishing, protecting and caring.
I certainly need to care for myself today. For the past few days anxiety gradually increased as I got closer to meeting my accountant to hand over my paperwork. I was left exhausted after the essential business trip to meet her in a car park to do this. I’m still feeling exhausted, fuzzy headed, and not with it today.
Nurturing myself was an important lesson to learn through EMDR therapy. It’s not an easy lesson for any of us to learn, but it is essential. It’s not just about taking care of the basic needs, it’s about the whole of your being.
Yesterday, this involved quiet time with art, or just sitting and being, and some comforting, as well as nourishing, food. An early night was in order.
My nights sleep was broken and I’m still feeling the effects of the post-stress come-down. But these will pass as the cortisol and other stress hormones gradually leave my body.
On the good side, I was up to creating the cover for the next colouring book after Entangled Starry Skies. So, if the sketch is approved, I can get to inking and colouring it over the next couple of days.
I’ve been working on this drawing for the past three days. I’m not sure if it is finished yet; I’m undecided about all the open spaces to the right. I’m beginning to understand the need for some space for the eyes to rest on, but my inner inclination is still to fill my drawing with pattern and complexity.
This one has been drawn with a black Uni Emott pen in my A4 Artway Enviro sketchbook. The Emott pen has a hard plastic tip and although it has become worn during the work of drawing, I’ve found the uneven, patchy, varying line widths that result most useful in achieving different weight and character of line in the drawing. Not that this shows up well in the reduced size and resolution image of the work. Neither does the texture of the colour applied digitally.
I’m quite heavy handed with pens and tend to wreck the more delicate Unipin and Pigma Micron pens (and others of a similar ilk) rather rapidly. The Pigma Micron PN pens weather my heavy-hand better as well. I don’t favour one over the other. I just choose what pen I feel like drawing with at the time – be it Unipins, Microns, Micron PN, Rotring Rapidograph, Tombow Fudenosuke, or traditional fountain pens.
Digital drawing is a challenge for me, even though I love the Surface Slim Pen and the way it glides on the screen of the Surface Studio. The challenge for me is the sense of scale, proportion and perspective. A sheet of paper gives me a well defined shape and size and as I can’t zoom in, there’s a limit to the tiny details I can add.
Saturday night into Sunday was another very broken nights sleep and it left me wiped out yesterday. I had various meetings to attend online during the day and evening as well. In between them, I had to sleep. I was overtired and that makes me emotional and teary. Sleep is the only cure for tiredness. Hence no blog entry yesterday.
So, this meant little time for art and stuff yesterday.
I did have a better night’s sleep last night, though I woke part way through. These night ‘sweats’ (I just get incredibly hot, no sweating as such…yet) are no fun! I wake up absolutely blisteringly hot, and it takes me ages to cool down, even though my bedroom is really cold. If these carry on into the warm/hot months when sleep is difficult anyway, I don’t know what I’m going to do! It seems perimenopause is moving along with me; age doesn’t come by itself. As well as the hot flushes during the night and day I’m finding more periods of fuzzy headedness and difficulty concentrating.
As I let the house go cold during the night in an effort to better cope with these night sweats, and I don’t know when I’m going to wake up in the morning if I do get back to sleep, I don’t have my heating turn on at a specific time. So I wake up to a cold house. Which is great if I’m in the throes of a hot flash. So, on these cold mornings, my habit is to go put the heating on, make breakfast, and take breakfast back to bed. That way I can keep warm while sitting in bed, having breakfast and faffing around with email and so on as well as my personal drawing projects.
What I’m realising is that I’m going to have to change my approach to working hours as perimenopause affects how my mind and body functions. I have no idea how long it will last; a year to many years apparently. I hope this will settle down into a pattern that I can work with, or that I can be more flexible with myself about when I work and when I don’t, and recognised when I need to take self-care time.
It won’t last forever, thank goodness. One of the plus sides of it is that I don’t feel the cold as much as I used to, at certain times of day anyway.
My sketchbooks have been the focus of my attention during the waning days of 2020 and the start of 2021. I’ve done pages of zentangle-type patterns, borders and ‘fragments. I’ve been trying out monograms, and I’ve been drawing in more of my signature style, as above.
This page shows some experiment with colour and texture in the sketchbook. I used fineliner pens for the textures and Pitt Artist Brush Pens, both ‘neat’ and with a waterbrush.
I had to work hard with myself to do this. I didn’t want to mess up the drawing, which I quite like, with colour and so on. But then I told myself I can always re-draw it, along with losing the elements I’m not keen on. I really like the bird-like design at the top of this coloured image.
The others were drawings done for the sheer joy and comfort of drawing. All intuitive, though I did pay attention to a reference photo of a meso-American pot for the face in the right-hand drawing.
All drawings were done with an 05 Unipin pen in my A4 Artway Enviro sketchbook. The 05 pen nib has become worn, and usually I’d bin it, but I’m working with it and seeing how I can vary the width and intensity of line. I’m trying to allow myself to embrace the perfectly imperfect quality of the line and the character it brings to my drawings. I find that I like it, which surprises me. Now, all I need to do is to work to replicate this digitally; maybe not a perfect replication but something that is similar enough.
I have three sketchbooks on the go at the moment.
The A4 and A5 Enviros are for drawings and designs, as above. Fairly polished and starting points for further work. I can try different things out – such as colour and texture – knowing that I can either scan the drawings in before I try these experiments out, or I can always re-draw the design, altering the parts I’m not happy with.
The third is an A4 SeaWhite all-media sketchbook. Although I have done some drawings in there, it’s been repurposed into a zentangle/pattern experimentation and record book. I use colour and shading with the drawings as they are purely for reference and the pleasure of drawing them. Not surprisingly, many of the pages are aesthetically pleasing in the way that needlework or cross-stitch samplers are. You can look at the page again and again and still find designs or sections of designs that surprise you.
The past few days I’ve needed to find an activity that comforts me. I find this time of year emotionally difficult as I’m triggered by Christmas and New Year and all the hoo-haa around it. The short days and lack of sunshine doesn’t help much. My daylight therapy lamp helps somewhat, but it isn’t as good as working at my desk or taking a walk bathed in winter sunlight. I also find myself bone-weary a lot. Mind you, not sleeping properly at night isn’t helping me either.
As an introvert, I tend to retreat into a world of my own at these times, or to immerse myself in other worlds through films and books. And of course art. I limit my social media activity to the absolute necessary. This way, the societal pressures I feel fade away, and before long the world is back to the way it is for the vast majority of the year.
This year, my main haven of peace and contentment has been in my sketchbooks. I’ve found particular comfort and delight indulging myself in zentangle patterns. The patterns are familiar, but working on them to create unique variations that are my own has been something new and different for me. As has allowing myself to draw them in my own way.
As well as comforting me, I’ve discovered that I find it hard to be uniquely me in my artistic expression. Accepting that the way I draw something is just fine as long as I’m happy with it. The videos from the Zentangle family have been incredibly useful in helping me see this, as well as making me determined to change it too. Not just with zentangle type stuff, but with my art in general. Also, I realised that I do this for other people, but never for myself. Time to change that, methinks!
I’m still in ‘comfort art’ mode for the next couple of days. I’m still not ‘right’ emotionally, and I’d like to be before I turn my attention to the example coloured templates for Entangled Starry Skies and sketches for the cover of the next colouring book.
This is another piece of abstract art I’ve been working on over the past few days. I think most of the line work is now done, so I’ve started adding colour, shadow and highlight to it.
It’s taken a good two or three hours to colour the little bit done. I was tweaking digital brushes and effects layers to get the ‘feel’ I wanted, along with setting up a limited palette of browns and greens.
It’s working out OK.
Other arty stuff
I’ve been taking time for some ‘comfort art’ as well. Indulging myself in drawing Zentangle patterns in my sketchbook and adding colour with graphite, charcoal and pastel pencils. It’s been a lot of fun, and some of this has spilled over into my art, which is no bad thing at all.
I still have no idea why faces are appearing in my artwork at this time. They’re stylised for sure, but I always shy away from human figures, faces especially.
I did do life drawing many years ago. I enjoyed it too. But hands, feet and faces vexed me. I realised that I saw architectural forms in the shadows and highlights of the human body, and as interesting as that was, it wasn’t as interesting as my love of architecture, patterns, nature and so on. So, I stopped going. I don’t feel the urge to take it up again either.
But faces appearing in my artwork … weird. Still, I’ll roll with it as there may be very good reason why.
It may be to do with me wanting to get back to typographic portrait drawing at some point. I know my mind is working out how I can do this in my own way, but it’s not quite ready yet divulge it’s secrets to me so I can put them into action. Perhaps these faces are part of the process of reassuring me that I can ‘do’ faces, in my own way.
As always, time will tell.
For now I really need a mug of tea and to prepare myself a meal. No doubt I’ll be doing some more comfort art before it’s time for bed.
This has been drawn with a Sakura Micron 05 pen on smooth, heavyweight cartridge paper (acid-free of course). I’ve added the background and colour digitally, keeping to a wintry, night-time kind of theme. Of course, this will work for any season at all, and any time of day.
As always, I look forward to seeing all the amazing, colourful interpretations of this template.
Taking a big of a break
I may not be as active on social media over the next few days. Christmas and New Year are difficult times of year for me emotionally and mentally and I know taking myself off into a largely Christmas-free bubble helps me drift through this time, as well as deal with anything that may creep in and cause some upset in me.
I know I’m not the only person who has difficulties with their emotional and mental health this year. Given all that has happened in the world this year, the huge number of people who have passed away during the pandemic and measures taken for people to keep themselves and their families free of Covid at this time, many more than usual will be struggling.
Being by myself at this time of year is not new to me, nor is withdrawing from the world at this time. I find it exhausting to keep up a mask of seasonal jollity when I feel anything but that. I find it easier to deal with whatever finds its way into my safe-bubble. It’s easier to deal with being alone if I do my best to carry on as normal.
I’m aware of what things I can do to self-care and self-soothe. Art. Music. Books, Films. TV. Naps. Nice food. Meditation.
Do you have a list? Have you learned to give yourself permission to take care of yourself, give yourself time and space to self-soothe?
Learning to give yourself permission to look after yourself, even if it means saying ‘no’ or setting limits, is one of the hardest things to do. And it takes a lot of practice. But it is one of the most important things we can learn to do.
I remind myself this is for just a few days a year, and that soon after the celebrations are done, life returns to ‘normal’, whatever that is in these pandemic times.
A little drawing I’ve been working on this morning. The paper tile is 5″ square. Sakura Pigma Micron 05 and Faber Castell Pitt Artist pen 1.5 were used, as well as some digital stuff to add the star, which doesn’t quite work.
The black square resulted from a whole host of mistakes made in that little section. I was deeply unhappy about what I’d drawn there. So, out came the thicker black pen and I covered it up.
I thought It would be fun to add something gold there. I’ve tried lots of different motifs, but stuck with this one. I have very little sense of scale when I draw digitally, and this golden star is a classic example of that!
The rest of the design I’m quite happy with. Shadow and highlight are needed to bring it to life as it looks just so flat.
But I’m tired again and don’t have the energy or desire to sort out that bleedin’ star nor the shadow/highlight and/or colour at the moment. I need to snuggle up with a warm and cuddly blanket, mocha and films that lift my spirits. I sense a Star Wars marathon in the offing…
Today’s art is a selection of the small, detailed, intricate and fairly abstract drawings I’ve done over the past day or so, all in varying states of completeness.
Sometimes, just sometimes, I have a need to immerse myself in something that’s kind of familiar. Call it ‘comfort drawing’ if you like. But that’s what this has been; drawing to comfort and self-soothe.
My emotions are out of sorts. I’m dissatisfied with almost everything I do artistically at the moment, so I stepped back in time to do entangled zentangle-style drawings, with a twist here and there. Small projects. Pens and pencils on various paper. If something doesn’t work out, well it’s not great shakes, I just carry on and try to accept it for what it is, and learn a bit more about what works and what doesn’t.
I’m tired today. Not just physically but emotionally. The sun is shining and that is helping my mood somewhat. But I’m still tired.
Past experience tells me this will pass. It’s just emotional weather. I’m aware of the source of it, and I just need time to process, heal and learn from it.
I don’t really sit and think my way through things in the way people describe how they think. With me it’s all abstract and difficult to communicate in words. It happens on a more intuitive, subconscious level. When I’m ready, I’ll write about it, and give form to the abstract and symbolic processes of my inner self.
I’ve never really been able to express my emotions artistically. Sometimes they creep out in terms of colour choice. I do think my choice of more geometric, repetitive patterns in these artworks is an expression of my need to build a new structure in my emotional self.
My EMDR therapist was always saying I was too much in my head, not much in my body. A lot of the work we did was very somatic and a process of learning I did have emotions and recognising what these emotions are. It’s a troublesome realm, but an important one, even if it gets rather messy at times.
Messy. That’s something my art never is. Something my emotions rarely are. Everything so tightly controlled and precise; at least that’s how I seem to the outside world.
My older sister used to call me the ‘ice maiden’ as I never showed much enthusiasm or reactions to anything. I learned early in life that if I showed that I loved something or that it was valuable to me, then others would go out of their way to wreck it. I learned if I showed ambivalence, that things may not be wrecked by others.
The first time I can remember showing awe and wonder was on a trip to the British Museum, with my older sister and youngest brother. We went to see the mummies, but took a wrong turn and ended up at the Sutton Hoo treasures. I couldn’t help expressing the awe and wonder I felt on seeing them in person for the first time.
I feel a sense of awe and wonder often now, some thirty or more years on from that day. That day cracked open the seals on those emotions and I was able to share them with others through my teaching career and beyond. But not with everyone. Some in my life didn’t want me to be excited about anything. So I learned to choose how and when they were shown.
Now, I feel no embarrassment at showing awe and wonder. I’m able to lose myself in the beauty of nature, the grandeur of architecture, the magic of music, and more.
But other emotions are still a bit tricky for me. Messy. Confusing. Troubling.
And when I feel messy, confused and troubled emotionally, I fall back to comfort art. Often entangled style art, like these. And entangled is an apt way to describe emotions and life.
Just as one small drawing comes to a close, it being good enough for now, so will my confused and troubling emotions work their way to a good enough state of resolution, leading to contentment and peace.
The patterns here remind me of the folds of fabric in Romanesque sculpture. The memories of visiting Romanesque churches, cathedrals and abbeys are filled with the sense of awe and wonder at the beauty of the sculpture, as well being fascinated, contented and happy.
The smooth curving forms, the play of light and shadow – these are things I love to play with in my work, whether pure abstract or with coloring templates.
The quote is how I feel about what I create. I know I put more of myself into my art than I realise, but creating beauty, allowing others to share in what I find to be beautiful and fascinating is what I do. And there is nothing wrong with that.
When I create, I carve out time to find a space of peace, calm, contentment in my life. Creating art is my sanctuary, a time and place where I can forget about the pressures of life, the pains of the past, and worry about the future for a while. If viewing my art, or colouring my colouring pages, even for a moment, gives another person a sanctuary from the pressures upon them, then that is a good thing.