Mandala fun!

©Angela Porter |

The art

I’ve been busy this morning. First, I wanted to complete the drawing and painting of a zentangly, entangled tile ready for embellishment in other ways.

Then, I wanted to do something digitally, but something relatively simple and quick. What popped into my mind was a really, really simple kind of mandala along with a quote of some kind.

But what kind of quote should I add?

Earlier this week I took Binky, my SmartCar, for its annual service. While waiting, I did some reading. I found one of the QI books of facts on my Kindle and I enjoyed reading weird and wonderful facts. This is one I found in a different one of the QI books this morning.

I’ve always enjoyed reading (and often remembering) curious information, ideas, and so on. The weirder something is, the more likely it is to stick. The weird stuff I had in my head used to entertain my pupils in the days when I was a science teacher.

So, I thought it may be fun, from time to time, to share some of these weird, quite interesting facts, in the form of something pretty to look at.

This is digital art, created using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Studio and Microsoft Surface Slim Pen.

So, Angela, how are you doing?

I thought I’d resurrect this once regular feature of my daily blog posts. I’m sure that many, many of us are struggling emotionally and mentally during this pandemic. It’s nice to know you’re not alone.

I had some tearful moments yesterday. I live alone. I’m an introvert so that doesn’t bother me so much, in fact it suits me.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get lonesome for company from time to time. Usually, I’d go out for a walk or to walk around the shops. Covid19 has put a bit of a dampener on these activities. I’m very conscious that I really don’t want to catch it (I have underlying health problems), and if I already have it, or am lucky enough to have mild symptoms without realising that I have it, I really don’t want to pass it along to other people.

I realise that there will be times when I need to go out to pick up bits and bobs. However, my behaviour has to change from doing this most days in a week to as little as often.

It’s not just the lack of social contact, it’s that social media is overwhelming me with fear, worry, empathy for those who are suffering far more than I am. I also feel angry about those who just don’t seem to understand why we need to socially distance ourselves and stay at home except for absolutely essential reasons.

Last night, I became rather emotionally overwhelmed. I was crying at what I was watching on the TV, even though it wasn’t something that would usually provoke much of an emotional response in me other than curiosity, interesting, thoughtfulness.

It didn’t help that I had a post-stress migraine-type headache yesterday from my trip out to do a bit of shopping on Friday. I ended up in bed in the afternoon to sleep it off once the painkillers had kicked in.

I’m as frustrated as anyone at being at home yesterday and today. There’s beautiful golden sunlight out there and I’d like nothing more than to be out and about in it. My DSLR does need using. However, I’m determined that I’ll do my best to keep myself and others safe by staying home.

However, there are reports of open spaces being crowded with people, all with the same idea – if we go outdoors into parks or to beaches for a walk there won’t be many people there.

Seems everyone else had the same idea! Well, not everyone else, but far too many to make it a sensible idea.

Also, to the vast majority of us, the disease seems so distant as so few of us know someone who’s had it, is suffering it, or who, sadly, as passed away. That has a lot to do with people not feeling the need to heed the ‘request’ to stay home. It all feels surreal, abstract, not quite real.

I do hope it continues to stay that way for the vast majority of people. However, I know that it won’t.

So, as much as I’d love to be out on such a beautiful early spring day as this, I don’t know where I could go that would be safely away from crowds or people. So, I shall stay at home and art and craft and cook and know that it is necessary that I do so, as frustrating as it is on such a gloriously sunny day.

Coloring paper tiles

This morning I woke with an idea I want to try out involving the entangled drawings I’ve been doing and embellishments. I’ll show the results of my ideas when I get to results I want to show.

So far, I’ve got several ’tiles’ coloured. I cut them from Claire Fontaine mixed media paper into tiles of various sizes. The biggest is 6″ x 6″ and the smallest approx 4″ x 3½”. I didn’t want to waste any paper, only the tiniest sliver that had the adhesive on it was discarded.

Then, I used Distress Inks and a mini foam blending tool to add colour to the paper. Finally, I sprayed them lightly with water and used a hair drier to dry them.

They’re now ready for me to work with, and that’s what I’m going to do today while listening to the audiobook version of “The Rise of Skywalker” – yes, I love Star Wars!

The Star Wars saga is one of the classic tales where good overcomes evil, where heroes come in all kinds, and it reminds us that there is always hope, hope that better times will come.

And we certainly need hope in these times.

Star Wars has long been a companion that lifts me when I’m seriously down, anxious, confused, stressed. It’s one of my self-soothing tools and never fails to work when I’m not well – physically, emotionally or mentally.

Art and creativity is another of my self-soothing tools. In the past couple of weeks of social distancing and almost self-isoloation, I’ve created art both traditionally and digitally, crocheted, cross-stitched, needle-felted, and even got software so I can design my own cross-stitch patterns.

Listening to audiobooks, podcasts or music is something I love to do while I’m at my desk – whether I’m creating traditionally or digitally. When I’m crocheting or cross-stitching or needle-felting I’m downstairs and currently binge-watching Criminal Minds.

Today, I had an email from RedBubble about the current crisis and the role of art in it, along with this excerpt from an article written by Adam Schwartz of TeePublic called “An Artist Call to Arms“:

In times of human struggle, the world needs art. Crises such as this are too complex, too nuanced to put into words, but art is a higher form of language. When we don’t know what to feel, art can illustrate emotion … [As an artist] You do have a sword to wield. Can you push through anxiety and find the space to be creative? Can you find your voice and whisper to us, a joke, an idea, or a memory of some better time? I implore you to try … as an artist community our voices echo more loudly than one could ever do alone.

Spring Equinox

Spring zentangle tile ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd

It’s a lovely, sunshiny day here in the Valleys of South Wales, if a tad breezy. The sunlight is diffused by clouds so it’s not washing out the greens of spring that are tentatively showing themselves.

All of which is quite appropriate as it’s the Spring Equinox today. The appeared to sun enter Aries at 03:59 UT, to be precise, which marks the start of astronomical spring as the Earth continues on it’s perpetual journey around the sun, regardless of the pandemic and crisis occurring here on the planet’s surface.

I had a good night’s sleep last night and woke feeling much better emotionally. The sunshine is helping with that too. I’m always much more resilient, emotionally speaking, when I have enough quality sleep.

That doesn’t mean I’m not concerned about Covid-19; I am. On so many levels. However, the clouds clearing, the sun shining, the Earth making it to the point of Vernal Equinox once again, just shows that time continues it’s inexorable progress.

Although the existence of the pandemic means that humanity needs to alter it’s behaviour and activities for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t mean it will always be this way. Just as the rain doesn’t last forever.

It means we need to find new ways to find contentment in our lives, to be considerate and compassionate towards others, on scales ranging from neighbourly to global. We also need to show this kindness and consideration to the living things we share this planet with as well as the Earth itself.

The crisis is bringing out both the ugliness and beauty in humanity in so many different areas of our lives and society. Life will never be the same after this, but what those changes will be I don’t know yet. No one does. Some things will remain the same, but there are likely to be profound changes in other areas of society, and some more subtle changes too.

Anyway, to the art.

I started drawing this tile last night. I used Uniball Unipin pens with a 4″ x 4″ piece of ClaireFontaine mixed media paper. After scanning the drawing, I cleaned some smudges up digitally. Then, I added a coloured background, a texture and then shading and subtle colour to the drawing.

I chose greens and blues for the background and they way I applied them makes me think of the golden greens and sunlight of spring pushing the blues of winter away.

Spring is a glorious time of year, when the world really starts to come alive with colour once again. Life is awakening after the sleep of winter and there is hope of growth and future harvests.

No matter how things may seem, the fear and panic the media and politicians are whipping up, the worries people have for their health, jobs, families, their future, it’s a time to remember that this too will pass and there is hope on, hopefully, not too distant horizon.

In the meantime, I’ll be doing what I can to bring a little bit of colour and light into the world each day. Sometimes I’ll share my musings about it all, how my emotional and mental health are doing. I hope these will help you to know you’re not alone, that it’s OK to not be OK, and inspire you to get creative to help lift your spirits during the present circumstances.

Flipbook Sketchbook Page

This morning I needed to do something arty to give me a bit of a break from the butterfly. So, I decided to create a digital sketchbook page in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. It dawned on me that I could record the steps I took to create this page as a flipbook, which is what I did.

The little drawings include just a few of my favourite motifs/patterns that crop up in my colouring book pages or templates quite often, as well as in my artwork in general.

Creating little blocks of colour to draw on that aren’t perfect shapes is different for me, and not so easy for me to do it turns out.

I find creating flipbooks fun, and it’s a nice way to share a little of my process with people too. It’s also a nice way to shake up my creativity a little, to do something a bit different, especially when I need a break from a project I’m working on.

I used Movavi Video Suite 2020 to slow the flipbook animation down so it can be followed as a tutorial, as well as to add the intro/outro screens and music.

As always, my digital tools are Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Studio and Microsoft Surface Slim Pen.

Mandala – WIP

Mandala WIP ©Angela Porter |

This is the centre ring of a mandala I’m working on. I have no idea how the rest of it will turn out, but I’m quite happy with this first part, though I may add some bits and bobs to it, or maybe not.

I really do enjoy creating mandalas. The symmetry and rhythm of the designs that result appeal to heart and soul.

I love mandalas made out of geometric patterns, but I also like to create ones made from organic motifs and lines too. This mandala is likely to be one of the latter, though I suspect I’ll be trying out some more geometric patterns here and there through the design. Whether they remain in the finished piece is a different matter!

I’m working digitally using my preferred trifecta of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

As always, it’s a soothing process to create art. And I need some soothing today. A people-y evening last night has left me with an ‘introvert hangover’, and some quiet, self-care time is needed. Along with some painkillers to deal with the headache!

Inktober 2019 – Day 14 WIP

Goat is the animal skull prompt for Day 14 of Inktober from the list curated by the Instagrammer @book_polygamist. The shading on the horns isn’t finished and I still want to add a drop shadow to it too.

This drawing is only partly completed; I have my EMDR therapy session in an hour and a half so soon have to leave home. I never know how I’ll feel after EMDR, so I just wanted to make sure I have something up for Day 14.

This is all digital art – I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

I’m quite pleased how it’s looking so far. I do want to increase the depth of shadows on the horns when I get back to working on it.

Inktober Day 10. World Mental Health Day.

Inktober 2019 Day 10 (c) Angela Porter |

Inktober Day 10

Today’s Inktober prompts were rat skull, Lactarius indigo fungi, and the cubine tangle pattern from Instagram lists by @book_polygamist, @nyan_sun and @havepen_willdraw.

What did I end up with? A very stylised drawing that is rather Art Nouveau in style.

I have to say that I absolutely LOVE the rat skull. I also am rather enamored by the Art Nouvea-y fungi and fronds.

Simple colours were needed for this design, along with a texture overlay that makes it look a little less ‘digitally perfect’.

Yes, I did draw this digitally, again using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and a Surface Pen and Surface Studio from Microsoft.

I may not get tomorrow’s Inktober done, as I won’t be home until quite late tonight I think.

World Mental Health Day 2019

I’m currently sat in a hotel in Llandudno, having breakfast and getting myself ready to go and set up a table and take part at an event in a different hotel.

I’m going to be at the Wales Health at Work Partnership Summit where I’ll be talking to delegates but also taking part in the ‘Open Minds’ workshops in the afternoon, which is all about taking positive action on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

I’m there as a Time to Change Wales champion, and so will be giving a short version of my mental health story at the start of the workshops.

Time to Change Wales is an all-Wales campaign that aims to reduce, if not end, the stigma and discrimination around mental illness by getting people to have conversations about mental health.

I’ve suffered poor mental health all my life, having developed cPTSD in early childhood. The rest of my life, until the past few years, saw my mental health decline until I had two big breakdowns. EMDR therapy has been the ‘magic pill’ for me, that is helping me to process and release the traumas of my past and replace the negative beliefs I have about myself with more positive ones.

If I had known what good mental and emotional health was, as well as what it wasn’t, sooner in my life I may have sought help sooner. The self-stigma I have experienced around my own mental health prevented me from recognizing I had a problem and also made it difficult for me to seek help.

Indeed, my mental and emotional ill health would cause physical ill health in me when I was ignoring the stress, depression, anxiety, fear, hypervigilence, and other symptoms of cPTSD.

If I can change attitudes, make people more aware of what good mental health is, help people to recognise that they too may be suffering and then seek help, then I’m doing a good thing. Oh, and of course getting people to talk about mental health, thus beginning to break down the stigma.

So, today is a good day for everyone to ask those they meet not just to ask ‘How are you feeling?’ and accept the first answer given, but to repeat the question, ‘No, really, how are you feeling?’ to let them know you really are interested in them it’s ok for them to tell you that they’re not ok.

So, Angela, how are you today?

I’m tired. I never sleep well away from home and I did have quite a broken night’s sleep.

However, I am also quite pleased with myself. I managed to stop at a Starbucks on the 4 hour journey to Llandudno for something to drink and eat. I then had a good walk along the sea front and pier after booking into my hotel and having a mug of tea. Then, I actually went to an Indian restaurant by myself to have an evening meal!

Maybe it was out of sheer necessity I went out. However, I could’ve just picked sandwiches or some such at a Sainsbury’s local a short walk away. But I didn’t.

I also didn’t feel all that awkward in the restaurant. I did wish I’d brought my Kindle along so I could read while waiting to be served throughout my visit. I do have the Kindle app on my phone, but I didn’t have a good enough signal in the restaurant to download the book I’m reading.

I am also feeling a little anxious about today, which is only to be expected. I’m going to a strange place, talking to people I don’t know about something that is important but that also can provoke an emotional response in me.

However, I’m sure I’ll be fine for sure.