Morning Mandala

© Angela Porter 2019 Artwyrd.com
© Angela Porter 2019 Artwyrd.com

Today’s morning warm up art – a mandala, drawn digitally. I added the colour with a gradient tool. Maybe I’ll go back and add colour section by section at another time.

I used my usual tool trifecta – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface studio.

The soundtrack to my work has been The Killers Station on Amazon Music.

My mood isn’t wonderful today. Seems the effects of EMDR on Monday are lingering still. I do need to write about some thoughts I had while doing this mandala. Complex swirls and circles of my life, but also how throughout my life I’ve been conditioned to think and feel as someone else has told me to think and feel. Started early in life, an easy pattern for others to make use of later in life. A pattern that has led to repeated trauma time and time again.

I’m now aware of it though. So it’s something to be processed and released in EMDR and replaced with a better way of thinking and acting. That’s not easy as it’s a totally new way to be learned, not just a reinstatement of an old, healthier way of being. That’s the problem with childhood trauma; it’s the way I’ve forgotten much of my early life, even the good bits. I’ve realised that I’ve never known anything other than constant anxiety and depression, amongst other things. I don’t remember any times where I was genuinely happy and at peace.

Each time I recognise something in me, a way of thinking and acting that is not healthy and bring it to the light and the ‘magic’ of EMDR, the closer I get to that tipping point of having dealt with more trauma from my past than the trauma left to deal with. The problem is the stuff that’s left is the seriously tricky icky stuff.

Any way, it looks like today is the fourth self-care day in a row. Not sure what I’ll do today, though I do have some errands to run this morning.

Tomorrow is Time to Talk Day

©Angela Porter 2019

I’ve created two coloring templates for Time To Talk Day, which is tomorrow, and the art above was created using one of them, but more about that later in this wittering.

Time to Change Day and mental health

The whole idea of the day is to get people talking about mental health. Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 of us, yet people are still afraid to talk about it. There’s still a huge stigma surrounding mental ill-health and that leads to discrimination of those experiencing mental illness.

I’m one of the 1 in 4. My cPTSD means that I am constantly anxious and it’ doesn’t take much of a trigger to get me into a full state of panic. I can have bouts of depression, nowadays not as deep or dark as they have been in the fairly recent past. I get emotional flashbacks to times of trauma. I don’t remember many traumatic experiences, but my body remembers the feelings associated with that trauma and I experience them yet again, retraumatising me.

Thanks to EMDR, however, these emotional flashbacks are less common and sometimes aren’t quite as intense, sometimes just as intense.

I have a whole host of other issues related to cPTSD and a quick google will bring back lots of information if you’re interested.

Tomorrow I will have my champions hat on for Time to Change Wales as I go to give an anti-stigma talk to a group of police officers in Ton Pentre and then on to man (woman?) a stand in Port Talbot after that. That means I won’t be parking in the police station car park again after my last experience there!

The anti-stigma talk has me telling people a little about Time To Change Wales, the statistics for mental illness, what stigma and discrimination there are and then I tell my story of my mental illness.

The talks wipe me out emotionally. I end up exhausted and often with what I call an emotional ‘hangover’ – I feel headachy and spaced out, sometimes quite upset too.

However, I consider that a small price to pay if my talks (and my blogs) help one person to recognise their mental health isn’t what it should be, or to find the courage to seek help as they know they are struggling.

It’s also important as meeting champions who have experienced or are experiencing mental health problems helps to break the stereotypes of what people with mental illnesses look like and behave.

I’m well on my path to recovery. I don’t know if that will be a full recovery from cPTSD or whether it will be a good enough recovery that I’m resilient to lifes ups and downs, that I’ll be able to form meaningful relationships, trust people, be able to travel by myself, be able to go places because I can go there not because I have to have some reason…and more.

I know that crowded, noisy places are always likely to be a no no – I don’t appear it, but I am an introvert. I learned to wear a mask of extroversion (among other masks) when I was very young and that mask kind of protects what is beneath it. Wearing that mask is exhausting.

So, back to the art.

I’ve created two coloring templates for Time to Talk Day 2019. Originally they were for the colouring day being run as part of Time to Talk Day at the Welsh Office! I’ve also made the templates available to Time to Change Wales and Mind have copies of them too, so they’ll be available over social media.

I’ll also be adding them to my facebook page – Angela Porter Illustrator as well as on the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group too.

To create the art above I used one of the templates as a basis for the art. I think you’ll agree that this is a very different piece of art from me. It’s rather graphic and quite 1960s psychedelic too!

I had a lot of fun doing this artwork and I’m surprisingly happy with the result.

It is digital art; I used my usual trio of Microsoft Surface Studio, Microsoft Surface Pen along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to create it, along with my creativity.

February dangle design

©Angela Porter 2019

Friday is dangle day here in my arty world, and as it’s the first day of February the dangle needs to relate to that!

I created this design for members of the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group (where today is furbaby friday). If you pop over then, join, then you can download the template to colour yourself.

The world is still in the grip of winter; I woke up this morning to a coverlet of snow covering everything. Yet again, I’m am so grateful that I work at home and don’t have to go out until it clears, even if that takes a day or so.

I wanted the colours in the dangle to reflect winter, but I also made Valentine’s Day a focus for the design, and I used that as an opportunity to include some more bits of hand lettering.

I did sketch the design out on Rhodia dot grid paper then scanned it in. I then re-drew the design digitally using my usual trio of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Book.

Today, I have a template or two to create for a colouring day at the Welsh Office in Cardiff on Time to Talk Day next Thursday. Time to Talk Day is the day where we’re encouraged to talk to people about mental health and well being. I don’t have anything to do on this day for Time to Change Wales, yet, or at any point in the week. I do have other projects to work on as well.

My own anxiety seems to have slid back to it’s usual constant background level after a stressful time earlier this week. It takes time. Mindfulness meditation helps somewhat, but it does take time for those stress response chemicals/hormones to leach out from my body even when I calm myself down.

Doing art does help too.

My book that takes you through drawing and designing dangles step by step – A Dangle A Day – is now published. Lots of ideas and examples of dangle designs are included in the book.

Monograms M and G

Yesterday was a day where I was out of sorts for some unspecified reason. Drawing little, intricate bits of art was the only thing that helped to soothe me and calm me. Along with comfort eating, which was not good way to cope.

I get days like this. I have no idea what triggered this response. It may have been a visit to my accountant on Tuesday and the tax bill to pay – I have absolutely nothing to worry about with either, but dealing with finances is a trigger for the anxiety and depression that are part of my cPTSD.

I know I was on edge about the meeting, even though I knew there would be nothing to worry about. The anxiety had been gradually growing through the previous few days. This anxiety provoked the warning signs of an incipient migraine/stress headache on Tuesday morning. Luckily I caught it in time with painkillers so that it didn’t develop into a full blown migraine and after the meeting I was left tired but feeling more at ease.

Yesterday, the anxiety ramped up again as I went to get the paperwork and bank card to make the payments. So, yesterday I needed to manage my anxiety and tiny, intricate drawings were what was needed.

Today, I know I have to do these things, and I will. I don’t have the anxiety I had about them yesterday. I think yesterday was just too close to a few days of spiralling anxiety as accounts day approached closer and closer.

cPTSD can make doing the simple things in life far more difficult to do. I do get things done, though I do have to be kind to myself at times, making sure I have plenty of time before the deadline.

I used fountain pens on white paper to draw the designs. The M is on paper that is around 4″ x 4″, the G is a little narrower than 4″ for some reason.

After scanning them in, I did a bit of digital wizardry to fill the letters with a gold foil texture, just to see what it would look like, and they look OK to me. I’m not too keen on the black line around the G though. I do like the contrast of the golden letters and the black and white designs around them.

Today, I have to colour the cover for my next book for Dover Publications Creative Haven series. And keep warm and safe. I woke up to a lovely sunrise with a frosty world – everything was covered with white. I know the temperature was down to -3ºC last night as I came home around 10:30 pm, and it would only have got colder as the skies were clear and starry. It’s beginning to go now, but clouds have covered the sky.

The frost is beginning to disappear now, but clouds have covered the blue skies. Snow is forecast for a bit later on today. I like to see snow. I like the way the world falls silent in heavy snow as it seems to muffle the usual background noise of modern times. I’m wise enough to know that for me to go out in snow is never a wise idea; I tend to slip and slide and fall and hurt myself. So, as I have nothing pressing that requires me to leave home, I’ll be staying safe and warm indoors! Once the cover is coloured, my attention will go to February’s templates for the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans Facebook group. Someone there has asked for some simpler templates like my dangle designs, so I think that’s exactly what I’m going to do!

RSPB Newport – a mandala

Yesterday I took a short trip for a short visit to the RSPB reserve in Newport, Gwent.

With dark, leaden skies with golden sunshine pouring through gaps in the cloud cover the lighting was dramatic; it caused the winter colours to positively glow against the dark blue-grey of the sky.

This mandala is my response to those colours, along with some very stylised motifs from the things I saw – arching branches, dancing golden grasses, fungi and more.

I took photographs as I took a walk around part of the reserve. I also stopped to record my observations, my thoughts, in words in my journal.

I surprised myself…

It was all a bit of a spur of the moment decision to head to the wetlands reserve. I was still feeling headachy and emotionally drained after my Time to Change Wales talk to the police yesterday. I needed to do something to help shift this and to lift my mood and getting out and about is something I do struggle with, hugely. Anxiety about being around people kicks in and I can become almost paralysed with it. However, today I didn’t. Perhaps because the reserve is familiar to me; I have been there a few times before. However, I’ve never really taken much of a walk around it. That has always been a problem for me.

But not today. Today, I walked along some paths that were unfamiliar to me. I didn’t go all that far, though my walk took an hour. I did fear getting lost there, but I kept my eye on some fairly obvious landmarks such as wind turbines, the lighthouse at Nash and the huge powerstation. Being able to see these gave me some confidence that I knew what direction to head in to return to the visitors centre. If I strayed from where I could see at least one of them, I backtracked and took a different route.

Most of the people walking and visiting the reserve smiled and said hello, as did I, and that helped me feel at ease too. That, and the rhythm of walking, the sounds of nature – birdsong, rustling leaves in the breeze – and I took pleasure in moving my body, which is something that is new to me.

It’s also something I need to remember and try to get a walk into my schedule most days, somewhere where there’s nature but also where I feel safe to walk. In the wilds by myself is not a good idea, but somewhere like RSPB Newport, with it’s structured. signposted paths is a good idea. Or the beach…somewhere I’ve not been since July, yet it’s only a 40 minute drive away from me.

I forget all too easily how good it is for my mental health to take a walk where there’s nature, birdsong, and not too many people.

As I walked, I could feel the tension leach from me, down through my feet into the forgiving and loving earth. With each step and each breath I felt the anxiety ease little by little. The headache began to lift as well. By the time my walk was over I felt much better. There were still cobwebs left by the headache, but they were manageable.

When I returned to the visitors centre, I browsed in the shop and finally managed to find a raven pin badge! I also bought a small guide to trees. I also had a nice lunch and a very welcome mug of tea in the cafe there, where I continued to write and reflect in my journal until it was time to return home ahead of the rush hour traffic.

Back to art…

I love the stained glass feel of this design. I did try working with the colours in the style of my latest mandalas, but it just didn’t seem to work out for me. Perhaps I was trying to work a step, or several steps, too far for me to be comfortable with that change.

There’s also something about the black lines that gives a definite form to the mandala and this reminds me of how in winter I can can see the underlying form, the architecture that usually is hidden beneath leaves and flowers.

As is my way, I used my Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to draw and colour this mandala.

I used my photos of my visit to get the colour palette I used. And for me this is an unusual colour palette, but it reflects very much nature’s palette on the day and time that I visited.

There’s a bit more about my visit on my other blog – Curious Stops and Tea Shops.

Doodly Saturday

©Angela Porter 2019

It’s been a weird kind of day today for me. I’m quite open about my mental health, and today has been one where it’s not been completely tickettyboo. I’m out of sorts. Unsettled. Nothing I’ve done seems good enough to me. I’m quite teary and that really set in during a loving kindness meditation this morning.

Loving kindness meditations are always difficult for me. It’s easy for me to send out love and good wishes to all people. It’s not easy for me to accept the same for myself. Today, it was more difficult than usual, including some physical pain along with it. Traumas from my past kept rising up. Things I didn’t think were traumas, just stupid decisions made by myself. Seems I have work to do on those too in EMDR therapy.

I did colour some mixed media paper with distress inks and quite small pieces at that. I drew on two of them, as above. I’m really not happy with either of them. I really don’t know why I put the words on the left hand one. Growth is a funny word there.

I’ll just put it all down to me being out of sorts. Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day for me to focus on art.

This is odd for me as drawing or creating usually helps me to feel better. Today it hasn’t.

I received a book in the post today – “The Wild Remedy’ by Emma Mitchell. It’s a diary she’s written over a year of how she finds being in nature and drawing and painting helps her with her low moods. She’s subtitled the book ‘How Nature Mends Us – A Diary’. I’ve read the introduction and the first month in the diary, which is October. Both interesting reads.

I almost was inspired to go out for a walk, but I just couldn’t pull myself together to do this during the daylight hours. The Sun has just set here in South Wales in the UK. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll manage to get out for a walk at some point.

I know my moods don’t linger for long. I do have low days which can linger for a couple or few days. Nowhere near as bad as they used to be, but enough to result in me being unsettled and out of sorts and hypercritical of myself and anything I do. I’ve become aware enough that it’s best to do other things that draw for publishers on days like today as I’ll just get more and more frustrated with myself and my efforts.

On other days, whatever I draw I may consider good enough. But on days like today …

Still, the sun will rise again in the morning and it’ll be a new day. My mood may be better then and I’ll accomplish work I consider to be good enough. Now all I need to do is try to find something that I can settle down to do today. I’ve been back and forth all day between drawing, reading, knitting, fussing around. The only creative thing I’ve enjoyed today has been colouring paper with distress inks. Not sure I want to spend the evening doing that though.

Maybe I need to go out for a drive. Sometimes driving with upbeat music on can shift my mood, especially when I feel anxious and restless as I do now, for no reason either.

Monday musings

Angela Porter 28 August 2018

It’s been a little while since I’ve done an illustrated quote. Today, I was drawn to one by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and even though it was written over 200 years ago, it still has relevance in our time.

I printed the words out and then used Ohto Graphic Liner pens to draw the illustration around it. After scanning the image in, I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to alter the colour and add my watermark.

A nice way to spend a damp, sometimes drizzly Monday morning here in the UK. The schools return, the teachers at least for their day of training/preparation for the return of their students in the coming day(s), the interminable meetings where so much information is passed on it’s hard to retain it, let along digest it!

I do not miss this one bit. I loved teaching – the actual teaching, helping pupils to grow and develop, not only as little scientists but also as human beings and in confidence and self-belief.

I do not miss the huge number of meetings, the constant change, the challenges of behaviour/attitudes that changes in society have wreaked, the homogenization of teaching strategies…and so much more.

I’m feeling grateful this day that I get to do what I love, to make a new career from it, to continue to help people through my colouring books, and in other ways too.

I was once ignorant of the fact that I could do something else with my life, I thought I’d be a teacher until I reached retirement age, and that I would struggle more and more with my mental health and emotional health over time. I was also ignorant of the fact I had depression, anxiety and more – willfully ignoring the signs, denying that it was a problem, that I was just tired, or it was the result of a verbal attack or poor behaviour or even a physical threat at the end of my time teaching.

I was ignorant as I chose to ignore the facts of what was happening to my mind and emotions.

It must have been a terrible thing for those who truly knew me (not many, one maybe, thanks to the carefully crafted mask of happiness and jollity that I wore all my life when with people, very different behind closed doors with no one around to observe) to see how I was plummeting downward, to have me dismiss their observations with the excuse ‘I’m just tired’ or ‘I’ve had a tough day’ or ‘So and so did such and such yet again today and it got to me. I’ll be fine after a good night’s sleep’.

Eventually I had no choice but to get help, to have months and months away from teaching so that I could recover just enough to return and last another eight months.

I know now my ignorance of my own well being wasn’t out of innocence about mental health issues; instead it was borne out of the messages I had as I grew up from the mother, from society, that to have depression, to be anxious, was a shameful, weak thing and there was something wrong with you if this was you.

I stigmatized myself, and prevented myself from getting the help I needed for a long time.

I was ignorant as I willfully ignored the facts, the evidence that was right in front of me, staring back at me whenever I looked in the mirror. It wasn’t innocence. I knew about mental illness, mental ill-health, depression, anxiety, but I refused to consider that was what was wrong with me.

Ignorance, ignoring the facts, the knowledge or applying it as it didn’t suit what I wanted to believe.

To give myself a bit of a softer time, I’d never known anything but depression and anxiety, ever that I can recall. So, to me, the worsening state of my mental/emotional health was just me being worn out by the day, the week, the term (semester) or academic year.

It took a very skillful and understanding GP to help me see that I needed help, and I took it, and still am with my weekly therapy sessions.

That’s a personal example of why I don’t see innocence and ignorance as the same thing with reference to the quote.