Autumn is on the way!

Autumn Mandala 01Coloured Angela Porter

Autumn is nigh and it’s a lot more glorious because…

September has arrived at long last, along with the promise of the fiery blaze of glory that is autumn in a few weeks time.

Cooler mornings and evenings along with warm enough days, the quality of sunlight is softer, more golden too.

I really love this time of year, it’s my favourite!

Even more so that I no longer have the long fear/anxiety of returning to school as a teacher.

I don’t miss teaching one little bit!  I miss friends I had. I miss the more social interaction I had and the fun and laughter I had with colleagues and pupils.  What I don’t really miss is the constant fear, anxiety, worry, stress, pressure, bad attitudes, poor behaviour and constantly being looked at and assessed. All the things that led me to some very dark places that I found difficult to get out of.  No, it’s not ‘I don’t really miss’ these things – I really don’t miss these things, though I still get moments anxiety verging on panic when memories of various situations arise from the depths of my subconscious.

Arty pursuits

I’ve finished all the black and white line art for Eerily Entangled – my latest colouring book for Dover Publications.  I have two more to colour in for the book, but I’ll wait to see what my editor and her design team would like me to colour – there are so very many, if not all, I’d love to colour!

As well as this, I’ve spent quite a bit of time starting to organise my ‘pattern library’.  It’s something I like to do when I’m too tired to do anything else, when I’m feeling down and need a comforting not challenging activity, and when I’m lacking in inspiration; sometimes the patterns bring the inspiration I’m searching for, sometimes they just allow stuff to well up to the surface of my subconscious mind where my conscious mind can grab them and make use of them.

As a change of focus, I decided to draw some autumn themed mandalas, the one at the top of this blog entry being the first.

I’m a bit rusty at creating them after focusing on other things for a while, but the skills soon come back, often with new ideas or twists to old ideas, as well as new skills learned by my use of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro with my Microsoft Surface Book, which I used to create this mandala.

Mixed Media ACEOs, and updates

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Mixed Media ACEOs/ATCs

I’ve spent the last four or five hours creating this set of four ACEO/ATC cards.  It’s been a while since I did any mixed media work, but I felt the need to get a bit messy.

Each card measures 2½” x 3½” (approx. 6.5 cm x 9 cm) with the substrate being some fairly thick Kraft card.

I started by using some yellow Frog Tape to hold the cards together so I could make the background at the same time.

I started by applying PaperArtsy Fresco Paints to the kraft card until I had a finish I liked.  The colours I used were Cheesecake, Rose and Sherbet.

The next step was to add some Windsor and Newton Modelling Paste through a couple of stencils (one was the dot fade stencil by Tim Holtz, the other a mini dragonfly stencil by Creative Expressions).

Once the modelling paste was dried, which I hurried along using a Tim Holtz Heat Tool from Ranger, I watered down some Alchemy Waxes from Imagination Crafts  (white gold, tulip and apple green)and used a paintbrush to colour the dragonflies.  I then used the wax and a piece of Cut and Dry Foam from Ranger to apply some of the waxes over the dot patterns.

Once I’d finished applying the wax, I wasn’t happy with the result on the dragonflies, so I used Daler Rowney System 3 acrylic paint in Rich Gold to re-colour them. I was much happer with the results, especially the dragonflies that I’d coloured pink/red.

The next step was to have a furtle through various coloured diecuts I have in my stash.  Every now and again, I spend a day cutting out various die cuts (mainly cogs, flowers and foliage, but sometimes other things too) and then colouring them to add to my stash.  It saves on time when I have the urge to do some mixed media work. It also makes use of my rare urges to do die cutting, which I find a very tedious process.

After a good furtle, I found some cogs that would work on two ACEOs that had just the dots on the background. I couldn’t find anything I’d want to add to the dragonflies; I was just happy with them as they were.

The die cuts were applied with Cosmic Shimmer Acrylic Glue from Creative Expressions, then some Vintage Photo Distress Oxide Ink with a wet brush was used to add shadows.

I used a Quickie Glue pen from Sakura and Gold Superfine Embossing Powder from WOW to add some gold dots and to areas where there was no embossing paste.  Following this, I edged the cards using a piece of Cut and Dry foam and black Archival Ink from Ranger.

 

I then chose some words from the Tim Holtz Chit Chat stickers and glued them down with the Cosmic Shimmer Acrylic glue, and used a damp brush and a China Black Inktense pencil from Derwent to add shadows around the stickers.

The very final step was to add some sparkly gems, and they were done!  Once all is dry, I can add my information to the back and so on, and I have some ACEO cards to use on other mixed media projects or in my art journal.

Other arty news

Over the past week I’ve been keeping myself artfully busy learning a bit more about Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and how it works for me; you could say I’m building up a relationship with it.

For now, I’ve been drawing LOTS of mandalas!  I’m keeping them back from t’internet as I hope to publish them (some are already spoken for by the Colorist app), and other people asked if I was going to make some available for purchase.  So, I’m building up a collection of them for that purpose – either with a publisher, or I’ll self-publish if necessary.  I’ve also done a couple more small mandalas that work nicely as designs to be coloured and made into greetings cards, kind of like digital stamps.

Talking of digital stamps (digi stamps), there are some ideas rattling around my noggin that I’d like to try out, so there’ll be more news on this later on no doubt.

It looks like I’m going to be doing a colouring book of spooky templates in the near future, so if anyone has any ideas for ‘spooky’ or ‘eerie’ then feel free to share!

I also have a few ideas for written books rumbling around my noggin; however, it’s really hard for me to do something with them as I doubt myself so much, think they’re silly ideas, and so on.  The ideas aren’t wholly in my noggin, I do have notes on them on the ‘puter which need tidying up…but I’m finding it difficult to do this because of all my self-doubt and self-criticism. I just need to keep saying to myself, ‘But you have recorded these ideas so they are there for you, so you have made progress).

Other things going on in my life

A week ago, I finally had the hedge at the front of the house removed, as well as the back garden completely cleared.  My garden is tiny, but it’s amazing how much space was hidden by the cotoneaster and forsythia!  I do have some clean up to do, but there’s no great rush on that.  I also need to consider what to do with the back garden.

The process of getting this done has caused me great anxiety, but there was an ah-ha moment when I realised that some voile panels in the windows in my front room would help me to feel ‘safer’ and more ‘private’ while letting in daylight.  For a long time I’ve hid behind curtains; well, I still am, but at least I can see out through the voiles even if people outside can’t see in!  Why I didn’t think of this a long while ago, I don’t know, but thank goodness I did!

I’ve done a couple of anti-stigma talks for Time to Change Wales, and I’m seriously wondering if I’m really making any difference as my story is so bland and ordinary … after all it’s not a dramatic tale to tell, and I really don’t think it’s anything people haven’t heard/seen on TV on the soaps and so on…so I’m really feeling quite downhearted about that at the moment.

I know it may very well pass, but at the moment … it’s difficult….my therapy?  Art of course!

 

Art and my healing journey

 

 

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A page of floral sketches from my sketchbook.

This is a little bit of a different blog post from me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I experience CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder), which presents itself in many ways, including anxiety, depression, and a low self-esteem.

I’ve had lots of counselling over the past eight years or so, and for the last two and a half years I’ve had a lovely therapist who specialises in EMDR therapy.  It’s taken a long while for me to get to the point where I believe that such a gentle kind of therapy works, and works for me.  It’s still a slow process…but progress is being made.  A major change in employment nearly a year ago seriously helped with that.

Last week, my counsellor suggested I read a book called ‘Tapping In’ by Laurel Parnell.  In the book, Laurel Parnell describes how the process of bilateral stimulation by means of tapping the knees or outer thighs can be used to reinforce a safe place, helpful guardians and other tools to help during both therapy and everyday life.  My own therapist has successfully used it to reduce anxiety during a dental appointment as well as aiding in sleep.

She suggested I read the book and we do some work on the resources I need before continuing with EMDR as the last few sessions have left me rather upset, fragile, and, unsually for me, unable to find my ‘safe place’ at the end of a session, so that I can leave the fragile and upset state behind.

So,  yesterday we worked on my safe place, with me coming up with a new one and ‘tapping in’ the contentment, peace and safety I feel when I imagine myself there. The bilateral stimulation from alternating taps to the outer knees, helps to reinforce the feeling of the place, and actually helps to intensify it.

I have no problem imagining places I can go to in my imagination; I’ve used guided meditations over the years for various purposes.  When it comes to me coming up with my own imaginary places, it never ceases to surprise me what these places are like!

The other thing that was suggested after I’d verbally described my place, was to spend time over the week drawing/painting/creating images of this place, as well as practicing the process of tapping in my safe place and using it to help me manage my current high anxiety levels.  (My anxiety intensified greatly yesterday, not as a result of counselling, but by the decision to hold a ‘snap general election’ and my worries about what is happening in this country, in the world, which then gets transferred to worrying about finances as I’m now self-employed, and so on and the constant chatter of anxiety winds itself up if I’m not careful).

Me being me, I get to it almost straight away…starting with these mandalas

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Mandalas based on the feelings I get when I’m in my ‘safe place’.

Carl Jung used mandalas to represent/express the current state of the self:

“My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which was presented to me anew each day…I guarded them like precious pearls….It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation. ” – Carl Jung

So, I started with some abstract, intuitive mandalas to try to express the feelings I have when I think of my safe place, when I remember the feelings I have when I’m there.

Next, I wanted to draw some kind of representation of a view from one of the windows of my place.  And this is what I came up with, though the view changes all the time!

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Yes, I know water isn’t yellow, but in my inner world it can be!  It also shimmers with gold and has lots of shining gold and blue ‘dots’ in it.  Lots of happy creatures and colours there, all entertaining me … diverting my attention away from my anxiety.

Yes, I use art to help me manage my mental health.  When anxious, doing art helps me become less so; when depressed, art lifts my mood.  I’m sure the inner critic chatters away even when I’m ‘arting’, but the art takes my attention so the critic’s voice can be ignored.

Oh, before I drew anything, I took time to write a clear description of my safe place, as words are how I build up mind images.

I’m looking forward to ‘tapping in’ help for creativity, amongst other things… I’m also looking to intuitively drawing and creating some more of the living things that I can see from my safe place – all friendly and protective of course, nothing scary allowed there!  Which suits my tendency to rather whimsical, cutesy, artistic style.

So, I’ve shared a little of my ‘safe place’, but I’m keeping a lot of details to myself – no offence, but I don’t want any gate crashers there!

Artistic journeys…

Mixed media

IMG_0650My previous blog post about a mixed media work in progress is still on hold, although I have added a crackle paint to it in places, which has added some texture to it.  I’m pleased with the result, but I still am not sure what else to do to complete it.

I have completed a very textured background for some mixed media work; you can see it above.  What I’m going to do with it I’m not quite sure, but I’m sure it will all come together at the right time.

Abstract Line Art

I’ve been drawing more ‘Doodle Worlds’ images from time to time and now need to gather them together to see if there’s enough for another ‘book’ for the Colorist app.

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I also turned my attention to colour and pattern and the two images above are the results of around three to four days work.

I used A4 300g/m² smooth watercolour paper and applied distress inks to create the coloured areas.  I wanted to create the illusion of shadow and light in these areas.  Next, I used various drawing pens to add the patterns.  On the green piece, I’ve added copper and gold coloured metallic highlights.  The pink one isn’t quite finished yet.

Sketchbooks and my artistic journey

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As the days are becoming lighter and warmer, my thoughts are going to getting out to visit places and to do some sketching/drawing (intense anxiety and intense self-consciousness allowing).

With this in mind, I’ve prepared pages in an A5 and an A4 sketchbook.  I’ve used Distress and Distress Oxide Inks.

The image above shows the first page in my A4 sketchbook, a page full of daisies, worked using different media, trying out different styles and degrees of detail.

I like to work on a coloured background, I don’t know why, I just do.  I think it may be that I like to add shadows and highlights to create and image from the colour on the page.

I’ve not done much in the way of sketchbook work for a long while, but the need to revisit and to continue to explore different ways of expressing myself artistically has surfaced.  I think this is a much over-due response to the surfeit of work on colouring books in the past three or so years, as well as the struggle I’ve had with my mental health.

My energy, when mentally able, has been focused on completing the work I was contracted for with various publishers.  I enjoyed the work, the subject matter pushed my boundaries in the subjects I tackled.  I’m so grateful for that work as well as it allowed me to make changes in my working life that helps me to take care of my mental health.  It was/is also an activity that helps me manage my mood.  I lose myself in drawing/creating, finding myself ‘in the flow’ where my mind stills, or, rather, where I no longer pay attention to the inner critic.

However, the colouring book work was the focus of my artistic energies for much of that time, and I had little energy left to explore other areas of artistic expression.  I didn’t mind that at all, as I’ve said, I enjoyed all the work I did, and I will continue to create templates.  However, that is not all I want to do or to create.

I now have time to revisit ways of artistic expression I put to one side in my focus on the work for publishers, and I have the chance to see how my skills and expression have developed/changed.  I also get the chance to explore and discover new ways of expressing myself, using new media.

In this way I can continue to discover, practice and refine my artistic voice and vocabulary.  I still feel like a toddler in the world of art.  I wonder if I’ll ever progress from that state.

The biggest obstacle to me doing this is the lack of belief and confidence I have in myself and my artistic abilities.  I also have a problem in deciding on what to draw.  Then, there’s also the issue of finding themes/styles/media to explore that will challenge me just enough that I feel I can make a good attempt at them and gain confidence in them, but not so much that it overwhelms me and I fail before even trying.

The most important thing for me, however, is to enjoy my artistic journey, no matter where it leads me.  The pleasure and peace I get from creating will be something that will serve me extremely well throughout the rest of my days on this planet.

 

Time to Talk day, Hirameki fun and a partly coloured doodleedoo.

Time to Talk 2017

Yesterday was Time to Talk day; a day with the focus on encouraging people to talk, especially about mental health in order to help to end the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness experience.  Many celebrities and organisations supported this day, which is brilliant!

I’m a champion for Time to Change Wales.  This means I volunteer to go to events, businesses and organisations to encourage people to talk about mental health, as well as to tell my story of my mental health problems and the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced, as well as the help and understanding I’ve been given and the little things that employers did that helped me to remain in teaching for as long as I did.

It was quite appropriate that the first time I went to tell my story was on Time to Talk day!  I went to Remploy in Pontypridd and talked to both the employees and some of their service users.  Bev from Time to Change Wales was there to support me the first time I did this.

Getting the powerpoint presentation sorted was a major job for me and showed me how much my concentration has been affected by my extended bouts of anxiety/depression in the past few years.  It took me forever to add just five slides to the presentation!

Telling my story was easy, yet at the same time it was difficult.  It opened up some sores, brought back things I thought I’d left behind when I left teaching, and had me in tears at some points, which resulted in me making some self-stigmatising statments such as ‘sorry, I’m being stupid with these tears’ and then saying that was self-stigmatising.

I got through it.  Bev, the longest serving champion who’s done over 100 anti-stigma talks, said I did well.  People thanked me for sharing my story.

It was a good thing to do.

I came home emotionally drained and well out of sorts though.  I’m feeling a bit more me today, but still drained.  It was still worth it, still a good thing to do, especially if it gave one person what they needed to get the help or to talk about mental health themselves.

Arty goings on

One of the things I do to help re-balance me when I’ve been drained/overly emotional/triggered as I was yesterday is to have a nap.  The other thing is to do art.

Art has been my great source of solace and peace for me during my worst times, and it continues to be so.

I partly coloured in a doodle-type drawing, using my Copic markers this time.

After the talk yesterday, I had a wander to Churchill’s stationery in Pontypridd to pick up some art supplies.  There, I found a little book called Hirameki:Draw what you see by Peng and Hu.

“In the beginning was the blot.

A flash of inspiration, a light bulb moment, a stroke of genius…

With just a few strokes of the pen and a dash of your imagination hirameki gives a sublime and unexpected sense of satisfaction and delights the hand, eye and mind.  The little blot will reveal its true self.

Hirameki: pleasure from the smallest things.”

From ‘Hirameki: Draw What You See’ by Peng and Hu.

So, I had to have a go at this!  Here’s my first go at it…

I had a lot of fun, both making the blobs of colour and then trying to let my imagination run free.  I found out, however, that my imagination isn’t what I thought it was, or that it is rusty and out of use.  I will persevere, however, as there are some characters/objects there that I can make use of in my doodly style of art!  They’ll be added to my visual vocabulary/library in my zibaldone.

Happy 2017, and a personal review of 2016

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See the end of the post for the line art version if you’d like to download, print and copy for yourself!

I know, it’s a little early, but I thought I’d post this today, as well as a bit of a personal review of the past year.

2016 has been an interesting year for me, one of some major changes in my life.

It started with me being a science teacher, off again on long-term sickness due to a recurrent bout of intense anxiety and depression.  I was so distressed about having to return to work as a teacher, about what else I could do.  I couldn’t think straight.  My capacity to read and understand what I was reading or remember it was severely impaired.  I had trouble going out of my home.  Anything to do with my job caused me an intensifying of these symptoms and the most distressing nightmares I’ve ever had.

Teaching has changed so much in the 28 years I was a science teacher.  The pressures have increased, both in terms of workload and behaviour/attitudes of the students that is a reflection of how society has changed too. All of this resulted in triggers for my depression/anxiety/low self-esteem/low confidence.being overwhelmed by even little things.  No matter how well people told me I was doing as a teacher (senior teachers, colleagues, inspectors (I never had less than outstanding in the last two inspections I was seen teaching in), I never believed them and thought it was just a fluke.

Because of this, I kind of knew that I’d have to leave teaching, but didn’t know if I could do so financially.  I’m single, responsible for all my bills and so on, so whatever I did I had to make sure I had some kind of financial security.

Eventually, I made the decision to leave teaching and to become a self-employed artist/illustrator based on the success of the adult colouring books I’ve done (of which there are now many – listed on my amazon author page), and that happened in the early part of the summer, officially.

This was, arguably, the best decision I’ve made for a long time.  The difference it is making to my mood/mental health, as well as progress in counselling is quite remarkable.  My only worry at the moment is my first tax return and tax bill in the early part of next year!

I know I have a lot to do to create a portfolio and to come up with projects that will keep contracts coming my way, but I do have some breathing space at the moment, with just one book to be completed asap.

On the back of this decision, my home had a major clear out, again in the early summer.  Though it’s not entirely finished, enough progress has been made for now. I now need to have a major de-stash of art materials to make space for either new, or just easier organisation of the materials i use most often.

I also discovered I have quite strong views politically about how our society should be a lot more caring of those who need help, for whatever reason, and how important the British NHS is and how much more it should be valued by those in power in the country, and not just seen as a cash cow for their buddies and supporters.  It took me a long time, but I finally worked out that my beliefs/views politically mostly aligned themselves with the traditional Labour Party (not ‘new Labour’, which seems to me just a lighter shade of blue than the Conservative Party).  So, I joined the Labour Party.  Yet to make it to my first meeting, but no doubt I will do.

I also have become involved with Time to Change Wales as a Champion.  This is an organisation whose campaign is to end the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness.  I’ve yet to tell my story at an event, but that’s on the cards for sometime in the early part of 2017.  Again, this is something I have strong feelings about, especially the self-stigma that prevented me from recognising and accepting I had a mental illness (complex post traumatic stress disorder(cptsd)) and seeking help.

I am really grateful that I did recognise the cptsd, and have made the major change of going self-employed as a way of looking after myself and being happy in how I earn a living, and it doesn’t even seem like work most of the time!

I’m grateful for those who have stuck with me through thick and thin, offering me the support and encouragement that they are able to.

I’m grateful to those who have created difficult circumstances for me, and those circumstances have either shown me how far I’ve come along in healing, or where I need to focus some attention on as my counselling continues.

So, thank you 2016 for moving me forward in my life with the challenging events, for showing me how far I’ve come along in my healing journey, and for the fun and laughter that have helped me keep going.

Thank you to all those who have believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, who have given me amazing opportunities to create and share art with others via the medium of adult colouring books, and I look forward to all the opportunites that come along in 2017 for me to continue to create and share with others.


Here, as promised, is the line art for the image above.  If you’d like to download/print and colour, please do so.  All I ask is you respect my copyright, you use it just for personal use, not for commercial gain, and if you share your coloured image, please link back to my blog.Enjoy, and thank you!

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Winter Solstice 2013

Winter Solstice 2013 © Angela Porter 2013

 

Another astronomical cycle completed as the Earth returns to the point of solstice once again.  The first day of Winter.  A time to reflect on the year behind, successes and otherwise.  A time to be willing to let go of all that has run it’s course, either by being completed or no longer needed, to make space for new growth as the Sun grows in power once again, increasing the amount of light flooding the Earth (well the Northern Hemisphere).

For whatever reason, it seems more natural to me to follow markers in time and the symbolism of the waxing and waning cycles of the Sun and how that relates to the patterns that we see reflected in our lives than does anything else. All a bit odd coming from a scientist, perhaps.

This year I will be looking on it as a continuation of a new start in my life.  I have been off work since the middle of November and it really is time to let go of the old patterns of negative thinking about myself that have so blighted my life and experiences.  It’s not going to be easy; fifty years of them whispering and disempowering and controlling me is a very long time.  It can be done and I have to see it as a long term process, with the help of my doctor.  It’s not been easy to admit I need help with all of this, or to acknowledge, truthfully to myself, the impact it has all had on myself.

However long it has taken me, I’m at that point where little steps are needed, and I do have to understand it is little steps, that this can’t be sorted instantly or overnight.

There’s been a complex set of circumstances that led me to this point of requesting help, not least of which was the nagging of a dear friend to get the help needed; it took them over a year to get through to me, that’s how much in denial I have been. However, we did get there.

I’m not prepared to air the circumstances here, where anyone and everyone can see them.  Those who know me will know what they are, maybe.  Those who don’t can infer for themselves what this may be about.

All I know is that I’m quietly on the mend now, slowly but surely, and that is all that matters.

My love and thanks go out to that dear friend who nagged me.  My love and thanks to my little sister who has made sure that I don’t totally lock myself away all the time.  My love and thanks to those I’ve seen and spoken to in the past few weeks, and before that, who have helped and supported me.