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 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.
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.
Yesterday really didn’t go to plan. I ended up having a major emotional and stress episode and I was so tired afterwards that I didn’t have much in the way of focus. It also gave me a seriously upset stomach, as any emotional/stress event does.
I did, however, work on these two zentangle-style drawings.
The one on the left I did during the night and early this morning as my sleep was disturbed. I used a small square of Claire Fontaine Natural Paint On mixed media paper and a 03 Sakura Micron pen. The paper is 5″ square. The colour and shading was adding using a selection of Daler-Rowney artist’s sketching pencils and a white Sakura Gelly Roll pen. I left a blank space so I could add a quote at a later time.
The one on the right I started after I’d completed the line-art for Entangled Starry Skies. I used a 6″ Strathmore Artist’s Tile along with Unipin pens. To add colour and shading I used Stabilo Carbothello pastel pencils and Derwent Graphitint pencils with a light wash of water. I used this particular drawing as a way to try out different traditional media I’ve not used for a long time. I did mean to add gold to the white circular highlights, but it slipped my mind.
It was actually really nice to lose myself in the intricacy of these drawings. Intricacy, pattern, abstract, organic satisfy a large part of my arty heart.
I do feel a bit more settled today, but I am tired after yesterday’s stress and upset and a poor night’s sleep. But I do need to sort out my Christmas card design for this year!
Yesterday I had a godawful migraine-y headache. I managed to get some drawing done for Entangled Starry Skies. However the headache scuppered my plans to complete the templates.
I woke this morning, after a broken night’s sleep due to overheating and some hot ‘flashes’, my first night time ones. So, though I’m a bit tired, the headache has, thankfully, gone and I was able to focus on work. All the templates are complete, apart from any edits on the new ones and a couple of the very first ones drawn. So, the next job will be to colour in three of the templates that the editorial team will choose. I let them have that difficult job as I find it so hard to choose just three out of the thirty-one templates.
So, to celebrate I turned my attention to my Christmas ‘card’ for this year. I do need to get a design done sooner rather than later for the cards that need printing and posting. I suspect that Moonpig will be used this year for those.
The design above is the next iteration of the Christmas/winter tree idea I have. I’ve got as far as trying out some color palettes for the final design. Green would be traditional, but I rather like the opalescent colours at the top right of the test area.
After doing my social media posts, I’m going to go and sort a late lunch/early tea out for myself. It’s a tad late to organise myself to go out for a walk – with the skies growing darker with clouds dusk will fall early. Ho hum, perhaps tomorrow!
I’ve been having trouble sleeping through the night, again. I wake up feeling very hot and need to cool down again before I can, sometimes, fall asleep again. It’s pointless me tossing and turning, so I sit up and grab a sketchbook, pen and reading glasses and draw. I put the light on first though.
This is the product of last night’s periods of insomnia, and also drawing while having breakfast in bed. Once I was ready to get up, I scanned the drawing in and faffed around a little with it digitally.
The design was drawn in my 12″ x 12 ArtGecko sketchbook. I feared I’d not be able to scan the image in on my A4 scanner but I managed, just. I used a 05 Uniball Unipin pen to draw with.
I woke well before dawn. As it was rather chilly in the house (heating hadn’t kicked in yet), I sat in bed drawing. White gel pen on black paper. The above, after some digital wizardry, is the result of that.
It has a very Meso-american feel to it with plenty of my favourite curves, spirals, circles and other patterns and motifs. It’s meant to be entirely abstract, but we’ll all see things in it. The ability of our minds to see patterns and familiar items in the purely abstract is called pareidolia. It is a perfectly normal aspect of being human.
Interestingly, apophenia is the tendency seek meaningful connections in random things, such as in gambling.
Some Friday facts there!
It’s a dry day with some sunshine today, so my spirits are lifted somewhat. I may take a break from arty work for a while to go for a walk. It’s likely to be chilly and brisk out there – my weather app tells me it’s 4ºC in the outside world, which equates to almost ‘brr’! I’ll see how I feel after showering and so on.
Entangled Starry Skies Progress
I’m getting along well with Entangled Starry Skies and want to continue with the progress being made. I have 21 out of the 31 templates required, but I always do some extra so there’s a choice for the templates in the book. I do have a tendency to become fixated on an idea and so can end up with templates that are too similar. That’s something I need to bear in mind going forward.
As well as creating new templates, I do have some editing to do on a couple of the ones submitted so far based on feedback from the editorial team. This is where digital art really helps hugely and saves so much time as I rarely have to re-draw a template.
I appreciate the feedback from the editorial team. It helps me gain some perspective as well as ideas for new avenues to explore within the theme of the book – and that helps to break me out of the tunnel vision I can get myself locked into. Note how a lot of my art is Meso-American in feel at the moment.
It’s template Thursday! As it’s December, my templates will have wintry, themes, all with the emphasis on bringing light and colour into our lives during the last weeks of the year.
As I live in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re in the last few days of autumn. However, no matter where you live in the world, there are always starry night skies, and I suspect stars will feature a lot in the templates. Not just because I love stars, but because I’m working on Entangled Starry Skies.