I’ve spent a little time this morning working on this rather sunshiny mandala. It’s not finished yet and I’ll think I’ll keep the sunrise (or sunset) colour theme for the rest of it.
Digital art using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
I am feeling tired today. I woke with a headache and tried to sleep it off and woke again with it still there. I’ve taken some Anadin extra, but it’s still faintly there.
I’m feeling tired emotionally too. I’ve had a couple of things happen this past week that have caused some quite visceral emotional reactions. Some of these events I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, others I’m not at all comfortable to share, not even with my therapist, not yet that is.
I constantly feel on the point of tears, and I know what has been the trigger for that. I also thought I’d got past it, but obviously not. That disheartens me a little. It may be there are different facets to this particular collection of relatively recent events.
Oh, the joys of living with CPTSD. It’s not described as complex for no reason at all.
Despite the tearfulness and some fearful anxiety, I can still touch that inner contentedness that I have cultivated. The contentedness is the ocean; the tears, anxiety, fear, the stupidity I feel, as well as other emotions I can’t label yet, are the waves on the surface.
Waves come and go. Sometimes the ocean surface is as calm as a millpond on a still day. Sometimes it’s as turbulent as tsunami rising onto a beach.
The surface of my ocean of contentedness is somewhat choppy, perhaps verging on stormy, but far away from being at the level of a tsunami.
I do have EMDR therapy soon; there’s a very good chance it’s going to be a rather emotional session. I just hope it doesn’t add energy to the waves that are currently forming upon my inner ocean. Given how emotionally fragile and vulnerable I feel at this time, I won’t hold my breath!
My experiment laying down areas of colour with Chameleon markers then adding colour inspired me to try the same idea out with my digital art tools.
Here is the result of several hours trying the idea out.
I’m not at all sure about lots of parts of it. I’m not happy with it at the moment. I have some things to think about going forward.
Firstly, the way I have my pen brushes set up is giving a black line that seems to be way too stark against the colour. Black ink in fine line pens isn’t quite so opaque. So, I need to play around adjusting this.
Also, I have the edge of the pen brushes set up as ‘sharp’, so I do get that very sharp edge to the line. I need to play around with adjusting this as well. It’s not enough to have an uneven line edge; if anything, the sharpness of the rough edge jars my senses.
The background colour is quite OK if perhaps a tad complex. Again, I need to spend time playing around with various brush types, properties and textures to work out the best way for me to create such backgrounds if this is a route I’m going to go down in digital art.
As always, by taking time to do experimental art (not that all art is experimental I think) I explore the tools, effects, settings, and so on that are available to me in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. Of course, I use my Microsoft Surface Pen on the screen of my Microsoft Surface Studio to create my digital art.
What’s important is that I make the time to do this regularly. It’s the only way I can learn and develop my digital art ‘voice’ as well as understanding how the different brushes and settings work.
So, Angela, how are you today?
I’m OK. Tired, but much better than earlier this week.
I’m tired from not enough sleep last night, but also from dealing with some difficult issues around a member of my family. I don’t mind myself becoming drained when it’s about helping another person. I know how to take care of myself now so that I recover and don’t stay stuck in this emotionally exhausted state. That’s what self-care is all about.
I did go out yesterday with my younger sister. We visited the Roman baths in Caerleon and ended up at the Honey Cafe in Bronllys for a late lunch.
I popped to the toilet at the cafe, and I got stressed out there. Children loudly screaming with a very loud hand-drier caused me to become anxious, stressed, hypervigilant. The children weren’t distressed at all, just screaming with the noise of the hand-drier for fun. Their mother was with them, so they were safe. So, I have no idea what my reaction was all about. All I know it’s grist for the EMDR therapy wheel.
Oh! The joy of the CPTSD triggers that hide from me. Well, this one has now come out into the light of a startle, so it can’t hide any longer!
Still, the startling left me twitchy, jumpy, on-edge and on the point of tears for quite a long while after this. Any slightly loud noise, someone walking past me in the cafe and I’d jump and catch my breath.
When I got home, I felt exhausted and collapsed into bed and slept for a couple of hours.
I did sleep well through the night, even though I went to bed a bit later than usual. However, I still feel tired, exhausted today.
I know it will pass. Self-care is required. I have some ginger chai that I’m sipping as I write this blog. I know that art, crochet, naps, music all help to soothe me. I’m not sure a walk in a people-y world would be a good idea today, well not if my by myself. I think I’m still on edge. It does take a good while for the stress hormones to leave my system so that I return to a less aroused emotional state.
Hmm, thinking about that, I do have this sense of anxiety today. There’s nothing I’m stressing about, nothing that is worrying me, so it’s just those hormones flooding my system still.
I think I deserve some gold stars for noticing that! Becoming self-aware, aware of my emotions and thoughts, is part of the healing process. It still amazes me when I see something that in the past that I would either ignore or bury deep inside me and put a happy smiley face on and carry on as if nothing was wrong.
Mostly gone are those days. I say mostly; there are times when I still return to the default setting of ignoring my emotions and needs to make sure whoever I am with is happy, even if it causes me great pain or a feeling of vulnerability and feeling unsafe.
I still find it very difficult to voice my own needs if I think someone is going to dismiss them or ignore them. Admitting I have needs make me feel even more vulnerable.
I am aware of this now, so that is a step forward. Progress is made through a series of small, manageable steps. In therapy, the first steps to change are recognising something that needs to change for healing and a healthier relationship with myself to occur.
Yesterday, I had an interesting day. I did manage to get these two illustrations done in between listening to a friend in need and taking care of a very upset tummy along with quite painful cramps.
I used 5″ x 7″ pieces of Winsor and Newton Bristol board along with some Uniball Unipin pens to draw the designs. This time, I didn’t add any grey shading. I will scan then print if I decide to colour them with traditional media.
The drawings turned out well, I think. I chose the size of paper for a reason, which I’m not about to divulge! It’s just an idea rattling around my noggin.
It’s Monday, so that means it’s EMDR therapy day.
I know on a Monday that my day can be broken up with a 3 hour or so trip to Neath and back for EMDR.
Today, I’m feeling more like I did last Monday before I received some post that threw me a curveball. I am tired as rather painful tummy cramps woke me from time to time through the night. I’m still getting them now, but a couple of Anadin Extra has taken the edge off them. I must leave early enough to pick up some more painkillers on my way to therapy.
I’ve had some flashbacks this week to events I thought I’d put to bed via EMDR. It seems that these events have several facets to them. Each of these facets relates to a negative belief I hold about myself, so each will need to be processed separately.
I’ve been trying to keep a record of the insights I gain from these flashbacks, and also any other negative beliefs that crop up from them. However, they often happen when I don’t have my BuJo to hand, and by the time I do, they’ve evaporated from my mind.
Hmm. Not really evaporated, the flashbacks have just been automatically shut away in their box once again.
I’ve learned not to try to second-guess what is going to happen in therapy each week. Whatever I have thought may happen rarely if ever happens. So I try to go with an open mind unless something has cropped up in the week that needs discussing.
The other day, I was drawing a design for the book I’m working on. I wasn’t at all happy with the way I was drawing. I’ve been working so much digitally that I feel out of practice with pen on paper.
I may end up re-drawing my illustrations for the book digitally, but I want the option of doing that.
So, yesterday evening, as some self-soothing, and this morning, I’ve been drawing in my ‘visual zibladone’, my A5 dotgrid where I keep all the patterns and motifs, well maybe not all but most, that I like to use. It’s a little book that I can flip through to find inspiration if I need it.
Adding designs, even if they’re duplicates, is a nice way to practice my drawing skills with pen or pencil.
When I work digitally, my pen strokes are much bigger, longer and involve me using my whole arm and wrist a lot more than when I use pen on paper.
I’m perhaps a lot bolder with my lines as I work digitally than I am when working on paper. I’m still precise with my lines, but the way my muscles work when I’m working digitally is different.
I hadn’t realised this until today.
Don’t get me wrong, I love drawing both ways, with traditional tools or digital tools.
However, I’d not really noticed the way that I move my fingers, wrist and arm when I work is different with each media. How curious!
So, I need to make time every day to draw with pen on paper to keep those skills just ticketty boo.
Just a little warning. The words that follow may contain material for some that may be upsetting or triggering. Please feel free to skip it.
So, Angela, how are you today?
I’m ok. Tired. EMDR yesterday was very emotional and exhausting.
I arrived at the session after having some snail mail which had me doubting my abilities as an artist/illustrator/author and it triggered that inner critic inside.
I felt warmth drain from my body. I started calling myself a failure, useless, delusional of my abilities and talent, that I really am worthless and useless, and that I’ve let people down. I even questioned my abilities as an artist, if I was deluding myself and others, living in a fantasy world rather than reality. Part of me just wanted to give it all up.
Another part of me told me that I wasn’t being silly, what I was hearing was not myself but the inner critic who had attacked me at the point of vulnerability and tried to stick its claws in once again and continue the job of so many people in my childhood and beyond of keeping me down and thinking the worst of myself.
This all tracks back to the earliest days I can remember in my life, and most of the days beyond. Nothing I did was ever good enough, and if I did good at something there was always someone who was either better or potentially was better. Always the slap-down. Every time I thought I’d done something good and tried to show it, I was always told I was wrong and everyone else was right and better.
By the time I got to therapy I was in a bit of a state. I do have to say nowhere as near as bad as I would’ve been even a few months ago, let alone a year or more ago. But still in a bit of an emotional state. Tearful. Worried. But not with the level of anxiety I’d usually feel, which surprised me, even though thoughts were running around my head like crazy.
Some of the thoughts were fairly rational, sensible, logical. That also surprised me.
Jung would call this an prime example of synchronicity – there’s no such thing as something being just a coincidence. Last week we started working on the negative belief I have that I’m a failure and useless and a disappointment. What a bit of synchronicity is that, eh?
We talked about what had triggered me and how I don’t need to go into or stay in full panic/flight/freeze mode, and about the confusion I felt that I should be really anxious and panicked, but I wasn’t. But we did use those negative thoughts for EMDR.
Lots of tears and physical pain and discomfort with the session yesterday. The negative beliefs I had changed into one of being deeply disappointed in myself and of having let others down.
At the end, I left feeling more upbeat than I arrived, even though I was absolutely bushwhacked emotionally.
I eventually got home, after a stop to get supplies to make some cucumber sandwiches. For some reason I really fancied them. I was hungry as I hadn’t eaten since breakfast early that morning.
I was tired, but knew that I couldn’t nap as it would wreck my sleep pattern, which was likely to be wrecked anyway.
And it was. I had a broken night’s sleep. I kept waking up and started fretting a little about yesterday’s mail. In the end, I gave up trying to go back to sleep and got up, breakfasted and determined I’d do some drawing.
I seem to be OK at the moment. My mind isn’t dwelling on the mail. I still feel a bit nervy though. That will pass.
Even though it was a challenging day yesterday, I think it’s shown me how far I’ve come. Not that long ago this would’ve absolutely floored me. Now, I seem to have a little resilience, and I reached out to people for some more information and explanation and advice too.
The rest of my day is going to be spent in self-soothing activities, which do include art!
I’ve been quietly working at this one over the past day or so. I’ve also found myself at that point of giving up. Not because I’m unhappy with what I’m doing, but because I was/am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the work ahead of me and some confusion about what order I need to work the elements of the design in.
I need to work from the top down; that’s the way my brain works. It also allows me to work with clean overlaps of sections, in the way I know I’d not get if I was trying to work things the other way around.
It’s a lot easier to colour the black and white line art! And a lot quicker too.
However, that doesn’t challenge me in the way this particular kind of art is challenging me. I’m having a lot of fun with using light and shadow to create dimension, as well as working in layers.
I think there’s another reason why I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed, and I’ll talk about that in my ‘So, how are you today Angela?’ section.
I’ve been working on this design for a week already, most days giving a few to several hours to it. As an estimate I’d say I’ve done somewhere between 25 and 30 hours work. You can see how much I have left to do as today I’ve posted the whole design for you to see.
I’ve just realised that spending so much time on one artwork is something new to me. Usually, a drawing takes between one hour and over a day, depending on the intricacy, size and whether it’s a sketch or a finished. inked in piece.
I think previously the longest I’ve spent on an artwork is about two days, and that was for an A3 sized mixed media piece. Oh, I have spent a lot of time on the abstract kind of embroidery/art I used to do.
However, nothing like this particular design.
Of course my tools are the usual trio of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Book.
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
I’m OK. I’ve had a couple of ‘off’ days.
Nowhere near like I used to have, even in the recent past. Just feeling off and a bit ‘meh’ and uninspired.
I had been feeling content, upbeat, happy even for a number of weeks now. How I’m feeling now was how I felt before on my best days I think.
I also think I know what the trigger has been too. I have homework from therapy to do to check in with my inner child. The experience on Friday caused me to feel really sad and tearful. I’m sure that’s what triggered this.
All the same, it’s something that can be worked on. It’s also given me a couple of insights I’d not had previously, if I can remember them for therapy tomorrow. I’m sure I will, if not tomorrow then later on.
It feels like a step backwards, but it isn’t really. It’s all part of the process.
Three years ago I spent time with friends from a school I’d taught at for 27 years. As I look back on my time there it mostly seems a distant memory.
My life has changed in so many ways.
Being self-employed as an artist, illustrator and author is a wonderful thing, it barely feels like work as it is something I love to do for pleasure as well as to contracts. I choose my own workload and what I wish to do for the day.
There’s no appalling attitudes or behaviour to deal with (well rarely).
Healing from CPTSD is continuing, and perhaps the source of so many, many positive changes for me.
Three years ago I wouldn’t have thought I would ever feel content with a really low level of anxiety. I rarely ever go to sleep wishing I wouldn’t wake up. That was a nearly daily occurrence in the several years marking my leaving teaching for good after two huge ‘breakdowns’ where I had nearly broken my mind and my will through struggling in work and with a sharply declining mental and emotional health.
Looking back on my life, my mental and emotional health were never good; it’s always been degrees of how bad they’ve been. The mask of smiling happiness and competence was constructed at an early age. I bought into the lie of that mask and it took my mind and emotions nearly breaking to make me face up to that fact that I had some serious problems mentally and emotionally.
I lost my ability to read. Rather, I lost my ability to make sense, process, and remember what I was reading. I could hear the words in my mind but they may just as well have been in an alien tongue. It’s only in recent months that my ability to read and take in what I’m reading has been returning. It’s still hard work, but I persevere.
For over two years I couldn’t drive past the school where I talked, even in night time. I now can. A sign of healing and progress I think.
Gradually, I’m finding the strength and courage to leave my home more often by myself, not just for appointments but just because I can. It’s slow progress, but it’s happening. I get startled into hyper-vigilance still fairly easy, and panic attacks can ensue and I go into full flight mode back to the safety of my car or home. They seem to happen less often though, but they’re still there.
There are still many things that need healing or strengthening with me. Such as finding the confidence and belief in myself to sell my art and promote it.
I still carry many negative beliefs about myself; they’re like a many headed monster that when one head is slayed another becomes visible that was hidden in the crowd of faces.
However, eventually there will be no place these faces can hide, no places for the negative beliefs to hide, and the end will be in sight.
I will get there. It just takes some time.
Thanks to my fabulous EMDR therapist, I’m improving all the time. Even when what seems like a backwards step at the time seems to result in more forwards movement given enough time.
Yes, in three years my life has changed noticeably, and for the better, I think.
About the art…
The little bit of art above is my newest work in progress (WIP). I couldn’t find my ‘Be Brave’ art yesterday and thought I’d start a new one. Today, ‘Be Brave’ was very obviously in the folder for July’s artwork. I just couldn’t see it for looking!
The swirly bits will be changed on this one. They’re not working out for me the way I hoped they would. I will work it out though.
Of course, I’m using my trifecta of tools – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Studio and Microsoft Surface Pen.
I’ve got a bit more work done on this entangled monogram. It’s coming along fairly well, though I’m still not at all sure about the colour choices. Mind you, that often happens with me and I persevere and it works out fine at the end.
As usual my trio of digital tools are : Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
So Angela, how are you today?
I’m still really, really tired. I got to bed early-ish (for me). I had weird dreams again. That’s the third night in a row.
I could just go back to bed, but I can’t. I’m taking my sister out for lunch and she’ll be arriving soon.
I’m still content, but there’s a shadow there too. It may be tiredness. It may be the inner critic taking advantage of my tiredness. It may be that sense of deflation after EMDR. Or it could be any combination of these or something else entirely!
What I do know is that I’ll focus on that contented feeling that is there, if a little in the background today.
It’s not that long ago that this kind of tiredness would have me really down in the dumps, sad, miserable, fed up. I’m tired, but my lack of energy is due to tiredness, some of which is emotional tiredness after EMDR. It is taking a while for me to recover this week.
That’s OK though, for recover I will. I’ll soon be full of energy (relatively speaking) once again.