Blue Mandala

©Angela Porter 2019

I have had an artsy kind of day so far. A lot of the gloom, anxiety and troubled thoughts that descended on me have lifted, but not all. Once provoked the beasties that are my cPTSD take a while to settle down again. I also feel tired – mentally, physically and emotionally tired, despite a fairly good nights sleep.

I managed to get some work done on a template for my next book for Creative Haven by Dover. I got to a point, however, where I wasn’t happy with how it was going so I thought a break was in order.

So, for my break I thought I’d work on a mandala, and this is the one I’ve created today.

I didn’t consciously choose the colours or patterns I used in this mandala. However, the blues bring to mind water, rivers, the sea. I love to be near the sea. I find the rhythm of the waves calming, no matter how gentle or wild they are. The salty wind helps to blow away cobwebs in the mind, cobwebs that not so good thoughts have stuck to. I love to look at the patterns in the sand, rocks, pebbles. There’s so much more I love. So perhaps by choosing blue I’ve identified an unconscious need to visit the sea soon.

A lot of the patterns that have found their way into this mandala remind me of waves or shells. They’re all organic and flowing. Though there are some rather architectural arches and patterns there, lending some form to the design.

The ocean is used as metaphor in mindfulness meditations. I am the ocean. The waves are my emotions that ruffle the surface of that deep, calm body of water. Meditation is about finding that calm and being in touch with it in daily life.

Carl Jung believed that drawing a mandala daily helped to reveal what was going on in the subconscious mind, the things we need to bring into awareness and work on in order to heal.

Curious that this one speaks to me of water, the ocean.

Yesterday’s meditation stirred up the waves for sure. A veritable tsunami resulted of emotional, mental and physical pain. It’s freaked me out a little and I’ve been reluctant to meditate today, well not until I’ve done everything I need to do today.

I did draw this mandala digitally. In fact, returning to digital art let me exhale a little and relax a bit more into art. I also didn’t want to revisit my frustration with traditional media that I had yesterday.

I find working digitally wonderfully liberating in many ways. I know that I’m no expert in the use of mechanics of digital art – I use it more like I would traditional media. However, whereas I feel I struggle with colour and techniques with traditional media these days, I feel none of that with digital art.

Now that’s a surprise to me! I never, ever thought I’d feel that way about working digitally.

My digital tools are my Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. The screen of the Surface Studio is my paper, the Surface pen is a multitude of pens, pencils, brushes and colours in one instrument. Autodesk Sketchbook Pro is the software that allows me to work so intuitively, so naturally as I would with pen on paper, but with other tools and techniques I can use that I wouldn’t be able to reproduce with traditional media – I don’t have the skills to do that.

So, some insights about myself from the mandala, and also some realisations about myself and my relationship with digital art and how much that relationship has strengthened and deepened – and there’s still a lot more to learn and discover about digital art and myself.

‘A Dangle A Day’ Dangle Design Mandala

‘A Dangle A Day’ Dangle Design Mandala © Angela Porter 2019

Dangles can be turned into mandalas! And ‘dangle-dalas’ satisfy my love of symmetry in an unusual way.

In this one, I have two rings to which dangles are attached. In the centre ring, they point towards the centre of the mandala. On the outer ring, they point out into space.

Then, there’s two central rings. One, I coloured in a pastel rainbow and added ‘A Dangle A Day’ in my weird take on hand-lettered uncials. The lettering isn’t perfect, but then neither am I, and neither were celtic/anglo-saxon/medieval manuscripts.

Ok, the manuscripts are more perfect than my hand lettering, but it’ll do. It’s perfectly imperfect. That is an idea I’m becoming to embrace more and more easily as time goes on, and an idea that I encourage you to adopt in my book ‘A Dangle A Day’.

I used rather graphic black and white geometric designs to separate the three main rings of the design. This contrasts nicely with the brightly colourful design elements.

I felt the need to draw cacti, flowers and some weird seeds today, so that’s what I did. Of course it goes without saying that I’d have to include stars and hearts in my design! There’s some beads in there too, particularly those teardrop shaped ones that remind me so much of medieval jewellery.

Mind you, medieval in character this design is not. It is rather cute and whimsical, which is one of my signature styles – the other is intricacy.

For this design, I hand drew and coloured it digitally using a Microsoft Surface Pen on the screen of my Microsoft Surface Studio. As always, my chosen art software was Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

Yes, I really do draw on my Surface Studio with the Surface Pen as if I’m drawing with, say, a fountain pen on paper. Colouring I often do as if I’m colouring with traditional media, though sometimes I do use gradient fills. It just depends on the feel I want in the final artwork.

Being able to work in layers means I can do things that would be very difficult or time-consuming working traditionally. It also means that I can play with colour combinations – I love colour, but I don’t always make good choices of colour palettes, see yesterday’s Q monograms for evidence of that!

Of course, there’s so much more to digital art than this, and I’ve not discovered everything yet. But over time my experience is that I discover, workout or learn how to do what I need to do at that time when I’m ready to do that.

One dangle design, four colourways

One dangle design, four colourways © Angela Porter 2019

In my book, ‘A Dangle A Day’, I mention that just by changing the colour scheme you can easily change the appearance of a dangle design for an occasion or to match someone’s favourite colours. So, I thought it would be nice to show an example of this.

I chose a simple monogram dangle design from the book; you can see it in the top left corner. This dangle design has a very spring-like feel to it with the lovely bright pinks and greens of the new, fresh flowers and leaves that blossom and bloom at this time of year.

Taking my cue from this, I coloured in three versions of this design in the seasonal colours.

At the top right is a summery version, with a lovely warm sunrise as the background to the letter, blue summer skies, warm golden sun, and the bright and warm colours of the flowers. A golden summer glow could be achieved by using a hint of gold Wink of Stella brush pen from Kuretake, or by adding dots of gold glittery wonderfulness.

Autumn tones were used in the bottom left version. Fiery oranges, reds and yellows and clear autumnal sky blues were used. Enamel dots, glitter pens or stickles would add sparks of autumnal glory to this design.

The final design has a definitely cool wintry colour scheme – icy blues, cool purple and the blue-green tones of evergreens, along with silver. To this I could add white snowflakes or stars with a gel pen, or dots of silver glitter with Stickles from Ranger or Nuvo Drops or a glitter gel pen. Using a Wink of Stella brush pen from Kuretake to colour over the design would result in a lovely, sparkly, frosty finish.

Of course, there are many, many ways that the designs could be embellished to suit your taste, supplies or the recipient. So much fun can be had adding embellishments which also personalise the design even more.

I hand drew the original design on paper and then digitally for the book. My tools were Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, which I also used for the colour variations above. I set the ‘brush’ pens up for the book so they mimicked the shapes/patterns pens on paper create and left lines a little wobbly and imperfect, just as I would when drawing on paper. Indeed, I very much treat my Surface Pen and Surface Studio screen as if they’re pen and paper in the way that I draw (and colour).

I do hope you’ll give dangle designs a go, and that you’ll show me the results of your work. You can find me online here:

Seamless Tile Pattern

Seamless Tile Pattern © Angela Porter 2019

Today has been a bit of a busy day for me. I thought I’d spend a bit of time trying to reduce the level of anxiety I’m feeling at the moment by playing with my second mandala of yesterday in RepperPro. This is just one of twelve patterns I created quickly before dashing off out to a meeting this evening.

RepperPro is easy to use and has a variety of geometrical styles of seamless pattern that you can create. I sometimes like to do this with my artwork as it’s just another way of creating pretty art. Sometimes, the patterns/shapes that form inspire me for other art. Of course, if I choose to save the seamless tile, I can adjust colours and play with the patterns in it to create new tiles for seamless patterns if I choose to do so.

I’m absolutely sure it’s possible to create patterns like this in other ways, with pen and paper. I’ve tried to do so in the past, but my brain just doesn’t seem to understand the process. Software that does this for me is brilliant and a bit of fun for sure!

Don’t know what I’ll do with these patterns. Maybe use some of them for products in my Vida and Zippi shops – both of which need a serious overhaul and update.

Mandala – 7 Jan 2019

©Angela Porter 2019
©Angela Porter 2019

This evening, I needed a bit of quiet, therapeutic arty-creative time. I had quite an emotional time in EMDR therapy (or not EMDR this week, a lot to talk about in preparation for the next phase of EMDR) and felt very much the need for some self-soothing and self-care.

I thought I’d spend some time drawing in colour again, using my digital toolbox of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro paired with Microsoft’s Surface Pen and Surface Studio.

I’m really quite pleased with how this little experiment has turned out. I like the way the colours play against each other – teal and coral being almost complementary colours. I like my La Tene/Celtic kind of swirls and motifs. I like the way I’ve put areas of background colour behind some of them to help them stand out from the background ‘paper’ more.

I’m getting more and more of a ‘feel’ as to how this style of art works for me, and I’m really enjoying creating these mandalas as a way of exploration.

People have asked if I’d turn these mandalas into a coloring book. The answer is probably yes. However it may take a little while to get to doing it.

Carl Jung is credited with introducing the Eastern concept of the mandala to Western thought and he believed it is symbolic of the inner process by which individuals grow toward fulfilling their potential for wholeness.

I’m sure Carl Jung would have a lot to say about my mandala and how it reflects what is going on inside me on an unconscious level, even though I’m not quite capable of making sense of it myself at this time of night!

An ‘A’ Dangle Mandala…

©Angela Porter 2019

I’m definitely on a mandala kick at the moment! This one, though, includes some dangle designs!

A Dangle A Day’ is released on 15th January 2019, and I just wanted to get yet another dangle design out in the interwebs to inspire you.

While checking out the release date (which I’ve been getting a tad wrong, oops!) I noticed there were some reviews of the book. I’d like to say thank you to all the reviewers who wrote such lovely words about the book! It’s filled me with a bit more confidence and belief in myself as this is my very first art tutorial book.

There’s some hand lettering with the letter A. The letter A has dangles forming the inner part of the mandala. Then, the outer ring has simple and cutely whimsical doodle designs and yet another dangle forming it.

Of course, hearts and stars had to appear; they are my favourite design elements for many of my projects. I also like beads and gems too. Flowers and foliage are also favourite motifs, as are spirals.

I decided the ring of A’s need to be in a rainbow colour scheme and I chose a bright colour scheme for the design elements.

It looks complicated, but if you look at just one A and follow the dangle towards the centre and the design out to the outer rim you’ll see that it really isn’t all that complex.

Of course, drawing mandalas on paper can be time consuming. I usually draw mine digitally.

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro is now free and it’s my drawing software of choice. It has a symmetry tool that is really easy to use. You only draw one segment of the mandala which is then automatically repeated around the circle. I find Autodesk Sketchbook intuitive to use, and it’s easy to use almost straight away. It also has some rather sophisticated features on it and it does all that I need it to do, and more. I use a Microsoft Surface Pen along with Microsoft Surface Studio to draw and colour digitally, and they work wonderfully with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

I do colour my designs digitally. However, sometimes I will print out the black line art and then use traditional media (often Chameleon markers) to bring the line art to life with colour.

I do hope you will have a go at creating your own dangle designs. They look complicated, but they really aren’t! If you do have a go, then please share your designs with me on any of my social media homes – facebook, instagram, twitter or here!

Monogram B Dangle Design

©Angela Porter 2019

Originally, I drew the original version of this design with pen and ink on paper. I wanted to edit the design and add a dangle to it, so decided to work digitally (Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro).

By working digitally, I could edit and amend the design easily, using the original sketch as a guide. You can see that I made quite a few changes. I’m much, much happier with the blue version. The pink one is pretty and a good start, a way to experiment, but the blue one is the more polished, finished version, and not just because it’s been drawn digitally!

For the original sketch, I used a copic marker to draw out the basic letter shape and then used Unipin and Pigma Sensei pens to add the lie details. The copic is patchy, but that’s because it was a quick sketch.

I like the increased amount of white space in the new version – it does add a bit of a stained glass look to the design. I also like the stylised roses inside the ‘B’ in the revised version; adding the patterns inside the rose rather than on the edge helps the rose to stand out from the coloured section by giving a mostly white border.

Once I’d thickened the main beams of the letter, I added dots to carry the lines on. Then, I decided it could be fun to echo these dots by carving out dots in the flared ends of these lines. These dots have lightened those lines up, adding some airiness as well as interest.

Oddly, as I look at them I am minded of a very Old  Bridge here in my home town. The bridge was built by William Edwards in 1756. When it was built it was the longest single span bridge in the world. The addition of 3 holes at each end of the bridge allowed it to bear the weight of the stone and not collapse. It is these holes, the lightness they gave to the design that I recalled when I was thinking about those ‘holes’ in my blue B.

I really wanted to add a simple dangle to this monogram – the letter is ornate enough that it could be too fussy if I’d added more than one dangle, or made the dangle ornate. Of course one of the charms had to be a heart! Simple beads and a diamond charm complete the dangle. My dangles often remind me of jewellery!

It’s not very often I show any kind of editing or reworking of my artwork, that’s because I do tend to work very intuitively and don’t really draft my work. Sometimes, I may do a pencil or pen sketch for an illustration for one of my colouring books, especially if it’s a kind of ‘scene’.

Since I’ve been working digitally, however, I do seem to be doing a lot more of the sketching out or working more roughly and using this as the sketch for the digital art.

An added advantage is that this satisfies my need to work with traditional media. Also, by working on paper I get a better idea of the scale of the finished artwork.

I think I’ve said it before that I do struggle with a sense of scale when working on a screen due to the ease of zooming in and out. Paper is a fixed size so I can appreciate the scale far more, and it seems easier for my brain to get a better idea of the whole design.

It’s all part and parcel of my artsy journey, figuring out what is best for me and not trying to work like others or being worried about how others judge me and my process. More than anything though, it’s about me learning not to be such a harsh judge and critic of myself. One negative review, and my inner critic gives itself a rocket boost and any belief in myself is kicked to the outer edges of the known universe. That’s why I don’t read reviews – I struggle enough with my own inner critic without battling others’ opinions.

I’m learning it’s far more important that I appreciate my own work rather than looking to others for approval. It’s always wonderful when people tell me they love my work. It’s always valuable when people, particularly my editors, give me honest feedback on what needs to be changed to improve things – they see things I miss by working all too close to the artwork.

I’m learning that it’s more important for me recognise that what I create is mostly good enough, sometimes I’m really pleased with what I’ve done, sometimes I can see something is truly awful or that there is room for improvement.

Reflection on my work is important as it helps me to learn, grow and develop, and helpful input is always welcome.

When I look at this blue B monogram dangle design, I can honestly say I smile. It’s an example of a design I am pleased with. It’s intricate, but not overly so. There’s empty space within the design

Less than a week now until ‘A Dangle A Day’ is released – my book showing how you too can create dangle designs, one step at a time!