As I was coming around from yesterday’s headache, I plopped yesterday’s drawing into Repper to see what geometric patterns and tiles I could create.
Repper is a browser app that is great fun to play around with and makes the creation of tiling patterns from my artwork so simple.
Rather than save the patterns, I saved the tiles as so many of them looked like perfect inspiration for mandalas.
So, I chose one design, popped it into Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, and used it to inspire this particular pattern.
I chose a colour palette of soft pinks and greens, colours that are related to self-love, self-care, balance and harmony. Perfect for how I was feeling yesterday!
Today, I’m still feeling somewhat tired and fragile. That’s mainly due to a really poor night’s sleep. Emotionally, however, I feel a lot better than I have the past few days. There was an emotional storm brewing and it the headache was the torrential downpour that was needed to clear the skies by forcing me to take care and shelter myself.
So, the rest of today is going to be a quiet. nurturing kind of time to shake off the lingering wisps of stormy clouds.
Started yesterday evening, worked on during my hours of mid-night waking, and on waking this morning, this measures 21 cm x 21 cm (approx 8.25″ x 8.25″) The paper is natural coloured Claire Fontaine Paint-On mixed media paper coloured with Aged Mahogany Distress Ink. The design is being drawn with a mix of 03 Unipin and 01 Sakura Micron pens.
I’m using a mixture of Stadedtler Triplus and Chameleon Fineliner pens to add colour to the design, along with a barely damp waterbrush to spread the colour out. Interestingly, some of the colour lines added remain visible, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on how much I work the colour with the waterbrush. Also, I’m finding that I really enjoy adding colour and texture like this.
The finishing bright white highlights are added using a Sakura Gelly Roll pen.
I find the fineliners used in this way give me much greater control over how much the colour spreads in the small areas in my drawing. They also don’t spread as much as, say, Tombow Dual Brush pens or Inktense pencils. That helps to control the spread of colour too.
I rather like the vintage-y look that the palette of browns and olive greens confers on the design, helped along by the background colour and texture of the paper.
Oh, I do intend to leave a ‘hole’ in this first layer of designs. I’m not sure I’ll do inside the space; a quote, more layers of design. For now I’m not sure. But once this first layer is done, I can scan it in and use it in different ways digitally.
There are lots of my favourite motifs appearing in this one, rather organic ones for the most part. What will appear from the tip of my pen in the rest of the design? I don’t know yet! It could be more of the same, or not. All I know is that the intricacy, detail and revisiting old favourite motifs is making my arty crafty heart smile.
“The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change.”
Finally, the penny dropped as to why I’m feeling so out of sorts. Oddly, it was while I was listening to a documentary about the cult NXIVM as I was drawing during the stupid o’clock hours of drawing. Don’t worry, I’m not a member of a cult! However cognitive dissonance was mentioned and that was the ‘ta-da!’ moment for me.
Cognitive dissonance causes emotional distress related to holding contradictory beliefs or values. I’ve experienced this before during breakthrough moments in therapy where I’ve had to accept that I was a victim of trauma, that I really do have CPTSD and I’m not (as my mother would tell me) making it up, for example.
I’m poised on a knife edge, wanting to make a decision to leave something, but feeling guilty about thinking that way. I need to find a way to find some clarity to help me make that decision, and it has to do with my core values and beliefs.
Recognising this doesn’t make me feel any better, but it helps me understand what is going on, and that understanding will help me work my way through it! Making a decision won’t make it any easier for me to act upon it as there’ll be a lot of guilt and the old reactive feeling of believing I’m letting other people down.
However, I can’t put other people ahead of my own mental and emotional well-being. It’s never been easy for me to say ‘no’ to people, to leave organisations or people who are contributing to emotional and mental distress in myself. But I have done so occasionally, more so in the last year or two. And I will do so this time if it’s what I need to do to find that sense of balance, harmony, peace in myself once again.
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.
It was a morning for some simple art. Art just for fun, relaxation and self-soothing. So, I thought that small watercolour gradient panels with really simple drawings on them and metallic and pearlescent paint highlights would be perfect.
For the first time ever I managed to create smooth colour gradients with watercolour. The secret, for me, was using a mix of water and gum arabic to wet the paper before applying the colour. Of course, working on such small pieces of watercolour paper helped. Still, it’s a personal achievement!
Once the panels were all done, itseemed a good idea to mount the little panels on some 4″ x 4″ blank cards. So I did just that and added a few more cards to my stash.
Stress and self-care
I had a really poor night’s sleep after the stress of my trip out to the pharmacy yesterday. I woke around 2:30am with a splitting headache and found it hard to get back to sleep. When I did, my alarm went off and woke me with quite a jolt.
I’d set my alarm last night as Wednesday is my delivery day with Able & Cole, and I like to get the deliver in and stored asap.
Once the delivery had come, around 6:30am. I had breakfast and then went back to bed to sleep.
I’m feeling a bit more centred and content now, but I’m still exhausted. So, today will be a quiet, self-care kind of day for me. I’ll be doing my best not to give in to the temptation to take a nap this afternoon so that I can sleep myself our properly tonight.
A bit of a calming time was needed this morning before attending to my business of the day. I thought a mandala in blues, greens and purples would hit the mark.
I enjoy using a flexible ink pen ‘brush’ to achieve the varying line widths. This allows me to build up abstract patterns and textures quite nicely I think. I have a way to go to find my ‘voice’ with this style of art. The more I do, the more will become clear to me I’m sure.
I’m not sure that the design flows as much as in yesterday’s mandala. I wonder if that’s because I only put one rather geometric series of rings in the centre of the design.
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
I had a tough EMDR session yesterday. Today, I feel content and upbeat but I’m realising just how tired I am mentally, despite 10 hours sleep. Yesterday’s session had a lot of body processing going on. That means stored trauma is processed via physical sensations. Yesterday those included electric shocks in my leg/foot, side, arm, pains like hooks in my shoulders, a blunt pushing/stabbing force from my stomach up towards my heart, pain in my eye. Those are just a few I remember. The pain/sensations weren’t more than I could bear, though some came close to it!
30 or 40 minutes of this is enough in a session I find, and that little amount of time out of my day is worth it for the long term benefits it brings of helping me recover from CPTSD. The tiredness I feel will pass in a day or so.
I actually drew this one last night. My emotions were overwrought and I needed something that was calming and relaxing.
I used a digital equivalent to scratchboard art. I used my digital brushes to remove areas from the upper black layer to reveal the lower, coloured layer.
To create the more geometric areas I used the digital equivalent of fineliner pens. For the more organic lines, I used a flexible nib digital brush.
There is a kind of magic in revealing the colour hidden by the black darkness. I found myself working in a quite different way to recent mandalas; it’s going to be a technique I return to again and again I’m sure.
Digitally created using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
Monday is still EMDR therapy day for me. My emotional and mental health is generally the best it’s ever been. However, I’ve discovered that I’m still a bit too close to the edge of the abyss within which I was trapped for most of my life. I wore a well practiced mask so that few people really knew the inner struggles I had on a daily basis.
It was such a good mask that I mostly fooled myself, until I could no longer do so around ten or twelve years ago.
I thought everybody thought and felt the same way I did; I never knew any different. Now, however, I know what contentment is and what feeling happy is too.
Last week’s EMDR session floored me for around three days. I didn’t expect it to do so. Memories surfaced that I’d pushed away and they distressed me greatly. The emotional exhaustion was intense; all I wanted to do was sleep. That wasn’t possible – as well as having the Spectacular Sea Life colouring book to finish I’m involved in an intense project which requires a lot of focus and concentration of a different kind. It’s also provoking emotional responses in me that are causing me some difficulties. One of those emotional responses resulted in me running away from the internet to watch Star Wars and then to create this mandala.
I have learned how to self-soothe!
The realm of emotions is really tricky for me. For most of my life I numbed my emotions. It was a strategy that helped me to survive as a child and the unhealthy strategy continued into my adult life.
Through EMDR, I’ve discovered that I have emotions, some I never knew existed in me and I had no names for them. Which is odd, as I could always recognise those emotions in others!
Anyway, by becoming more self-aware of my body and emotions and dropping the protective mask I’m having to learn to put boundaries and barriers in place to protect myself. Learning to say no, or the clear equivalent of that little word, is not an easy task. However, I am learning.
Healing from CPTSD is a tricky process, but it really is possible! It takes time though. Well, in my case it has.
Today’s prompts are cockatoo skull, Marasmius (parachute mushrooms) and Pixiose tangle pattern. I’m using Inktober 2019 prompt lists by Instagrammers @book_polygamist, @nyan_sun and @havepen_willdraw.
I’ve returned to the woodcut style of illustration for the cockatoo skull; the contrast betwixt the bone and beak made it a natural choice for me. Also, I do like drawing in this kind of style.
As my emotional weather is on the drizzly and gloomy side, I opted for the soothing qualities of mandala drawing for today’s illustration. I don’t know why I chose to have four skulls as part of the mandala; it just seemed a good idea at the time. However, it does work out quite nicely. The spacing means I can still draw the skulls fairly large, yet have plenty of space fo the mandala to show through.
Today’s tangle pattern is a filler design, so I thought adding it in panels would work well and this formed the first ring. I also wanted to add in some tropical flowers, so the second ring has stylised flowers forming it. It was then I remembered about the fungi and so added them as the outer ring.
For now, I’ve left the design in black and white with a coloured background. I may return to this mandala at another time and add colour and more line work. For now, it’s good enough.
To create the artwork, I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
So, Angela, how are you today?
I said that my emotional weather is still gloomy and drizzly. I really don’t feel I have the oompf to do anything much today. All I want to do is sleep, and when I want to sleep all the time, it’s one of my warning signs that something’s not right emotionally. I’ve also had some of the old inner critics and thought patterns rearing their heads once again, causing a lot of tears. It seems I’m not as resilient as I think I am when doing what I can to help others.
I can still sense that contentment within, but the emotional weather seems to be clouding it somewhat today. I have used my light therapy lamp, which helped a little, especially as the weather outside is mirroring my emotions today.
I know what’s caused this change in my inner weather: therapy and a couple of recent events.
I managed to put a smiley face on to go to a meeting last night, but I was so tired after it, even though I’d slept for a couple of hours in the afternoon.
I do know this is not permanent. I’m processing some recent and less recent traumatic experiences.
So, I will do what I can to get some work done today, work that doesn’t require much in the way of focus. I do believe I have some sketches for my Spectacular Sea Life Designs colouring book scanned in ready to be inked. I think I can manage that today.
Deer skull, Mycena interrupta and inaflux tangle pattern.
Digital drawing done using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio.
I’ve used a lot of geometric patterns in the skull to create depth and interest.
I kept the other elements quite simple and, for now, uncoloured. Mycena interrupta, the mushrooms, are a lovely blue colour.
Instead, of adding colour I used a copper background and added my drawing on top of it using the screen option. This has resulted in it seeming to glow a little. I quite like this effect.
There’s a very good reason I’ve not coloured this drawing yet. I am absolutely bushwhacked. I had a busy, nervy day yesterday followed by a long drive home mostly in the dark, heavy rain and high winds. I was too tired even to eat when I got in and was glad to go to my bed and sleep.
The Wales Health at Work Partnership Summit proved to be an interesting time. I was there to chat to people, along with Russell, the community outreach officer for Hafal who also works with Time to Change Wales to organise us champions, amongst other things, and Nicole, a newly changed champion from North Wales. I was also there to give a ten minute talk about my experience of mental illness while at work and the stigma, discrimination I faced as well as the helpful and not helpful things that were said or done. Russell said I did great, as did the other panel members.
So, I did more than my bit for World Mental Health Day.
I’m feeling really dozy again now, so I think I’m going to go and sleep for a while. It’s not just the two four and a half hour drives, not sleeping well away from home that has tired me out. It’s also the anxiety and stress and being with lots of people in noisy environments that has tired me out. It’s going to take today, maybe tomorrow, to recover fully. So, self-care is the order of the day for me.
This tiredness is worth it though. Plenty of people came to tell me how helpful they found my talk and how well I had spoken and I had given them things to think about.
Raising awareness of mental illness and that sometimes it’s the littlest things that can make the biggest difference to someone experiencing mental illness.
Today’s Inktober prompts were rat skull, Lactarius indigo fungi, and the cubine tangle pattern from Instagram lists by @book_polygamist, @nyan_sun and @havepen_willdraw.
What did I end up with? A very stylised drawing that is rather Art Nouveau in style.
I have to say that I absolutely LOVE the rat skull. I also am rather enamored by the Art Nouvea-y fungi and fronds.
Simple colours were needed for this design, along with a texture overlay that makes it look a little less ‘digitally perfect’.
Yes, I did draw this digitally, again using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and a Surface Pen and Surface Studio from Microsoft.
I may not get tomorrow’s Inktober done, as I won’t be home until quite late tonight I think.
World Mental Health Day 2019
I’m currently sat in a hotel in Llandudno, having breakfast and getting myself ready to go and set up a table and take part at an event in a different hotel.
I’m going to be at the Wales Health at Work Partnership Summit where I’ll be talking to delegates but also taking part in the ‘Open Minds’ workshops in the afternoon, which is all about taking positive action on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
I’m there as a Time to Change Wales champion, and so will be giving a short version of my mental health story at the start of the workshops.
Time to Change Wales is an all-Wales campaign that aims to reduce, if not end, the stigma and discrimination around mental illness by getting people to have conversations about mental health.
I’ve suffered poor mental health all my life, having developed cPTSD in early childhood. The rest of my life, until the past few years, saw my mental health decline until I had two big breakdowns. EMDR therapy has been the ‘magic pill’ for me, that is helping me to process and release the traumas of my past and replace the negative beliefs I have about myself with more positive ones.
If I had known what good mental and emotional health was, as well as what it wasn’t, sooner in my life I may have sought help sooner. The self-stigma I have experienced around my own mental health prevented me from recognizing I had a problem and also made it difficult for me to seek help.
Indeed, my mental and emotional ill health would cause physical ill health in me when I was ignoring the stress, depression, anxiety, fear, hypervigilence, and other symptoms of cPTSD.
If I can change attitudes, make people more aware of what good mental health is, help people to recognise that they too may be suffering and then seek help, then I’m doing a good thing. Oh, and of course getting people to talk about mental health, thus beginning to break down the stigma.
So, today is a good day for everyone to ask those they meet not just to ask ‘How are you feeling?’ and accept the first answer given, but to repeat the question, ‘No, really, how are you feeling?’ to let them know you really are interested in them it’s ok for them to tell you that they’re not ok.
So, Angela, how are you today?
I’m tired. I never sleep well away from home and I did have quite a broken night’s sleep.
However, I am also quite pleased with myself. I managed to stop at a Starbucks on the 4 hour journey to Llandudno for something to drink and eat. I then had a good walk along the sea front and pier after booking into my hotel and having a mug of tea. Then, I actually went to an Indian restaurant by myself to have an evening meal!
Maybe it was out of sheer necessity I went out. However, I could’ve just picked sandwiches or some such at a Sainsbury’s local a short walk away. But I didn’t.
I also didn’t feel all that awkward in the restaurant. I did wish I’d brought my Kindle along so I could read while waiting to be served throughout my visit. I do have the Kindle app on my phone, but I didn’t have a good enough signal in the restaurant to download the book I’m reading.
I am also feeling a little anxious about today, which is only to be expected. I’m going to a strange place, talking to people I don’t know about something that is important but that also can provoke an emotional response in me.