This morning, I finished this Entangled Art drawing.
The background was created using Distress Oxide inks and sprays of water on mixed media paper then scanned in.
The drawing was done digitally using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.
A very intricate, detailed drawing in my signature ‘Entangled’ art style, that includes inspiration from nature, architecture, geometrical and repeating patterns, and overlaps a little with zentangle.
A new month!
While we may all be in lock-down, the days still pass us by and go into the past.
I sit here, at my desk and looking out of my window as I work. Sunshine, blue sky with some heavy grey clouds cover the world. Fluffy dandelion seeds are dancing around in the air, thanks to a fairly swift breeze. The trees that cover the valley sides are all cloaked in their spring green finery. It’s a fitting view for Beltane, May Day.
The world is now fully awakened from it’s winter sleep. The long, dark days of winter are now behind me and the days have been rapidly lengthening towards the longest days around the summer solstice in June.
In years past I’d be looking forward to days out, enjoying evening activities and meetings in daylight. I was looking forward this year to going out with my DSLR to take photos of flowers and plants, architecture, and anything else that grabbed my attention. That’s not to be. However, I will be looking forward to doing this in the future.
As much as I would like to be wandering around with my camera, I know it’s more important to be at home, to avoid contact with others, and to help slow down, if not halt, the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
The most difficult thing is not knowing when the current restrictions will safely be lifted. And when they are, the number of cases is likely to increase once again and we’ll return to lock-down.
I am so grateful that I am able to work at home, am happy to stay at home, for as long as it takes. The longer this goes on, the easier I find it to remain at home. I do worry that when the lock-down is released I may find I’m filled with fear and anxiety about leaving my home. I struggle with that anyway, but I do wonder what effect this will have on me.
Still, I can still think of things I’d like to do, places I’d like to visit, once it is safe to do so once again, even though that particular point in time is, as of yet, not in the calendar.
Yesterday, I spent some time creating some backgrounds digitally. So, I decided to use one of those and to tangle digitally too. This is the result.
It took me a lot longer to finish than if I’d drawn with pen on paper. Mainly because I spent time adding shading and highlights to the image. That let me play around with different kinds of layers and brush effects yet again. Bit by bit I’m learning how I can make them work for me.
I need a break from this for a while. But I can see how I need to add more shadow/depth to the background patterns.
So, Angela, how’re you doing today?
I’ve suddenly come over all tired. My sleep is all over the place. Despite me feeling content, there’s still a deep seated anxiety about the pandemic and how life is at the moment. That anxiety is draining me emotionally. I feel emotionally out of sorts today, even though I can still feel that contented touchstone inside me.
I’m surprised I settled to do some drawing this morning. Yesterday, I had trouble settling to anything to the point I was going to throw out my yarn stash. Whatever I’ve tried in terms of knitting or crochet has just frustrated the heck out of me rather than settled me down.
I found myself swearing at my phone yesterday as it pinged with alerts. I’ve now put my phone on silent. I will check in on messages etc in a short while, but they are going to be silenced until I am no longer getting so angry I’m swearing and shouting at the phone. I’ve never done that before and it’s a sign of how much on edge I am, even though I feel content.
Yesterday and today I’ve not known what to do with myself. I’ve not felt that way for a long while for such an extended period of time. There was a time when I’d be like this for days or months. I’ve not often felt this way in the past year or two as my healing from cPTSD has really kicked in.
Still, I will be kind to myself about this as these are unusual times; unfamiliar with increased fear, anxiety and uncertainty. The last day or two my usual coping strategies haven’t helped me to distance myself from the overwhelming pervasiveness of constant news and articles, posts and memes about the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s not just a break from my phone I need; it’s a break from the news and views too. A retreat from the world and everything is needed. For a while at least.
I’ve finally finished this mandala. I like the design and patterns, but I wish I’d not used the yellowy greens and teals. There’s no much I can do now, however, as I collapsed all the layers as I went. Something to try to remember not to do in future. I also need to try an even more limited palette, maybe monochrome in my next mandala.
Digital art created using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Slim Pen and a Microsoft Surface Studio.
So, how are you doing today Angela?
I’m doing just fine today. I slept fairly well last night and the sun is shining once more today. I have windows open upstairs to let some cooler, fresher air into the home (of course everyone’s more than six feet away from the, apart from birds and the odd cat who wanders onto my windowsills at the back of the house).
It’s lovely to feel both the warmth of the radiant infrared light from the sun and coolness of the gentle air flow on my skin. Definitely one of life’s little pleasures!
Creating art is also another pleasure, which I have done this morning with my mandala. Something else that lifts my heart. And while I was finishing this mandala, I was listening to ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ audiobook on Audible. Again, something that I really enjoy – listening to a story.
My first mug of tea has been had and it was a satisfyingly comforting experience, as always. I had some dried cranberries in my delivery yesterday, so I had a sprinkling of them in my morning porridge, along with some golden sultanas. The cranberries glowed like jewels in the porridge, which was lovely to see.
I’m not quite sure what I’ll do after I’ve finished my social media posting today. I could do with another mug of tea. Maybe I’ll draw or colour some more paper to draw on. I have crocheting, cross-stitching and knitting to do. And of course there’s plenty of books I’ve yet to read, or listen to. And I’ve got a few seasons of Criminal Minds left to watch too!
As long as I’m purposefully busy, often creatively, I can keep the anxiety and fear of Covid19 at bay. As soon as I start thinking about the pandemic, the uncertainty of the present time, and of the future, anxiety and fear starts to well up again. Healthy distractions are needed to cope with the overwhelming nature of it all.
I am trying to notice all the little things in each day I take for granted – both those that I can still do, and the things that are missing from my life at the moment, such as walking in the park or countryside, day trips and cake runs, popping to the shop, going out for a meal, attending meetings with like-minded souls, being able to just go out for a drive, visiting the museum or churches and abbeys…
I know that each day we go through this pandemic we are one day closer to it’s end. Life will return to some normalcy, but I think it will also be changed in many ways too, hopefully for the better.
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.
Today I have two card designs for you, both featuring dangle designs, but in different ways.
If you like dangle designs and you’d like to give drawing them yourself but need a little help or inspiration, then you may find my book “A Dangle A Day”of interest. In the book, I take you, step by step, through how to draw over 100 dangle designs, along with some ideas of how you could use them.
Love Ya and With Love Card.
I started by using the Foursquare Backdrop: Portrait die from lawn fawn to cut the frames and panels from a piece of Winsor and Newton Bristol Board. I purchased this die, and the one in the second card, from Seven Hills Crafts here in the UK.
Next, I used Stormy Skies and Broken China Distress Inks to add a subtle colour gradient to the panels.
My idea was to draw four different dangle designs for each small square panel. I also wanted to include some hand-lettering, which I did.
So, I used Unipin pens from Uniball to do the drawings and lettering. I did use pencil outlines for the ribbon banners and lettering to make sure their placement was just right.
I coloured the design elements and charms using Copic markers. As the individual design elements were so small, I just used two colours to achieve shading in the bigger ones.
I also added a drop shadow around the designs using a BV marker that is a greyish-violet. It’s a very subtle drop shadow.
I had to add some sparkle and shine to the card, so I used a clear Spectrum Noir Sparkle brush pen along with a gold glitter Signo gel pen to do this.
To assemble the card, I glued the frame to the card base using Tombow Mono adhesive. Then, I glued the square panels into place.
I managed to get glue onto the front of the card and trying to rub it off while wet just left a dark, dirty smear. I’ve ordered some Tombow Sand erasers to see if they’ll remove the mark. If not, I’ll have to either work out another way to cover it up or just consign the card to the pile of things not to do again!
Black and white floral card.
Again, my first job was to cut out the frame and panels using a die. For this card, I used the Foursquare Backdrop: Landscape die from lawn fawn along with Winsor and Newton Bristol Board. I also decided to use this die in portrait mode.
To draw the design elements, I used Unipin pens from Uniball. I hung dangle designs from the top of each card to fill in some of the space that was there. I wish I’d used a slightly thicker pen than the 01 though. They look almost like an afterthought.
Anyway, once I finished the drawings, I wasn’t sure whether to add colour or not. So, I’ve left the pictures as black and white line art for now.
I used Tombow Mono glue to attach the frame and panels to a 5″x7″ piece of Winsor and Newton Bristol board. I did this as I realised that the dies are made to fit card blanks made from half a sheet of US letter-sized paper folded in half. In the UK, we use A4 sized paper, which is different enough in size to make it awkward to cut the paper to fit the card. I have ordered some 5″ x 7″ card blanks with envelopes, and then I can finish assembling this card. I’m likely to trim the foundation panel down a little and maybe try to carefully add some colour around the edge. Maybe.
It’s at this point I’ll decide whether or not to add colour and to see if I can thicken the lines around the dangles without messing it up. Mind you, if I do mess it up, it’s another experiment I can learn from, hopefully remembering not to do this again.
Things I’ve learned and techniques I want to try.
The lawn fawn dies work great! They come with smaller dies – heart, cloud, small star, large star, sun, small sun and speech bubble – which may be useful in the future. I had made my mind up that I’d limit myself to die sets that are simple in shape to for cutting out panels to draw on and maybe for layering.
I rolled my eyes at myself when I worked out that dies from an American company would work best with American sized paper for card bases. However, I can work around that now I’ve realised that. I’m comfortable working with inches; most of my craft tools have both inches and centimetres on them. However, the inches are visibly the most dominant measurement system.
Glue. Me and glue. Not sure how I can avoid smearing in the future. Hopefully, the sand eraser will help to remove my gluey, sticky, dirty-looking mistakes.
I like using Distress Inks for backgrounds. However, the pale colours of markers that I prefer to use are translucent and so combine with the background. I could use other media such as coloured pencils for colouring. Or I could use distress inks or water-based marker pens with a damp brush to add colour. I could also use a damp brush to remove some of the distress inks. In that case, I may have to use watercolour paper instead of Bristol Board.
I could also use a Versamark pen – which contains transparent, sticky ink – to colour over my design elements once coloured and then use clear embossing powder and a heat gun to protect the colours. I could then add the distress inks after heat-setting the embossing powder. The embossing powder would add some dimension and shine to the cards. If I used a sparkle pen or gold gel pen, for example, the embossing would encase it and highlight these embellishments Ieven more, I think. I need to try this idea out!
So, there are lots of possibilities for going forward with this.
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
I’m feeling the more content and optimistic than I have for the past two or three weeks.
I’m still feeling out of kilter; changes are happening in my perceptions around my emotional/mental wellbeing. I’m also aware of shifts that are happening in other parts of me.
I’m still poop-scared about what is going on in the world. I can’t see that ending anytime soon, however. This, and the rest of the emotional rollercoaster I seem to be on, are still upsetting my digestive system, so I’m not feeling too well much of the time.
Yesterday, I was so unsettled and scared that I couldn’t settle to do much art, and I became so dissatisfied and frustrated with whatever I did. I couldn’t settle to anything else either – not crochet, reading, nothing.
As I’ve said, today I do feel better, so I need to turn my attention to trying out Affinity Publisher to create some materials I’ve been commissioned to do (the artwork and inserts for a CD by a band!). I’ll see about setting the templates up first and go from there. I’ve not tried to do this the past couple of days as I know my head and my emotions weren’t in the right place. I’m not sure that they are today; it’s only by doing that I will find out whether they are or not.
It really has been a week for me. I seem to have dashed from one thing to another, sometimes seemingly without time to catch my breath. I’m still feeling dazed, mentally drained and emotionally fragile after it all, particularly the events of yesterday’s ‘Time to Talk Day’.
I do have, however, lying beneath all of this a sense of a gentle smile, a soft calmness that I have been aware of since starting loving kindness meditations to help me with self-compassion. It is this presence that I’m trying to focus on and find when I feel overwhelmed by tiredness and fragility.
The tiredness, the fragility will pass. Some of the fragility and the deafening shouting of the inner critic will need some help to dispel, and that’s where EMDR comes in. Bit by bit it seems EMDR is helping to disempower that inner critic, the beastie on my back.
Time to Talk Day – a review
It was good yesterday to be able to help out on Time to Talk Day as a champion for Time To Change Wales, draining as the anti-stigma talk in the morning was for me. I spoke to a lovely group of police officers from the South Wales Police at Ton Pentre Police Station. They even gave me two rounds of applause at the end of the talk.
Part of the anti-stigma talk is sharing my story of my mental illness, cPTSD, my life, how cPTSD has affected my life and the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced as a result of it.
The biggest stigma I’ve had to contend with is self-stigma. It was that which stopped me from acknowledging the thoughts and feelings I had about myself were not healthy and it stopped me from seeking help for a very long time – nearly 50 years of my life.
It is draining to tell my story. I get some emotional flashbacks. I’m letting people know some of the most difficult times of my life in terms of what I was thinking and feeling at that time, though I don’t share everything that has happened to me in terms of trauma. I still can’t talk about some of it, and some of it I have amnesia about – a coping strategy for those like me who have traumas they can’t speak about. There were traumas that were horrifying to me at the time and I had no one to speak to about it. I didn’t think anyone would believe me. That inner critic still tells me I’m making it up, attention seeking, swinging the lead, pathetic, weak, useless, and more ugly words it has about me. I sometimes feel a total fraud when telling my story, doubting what few memories I have of my past, wondering if people actually believe me.
The evidence of the trauma is there in the way I think about myself and the way I speak to myself however. The trauma is also stored in my body and that comes out during EMDR, sometimes with a memory of something I had no recollection of until that time. That is extremely uncomfortable when it happens and it can challenge my view of my childhood experiences.
Why do I do this when it causes me some difficulties post-talk?
I want people to know what is mental health and what is not.
If I had known at a younger age that how I thought and felt and behaved wasn’t healthy maybe I would have sought out help sooner and maybe my life would have been different. I can’t do anything about that, though. I am doing my best to recover from all of this trauma and cPTSD. But if me talking about how my thoughts and emotions were helps them gain a better picture of good mental health vs poor mental health and perhaps even recognise in themselves that they’re struggling even a little and they get help, then that is a good job done.
That’s why I do this.
I want people to know that they are not alone in their struggles. Because mental health is something we don’t talk about, that people fear and fear talking about, it’s all too easy to feel that we’re alone. By talking about mental health, our own mental health, bit by bit we can change fear into understanding, stigma into acceptance and recognise that our mental and emotional health is as important as our physical health.
That’s why I do this.
I want to help break the stereotype of what someone experiencing mental ill-health looks and acts like.
That’s why I do this.
I battle with the shame of trauma that has been inflicted on me in my past, trauma that the perpetrators should feel shame about NOT me! I felt so shameful about struggling with my mental and emotional health as well. It’s enough to fight being ashamed of things others did to me without the shame of the stigma of mental illness too.
That’s why I do this.
I want people to know that it takes a lot of strength to live life when you’re not feeling well mentally or emotionally. It takes a lot of effort to do life’s daily tasks when you’re well, when you’re battling yourself, your mind, your emotions it takes a lot more energy and strength to do that. It takes a lot of energy to hide what goes on under the surface, what people can’t see – the storms in the mind and emotions – to appear that you’re coping well and can do everything. Doing that for too long and not recognising that I was struggling was what nearly broke my mind totally. I don’t want other people to experience that
That’s why I do this.
I am on the road to recovery from cPTSD. I want people to know you can recover. I want people to know that it is ok to ask for help.
As I explained to someone yesterday that if you want to learn to drive a car you seek out someone who can teach you and we’re not ashamed about this nor do we feel week about it either. However, if we’re struggling mentally or emotionally we don’t want to ask for help because of the fear of how people might view us – that’s the stigma and discrimination that exists. But if we need help and don’t know how to help ourselves we should feel able to ask for help for someone to help us learn the tools we need, tools we can add to our mental and emotional wellbeing kit, whatever those tools may be – medication, counselling, advice, help to see things in a different way, and so many more I’m sure.
That’s why I do this.
I’m sure there are many other reasons, but my brain is still tired and a bit addled from EMDR on Monday, which left me tired and drained and I hadn’t quite recovered from that for yesterday’s anti-stigma talk and then the stand at the ABM Trust Headquarters in Port Talbot.
Self Care Day
I do know that today I need to do a lot of self-care activities. That means doing things that are familiar to me. I think in artsy way I’ll be adding things to my visual reference Leuchtturm. I may also spend some time knitting and watching Star Wars. Again, these are familiar to me, there are no surprises waiting for me and I can just relax into them, and that is soothing to me when I’m emotionally drained.
I also need plenty of tea today. I have run out of milk though, so I’m going to have to brave the heavy rain and wild winds to pop out to get some, and some food that doesn’t take much in the way of preparation today as well. I think cooking, though it can be soothing could be annoying today.
The arty stuff
Usually on a Friday I’d post a dangle design. Today, I wanted to post a quote about mental health, and I decided to have a play with a similar very graphic style of art to place behind it. I’m not entirely sure the art works. No doubt I’ll have a go at another version later on today, perhaps.
For this one I sorted out the words and black boxes in Publisher and exported the page as a jpg file. I then used this file in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with my Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio to add the artwork behind the quote.
If you’d like to access to September 2018’s uncoloured template, which is exclusive to members of the group, just wander over to the group, join and download. Please note, that terms and conditions do apply.
I drew this in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on my Microsoft Surface Studio using my Microsoft Surface Pen.
Autumn is a-coming!
With the calendar turning to September, my heart lifts with the expectation of the glory of nature as autumn asserts it’s influence.
It’s my favourite season of the year. I love the bright, vivid colours that replace the darker, duller greens of summer. Nature’s picks out it’s most glorious paintbox and sets the world alight in fiery autumnal hues.
I also luxuriate in the cooler evenings and mornings and look forward to waking up to see dew, or even frost, on Binky, my Smartcar.
The fresh, clean, clear air that the turning season brings blows away the dustiness of the hot, dry summer.
There’s also the return of the pleasure and comfort of snuggling up under a duvet as night time is cooler. Not to mention the relief of sleeping well throughout the night.
There are other things I’m looking forward to this year too.
It’s hard to remember now the fear and trepidation that the return to school as a teacher that would come with the start of this month as the new school year starts.
Now, I look forward to the start of the new school year as the world is calmer, quieter during the school day and I can begin to venture forth from my home without my CPTSD panic kicking in when I hear the sound of teenagers shouting and arguing and swearing and being belligerent, just them being themselves really.
It’s not their fault, I know, but their sounds are triggers for my fear, anxiety, panic and cause me to want to hide in a quiet dark corner of my safe home. So much so, that I find it so difficult to venture out of my front door during daytime during the school holidays.
Through therapy, I will overcome this, but the reaction is so ingrained in me and goes right back to my earliest years; teaching, dealing with the dramas of teens on a daily basis as well as being the focus for some to vent their anger, just reinforced these automatic responses. This means not just unraveling the web of trauma that resulted in the panic response, it means learning a healthy response to such triggers, one that I’ve never, ever had in the first place.
Now, with the start of the school year, and a daytime world that is quieter, I’ll be able to find my courage to venture forth during the day once again. Maybe not often, but from time to time.
With it being my favourite season, with the theme of my next book being forests, to sketch and find inspiration in woods and forests during autumn is something I want to do this year.
It’s all part of my road to recovery from CPTSD. Autumn always feels like a time of new starts, more so than New Year. As nature begins to shed what is unnecessary so survival through winter is possible, so I work on shedding the trauma that has kept me in a metaphorical winter in terms of my mental and emotional health for a very, very long time.
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.
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.