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.
This morning, I used the random tangle pattern generator and it came up with ‘Tripoli’. This is a tangle pattern I’ve had trouble with so often in the past. For some reason I find it awkward to draw the triangular motifs that make up this pattern in a way that I find pleasing. I almost clicked the button to generate another tangle pattern. Instead, I chose to work with Tripoli and this is the result.
I used one of the tiles I’d coloured with Distress Inks at the weekend, along with Unipin Uniball pens. No pencil ‘string’ or guidelines. I also chose to use a variation of the classic Tripoli pattern (see it on Tangle Patterns or here).
It was an enjoyable and relaxing process to draw this 5½” x 5½” tile.
I’ve been ‘zentangling’ long before Zentangle was a thing. I love pattern. I love stylised motifs. I draw inspiration from architecture, nature, Prehistoric art, pottery, Celtic and La Tene, illuminated manuscripts, and more.
I’ve always been fascinated with deconstructing patterns in order to replicate them in my own way.
Well being check in…
Today I’m tired. I look like I have a pair of black eyes. I really didn’t sleep well last night, again. I may well nap this afternoon; I’m finding it hard to keep my eyes open even as I write this blog.
Even though I’m tired, more than bone tired, the sunshine and warmth of the rays of light finding their way to me through the windows really lifts my spirits.
As I went to put some recycling out this morning, a neighbour’s cat came to say hello. He’s a strange kitty, likes a fuss, but not too much and only in very specific places on his body, but he’s a friendly chap. It was nice to make a fuss of him in the sunshine, his black fur soft, silky and warm from absorbing infrared light.
I had two deliveries today. One an organic fruit and veg box along with some other goodies. Some things weren’t available though, but it’ll be just fine I’m sure. The other was a box containing some tea bags – English Breakfast tea bags containing rolled leaves of tea in biodegradable mesh. And a rather nifty tin to keep them in!
Tea, twice and thrice blessed tea! Always a pleasure and always one to look forward to.
Little things to be grateful for even when limited to home for the foreseeable future.
I wanted to try to create a series of templates that could be used as frames for quotes. This is my first one. I remembered to save it as tiff file in layers so that I can easily change the background.
I didn’t start with the intention of creating waves filled with zentangle-type patterns, but that’s how it intuitively flowed from the tip of my Surface Pen onto the screen of my Surface Studio. So, I went with it.
It’s a very comfortable kind of art to create, whether you call it zentangle, zentangle inspired, entangled artwork, line art, doodled art. It’s just about filling space with patterns and lines, using them to add depth and dimension.
It was an enjoyable process that I could complete in a few sessions in-between a hectic few days.
The saga of the keyboard.
Saturday my Bluetooth keyboard decided to not connect to the Surface Studio. It had been finicky for a few days. I changed batteries, I tried disconnecting it and reconnecting it and following all the trouble-shooting processes I could find. All to no avail. This is why I’ve not done any blogs and been quiet around social media, along with life being a bit busy too.
It also worked out that the warranty on my Surface Studio and all it’s attendant bits and bobs had run out just over three weeks ago. Yes, I do have software I can use the Surface Pen with or a keyboard that pops up on the screen that I can tap with my fingers or mouse or pen, but they are so slow and frustrating to use in comparison to the speed at which I can type. I do love to handwrite, even on the screen. However, as I can’t turn the ‘paper’ or ‘writing window’ to an angle that makes it comfortable for me to write at I don’t do as much as I could.
Of course, I’d forgotten I still have, and use my Surface Book. However, when something goes wrong, my mind goes into instant ‘oh my gosh, I’ve got to sort that out as there’s no other way to get things done’ overwhelmed and panic mode. It’s only after I have solved the problem and calm down that I can see that I had alternatives open to me.
So, my brain told me my only option was to buy a new keyboard. Then I had a decision to make. Should I go for a wireless one or a wired one?
I decided on a wired one as that should always connect to the ‘puter. I also was beguiled by a keyboard that has pretty rainbow lights beneath the keys. Sparkly and colourful always attracts me.
So, I now have a keyboard and can email and write and do everything else that requires words from me quickly once again.
World Suicide Prevention Day 2019
Warning – this may contain emotional and mental health triggers.
The World Health Organisation says that one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds.
In the UK, two people take their own lives every day.
In the UK, men account for approximately 75% of all suicides.
In the UK, suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20 to 49.
They also say that one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in suicide prevention is the stigma and taboo that surrounds suicide and mental health problems.
The stigma and taboos that surround talking openly about suicide leads to a lack of awareness about suicide, and also about mental illness.
I am a champion for Time To Change Wales, a campaign whose aim is to get people talking about mental illness to break down the stigma that surrounds it. This also includes suicide.
As a champion, one of the things I do is to go to organisations and other groups to talk about my experience of mental illness and the stigma and discrimination I have faced. This includes self-stigma.
Thanks to self-stigma, I was in denial that I was experiencing mental and emotional ill-health for many years. It led to me not seeking help until I had nearly broken my mind. I ended up being off work as a teacher for almost a year. I went back to work for just eight months before I had another ‘breakdown’ for want of another word.
What I don’t often mention, and what I think also needs to be discussed here, is suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts. These are thoughts about wishing to die, wanting life to stop, hoping that one would not wake up in the morning. Not actively planning suicide, but wishing that life would end to bring the mental and emotional pain to an end.
For a long as I can remember, right back to being young, I can remember wishing this upon myself. I often wanted to die in my sleep and not have to face another day like the one I just had. I didn’t feel loved or valued in any way, and the constant bullying, name-calling, being ignored and neglected. I felt a burden, a bother, a nuisance, an irritation, a problem to my family. I thought they would be happier without me. That the world would be a better place without me. I never thought of actively taking my own life, but I certainly wished to die.
That belief about myself has followed me throughout my life. Sometimes it would be quiet, at other times it would be shouting through a megaphone in my head.
I remember driving to work most days in the last few years of my teaching career wanting to just keep driving and never come back to my life as it had become so very, very painful for me and I could see no way out of the pain.
I never did drive off towards the horizon as I didn’t actually know what I would do. Also, the thought of my cat and how he’d not cope without me would pop into my head. And so I would get myself to work so I could look after my cat.
At the time, it felt my cat was the only living thing that was consistently and unconditionally there for me, sharing love and affection with me. I still miss him now, a bit more than a year when I had to say goodbye to him.
I owe my life to my cat, and to the one friend (now my brother of the heart/choice) who kept nagging me about getting help, and the GP who knew the right words to say to me to get me to understand I needed help and a break from work and also from my mind. Now, I am also so grateful to my EMDR therapist for persisting with me.
I have tears flowing down my face as I write about this. The tears represent the sadness that I feel that I was ignorant of what good mental and emotional health is and of the stigma I held about it in regards to myself. Oddly, I never had those thoughts about others who were experiencing mental illness, having helped others during their own crises. I feel sad that I have lived most of my life with poor mental and emotional health, thinking that was how everyone else was. I feel sad that only now am I learning what it is like to have a touchstone of contentment and optimism to hold onto when times get tough.
The tears are also ones of gratitude that I’m still here. I have come through the darkest days of my life. My career has changed, and my life is gradually changing for the better, as is my mental and emotional health.
I rarely have suicidal thoughts now. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did. That says something about how far along my healing journey I have come.
If someone had told me in my darkest days that my life would be as it is now, with that contentment within me, an optimism for my future, I might not have believed them. In fact, I most probably wouldn’t have.
However, I am here to say that I made it through it all. Through my childhood and adulthood and now into middle age.
I wish I’d known what I know now as a child. Maybe I would’ve sought help sooner in my life.
What I wish for everyone is that every person on this planet is given the information about what good mental and emotional health is. I want mental and emotional health to be seen as important as physical health with the links between them fully recognised, and support is available to all who need it.
No matter how bad life seems, there are always options to improve it. This is something I’ve had to learn. In fact, I’m still learning about it. When I get overwhelmed, or something goes wrong, I tend to slip into the black and white thinking mode.
That’s what the black and white borders to today’s art is about. The complexity shows just how crazily my mind was working during the darkest days.
For the space between them, the background on which the quote sits, I chose colours that remind me of a sunrise. A new day, with a fresh mind and eyes always comes with new options, if only we can see them.
My story has not ended. It will not end until my life is naturally completed. For the first time in my life, I have a feeling of optimism for my future. It may have taken me two severe episodes of mental ill-health and several years of EMDR therapy and counselling to get to this point. But I’ve got there.
No matter how much of my life I have left, it will be lived with some contentment, peace and hope for my future. I wish the same for each and every person.
Today marks the 100th Anniversary of Armistice – the ending of the First World War. This took place at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. The guns fell silent. World War I ended.
But war has not ended.
The Second World War, among many others, followed. Burma. Korea. Vietnam. Falklands. Iraq, first and second. Afghanistan. And so many, many, many other conflicts around the world that barely get a mention in the western news.
Today, we remember all those lost in conflicts/wars around the world, those who have given their lives in the service of others. Those who have selflessly given the most precious thing we have – life – so that others may live in peace and safety.
Not only do we remember the men and women from all walks of life, social backgrounds, countries and beliefs who lost their lives and were injured during conflict/war, we remember the animals who were also killed and injured during conflict as they served and supported the troops.
My grandmother’s first husband, Frank, was gassed in the trenches in WWI and eventually died back in England, nursed by his own wife. It’s said that her hair went pure white overnight when she received the news.
My father took part in WWII. He was at the D-day landings. Amongst other things he witnessed, he saw the piles and piles of bodies at a concentration camp in Poland.
People like Frank and my dad, Robert John Porter, went to war to bring an end to such atrocities, to bring peace to our societies.
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place: and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders’ fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe; To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high, If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders’ Fields.
Lt Col John McCrae, a Canadian Doctor who lost a friend at Ypres, was inspired by a field of poppies to write this poem in early May 1915
I knew I wanted to create a mandala that looked like a round stained glass window, but could also be used as a focus for meditation about peace, about remembrance, about the ultimate sacrifice of life in order to bring about a more peaceful world.
I wanted to create something that featured red poppies.
The poppy is not a symbol of war. It is not about glorifying war. It is not a symbol of support for war. It is not a reflection of politics or religion.
Eleven poppies to go with the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
I wanted a bright centre to the mandala as the symbol of hope for a better future. A more peaceful future. A brighter future.
I included some hearts as I thought of the words from Martin Luther King Jr:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.
I chose blue as a colour that represents to myself peace and calm. Green as a symbol of growth, balance, harmony, understanding.
As is so often the case with my artwork lately this was created using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pen and a Microsoft Surface Studio.
I thank Frank and my dad for their sacrifice.
I thank all the others who through the ages have fought with peace and a free world as their goal.
I wish there was no need for armies and wars. I wish we could all learn to get along. I wish there would be an end to hatred and racism and bigotry. I wish we could get over the fear of the ‘different’ or the ‘other’. I wish we could all work together to find common ground and build upon that.
Idealist? Dreamer? Yes, I’m guilty of that for sure. However, if enough of us believe in this come together we could make a difference.
There Will Be Peace
There will be peace: when attitudes change; when self-interest is seen as part of common interest; when old wrongs, old scores, old mistakes are deleted from the account; when the aim becomes co-operation and mutual benefit rather than revenge or seizing maximum personal or group gain; when justice and equality before the law become the basis of government; when basic freedoms exist; when leaders – political, religious, educational – and the police and media wholeheartedly embrace the concepts of justice, equality, freedom, tolerance, and reconciliation as a basis for renewal; when parents teach their children new ways to think about people. There will be peace: when enemies become fellow human beings.
This week, I’ve been doing my best to get images drawn for the Eerie themed book. Various appointments and just generally feeling down and unwell have got in the way, and today hasn’t been much better.
I have spent sometime drawing a ‘DoodleWorlds’ image, which is sitting in a file on my computer to be re-drawn and so on.
The zentangle kind of thingy above is something I’ve done not too long ago. I drew the design using Sakura Micron pens and a white Sakura Gelly roll pen on natural coloured Mixed Media Paper from Claire Fontaine. The paper size is 10cmx14cm.
Last weekend, I created this bit of art work:
It was deviantART.com’s 17th Birthday and a challenge was set there. I wanted to have a go as it was a bit of a challenge, it let me try out new techniques/ides with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and my Surface Book and Surface Pen, but mostly it’s because deviantART is where various editors/publishers/artwork managers have found my art and engaged me to do work for them. That is the reason I was able to leave teaching, how I’m able to look after my mental health more, and to find a different way of life as well as being able to heal.
Thank you deviantART! And thank you everyone else who has believed in me, my work, and given me opportunities, even when I’ve not believed in myself, my ability, or the quality of my work. And thank you everyone who has bought the books and stamps and so on … I am so grateful.
I know, it’s a little early, but I thought I’d post this today, as well as a bit of a personal review of the past year.
2016 has been an interesting year for me, one of some major changes in my life.
It started with me being a science teacher, off again on long-term sickness due to a recurrent bout of intense anxiety and depression. I was so distressed about having to return to work as a teacher, about what else I could do. I couldn’t think straight. My capacity to read and understand what I was reading or remember it was severely impaired. I had trouble going out of my home. Anything to do with my job caused me an intensifying of these symptoms and the most distressing nightmares I’ve ever had.
Teaching has changed so much in the 28 years I was a science teacher. The pressures have increased, both in terms of workload and behaviour/attitudes of the students that is a reflection of how society has changed too. All of this resulted in triggers for my depression/anxiety/low self-esteem/low confidence.being overwhelmed by even little things. No matter how well people told me I was doing as a teacher (senior teachers, colleagues, inspectors (I never had less than outstanding in the last two inspections I was seen teaching in), I never believed them and thought it was just a fluke.
Because of this, I kind of knew that I’d have to leave teaching, but didn’t know if I could do so financially. I’m single, responsible for all my bills and so on, so whatever I did I had to make sure I had some kind of financial security.
Eventually, I made the decision to leave teaching and to become a self-employed artist/illustrator based on the success of the adult colouring books I’ve done (of which there are now many – listed on my amazon author page), and that happened in the early part of the summer, officially.
This was, arguably, the best decision I’ve made for a long time. The difference it is making to my mood/mental health, as well as progress in counselling is quite remarkable. My only worry at the moment is my first tax return and tax bill in the early part of next year!
I know I have a lot to do to create a portfolio and to come up with projects that will keep contracts coming my way, but I do have some breathing space at the moment, with just one book to be completed asap.
On the back of this decision, my home had a major clear out, again in the early summer. Though it’s not entirely finished, enough progress has been made for now. I now need to have a major de-stash of art materials to make space for either new, or just easier organisation of the materials i use most often.
I also discovered I have quite strong views politically about how our society should be a lot more caring of those who need help, for whatever reason, and how important the British NHS is and how much more it should be valued by those in power in the country, and not just seen as a cash cow for their buddies and supporters. It took me a long time, but I finally worked out that my beliefs/views politically mostly aligned themselves with the traditional Labour Party (not ‘new Labour’, which seems to me just a lighter shade of blue than the Conservative Party). So, I joined the Labour Party. Yet to make it to my first meeting, but no doubt I will do.
I also have become involved with Time to Change Wales as a Champion. This is an organisation whose campaign is to end the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness. I’ve yet to tell my story at an event, but that’s on the cards for sometime in the early part of 2017. Again, this is something I have strong feelings about, especially the self-stigma that prevented me from recognising and accepting I had a mental illness (complex post traumatic stress disorder(cptsd)) and seeking help.
I am really grateful that I did recognise the cptsd, and have made the major change of going self-employed as a way of looking after myself and being happy in how I earn a living, and it doesn’t even seem like work most of the time!
I’m grateful for those who have stuck with me through thick and thin, offering me the support and encouragement that they are able to.
I’m grateful to those who have created difficult circumstances for me, and those circumstances have either shown me how far I’ve come along in healing, or where I need to focus some attention on as my counselling continues.
So, thank you 2016 for moving me forward in my life with the challenging events, for showing me how far I’ve come along in my healing journey, and for the fun and laughter that have helped me keep going.
Thank you to all those who have believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, who have given me amazing opportunities to create and share art with others via the medium of adult colouring books, and I look forward to all the opportunites that come along in 2017 for me to continue to create and share with others.
Here, as promised, is the line art for the image above. If you’d like to download/print and colour, please do so. All I ask is you respect my copyright, you use it just for personal use, not for commercial gain, and if you share your coloured image, please link back to my blog.Enjoy, and thank you!
Tea is always good! I always enjoy my first mug of the day, slowly coming around from a night’s sleep, and nothing beats that freshly brewed mug of tea when you get in from a day’s work. That big, relaxing, comforting sigh that accompanies the first sip is a wonderful thing, a switch from stressful times to more relaxed times. We often miss the little wonderful things in life that bring us moments of pleasure throughout the day, instead we focus on the big, important things, good or bad. We feel that we should only tell others of the big things going on, things that sound important, things that sound hugely interesting. We believe that much of our day to day lives are unimportant or uninteresting to others.
However, perhaps it is time we all reflected on those moments of peace, of pleasure, of love, of joy, of friendship, of satisfaction, of success, of good news from others or of ourselves, no matter how small or how big, that pepper our day and shared them with others and with an air of gratitude. By doing this, maybe we will realise, that no matter how tough life can get, there are still sparkles in the seemingly all pervading darkness that are there to brighten the dark, to help us through the tougher times, and help others to make their way through them too by reminding them to look for their own sparkles.
Perhaps by looking for a few sparkles of goodness, we then start to see more and more and more, and perhaps the darkness we tend to wallow in, believing life has to be a struggle, life has to be difficult, life has to be filled with sadness and troubles and woes, isn’t all that dark after all. Instead there is a balance between the sparkles and the dark that we can find by not ignoring the darkness, but by shifting our attention to looking for the sparkles and the bright moments in a healthy, balanced manner.
Perhaps it is by finding the balance, or by discovering the the density of the bright sparkles is a little greater than the darkness of the tough times, that we discover that we are truly wealthy; things, possessions, quick-fix addictive behaviours may give a quick burst of brightness that hides the gloom for a while, but the true wealth lies in things that money can’t buy. The smile and laugh and chatter shared with another human being that we barely notice because we are thinking of what needs to be done and how we are going to do it, the glorious beauty of a glowing sunset that we miss because we are rushing from one thing to the next, the kindnesses received and given and barely noticed because we take it for granted, the compliments and praise given by a friend or co-worker or acquaintance that we usually brush away…
The list is endless, isn’t it?
So, what do you have to be grateful for in your life? Don’t just look for the big things, the obvious things, look for the little things, the little sparkles that are easy to overlook that happen continually throughout each waking moment of every day.