Inktober 2019 – Day 01 – Chameleon Skull and Amanita

©Angela Porter 2019

Inktober 2019

After hunting around Instagram for alternative prompt lists, I decided to go with two and combine them. I chose the Animal Skulls prompts from @book_polygamist and Mushrooms list from @nyan_sun.

So, the drawing above shows a chameleon skull combined with Amanita, along with some other design elements. Today’s official prompt from Jake Parker’s Inktober 2019 list is ‘ring’. I can make that fit in too – a ring of fairy toadstools, the ring of the eye-socket in the skull.

The black line work was done with Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens. I then used an 8B pencil with a blending stump to clumsily add some shading. Then, after scanning the image in, I added colour digitally using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

It’s been a very, very long time since I did any drawing like this. My usual style is rather whimsical, cute and simplified to create a stylised form.

While this drawing isn’t realistic, it is more so than I usually do. Having said that, I have added some simplified design elements in the form of leaves and berries and the repeating pattern of arches to give a floor for the skull to rest on.

I found it interesting to add the more realistic skull with the less realistic Amanita and stylised leaves and berries.

It took me over three hours to create this drawing; I’m not sure I can spend that amount of time everyday given the work I need to do in the coming weeks. I shall see though how it goes.

So, Angela, how are you feeling?

I’m OK. I don’t feel as tired as I have lately and there’s also a contented feeling inside me. There’s also a frisson of excitement about turning my attention to work – something that has been a bit lacking over the past month or so.

I did get an early night along with a good night’s sleep last night, which always helps. The sun has just broken through the clouds, albeit briefly, and even a little sunshine helps to boost my mood too. I hope there’ll be more periods of sunshine to help my mood after the past days of heavy rain and even heavier grey skies, although we did have a break from it on Sunday with some bright sunshine in the day.

It’s only in the past couple of weeks that I’ve recognised how much the weather can affect my mood.

EMDR yesterday was puzzling, confusing and upsetting too. However, I came away not as exhausted as I usually do. Indeed, I was able to focus on art in the evening – I did most of the drawing of the chameleon skull with amanita.

My therapist and I did have a conversation about how I found it so hard to go into a cafe for lunch after my Time to Change Wales talk last week. She suggested that in future I take something with me to eat just in case I can’t go into a cafe – that way I can still take care of my physical needs and emotional needs without being hard on myself, calling myself weak and a failure for not doing such a simple thing as going to a familiar cafe for lunch.

Still have progress to make on that goal of mine, but some progress on recognising how I feel about myself not being able to do it at the moment has been made. So it’s not all bad.

Entangled Vellum Greetings Card

Card Making

Today I thought I’d make a little greetings card.

Card Dimensions.

The card measures 4½” x 5½” (approx. 10cm x14 cm). The outside of the frame measures 3″ x 3¾” (approx. 7.75cm x 9.5cm).

The vellum panel.

I started with a piece of vellum die cut to the size of the frame. To add colour to the vellum, I applied Twisted Citron and Pine Needles Distress Inks with a foam ink blending tool to what would be the reverse side of the vellum panel.

This was something new to me and a bit of an experiment to boot. The inks blend very smoothly on vellum, though you do have to be extra careful not to bend the vellum. That leaves a noticeable crease in it that can’t be removed or easily disguised. I managed to bend a corner; however, as I was going to trim the vellum down later, I wasn’t at all concerned.

I was surprised at how quickly the inks dried on the vellum, and I was soon able to work on adding my embossed design.

To do this, I used some ball ended embossing tools on the reverse side of the vellum. I drew an entangled art design with them as I would when using a pen on paper.

Once I’d drawn my design, I added some shading using a Pergamano shading tool as well as some dots in the upper part of the image.

Dry embossing on vellum causes the vellum to curl somewhat. So, I passed the piece through a laminator. That corner that I’d creased while ink blending got firmly creased during this process. However, I knew I’d be able to hide it with the frame I’d planned to make.

At this point, I added some gold dots to the ‘sky’ part of the design. To do this, I used a Uniball Signo gold glitter gel pen. I can’t resist adding sparkle when I can.

My last step was to trim the vellum to ¼” (7mm) smaller than the frame.

Making the frame.

To make the frame, I used some stitch edge rectangle dies from Gemini by Crafter’s Companion along with a Sizzix Big Shot machine along with some white card. I cut three frames out, doing my best to centre the inner die to the outer die.

I used some Tombow Mono Liquid Glue to stack the three frames. It was then I noticed I’d not centred the inner die precisely the same on each frame. I can see where they don’t quite perfectly match up.

I decided to use them and learn from the process. I’ve never made a frame like this before, and this card really was, in many ways, an experiment.

Assembling the card.

The next task was to attach the vellum to the frame. I carefully applied a very thin layer of the Tombow glue just inside the inner edge of the frame. I carefully added the flattened vellum to it.

The vellum, though, had started to curl again and try as I might to flatten it out, it just wasn’t going to play ball. In hindsight, it may have been better if I’d trimmed it and run it through the laminator just before attaching it to the frame. Then, to keep the vellum flat on my worktable and apply the frame to the vellum.

The last step was to use glue to attach the frame to the card base.

Thoughts on the card.

Even though I’ve bungled a couple of things, I’m quite pleased with how the card has turned out.

Flattening the vellum through the laminator has decreased the intensity of the white embossed lines. However, I didn’t pass it through once, but a few times to see if I could get the corner to stay down. When the vellum got stuck in the laminator, it took me a while to dig out a pair of tweezers to pull it through. That introduced a bigger curl in the paper than I had to start with! I decided then that the only way to flatten the vellum this way was to use a folded piece of paper to act as a carrier for it.

It was a good idea in principle. In practice, I made mistakes and will learn for the future.

Die-cutting and stacking multiple frames. How to get the inner die centred the same as the others? I don’t know. Maybe I should try washi or craft tape the dies together. I will work it out as I like the look of the frame!

I do like the look of the embossing on the coloured vellum. The white lines are quite soft, though less prominent than I wanted them to be as I reduced them by trying too often to flatten the vellum through the laminator. It’s a rather ethereal looking design, and I like that. Sometimes I find my usual black line-art too stark against colour.

The white background of the card doesn’t help the white to stand out. Maybe I’ll try to add colour to the card base and then apply the coloured vellum over it. That’s an experiment for another day, perhaps. Or maybe soon when my mind is still on it. I think I have time before I need to head off out this afternoon.

So, Angela, how are you today?

I’m feeling tired and a bit spaced out, yet contented.

Therapy yesterday was emotional and distressing. No EMDR was done as I was too emotional for it, and I needed to talk about somethings that I’ve touched upon in recent blog posts.

My weighted blanket arrived yesterday, and it is rather lovely. I don’t know about making you feel you’re being hugged; I’ve only laid down under it so far. However, it feels so lovely that I just wanted to stay there this morning. I will try wrapping it around my shoulders and so on to see how it makes me feel that way.

I mention this as I slept in the evening under it, and through the night. Although I still feel tired, I know I had a good sleep. I may get in another sleep before I need to head out later today, depending on how lost in art I get. I do have a relatively long drive (around 2 hours) to where I need to be, and another 2 hours home, so a good sleep is perhaps in order.

Despite some good sleep, I’m still quite tired. The emotional rollercoaster of the past two weeks or so is taking it’s toll on me, even though I’m making sure I’m practising self-care and self-soothing.

Doing a short art project this morning – the greetings card – is a self-soothing activity. The style of art I created – my entangled art – is familiar enough to me that it is comforting to do. It’s comfort art, which is healthier for me than comfort eating.

Talking of eating. The emotional upsets of the past few days have taken their toll on my digestive system too. I had a badly upset stomach yesterday, and I’m still feeling quite tender in my abdomen today.

This is not an uncommon side-effect of either therapy or emotional rollercoasters for me. As I feel emotions so much in my abdomen, particularly fear and anxiety, then it’s no surprise I end up with sudden trips to the loo!

As I settle down, so my digestive system does, and things return to normal, eventually.

I’ve said this before, and no doubt I’ll say it again, this is part of the healing journey. Events sometimes seem to conspire to shake up the next layer of trauma from the past so it can be processed and I healed.

A few days or a few weeks of painful emotional turmoil is a small price to pay for the eventual years and years (I hope) of a life untroubled by and not held back by my past. A future where I can form those healthy relationships of all kinds with others that I yearn for, a yearning that has recently been reawakened, along with its attendant traumas.

Experimenting digitally…

Experimenting digitally ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Experimenting digitally ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

My experiment laying down areas of colour with Chameleon markers then adding colour inspired me to try the same idea out with my digital art tools.

Here is the result of several hours trying the idea out.

I’m not at all sure about lots of parts of it. I’m not happy with it at the moment. I have some things to think about going forward.

Firstly, the way I have my pen brushes set up is giving a black line that seems to be way too stark against the colour. Black ink in fine line pens isn’t quite so opaque. So, I need to play around adjusting this.

Also, I have the edge of the pen brushes set up as ‘sharp’, so I do get that very sharp edge to the line. I need to play around with adjusting this as well. It’s not enough to have an uneven line edge; if anything, the sharpness of the rough edge jars my senses.

The background colour is quite OK if perhaps a tad complex. Again, I need to spend time playing around with various brush types, properties and textures to work out the best way for me to create such backgrounds if this is a route I’m going to go down in digital art.

As always, by taking time to do experimental art (not that all art is experimental I think) I explore the tools, effects, settings, and so on that are available to me in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. Of course, I use my Microsoft Surface Pen on the screen of my Microsoft Surface Studio to create my digital art.

What’s important is that I make the time to do this regularly. It’s the only way I can learn and develop my digital art ‘voice’ as well as understanding how the different brushes and settings work.

So, Angela, how are you today?

I’m OK. Tired, but much better than earlier this week.

I’m tired from not enough sleep last night, but also from dealing with some difficult issues around a member of my family. I don’t mind myself becoming drained when it’s about helping another person. I know how to take care of myself now so that I recover and don’t stay stuck in this emotionally exhausted state. That’s what self-care is all about.

I did go out yesterday with my younger sister. We visited the Roman baths in Caerleon and ended up at the Honey Cafe in Bronllys for a late lunch.

I popped to the toilet at the cafe, and I got stressed out there. Children loudly screaming with a very loud hand-drier caused me to become anxious, stressed, hypervigilant. The children weren’t distressed at all, just screaming with the noise of the hand-drier for fun. Their mother was with them, so they were safe. So, I have no idea what my reaction was all about. All I know it’s grist for the EMDR therapy wheel.

Oh! The joy of the CPTSD triggers that hide from me. Well, this one has now come out into the light of a startle, so it can’t hide any longer!

Still, the startling left me twitchy, jumpy, on-edge and on the point of tears for quite a long while after this. Any slightly loud noise, someone walking past me in the cafe and I’d jump and catch my breath.

When I got home, I felt exhausted and collapsed into bed and slept for a couple of hours.

I did sleep well through the night, even though I went to bed a bit later than usual. However, I still feel tired, exhausted today.

I know it will pass. Self-care is required. I have some ginger chai that I’m sipping as I write this blog. I know that art, crochet, naps, music all help to soothe me. I’m not sure a walk in a people-y world would be a good idea today, well not if my by myself. I think I’m still on edge. It does take a good while for the stress hormones to leave my system so that I return to a less aroused emotional state.

Hmm, thinking about that, I do have this sense of anxiety today. There’s nothing I’m stressing about, nothing that is worrying me, so it’s just those hormones flooding my system still.

I think I deserve some gold stars for noticing that! Becoming self-aware, aware of my emotions and thoughts, is part of the healing process. It still amazes me when I see something that in the past that I would either ignore or bury deep inside me and put a happy smiley face on and carry on as if nothing was wrong.

Mostly gone are those days. I say mostly; there are times when I still return to the default setting of ignoring my emotions and needs to make sure whoever I am with is happy, even if it causes me great pain or a feeling of vulnerability and feeling unsafe.

I still find it very difficult to voice my own needs if I think someone is going to dismiss them or ignore them. Admitting I have needs make me feel even more vulnerable.

I am aware of this now, so that is a step forward. Progress is made through a series of small, manageable steps. In therapy, the first steps to change are recognising something that needs to change for healing and a healthier relationship with myself to occur.

A bit of whimsy – ice cream mandala

A bit of whimsy - an ice cream mandala ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
A bit of whimsy – an ice cream mandala ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I’ve mostly been away from social media, and art, this weekend. Sometimes one just has to have a break from it.

This morning I discovered that July is ice-cream month, so I thought I’d do something quick, fun, and whimsical with an ice cream mandala.

Not happy with much of the mandala. I can’t put my fingers on why;maybe it’s the seemingly childish nature of the art, the lack of complexity, the colour choices, or something else.

It did seem like a good idea at the time, and even though I wasn’t happy with it, I was determined to work with it until it was finished.

It was, however, mainly a practice in using layers and different digital brushes. It also helped me get back to digital art after a weekend of mostly crocheting.

As usual, I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

So Angela, how are you today?

Just like the previous days, including Saturday and Sunday, I’m feeling content. I’m tired after not a good night’s sleep with weird dreams I can’t now remember.

I needed a break from social media this weekend; too much doom and gloom in the goings on around the world. I also felt I needed a bit of a break from art. I wasn’t happy with whatever it was I was doing (colouring the design for the cover of a colouring book I’m working on). So, I spent much of the weekend crocheting the big scrapbusting blanket I’ve been working on.

Well done me for recognising I needed to do some self-care!

The blanket is nearly finished, and my wrists and fingers are aching from the weight of the blanket as I join pieces in. However, I do think it’s working out just fine.

Crocheting is soothing for me – its repetitive nature is calming. Mind you, I also watched a few films while doing it. That was soothing too.

Today is EMDR day and I’ll soon have to sort myself out to head out for my weekly session. I know we need to finish off what was being worked on in the last two sessions. I then think I know what needs to be worked on next.

I do have to say that despite my tiredness, I think I’ve had a week of contentment and positivity and few moments of upset in one way or another. I can’t remember a whole week like this, with the level of contentment that I’m aware of and what I think is a reduction in the background level of anxiety.

Progress is progress. Sometimes it comes in tiny amounts. Occasionally, progress comes in larger, more noticeable amounts. At other times it’s noticed only when enough tiny amounts have accumulated for me to see progress has been made.

I’m not sure which of those applies at the moment, maybe all of them. But it’s still most welcome, and also a sign that I’m increasingly self-aware compared to the person who would ignore emotions, distress, dangerous situations all to keep other people happy to my own detriment, even though I wasn’t aware of that at the time.

I am now aware of it and I feel embarrassment and shame. I feel stupid for allowing myself to do such things.

I am, however, determined to heal and move on to become a person who considers my own feelings, emotions and safety is as important and to learn to feel safe in this world, in my body.

Sending Love – A Dangle Design

Sending Love - A Dangle Design ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Sending Love – A Dangle Design ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

For today’s whimsical and cute dangle design, I used one of the designs from my tutorial book “A Dangle A Day”, altered the hand lettered sentiment and changed the colour scheme.

I used just five colour schemes in the design itself – blues, yellow-orange, pinks, peachy-orange and yellow-greens. I used a blue and green from the design to create the background colour gradient.

By using the same colour gradients throughout the design it brings the design together.

I added a simple drop shadow to the whole design to give it a little dimension. I could have added drop shadows to the lettering and the flowers in the rectangular charm, but I chose to keep it quite simple today.

I think this would make a lovely note card or greetings card. I also think, perhaps with a different sentiment, make a lovely page for a BuJo, journal, diary, planner, and it would be lovely as part of the design of a scrapbook page.

How would you use a design like this?

I drew, handlettered and coloured the design digitally using my Microsoft Surface Pen on the screen of my Microsoft Surface Studio as if I was working with pens on paper. My preferred art software is Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

So Angela, how are you today?

I’m content with that background level of anxiety. I feel motivated to work even though I’m really tired again. This time it was from a late night conversation with a friend in need. I can nap later if I need to. The tiredness is actually giving me a headache.

My Nikita Gill books of poetry arrived yesterday and I spent some time reading one, “Wild Embers” from cover to cover.

I cried at some poems as they really touched something inside me, when she describes in words things I’m only beginning to recognise within me.

With other poems it was like a light bulb came on as understanding was ignited within me.

Yet others highlighted the difference between how girls and women are viewed to boys and men, and treated differently, and brought up to believe different things about themselves.

You can tell in her writing she has survived some serious trauma; she writes not just from her heart and soul, but from experience.

I can recommend her work to anyone who has experienced abuse, trauma and who, like me, struggles to describe what is emerging from the Pandora’s box of the past as the healing progresses.

It helps to show I am not alone. It helps to show other survivors of abuse that they are not alone.

I felt alone as I had no one to turn to when I needed someone most. I withdrew within myself, isolating myself, being lonely even when surrounded by a loud, extrovert-filled family. Desperate to join in, to be part of it, but scared to be noticed as that left me open to being the one who was made fun of, blamed for anything and everything. It was horrible to be ignored too when I’d spoken; that happened often. I never learned to speak up for myself, to ask for help, to say what I needed. I suffered long in silence.

I make no apologies for speaking up now. For talking about what happened to me, not in any great detail as I don’t have that myself.

I make no apologies for trying to raise awareness about the damage that emotional neglect does, how worthless being ignored and uncared for made me feel, and has made and does make others feel. How it grinds a person down day after day after day…

I make no apologies for doing what I can to help others to not minimise the effect these things have had on them. To stop telling themselves, like I did, that I was weak, an attention seeker, a whiner, a whinger, a liar when I was in need of help or support.

Someone made me believe that was what I was as children are not born believing that of themselves.

I make no apologies for writing about these things if it helps people understand that someone made them believe these things about themselves and they can unlearn them and replace them with more positive beliefs.

A thought just came to me then. As I teacher I focused on teaching students with additional learning needs. My first focus was to build their self-esteem and self-belief, always. I was shocked at how little so many of them thought of themselves and I found that incredibly sad.

I could see that in them and I could see how I helped them believe in themselves more, one tiny step at a time.

I can see now how I knew I too felt the same way about myself but believed myself too damaged to be healed or not worth thinking better of myself.

Now, with the help of EMDR, I am changing those beliefs about myself little by little.

That inner critic is mostly silent these days, I think. I still suspect it is still creating a very quiet susurrus deep in the depths of my conscious mind. However, it’s malignant murmuration becomes louder when I’m overly tired, emotionally drained, or my anxiety is increased by some trigger.

However, I have to say it’s power over me seems to have diminished.

That’s not to say I’m healed enough yet. I still have those negative beliefs about myself – ugly, unloveable, self-loathing of myself and my body – and of course there’s the inability to feel safe a lot of the time, sometimes even in my own home.

Of course there may be other things that arise during EMDR.

However I do think I have made a lot of progress over the years. Slow and steady for sure, but progress all the same.

Anyway, back to Nikita Gill.

I can recommend her work to those who are friends, partners, family members of those who have been abused to help to understand what someone is going through.

I can recommend her work to all, for her words are thought provoking in a gentle but descriptive manner.

I think I may be lending this book to my therapist…that’s how valuable I think it is.

Exhausted I am…

©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

I am exhausted today. My EMDR session yesterday was extremely powerful and intense. I left feeling light headed, light-bodied and a bit off-with-the-fairies as well as rather tired. This feeling stayed with me all evening.

I woke exhausted but had to get some errands done. I’m now back home still exhausted.

I was hungry while out ( I didn’t have breakfast before leaving home as I had managed to get a cancellation appointment at the doctors’ surgery for an issue unrelated to CPTSD). So, while waiting for a prescription to be filled I went to have breakfast. As hungry as I was I could eat very little before feeling full. It was the same when I arrived home after EMDR yesterday.

I think my therapist has found the ‘magic formula’ for me and EMDR. It involves working with a negative belief I have about myself, imagining myself as a baby or small child and then working with the first image that pops up in my head to give the somatic (body sensations) and emotional feelings to focus on during EMDR.

Yesterday’s session resulted in some very powerful metaphors that resulted in powerful processing of trauma and negative beliefs. It’s not quite finished, there’s still some distress associated, but that level fell from a 9 to 2 during the session.

So, I’m too tired to do anything other than have some tea (Twinings Lady Grey, no milk – it has lemon and orange peel and oils in it and it’s deliciously bright and refreshing) and go back to bed to sleep some more.

Oh, the graphic above is one that I created for my anti-stigma talk presentation for Time To Change Wales. I’m giving a talk tomorrow and needed to revise my presentation.

I used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio to create the digital art.

Be Brave WIP

Be Brave WIP ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com
Be Brave WIP ©Angela Porter | Artwyrd.com

Be Brave

A few more hours work on this entangled art. In the past day or two I’ve done an additional 6 hours, so I think that takes me to around 21 hours or so in total. It’s a long job, a big job, but an enjoyable one.

I’m definitely getting my head around working in layers, though I need to work on one motif at a time before combining the layers into one image and carrying on.

Now I know that you can have many, many layers open at once, but my brain just can’t cope with that. I can do one thing at a time, and that suits me just fine.

It does make it a bit more awkward if I want to go back and alter the colour, shape, pattern or something else on a particular design element. However that’s not an impossibility, just a tad more awkward.

I am, however, quite pleased with how it’s working out.

There are some colour choices I’m not all that happy with at the moment. However, I will let them be until more of the art is done. Also, I think they represent how I’m feeling on that day, and as this is along term project that’s likely to happen quite a bit.

Last night I was feeling a bit subdued, so some subdued, vintage-ish colours crept into the design. As doing art, being creative, soothed my not quite right emotions, the colours brightened. The elements I’ve added this morning are much brighter in colour, which reflect my current quite content emotional state.

Well done me for spotting this. I’d not really noticed how my emotions influence my colour choices before!

My tools for digital art are Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.

Be Brave Angela Porter

Finding that bravery to live my life as I’d like to and to know who I am without the effects of trauma is one of my goals.

I have enough courage to go to each EMDR appointment, even though I know how it could affect me for a few days afterwards. The effects pass and are part of the healing process.

This is a small price to pay to be able to what I’d like to do, such as go out drawing, walking, having lunch in a cafe.

I find these things hard to do as nowhere is safe for me except home. Rather, that’s what the CPTSD caused by repeated trauma has me believing.

Processing that processing the trauma, replacing the negative beliefs about myself with more positive ones will allow this to happen.

I’m trusting that there’s a watershed in my healing journey where I’ve processed enough trauma that I can overcome what anxiety remains.

I think I’ve had one watershed in my journey – the one where I now feel content on most days. That’s progress!