This morning was a morning that I needed to do some art that was familiar, calming, soothing and intricate enough that I could lose myself in it. A mandala always fits that bill. Always. It doesn’t matter if it’s drawn with pen and ink on paper or digitally. The mindful, calming effect is the same. It’s the process that matters, the repetitive shapes and patterns that are drawn that contribute greatly to the soothing effect.
I do tend to gravitate towards digital art, and I find the symmetry tool in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro helps to save a lot of time. The ability to erase ink removes the frustration that a mistake creates for the hyperperfectionist part of me.
Other than those time-saving (and frustration-saving) tools, the process of mandala drawing is the same for me.
It starts by using a compass, protractor and ruler to set out the circular grid. Then, it’s digital pen on screen to draw the mandala in exactly the same way as I would on paper, just without so much repetition of sections.
However this was created, it has served it’s purpose – given me some time and space for inner peace and contentment.
It’s #TemplateThursday when I create and post a colouring template to the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group. The template is free to members, though there are a few terms and conditions associated with it’s use. It’s also free to join the group!
This week, I decided to draw some cute and whimsical bugs, each having their very own portrait. Lots of small, individual pictures that a perfect for quick, mindful colouring.
I know I often get overwhelmed by a huge artwork I’m working on and that is most likely to happen when I’m experiencing a lot of anxiety, and I seem to have waves of anxiety the like I haven’t seen for a long time, most related to the pandemic.
When I need to take time out, to do art that will soothe me, calm me, let me relax and find that mindful, content space within myself, I turn to creating small artworks.
I drew this template with a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pen on ClaireFontaine dot grid paper. Colouring has been done digitally in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.
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.
It’s such a beautifully, sunshiny, glorious spring day here in the Valleys of South Wales. The sunshine, especially when I’m at home for the foreseeable future, is most welcome and lifts my spirits greatly.
It also frustrates me a little that I want to be out and about, sun on my face and wind in my hair. However, I do understand and accept the need to be at home. Understanding doesn’t remove the frustration.
I was also at a loss at how to be arty this morning. I decided to use one of the ’tiles’ I’d coloured with Distress Inks on Saturday. I also stumbled across a zentangle pattern randomiser and gave it a click.
The pattern that popped up was ‘Ravel’, and so I filled the tile with it. I used 05 and 02 Unpin pens from Uniball. When I was done, I decided I needed a bit of shimmer and shine, so I added some metallic gold dots.
I could add water to ‘bleach’ out high spots on the design. Maybe I’ll do that later.
Drawing a repeating pattern as well as drawing intuitively and deliberately is a very mindful activity for me. It helps calm my mind and emotions. It brings meditative peace and contentment to me. All art does that, but there’s something particularly satisfying about a small project that can be completed in a sensible amount of time; a project with the goals of calm and relaxation.
Warm sunshine pouring in the window beside me as I mindfully zentangle has helped me find contentment. That gentle inner smile that has been hiding behind the clouds of worry and fear has returned.
During this pandemic, this global health and societal crisis, it’s more important to find the contentment, peace and inner smile.
Mindfulness helps with acceptance of a situation as it is. Not fretting about what has been done already. Not worrying about the what ifs. It’s about being present in the here and now. It’s learning to accept that there are circumstances that are beyond our control, and working with the things we can control – our reactions to them and the way we think and feel. To not become the slave to fear, panic, alarm, to recognise they are rational emotions to feel. Still, it’s how we act upon them that’s important.
It’s also important to recognise that the pandemic will come to an end at some point in time in the future. This will have changed us all, probably society too, hopefully for the better.
So, what can we do in the meantime?
Well, we’re not in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world yet, nor are we likely to be. Farmers will continue to farm. Food and essentials will still be produced. Delivery drivers will deliver. Food shops will be open.
There will be a lag in stocks of some things being restocked as it takes time for the producers to produce more to fill the gaps created by the panic buyers and hoarders. And of course, once the panic has subsided and people stop panicking, those gaps will be filled a lot quicker.
There will be plenty for all, so long as people stop panic buying and hoarding, particularly here in the UK.
Even if society is put into a lock-down, which seems likely here in the UK, then we’ll still be allowed to go out and shop for essentials.
Mind you, for the more vulnerable members of society that means that we’ll have to shop online and have our groceries delivered, or have volunteers, friends, family to help out. I’m expecting a letter soon to tell me that the advice is I stay indoors for twelve weeks – not leaving home to even get some shopping.
So, practice social isolation. It really does make a difference, even if you don’t think it does.
Social distancing and isolation really will slow down the spread of the virus. Then the NHS can cope with the number of people who need hospital care. This way, people won’t needlessly die because the medical care they need just isn’t available as the system is totally overwhelmed.
For each of us that stays home, avoids social contact, we put a break in the chain of how the disease is transmitted. The more gaps in the chain, the slower the virus can spread through society.
Be brave, be a break in the chain. Help to slow down the spread of the virus.
Help to spread the cases out over time so that the NHS can cope so that all who contract the disease have the best chance of survival.
In this way, each and every one of us can be a hero to help protect those that need protecting.
I have had an artsy kind of day so far. A lot of the gloom, anxiety and troubled thoughts that descended on me have lifted, but not all. Once provoked the beasties that are my cPTSD take a while to settle down again. I also feel tired – mentally, physically and emotionally tired, despite a fairly good nights sleep.
I managed to get some work done on a template for my next book for Creative Haven by Dover. I got to a point, however, where I wasn’t happy with how it was going so I thought a break was in order.
So, for my break I thought I’d work on a mandala, and this is the one I’ve created today.
I didn’t consciously choose the colours or patterns I used in this mandala. However, the blues bring to mind water, rivers, the sea. I love to be near the sea. I find the rhythm of the waves calming, no matter how gentle or wild they are. The salty wind helps to blow away cobwebs in the mind, cobwebs that not so good thoughts have stuck to. I love to look at the patterns in the sand, rocks, pebbles. There’s so much more I love. So perhaps by choosing blue I’ve identified an unconscious need to visit the sea soon.
A lot of the patterns that have found their way into this mandala remind me of waves or shells. They’re all organic and flowing. Though there are some rather architectural arches and patterns there, lending some form to the design.
The ocean is used as metaphor in mindfulness meditations. I am the ocean. The waves are my emotions that ruffle the surface of that deep, calm body of water. Meditation is about finding that calm and being in touch with it in daily life.
Carl Jung believed that drawing a mandala daily helped to reveal what was going on in the subconscious mind, the things we need to bring into awareness and work on in order to heal.
Curious that this one speaks to me of water, the ocean.
Yesterday’s meditation stirred up the waves for sure. A veritable tsunami resulted of emotional, mental and physical pain. It’s freaked me out a little and I’ve been reluctant to meditate today, well not until I’ve done everything I need to do today.
I did draw this mandala digitally. In fact, returning to digital art let me exhale a little and relax a bit more into art. I also didn’t want to revisit my frustration with traditional media that I had yesterday.
I find working digitally wonderfully liberating in many ways. I know that I’m no expert in the use of mechanics of digital art – I use it more like I would traditional media. However, whereas I feel I struggle with colour and techniques with traditional media these days, I feel none of that with digital art.
Now that’s a surprise to me! I never, ever thought I’d feel that way about working digitally.
My digital tools are my Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. The screen of the Surface Studio is my paper, the Surface pen is a multitude of pens, pencils, brushes and colours in one instrument. Autodesk Sketchbook Pro is the software that allows me to work so intuitively, so naturally as I would with pen on paper, but with other tools and techniques I can use that I wouldn’t be able to reproduce with traditional media – I don’t have the skills to do that.
So, some insights about myself from the mandala, and also some realisations about myself and my relationship with digital art and how much that relationship has strengthened and deepened – and there’s still a lot more to learn and discover about digital art and myself.
I woke this morning with a dreadful migraine. Two emotionally draining days – therapy on Monday, an anti-stigma talk for Time to Change Wales yesterday – can cause such a reaction in me. It’s my body’s way of saying ‘Woah there Angela! Enough! Time out is needed! Self-care! Nothing else stressful for today at least, please!’.
So I’m heeding my body’s message. I was due to take all my accounts stuff to my accountant, but my vision and concentration is impaired enough that for now I don’t feel safe to drive. I know that with a quiet day and a nap later on I’ll recover.
Even though my eyesight is affected a bit, doing art actually seems to help with the headache. I think it’s a mindful activity that lets my mind and emotions relax.
So, I wanted to complete my days of the week in a Lombardic style script, and here’s my work in progress. You can see my pencil lines, both as a guide for letter heights and for the shape and spacing of letters. By drawing the outlines in pencil first it means I can easily make adjustments as I ink them in.
Next steps, when my head has cleared a fair bit more, will be to add the patterns in the letters. This really does help to define the letter shapes I think.
I definitely want to try some of these letters with dangles on them. Perhaps that’s what I’ll do while I’m waiting for this migraine headache to shift somewhat.
Today’s #inktober2018 prompt is ‘Flowing’, so I knew I had to incorporate ripples into my art for today. I also wanted a blue-green colour scheme, so I used Distress Inks and an ink blending tool to colour an A4 piece of Bristol Board from Frisk.
After drawing pencil lines to allow me margins, I set to work with a range of Uniball Unipin pens to draw my design.
I started with the wavy lines in the bottom left corner and just let everything flow out from there quite intuitively, as is usual for myself.
It’s taken me quite a while to do; I think I started it around 7:30am and it’s now nearly 3pm. Sheesh, that’s nearly 8 hours! Here was me at the beginning of Inktober stating I was going to do little drawings and so on.
However, there’s a dual purpose in today’s art.
Although I’m not doing anything specific for World Mental Health Day (#wmhd #worldmentalhealthday #wmhd2018) I am taking care of my own mental and emotional health by creating this drawing.
Yesterday was a tough day for me emotionally. In my role as a champion for Time to Change Wales (#ttcw) I gave an anti-stigma talk to HR people in a college, both of which triggered some quite strong emotional flashbacks for me.
A couple of hours after that talk ended, I had my weekly EMDR therapy session which resulted in some strong and painful releases of trauma stored in my body as well as some emotional flashbacks of trauma in my childhood that I’d dissociated from.
So between the two, I was emotionally exhausted yesterday evening and night and I woke up headachy and tired today.
Part of my self-care for my emotional and mental well-being is being creative and it just so happens that Inktober’s prompt was a perfect one for today, yet again.
When I get lost in my artwork I enter a state called ‘flow’. It’s a kind of meditative state of calm, peacefulness. My self-talk (which is often so very negative) is either quieted or loses it’s power over me. It’s almost like I’m outside of time and space.
So, the approx 8 hours of drawing (well more like 6 or 7 as I had a break to meditate mid-morning and took a short time out to get a veggie bacon sandwich for a late lunch) had just flown by.
I’m still tired, but there’s a peace there within me that wasn’t there when I woke.
Creating a drawing that is rather intricate is something I don’t get to do often when I’m working on coloring books, but it is definitely something that soothes my sore emotions and mind.
Not only is it time that the stigma and discrimination around mental health is brought to an end, it’s time we all looked after our mental and emotional health as much as we do our physical health.
I have a couple of chronic health problems and during my regular checkups I’m asked about my mental and emotional health as it’s known that people can develop mental ill-health when they live day to day with a chronic illness.
I know from personal experience that when I don’t take care of my emotional/mental health I become physically ill, so the state of our mental health, emotional health and physical health interact with one another, of that I’m sure.
So, try everyday to take the time to do something that lets you relax and find joy and peace in doing. There are so many things that people use for this – drawing, coloring, painting, playing music, gardening, walking, cooking, exercising, dancing, singing, meditation, mindful activities, taking a relaxing bath by candle light, a massage, a cup of tea somewhere with a beautiful view, a walk in the surf’s edge on a sunset beach, yoga, tai chi….the list goes on!
What do you do for your own mental and emotional self-care? What do you love to do where you can find yourself in ‘flow state’ or a meditative state that gives your mind a rest?