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.
A bit of a calming time was needed this morning before attending to my business of the day. I thought a mandala in blues, greens and purples would hit the mark.
I enjoy using a flexible ink pen ‘brush’ to achieve the varying line widths. This allows me to build up abstract patterns and textures quite nicely I think. I have a way to go to find my ‘voice’ with this style of art. The more I do, the more will become clear to me I’m sure.
I’m not sure that the design flows as much as in yesterday’s mandala. I wonder if that’s because I only put one rather geometric series of rings in the centre of the design.
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
I had a tough EMDR session yesterday. Today, I feel content and upbeat but I’m realising just how tired I am mentally, despite 10 hours sleep. Yesterday’s session had a lot of body processing going on. That means stored trauma is processed via physical sensations. Yesterday those included electric shocks in my leg/foot, side, arm, pains like hooks in my shoulders, a blunt pushing/stabbing force from my stomach up towards my heart, pain in my eye. Those are just a few I remember. The pain/sensations weren’t more than I could bear, though some came close to it!
30 or 40 minutes of this is enough in a session I find, and that little amount of time out of my day is worth it for the long term benefits it brings of helping me recover from CPTSD. The tiredness I feel will pass in a day or so.
I need some quietly creative, self-care, self-comforting time today. What is more perfect for doing this than creating a mandala?
I turned to my digital tools to do this – Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio. I also wanted to work with just colour – no black outlines and no sketches to start me off. I just wanted to let the design flow and unfold as it needed to. And it did.
This mandala isn’t finished, it is a work in progress. The outer ring may disappear as I work on it more; it seems to help to create a finished mandala at this point in time.
I knew the mandala needed to titled ‘Hope is rekindled’. That seems to be quite apt for me at the moment.
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
I’ve had a heck of a busy couple of days. Monday I popped in to see Russell at the Time to Change Wales offices to pick up some resources for an upcoming stand. Then, I had therapy followed by an extremely late lunch and a slightly late tea before going to something in the evening. I eventually got home less than an hour before midnight feeling exhausted.
Tuesday was an early start to get myself to Llantrisant Leisure Centre by 9:30am to set up a Time to Change Wales stand at Rhondda Cynon Taff Council’s corporate induction day. That lasted until nearly 4pm, so it was a mad dash home to get something to eat and to warm up. I was cold and chilly. I was also feeling quite low – mental exhaustion does not help with my emotional resilience. I’d not had time to recover from therapy on Monday nor the rest of the busy day.
I was glad to look after the stand, but interacting with strangers, as lovely as that was, took it’s toll on me emotionally and energetically. Not only do I have CPTSD but I’m also an introvert so a double whammy! My protective mask of jolly, happy, extrovert Angela during the stand; keeping that mask in place is exhausting. Yesterday I got a glimpse of just how exhausting it is to keep the mask raised.
Yesterday, I also realised how I don’t raise that mask too often nowadays.
After something to eat and a hot drink, I had a meeting to go. The meeting had some parts that had me quite fraught. I was glad to come home, deal with bits and bobs of emails and then go to bed, snuggled up under the comforting weight of my weighted blanket.
I’m tired today. However, later this afternoon I’m on the go yet again. My sister has asked me to accompany her to an appointment. I then have something on this evening too, if I have the energy to go there!
Time to get another big mug of tea and start to get myself ready for this afternoons outings.
I finally finished this mandala today. I think I’ve logged somewhere around 35 hours on this image. I think that makes it the longest I’ve spent on any art project.
I have learned so much about how I can work with digital tools. I’ve also learned far more about my abilities and how I can express myself, particularly through digital art.
Although I find looking at the mandala rather strange now. That may be due to the closeness that I’ve worked with it, or the combination of colours not being too pleasing to me at this time, or the choice of backgorund colour. I don’t know for sure.
I’m am pleased with myself for persevering with the project, even though there are parts I’m not at all sure about, as I’ve mentioned.
I never, ever thought I would turn my hand to digital art.
Yes, I enjoy digital drawing; the beauty of Microsoft’s Surface Pen and Surface Studio are that they make drawing digitally so similar to drawing on paper.
However, this is the first time I’ve really ‘painted’ digitally, where I’ve worked in colour without black outlines.
It marks a huge step forward for me, as well as a coming together of things I’ve learned along my way. Not just digital things, but my observational skills, drawing skills, general art skills.
Lots of different aspects of my artistic/creative journey seemed to have gelled together in the past week or so, and I am really pleased about that. I’m more pleased that I’ve recognised this and gone with it.
About me and art
What I’ve come to realise more and more lately is that I like to create art that is pretty, beautiful even maybe. That is my whole drive in being creative. I enjoy making art that is pleasing to the eye, colourful, and full of intricate details that fascinate and call upon the viewer to spend time looking carefully at all the sections of the artwork.
There’s no hidden messages in my art. You don’t need to ‘understand it’. All I’d like it to do is to make you smile, to bring a little bit of colour and beauty into your life. I’d like it to be something that can give you a break from the harshness of life. I’d also like it to be something that you never tire looking at.
That may not be what many people think art is, but that’s what it is for me. Adding a little more prettiness, maybe beauty, colour and smiles into the world.
Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.
So, Angela, how are you today?
I’m fine today. A bit tired, but fine. It’s been a warmish sunshiny day and I’ve been out to Cowbridge with my friend Liz for icecream at Fablas. And fabulous it was too! A well earned treat I think.
Yesterday I had my Time to Change Wales champions hat on as I gave a talk to around 100 people from Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) at the University of South Wales in Treforest as part of the pledge signing ceremony.
An anti-stigma talk involves relating information about mental illness, stigma and discrimination and then I tell my story of mental illness (CPTSD) and the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced. Mostly it’s been self-stigma, telling myself I’m weak, pathetic, useless for having anxiety and crying and being depressed or having panic attacks and absolute dread and so on.
Yesterday, I noticed how anxious I was before I left home to go to give the talk. I’d not really noticed this before and it kind of jolted me a bit. Either I’m becoming more self-aware or my daily background level of anxiety is diminishing. I do hope it’s both, but particularly the latter!
These talks leave me rather emotionally exhausted and a nap was required yesterday. I could do with a nap now, but that would really mess up my sleep tonight as it’s early evening here in the UK as I type this.
I’m still tired today, despite sleeping well last night.
I do these talks as the I think it’s important to lead by example and open up about the struggles I’ve faced. I hope that it will encourage others to be brave and open up, or even admit to themselves that they’re struggling with their mental and/or emotional health.
I also hope it helps to increase understanding and awareness of what it’s like to have a mental illness, what poor mental health is.
If only I’d known more when I was young, maybe I would’ve sought help sooner and I wouldn’t have ended up having two really bad and lengthy bouts of severe anxiety/depression.
There are quite a few of us champions, all with different stories to tell around our experiences of mental illness and the stigma and discrimination that goes with it.
It’s always nice when people come up to me to share their stories, often quite shyly, or to ask more questions. It always amazes me that people think I’m really brave in telling my story.
Maybe it is brave. But if I don’t tell it how can things change if people are unaware of how mental and emotional ill-health affects us? I’ve lived it. I still am living it. All the champions have lived it and many still are.
Telling our stories is powerful; not just for the audience listening and perhaps getting an insight into mental health they’d never had before, but also for us.
We should never be ashamed of having mental or emotional ill health. Yet many of us are or have been. I’m not ashamed that I’ve broken bones or had the measles or mumps or chicken pox or other illnesses. I’m not ashamed I have asthma.
It’s high time we stop being ashamed that we have a mental illness. It’s high time society stopped being afraid of people with mental illnesses or judging people unfairly because of them. It’s high time that mental and emotional illness are viewed in the same way as physical illnesses.
I’m now tired and have lost my train of thought, and so this blog post comes to an end.
I’m definitely learning new ways to work digitally, but also new ways to express my creativity as well.
I’ve said it before and I’m amazed at what I’m creating. I never, ever thought that I’d be able to create anything like this, but I have and am doing so.
As usual, I’ve used Autodesk Sketchbook Pro along with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio to express my creativity.
The colours are bright and bold, which seems to be my signature style. They’re quite psychedelic too – all due to my love of playing with complementary colours.
I am child of the 60s in the respect I was born then and have some early memories of the music and art of that period thanks to my older half-sister who is 10 years my senior.
Perhaps I’m expressing my inner hippy. Or maybe I’m just expressing me, Angela.
I’ve said it before that I like to create things that are pretty, beautiful even. I don’t always get it right, but the more I do, the more I learn. I find my confidence little by little.
So, how are you today Angela?
I’m tired but content. My stomach still isn’t right and it’s pulling my energy levels and my ability to concentrate on my art down.
I’ve had my moments of tears in the past day or so when I have been so tired once again. I’m not very resilient to the inner critic when I’m over tired or run down that’s for sure.
When I’m tired the inner critic seems to want to convince me I’m lonely, unloveable and unloved, worthless, useless.
I know when I feel this way to do anything artsy can be a self-defeating task as I’m never satisfied with what what I do and this feeds the inner critic who becomes nastier and nastier.
So, I don’t feed the inner critic and do other things until I find the energy I need to be stronger than the inner critic.
Today I did a little more on this mandala and I’m now doubting it greatly, even though I’m really pleased with it. I can feel the pressure bearing down on me to believe that this is horrible, it’s not as good as I’d like to think it is, that it’s ugly, it doesn’t work, that the black was a huge mistake and I’ll never get it right.
So, instead of sitting and worrying about it I shall go and do something else that the critic could have plenty to say about but it doesn’t bother me all that much. So, I’m working on crocheting a blanket for a friend. I’m not at all sure it’s going to work out; I’m doing a ‘scrap’ blanket to use up yarn from my stash so it’s not going to be planned out and that causes me some concern. However, I shall keep going.
I’ve created two coloring templates for Time To Talk Day, which is tomorrow, and the art above was created using one of them, but more about that later in this wittering.
Time to Change Day and mental health
The whole idea of the day is to get people talking about mental health. Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 of us, yet people are still afraid to talk about it. There’s still a huge stigma surrounding mental ill-health and that leads to discrimination of those experiencing mental illness.
I’m one of the 1 in 4. My cPTSD means that I am constantly anxious and it’ doesn’t take much of a trigger to get me into a full state of panic. I can have bouts of depression, nowadays not as deep or dark as they have been in the fairly recent past. I get emotional flashbacks to times of trauma. I don’t remember many traumatic experiences, but my body remembers the feelings associated with that trauma and I experience them yet again, retraumatising me.
Thanks to EMDR, however, these emotional flashbacks are less common and sometimes aren’t quite as intense, sometimes just as intense.
I have a whole host of other issues related to cPTSD and a quick google will bring back lots of information if you’re interested.
Tomorrow I will have my champions hat on for Time to Change Wales as I go to give an anti-stigma talk to a group of police officers in Ton Pentre and then on to man (woman?) a stand in Port Talbot after that. That means I won’t be parking in the police station car park again after my last experience there!
The anti-stigma talk has me telling people a little about Time To Change Wales, the statistics for mental illness, what stigma and discrimination there are and then I tell my story of my mental illness.
The talks wipe me out emotionally. I end up exhausted and often with what I call an emotional ‘hangover’ – I feel headachy and spaced out, sometimes quite upset too.
However, I consider that a small price to pay if my talks (and my blogs) help one person to recognise their mental health isn’t what it should be, or to find the courage to seek help as they know they are struggling.
It’s also important as meeting champions who have experienced or are experiencing mental health problems helps to break the stereotypes of what people with mental illnesses look like and behave.
I’m well on my path to recovery. I don’t know if that will be a full recovery from cPTSD or whether it will be a good enough recovery that I’m resilient to lifes ups and downs, that I’ll be able to form meaningful relationships, trust people, be able to travel by myself, be able to go places because I can go there not because I have to have some reason…and more.
I know that crowded, noisy places are always likely to be a no no – I don’t appear it, but I am an introvert. I learned to wear a mask of extroversion (among other masks) when I was very young and that mask kind of protects what is beneath it. Wearing that mask is exhausting.
So, back to the art.
I’ve created two coloring templates for Time to Talk Day 2019. Originally they were for the colouring day being run as part of Time to Talk Day at the Welsh Office! I’ve also made the templates available to Time to Change Wales and Mind have copies of them too, so they’ll be available over social media.
To create the art above I used one of the templates as a basis for the art. I think you’ll agree that this is a very different piece of art from me. It’s rather graphic and quite 1960s psychedelic too!
I had a lot of fun doing this artwork and I’m surprisingly happy with the result.
It is digital art; I used my usual trio of Microsoft Surface Studio, Microsoft Surface Pen along with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to create it, along with my creativity.
It’s WIP Wednesday once again over at the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group. This is my current work in progress. I think I’m in touch with my inner bohemian/hippy once again in my colour choices, or maybe I just need a break from all the Christmassy/Winter colour schemes. Perhaps I just need some bright colour in my life at the moment. I do know using bright, vibrant colours always makes me smile.
Today, I picked up the first 12 colours in the new Distress Oxide inks from my fabulous local art shop – Dandie Crafts. I’ve been looking forward to getting them since I saw them launched by Tim Holtz just prior to and during the Creativation 2017 craft show.
The above image is a typical ‘Angela-doodle’ drawn using Sakura Micron and UniBall UniPin pens on a background prepared using the new Distress Oxide inks. Before I let you know what I think of them, here’s a little bit about them.
The Distress Oxide inks are designed by Tim Holtz and made by Ranger. This is the description of them from the Ranger website:
Tim Holtz Distress Oxide Ink Pads are water-reactive dye & pigment ink fusion that creates and oxidized effect when sprayed with water. Use with stamps, stencils, and direct to surface. Blend using Ink Blending Tools and Foam. Re-ink using Distress Oxide Reinkers.
My first job on opening my ink pads was to test them out on different papers so I gained an idea of the colours they’d be, as well as how they react with water. To create these test swatches I stamped two ‘feathers’ with each colour on the paper/card. I then used an ink blending tool to smear some colour onto the paper. Next, I used a wet paintbrush to add water to the second feather before swiping the paintbrush across the smear and adding droplets of water to it.
Here’s the inks on watercolour paper:
Secondly, here they are on Kraft card:
Finally, I made test swatches on black paper:
The first thing I noticed was how easy it was to stamp with the Distress Oxide inks. The original Distress Inks tend to stamp ‘blotchy’ – that’s the nature of them though! These, because of the pigment portion of the formulation, stamp with a more solid line. Not only that, the Distress Oxide inks are much more opaque than Distress Inks.
Blending the Distress Oxide inks using a mini Smoothie blending sponge by Crafter’s Companion was an absolute dream! The inks went on so smoothly and, because they stay wetter for longer than Distress inks. Admittedly, I may not have picked the best paper for applying the Distress Oxide inks to, and there was some unevenness in the blend/smear, but it was much better than I’d manage to get with Distress Inks, unless I used a stencil brush to apply the Distress Inks very thinly and build the layers up.
I don’t think I let the inks dry for long enough before adding water as I did note that some of the pigment moved when I brushed the feather with a wet brush, and the smear. That may be because I used a brush rather than using a spray bottle to mist water on them.
It took longer for the Oxide effect to develop as I’d added more water than a misting would have, but the colours kind of soften on the white watercolour paper, and brighten on the Kraft and black papers. The opacity of the pigment ink is increased by the addition of water, and the colours really seem to glow.
I then just had to go and create a background using the Distress Oxide inks. I used mini ink blending tools this time, and I used Strathmore Bristol paper with a vellum surface. The inks didn’t want to blend all that smoothly on this surface, however I wasn’t really too concerned as I just wanted a background to draw on. When I was happy with the colour blend, I did mist the surface with water to bring up the Oxide effect, as well as to have a few small water splatters on the surface.
The Distress Oxide colours are much more ‘me’ than the original Distress Inks. They’re so creamy and rich in colour thanks to the pigment part. I also love the suede-like feel that results after a light misting with water.
I’m really happy with these new inks and I look forward to experimenting with them more. I plan to use them like watercolour paints, I want to try using stencil brushes with them to blend the colours out, and no doubt I’ll find other ways to make colourful backgrounds for me to draw upon.