I’ve had a few days of periods of intense anxiety/stress. The come down from each of these has left me exhausted and my mind unfocused. I’m much better now that all the appointments related to the anxiety are over, and all is well. I knew it would be, but my mind and emotions have other ideas about that at times!
Anyhoo, as I had a bit of focus yesterday afternoon/evening, I decided to draw a few buttons for Sketchtember Day 17. A few turned into a whole page full of pen drawings! And some really not good hand-lettering, ho hum.
So, I thought I’d spend some chilled out time this morning starting to add colour to some of the buttons.
Ecoline and an insight..
Ecoline Brush Pens were my medium of choice this morning. A lot of the details on the drawings were just a bit too small for marker pens to cope with. Also, I thought a change of medium could be good for me, and it was!
To start with, I scribbled some colour onto a palette and then picked it up with a damp brush and worked with it like watercolour. However, as the areas dried, the intensity of colour faded.
So, I decided to brave trying to directly add colour to the page and then spread it out with a damp brush. It worked! I suddenly realised that I have a much more illustrative way of adding colour, rather than realistic. It’s about time I accepted that and embraced it too!
A page full of different objects, rather than a single illustration, has helped me to realise this, as well as put it into practice.
Now, I just have to remember this insight, which isn’t as easy as you may think!
Perhaps I should write a list of Angela’s Artwork Insights to refer to before I do any work, as well as while I’m working.
Bright and cheerful!
The other thing I really loved was working with these really bright, vibrant colours. I’ve been using a lot of more muted and vintage colours of late, and I love them. But these bright colours were just what I need during a post-anxiety funk.
I took a 6″ square Strathmore artist’s tile and coloured it with Distress Inks. Next, I used Sakura Pigma Sensei 04 and Pigma Micron 01 pens to draw the design. Finally I added some graphite shadows.
This zentangle inspired drawing contains the Zibu symbol for ‘nurture’. Nurture is all about growth and expansion which involves encouraging, nourishing, protecting and caring.
I certainly need to care for myself today. For the past few days anxiety gradually increased as I got closer to meeting my accountant to hand over my paperwork. I was left exhausted after the essential business trip to meet her in a car park to do this. I’m still feeling exhausted, fuzzy headed, and not with it today.
Nurturing myself was an important lesson to learn through EMDR therapy. It’s not an easy lesson for any of us to learn, but it is essential. It’s not just about taking care of the basic needs, it’s about the whole of your being.
Yesterday, this involved quiet time with art, or just sitting and being, and some comforting, as well as nourishing, food. An early night was in order.
My nights sleep was broken and I’m still feeling the effects of the post-stress come-down. But these will pass as the cortisol and other stress hormones gradually leave my body.
On the good side, I was up to creating the cover for the next colouring book after Entangled Starry Skies. So, if the sketch is approved, I can get to inking and colouring it over the next couple of days.
The blue one I drew while trying to settle to sleep in the first place. I was still stressed and wound up after a meeting earlier in the evening. I used light and dark ball point pens as well as a light blue metallic Sakura Gelly Roll pen. It’s an odd kind of drawing for me, but it helped to settle me so I could sleep.
The other one was done between 4:30am and 6:30am when I woke up ruminating about what I said, could’ve said and what others said at the meeting. A sure sign that anxiety reigned, even if I didn’t already recognise it at the time with flushed face, cold sweaty hands and that feeling of being a rabbit caught in the headlights.
Anyway, I picked up the same A5 sketchbook and a kind of pinky-red metallic Sakura Gelly roll pen and just drew. A bit more like my usual kind of abstract art – swirls, curves, circles and teardrop shapes.
Eventually, I got back to sleep for another hour or so. This is nowhere enough for me, so I suspect I’ll want to sleep this afternoon. I’ll try to resist the urge so that I’m really tired when I go to bed tonight.
Even though I’m feeling the knock on effects of the anxiety at the meeting, and the introvert hangover from being with people (yes, it even happens when it’s done via Zoom!), it was worth it.
I’ve been working on this drawing for a few days now and I finally managed to finish it this morning. That means I scan the drawing in, tidy it up digitally and then start to add highlight and shadow to bring out the design against a fairly dark background.
Today, I chose a lovely purple-magenta colour for the background. It seems to go with my mood today. I’m tired. I had a stressed-out day yesterday as my cental heating boiler was repaired and serviced. That meant letting someone into my home, something I’ve not done for months and months.
My ever present social anxiety has been ramped up during the pandemic, and yesterday it was given a huge boost. I know what the repercussions of this are for me – tiredness, upset digestive system and heightened startle response. These symptoms can persist for days, depending on the intensity of the experience.
So, today will be more of a self-care day than anything else. I’m now flagging after four or so hours focus on art.
I want to get my focus and oompf back. I am expecting a delivery of Sculpey polymer clay along with tools and accessories.
I’ve been watching videos on YouTube of makers using polymer clay to cover books. The videos have remined me of how much I liked to work with clay when I was doing my AS/A level art many years ago. So, I thought I’d give it a go, using polymer clay to sculpt my style of drawings in 3D and then paint them.
I don’t know if it’ll work out for me, but there’s no harm in trying it out that’s for sure. I have used polymer clay in the past for making jewellery and it wasn’t all that successful in many ways. Perhaps working on a bit larger scale and being able to add plenty of detail and texture will make it a better experience for me. As well as using a polymer clay that is softer than the Fimo I used way back then. Conditioning that stuff was murder on my joints!
Today’s art is a simple mandala. A cool grey, black and white colour scheme on a soft, calming green background.
Drawn in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro using a Microsoft Surface Slim Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio.
I am emotionally drained, confused and overwhelmed again today. I don’t have much in the way of focus. I was surprised I could complete even this quick and simple mandala.
I don’t have the focus or energy to reflect on the choices of colours and symbols in the mandala and how they relate to messages bubbling up from my unconscious mind.
I feel trapped, caught between a rock and a hard place. I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. The stress of it all is giving me a migraine, upset digestive system and is dragging my mood downwards.
Heck, even the mandala looks like it is either sinking down, pulling itself up or hanging on by the chains of teardrops. That is how I feel, and I had no idea that was how the mandala would appear when finished.
Last weekend, I made a small sketchbook that would hold approx 4″ x 4″ pieces of paper that was held together by book binding rings. I thought this would be a good idea as I like to work on small pieces of paper.
Then, last night I tried taking some prints from alcohol ink designs on A5 paper. I really didn’t want to cut them up to fit into the smaller custom sketchbook. I also didn’t want to use the metal binding rings again.
I woke this morning with the idea to use a disc binding system to create a custom sketchbook-come-art-journal.
I have been using an A5 Arteza mixed-media sketchbook for this, but it has rapidly become very, very wedge-shaped. I also realised that I want something where I can add a variety of sizes and types of paper, as well as move them around to suit my needs. A disc bound system seems to be the best way for me to do this.
I’ve yet to work out a way to make a hard cover for the sketchbook. For now, I made each cover from two sheets of A4 pearlescent card glued together. They’ll be sturdy enough until I work out how to reinforce them in some way.
I decided to place the disc binding on the landscape edge, just for a bit of a change, no other reason. I’ll be able to take the paper out of the binding to work on. This actually suits me just fine as the spines of sketchbooks really irk me when I work in them, be they sewn or spiral bound.
What I also like about the disc binding system compared to the book binding ring is that the holes in the paper are much closer to the edge. It’ll be much easier to leave a ‘margin’ on the paper.
Of course, there’ll be plenty of times when I’ll work in a commercially produced sketchbook still, especially as I’ve now rediscovered the joy of using one again. However, the ability to colour paper, use different kinds of paper and sizes of paper really appeals to me as a variation on the sketchbook theme.
The different sizes of papers also add a bit of intrigue to the sketchbook. There are glimpses of other designs and backgrounds further on that add to curiosity.
I can choose to add notes either to the back of the work or on sheets of dot-grid or squared paper I’ve added.
Nor am I precluded from adding journaling elements such as envelopes and pages with pockets, for instance.
The top page is an abstract drawing I completed this morning. The colour and pattern on the paper (a piece of ClaireFontaine Paint-On mixed media paper) was added by taking a print from alcohol inks on Yupo paper.
I spent some time yesterday evening experimenting with alcohol inks on Yupo paper (a synthetic paper). Once I was happy with what I’d made, I added some Alcohol Lift-Ink and used a brayer to spread it over the design. Quickly, I placed a sheet of mixed-media paper on top and allowed the alcohol inks to be transferred. If you’d like to know more about this technique, pop over to the Lavinia Stamps YouTube channel; they have lots of videos showing how this is done.
The inks lose their vibrance and become more muted when this is done, but it means it’s much easier to draw on the design without wrecking pens in the process.
I used Pitt Artist Pens by Faber-Castell to draw the abstract design on the paper. Once I was happy with the design, I added some metallic/pearlescent paints in shades of orange and yellow to some of the white/pale circles in the design. Sadly, the photograph hasn’t picked this up.
I decided to not to cover the whole paper with the drawn design. I wanted to leave some areas of the background as they were.
I really enjoy working like this – creating a colourful, textured background which I then use as inspiration for the line-work. It is, for me, a very meditative process. Of course, patterns and forms appear that I can then use in future artwork.
Of course, I could choose to intensify the colours in select places using any variety of media. Today, I have chosen to leave this as it is. I may scan it in and try this out digitally at another time.
Digital or Traditional Art?
Both! For me anyway. I do love working in both ways, and using them in concert too.
I love the portability and smaller scale of paper and pen/pencil, as well as using other traditional art and craft media.
I also love creating art digitally, sometimes using backgrounds I’ve created using traditional media or pen and ink drawings.
Each has their pros and cons. Each allows me to do things that the other can’t.
One thing I do know, however, is it takes time to become skillful in each and also to find your own artistic voice (or voices) for each medium used.
Which I use at any given time depends on the style of art I need to do, what kind of ‘finish’ I want with it, and also what my arty heart and soul requires at the time to be content and happy.
No matter which I use, I’m constantly trying new things out, or revisiting old techniques with fresh eyes and ideas. Of course, changing media and methods also freshens up my art and recharges my motivation when it’s in ebb rather than flow.
Stress, motivation and inspiration
This week has been dominated by stress from venturing forth from my home for the first time since March. When I’m anxious/stressed it can be incredibly difficult to settle to anything. Also, I can easily feel overwhelmed by even the simplest tasks. Activities that usually soothe me can irritate me. My ability to focus on anything approaches a vanishing point rather rapidly.
Working in a sketchbook has helped; there is then no pressure to create a finished piece of work, or even to finish any sketch or artwork. It’s just about doing and enjoying and exploring. I let go of my expectations of artistic success and replace them with expectations of finding some peace and contentment in the whirl of emotions I experience at times like this.
I find it hard to be motivated to create, and even more difficult to find inspiration. I tend to slip back into old, familiar and self-comforting styles of creating art.
Hence this style of abstract art.
Even when I do slip into a familiar style, the art produced may be familiar, but it’s moved along, altered either subtly or more noticeably showing the progress I’m making artistically. It also reflects the current variations in the particular fugue that my artistic voice wants to sing to satisfy it. My artistic voice, song, doesn’t have one tune, it has many, plenty of which are yet to be discovered.
It was a morning for some simple art. Art just for fun, relaxation and self-soothing. So, I thought that small watercolour gradient panels with really simple drawings on them and metallic and pearlescent paint highlights would be perfect.
For the first time ever I managed to create smooth colour gradients with watercolour. The secret, for me, was using a mix of water and gum arabic to wet the paper before applying the colour. Of course, working on such small pieces of watercolour paper helped. Still, it’s a personal achievement!
Once the panels were all done, itseemed a good idea to mount the little panels on some 4″ x 4″ blank cards. So I did just that and added a few more cards to my stash.
Stress and self-care
I had a really poor night’s sleep after the stress of my trip out to the pharmacy yesterday. I woke around 2:30am with a splitting headache and found it hard to get back to sleep. When I did, my alarm went off and woke me with quite a jolt.
I’d set my alarm last night as Wednesday is my delivery day with Able & Cole, and I like to get the deliver in and stored asap.
Once the delivery had come, around 6:30am. I had breakfast and then went back to bed to sleep.
I’m feeling a bit more centred and content now, but I’m still exhausted. So, today will be a quiet, self-care kind of day for me. I’ll be doing my best not to give in to the temptation to take a nap this afternoon so that I can sleep myself our properly tonight.
I’ve had a stressful couple of days to say the least and all my plans to edit templates and create new ones went out of the window. It was like I had ‘ants in my pants’ and I just couldn’t settle to anything that required concentration and focus.
Last night I was beginning to settle a bit. I’d had some news that had helped to calm me a little, but not enough. While I was attending an online talk, I drew this design on watercolour paper. I used a 05 Sakura Pigma Micron pen. I also scanned the finished drawing into the ‘puter. I really like this drawing, I have to say.
This morning, I wanted to start the day with something relaxing and meditative, so I broke out the watercolour pencils. I have a collection of Derwent Aquatone and Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer. I used them to colour the trios of large flowers at the bottom left and bottom right. For the small flowers, leaves, tendrils and the large flowers at the top I used White Knight watercolours.
I found the watercolour perncils slow and laborious on such a large scale, and I had to lay down layers to get the intensity of colour I like. However, they did mean I could control the gradients a lot more.
On larger flowers, watercolours frustrate me a bit. I can’t seem to get to the right amount of dampness so that colours will flow one into another.
I also found that by drawing the flowers to begin with, I felt compelled to paint each petal one at a time, and I found that may work against me in terms of making the most of watercolour.
Watercolour has always been a medium that vexes and frustrates me, and it’s continuing to do so at times, even as I explore adding colour. I think I’m realising that the best way for me to work with watercolor is by using it for backgrounds which I then draw upon and add more colour to the drawings.
Or, its where I make use of the randomness of loose watercolour, droping colours into a damp surface where they can bloom, flow and blend as they will, without me trying to make them anything in particular. Then, I can draw on this, picking out shapes and colours, bringing structure to where there is none, and I can get intricate with the details too.
Anyway, with the flowery drawing above, I tried to add details using some Paul Rubens metallic watercolours to add patterns of dots, as well as drawing more black or white lines onto the drawing. I really don’t feel they worked out at all well.
I knew this was going to be a bit of an experiment, and I have plenty of flowers to try out different media, such as Inktense pencils, and maybe adding more lines to to add more detail before I start coloring.
It’s been a nice way for me to spend Saturday morning, lost in art whilst listening/watching season 1 of The Clone Wars. I think I’ll continue to watch that this afternoon as I turn my attention to drawing.
Deer skull, Mycena interrupta and inaflux tangle pattern.
Digital drawing done using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro with a Microsoft Surface Pen and Surface Studio.
I’ve used a lot of geometric patterns in the skull to create depth and interest.
I kept the other elements quite simple and, for now, uncoloured. Mycena interrupta, the mushrooms, are a lovely blue colour.
Instead, of adding colour I used a copper background and added my drawing on top of it using the screen option. This has resulted in it seeming to glow a little. I quite like this effect.
There’s a very good reason I’ve not coloured this drawing yet. I am absolutely bushwhacked. I had a busy, nervy day yesterday followed by a long drive home mostly in the dark, heavy rain and high winds. I was too tired even to eat when I got in and was glad to go to my bed and sleep.
The Wales Health at Work Partnership Summit proved to be an interesting time. I was there to chat to people, along with Russell, the community outreach officer for Hafal who also works with Time to Change Wales to organise us champions, amongst other things, and Nicole, a newly changed champion from North Wales. I was also there to give a ten minute talk about my experience of mental illness while at work and the stigma, discrimination I faced as well as the helpful and not helpful things that were said or done. Russell said I did great, as did the other panel members.
So, I did more than my bit for World Mental Health Day.
I’m feeling really dozy again now, so I think I’m going to go and sleep for a while. It’s not just the two four and a half hour drives, not sleeping well away from home that has tired me out. It’s also the anxiety and stress and being with lots of people in noisy environments that has tired me out. It’s going to take today, maybe tomorrow, to recover fully. So, self-care is the order of the day for me.
This tiredness is worth it though. Plenty of people came to tell me how helpful they found my talk and how well I had spoken and I had given them things to think about.
Raising awareness of mental illness and that sometimes it’s the littlest things that can make the biggest difference to someone experiencing mental illness.
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.