Time to Talk day, Hirameki fun and a partly coloured doodleedoo.

Time to Talk 2017

Yesterday was Time to Talk day; a day with the focus on encouraging people to talk, especially about mental health in order to help to end the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness experience.  Many celebrities and organisations supported this day, which is brilliant!

I’m a champion for Time to Change Wales.  This means I volunteer to go to events, businesses and organisations to encourage people to talk about mental health, as well as to tell my story of my mental health problems and the stigma and discrimination I’ve faced, as well as the help and understanding I’ve been given and the little things that employers did that helped me to remain in teaching for as long as I did.

It was quite appropriate that the first time I went to tell my story was on Time to Talk day!  I went to Remploy in Pontypridd and talked to both the employees and some of their service users.  Bev from Time to Change Wales was there to support me the first time I did this.

Getting the powerpoint presentation sorted was a major job for me and showed me how much my concentration has been affected by my extended bouts of anxiety/depression in the past few years.  It took me forever to add just five slides to the presentation!

Telling my story was easy, yet at the same time it was difficult.  It opened up some sores, brought back things I thought I’d left behind when I left teaching, and had me in tears at some points, which resulted in me making some self-stigmatising statments such as ‘sorry, I’m being stupid with these tears’ and then saying that was self-stigmatising.

I got through it.  Bev, the longest serving champion who’s done over 100 anti-stigma talks, said I did well.  People thanked me for sharing my story.

It was a good thing to do.

I came home emotionally drained and well out of sorts though.  I’m feeling a bit more me today, but still drained.  It was still worth it, still a good thing to do, especially if it gave one person what they needed to get the help or to talk about mental health themselves.

Arty goings on

One of the things I do to help re-balance me when I’ve been drained/overly emotional/triggered as I was yesterday is to have a nap.  The other thing is to do art.

Art has been my great source of solace and peace for me during my worst times, and it continues to be so.

I partly coloured in a doodle-type drawing, using my Copic markers this time.

After the talk yesterday, I had a wander to Churchill’s stationery in Pontypridd to pick up some art supplies.  There, I found a little book called Hirameki:Draw what you see by Peng and Hu.

“In the beginning was the blot.

A flash of inspiration, a light bulb moment, a stroke of genius…

With just a few strokes of the pen and a dash of your imagination hirameki gives a sublime and unexpected sense of satisfaction and delights the hand, eye and mind.  The little blot will reveal its true self.

Hirameki: pleasure from the smallest things.”

From ‘Hirameki: Draw What You See’ by Peng and Hu.

So, I had to have a go at this!  Here’s my first go at it…

I had a lot of fun, both making the blobs of colour and then trying to let my imagination run free.  I found out, however, that my imagination isn’t what I thought it was, or that it is rusty and out of use.  I will persevere, however, as there are some characters/objects there that I can make use of in my doodly style of art!  They’ll be added to my visual vocabulary/library in my zibaldone.

Happy 2017, and a personal review of 2016

angela-porter-winter-2016_05_coloured
See the end of the post for the line art version if you’d like to download, print and copy for yourself!

I know, it’s a little early, but I thought I’d post this today, as well as a bit of a personal review of the past year.

2016 has been an interesting year for me, one of some major changes in my life.

It started with me being a science teacher, off again on long-term sickness due to a recurrent bout of intense anxiety and depression.  I was so distressed about having to return to work as a teacher, about what else I could do.  I couldn’t think straight.  My capacity to read and understand what I was reading or remember it was severely impaired.  I had trouble going out of my home.  Anything to do with my job caused me an intensifying of these symptoms and the most distressing nightmares I’ve ever had.

Teaching has changed so much in the 28 years I was a science teacher.  The pressures have increased, both in terms of workload and behaviour/attitudes of the students that is a reflection of how society has changed too. All of this resulted in triggers for my depression/anxiety/low self-esteem/low confidence.being overwhelmed by even little things.  No matter how well people told me I was doing as a teacher (senior teachers, colleagues, inspectors (I never had less than outstanding in the last two inspections I was seen teaching in), I never believed them and thought it was just a fluke.

Because of this, I kind of knew that I’d have to leave teaching, but didn’t know if I could do so financially.  I’m single, responsible for all my bills and so on, so whatever I did I had to make sure I had some kind of financial security.

Eventually, I made the decision to leave teaching and to become a self-employed artist/illustrator based on the success of the adult colouring books I’ve done (of which there are now many – listed on my amazon author page), and that happened in the early part of the summer, officially.

This was, arguably, the best decision I’ve made for a long time.  The difference it is making to my mood/mental health, as well as progress in counselling is quite remarkable.  My only worry at the moment is my first tax return and tax bill in the early part of next year!

I know I have a lot to do to create a portfolio and to come up with projects that will keep contracts coming my way, but I do have some breathing space at the moment, with just one book to be completed asap.

On the back of this decision, my home had a major clear out, again in the early summer.  Though it’s not entirely finished, enough progress has been made for now. I now need to have a major de-stash of art materials to make space for either new, or just easier organisation of the materials i use most often.

I also discovered I have quite strong views politically about how our society should be a lot more caring of those who need help, for whatever reason, and how important the British NHS is and how much more it should be valued by those in power in the country, and not just seen as a cash cow for their buddies and supporters.  It took me a long time, but I finally worked out that my beliefs/views politically mostly aligned themselves with the traditional Labour Party (not ‘new Labour’, which seems to me just a lighter shade of blue than the Conservative Party).  So, I joined the Labour Party.  Yet to make it to my first meeting, but no doubt I will do.

I also have become involved with Time to Change Wales as a Champion.  This is an organisation whose campaign is to end the stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental illness.  I’ve yet to tell my story at an event, but that’s on the cards for sometime in the early part of 2017.  Again, this is something I have strong feelings about, especially the self-stigma that prevented me from recognising and accepting I had a mental illness (complex post traumatic stress disorder(cptsd)) and seeking help.

I am really grateful that I did recognise the cptsd, and have made the major change of going self-employed as a way of looking after myself and being happy in how I earn a living, and it doesn’t even seem like work most of the time!

I’m grateful for those who have stuck with me through thick and thin, offering me the support and encouragement that they are able to.

I’m grateful to those who have created difficult circumstances for me, and those circumstances have either shown me how far I’ve come along in healing, or where I need to focus some attention on as my counselling continues.

So, thank you 2016 for moving me forward in my life with the challenging events, for showing me how far I’ve come along in my healing journey, and for the fun and laughter that have helped me keep going.

Thank you to all those who have believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, who have given me amazing opportunities to create and share art with others via the medium of adult colouring books, and I look forward to all the opportunites that come along in 2017 for me to continue to create and share with others.


Here, as promised, is the line art for the image above.  If you’d like to download/print and colour, please do so.  All I ask is you respect my copyright, you use it just for personal use, not for commercial gain, and if you share your coloured image, please link back to my blog.Enjoy, and thank you!

angela-porter-winter-2016_05

How I spent the last three days…

I have to admit that I, like so very many others, spent the Christmas period alone (except for a couple of hours playing Trivial Pursuit at my little sisters on Christmas night).  It’s not the first Christmas that this has happened, but it’s one in a very long succession of solitary Christmases.

I feel the pressure from society and the media greatly at this time of the year; the pressure to be in a happy family, showered with gifts and food and company and loving intimacy.

The image we’re sold that we can’t possibly be happy unless we’re part of a big, loving, happy family and in a meaningful, happy, loving relationship is a trigger point for my mood, for unlocking the kennel of the black dog that can nip at my heels all too often.

This year, though, I’m happy to say that the black dog didn’t visit as often or as long as it has in the past many, many years.  Oh, I’ve had my moments, but I’ve survived better than I have for a very long time, most probably 20 years or so.

What helped is indulging myself in my coping strategies – creating art, making music, reading, cat cuddling and generally being creative (which currently means knitting baby blankets for my neice who is expecting twins in 3 to 4 months time).  Also, avoiding social media – facebook especially – has helped too.

Reminding myself that I’m not at the point in my healing journey from the cptsd (complex post traumatic stress disorder) that I experience that I feel able to have healthy relationships has also helped.  It’s a work in progress, the healing that is.

Another sign of my recovery from the trials and tribulations of the cptsd that I experience is that I made a little effort to add some ‘decorations’ for the Winter Solstice/Yule/Christmas season, which include a trio of small, knitted christmas trees, which kept me a little occupied in the days/weeks leading up to this time, as well as knitting and needle felting some bacteria and viruses for a pharmacist I met at an event I attended as a Time to Change Wales champion.

So, now the next event that can cause the black dog to find some strength is New Year’s Eve…

…which I can survive by using my super-power of being creative to help me cope.

The piece of art above has been done over the past 3 days.  The black outlines were drawn first, followed by a base layer of Ranger’s Distress Inks applied with Clarity Stencil brushes.

I then used the Distress Inks as watercolours to intensify the colours in various places as well as to add the colour to the berries/seeds/buds.

Next, I used Cosmic Shimmer’s Iridescent Watercolour paints to add some shimmer in large areas, before adding detailed patterns using coloured pencils (I chose to use my Mitsubishi Uni Pencils for this).

Finally, I added metallic and ‘glittery’ sparkle using Sakura’s Gold Gelly Roll Metallic pen and a Clear Star Gelly Roll pen.

I was rather restrained for me by leaving areas just coloured, not embellished to high heaven and back! The areas I have added texture/pattern to stand out more and it’s not quite so overwhelming.

This could mean my artistic skills are maturing a little.

The most important thing, however, is that I enjoyed the process of creating this large (for me) piece of art. The paper I used is A3 in size, and the drawing is approx 9.5″ x 14.5″.

When I finally figure out how to price my art (any one wishing to offer help/advice/suggestions on this, then it will be gratefully recieved) I may put it up for sale on Etsy.