My current work in progress is a mandala. Also, I’m using my line art as a guide for the coloured areas which is quite different for me to do. No black lines in the finished design. Not a one will there be.
I’m working digitally using my trusty trio of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pen and Microsoft Surface Studio. I have also chosen a coloured, texture background for the design to sit/float upon.
Just as a guide, it took me an hour or so to draw out the mandala design. So far I’ve spent around 6 hours on adding the colour and so on – and that’s with the help of the symmetry tool in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. If I’d had to do each section individually it would’ve taken me eight times as long!
You can see I still have a lot to do, so it’s going to be a long term project for sure.
I’m actually enjoying this one. It’s been rather soothing to do given that I’ve not been feeling too well with some kind of upset tummy. I’m still not fully well today but I am feeling a fair bit better than I did yesterday, thank goodness.
So, how are you feeling today Angela?
Other than still feeling not too well physically with some kind of dodgy tummy, I’m quite contented.
Contented is good enough I think. I’m being creative, quietly so. I’m enjoying listening to Audible (currently it’s “Fatal Alliance” the first in the Star Wars Old Republic series of books. This one is authored by Sean Williams) as I’m being artsy. However, as I type I’m listening to the Maroon 5 station on Amazon Music. I can’t write and listen to a book!
To go back to my mental and emotional health, I feel quite content and my anxiety levels are at the manageable background levels, which is barely noticeable unless I focus on them. That is good enough for me, though I do know that it doesn’t take much for them to be triggered.
The CPTSD hair triggers that lead to emotional flashbacks. Not clear memories of a traumatic event, the emotional memories of a series of similar events that tapped into the stored trauma of the first traumatic event, reinforcing the trauma again and again and again.
That’s one way in which CPTSD is different to PTSD.
As I become more aware of my emotions and what can trigger an emotional response I’m more able to manage how I interact (or not) with the world until that trigger no longer affects me.
All part of self care which is so important.
My recovery from CPTSD is a work in progress, something I won’t stop until I’m good enough in terms of my mental and emotional wellbeing as well as my relationship with myself.
I’ve had a quiet morning at home today and have taken the opportunity to have some self-care time, which for me means adding more colour to this design.
I’ve had three emotionally tiring days in a row; EMDR on Monday and anti-stigma talks on Tuesday and Wednesday. I also had two longish trips on Tuesday to Swansea and then Hereford in absolutely horrid weather.
I had a good sleep last night, but I still feel exhausted and I have one more anti-stigma talk to do in Cwmbran this afternoon. All done in my role as a champion for Time to Change Wales.
I could just curl up in bed and sleep again now, but the shower is calling me and I need to sort myself out for that trip to Cwmbran.
Some might say I’m doing too much. Possibly. But it’s important stuff talking about mental health in the aim of raising awareness, understanding and reducing the stigma and discrimination that exists around mental illness.
Yes, I may be exhausted afterwards. Yes, I may need self-care time for a day or so. But it’s important to do this. It’s important to me.
If I’d known more about what a healthy mind and healthy emotions are when I was younger maybe, just maybe I could’ve sought out help and it may have been easier to achieve recovery.
Maybe I would’ve been more self-aware and able to make better life choices so I didn’t add to the trauma I already carried within me. Maybe I would’ve been wiser and cared a little more about myself and not given so much of myself.
If I can help people to recognise that their mental or emotional health isn’t as it could be and to find a way to change that without fear of stigma or discrimination then I think it’s worth it.
That’s why I do it. Even when I myself am emotionally drained from it. I know I’ll recover. I know that on my way home today I’m likely to get some nice food to cook this evening, maybe even some Ben and Jerry’s Karamel Sutra, and I would like to settle down and watch some Star Wars.
I also want to get some cotton yarn. I had a book in the post at the weekend that has crochet patterns in it for what the American’s call ‘market bags’ and we in the UK call ‘shopping bags’. Crocheted, netting, pretty, reusable, personalised in terms of colour and embellishments.
I shall look forward to an evening of such self care tonight. A chance to properly stop, breathe and relax.
The work in progress so far. I am definitely learning new tricks, though I’m not quite sure if they’re all easily visible in the reduced sized image for the interwebs.
A nice way to spend an hour or two after an anti-stigma talk this morning to a group of South Wales Police officers. I’m emotionally whacked out. I do have to go out to an appointment shortly, however, otherwise I’d definitely be asleep before too much longer if not already!
I am noticing that as I tell my story of my mental illness I’m getting more in touch with some of my emotions. It used to be that I would just tell my story with little emotion being visible to anyone else. I seem to be getting more emotional about my story, sometimes almost overwhelmed by it.
The ice-maiden melteth, mayhaps.
I do know that when I get emotional I get so tired afterwards.
I just hope that telling my story helps people in someway and goes some way to helping end stigma and discrimination around mental illness.
As well as working on templates for my latest book, I like to have some personal artwork on the go.
These two are the current works in progress. The dragon is partly through having the patterns added to it. I’m not sure about the circular fill pattern yet, hence the break from it. I also wanted to include some dangles, especially as his front paws seemed to be quite the right shape/posture to be holding the threads of the dangles betwixt the talons. As this is a digital drawing (I did start with a sketch on paper with pencil which I scanned in), it’s easy enough to edit and alter. Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro were my tools for the dragon.
The other has all the linework finished. Like the dragon, I’ve added a ready-made background I purchased from Creative Market ahead of me adding colour, in this case it will be primarily blue. The symbol is a Zibu symbol that represents release. Again this is something that ties in with my EMDR journey. Part EMDR is about processing and releasing past trauma. Of course, the symbol does look like a fancy ‘h’ or maybe a capital ‘L’. This was drawn on bristol board with Sakura Pigma Micron pens; it’s postcard sized.
Yesterday was a funny day for me. I thought I had a meeting in the morning only to discover that I was two weeks early! That’ll teach me to read my emails properly rather than assuming the meeting would be, as it has been, on the first Saturday of the month. I then had an event in the late afternoon to attend and I didn’t get home from that to nigh on 8pm and I was absolutely shattered, so just needed some quiet time.
The weather has changed here in the UK, as is it’s wont. Wild, windy and wet over night and it’s still wet today. I’m not sure if it’s the weather, me being tired, it being the eve of therapy, or any possible combination that has mee feeling a tad low and flat today. I’m happy to stay inside today in the warm and dry, taking my time over doing things.
I do have some templates for the latest book sketched out, but not sure I want to ink them in at the moment.
Another mug of mocha is needed I think…before I decide what to do.
Francine Shapiro is the person who developed EMDR therapy and this quote from her exemplifies what I’ve becoming more and more aware of through my three and a half years of EMDR.
Today, I am really ‘not with it’ and feeling quite spacey and vague and very tired. I had a broken night’s sleep with very, very weird and disturbing dreams. This often happens after EMDR.
I know that I need some self-care time today, and maybe tomorrow given how I’m presently feeling. I’m also in need of a walk outside, but I’m awaiting a delivery from Amazon. I hope it arrives soon so I can get a walk in early this afternoon.
There were two particularly significant moments during my session yesterday.
The first one was a result of a suggestion by my therapist that I’m keeping secrets about things that have happened to me, particularly in my adult life. There are things I’m too, too ashamed and embarrassed about to talk about even with her. My throat closes up and becomes painful. I feel burning in my cheeks. There’s terror and huge anxiety in the pit of my stomach. She went on to say that in the article she had read it was suggested that clients write about these experiences. She suggested I do that. She added she did not need to read them or be told about them, that she can act as a ‘blind therapist’ where we just assign a code to the particular traumatic event and work with it that way. She even suggested I can burn the things I write after writing them so no one else can ever read them.
The relief I felt with this suggestion and discussion was immense. The discussion that ensued was enlightening in another way. That I’ve never ever really spoken to anyone about my feelings, especially when I was the one upset, hurt, abused in some way. I always put a smiley, brave face on and brushed all the emotions to one side, defaulting to the happy, funny, quick to laugh, person who chatters about faff and fluff.
By pushing away all that hurt and upset and so on I’ve also tried to tell myself that it’s ok, I can cope with this, that I’m incredibly caring about other people and their feelings and want them to be happy. Scared that if I spoke truly about how I was feeling that I would be rejected or that the other person(s) would become angry and would hate me and think badly of me.
So, instead, I brushed it all aside and swallowed it down, often with food, using the food to fill the emptiness within me, to hide the feelings of shame and fear and more. I’ve done this so much in my past that I’m having to learn what emotions feel like and what they are called as they crop up during EMDR.
I was with my older sister and younger brother visiting the British Museum and we stumbled upon the Sutton Hoo treasures. I was entranced by them, only having seem them previously in books. It was hard work to drag me away from the to go visit the mummies in the Egyptology section. My older sister said she’d never seen me so emotional and excited about something; she actually called me an ice maiden as I rarely showed any emotion at all, other than the happy, smiley, funny persona I put across. I was in my twenties then. No idea of emotions or how to express them, swallowing them down all the time.
So, writing about these experiences now, from a position where I understand more about myself, am more aware of emotions and feelings will mean that they are no longer secret, it doesn’t matter that others don’t know about them, but it’s important that I don’t keep secrets from myself and face up to the traumas and feelings I have suppressed from these events.
The second insight was during EMDR when I had a vision of myself looking into one of those mirrors that reflects things to infinity, but in this case it was like the reflections went around and around in a circle. The insight was that this is what has happened to me. I’ve got caught in a cycle of the same kind of things happening again and again – different but the same effects on me, the trauma they’ve caused me and continue to cause me as instead of knowing how to process them in a healthy manner I learned from a very young age to suppress anything I needed to talk about or needed help with because I was upset as no one wanted to know. I was bothersome. A whiner. An attention seeker. A liar. When I was upset the people supposed to care got angry with me. Or just ignored me. Or sent me away.
I am unaware of much of my past, particularly my childhood. I have few memories at all. That bothers me, but my therapist tells me I need to let it just be. People like me, who’ve had quite traumatic lives, often forget what has happened to them as a way of protecting themselves from that particular trauma, especially when there is no one they can talk to about it to help them work through it.
My past really does affect my present. However, I’m becoming more aware of the ways in which it has affected me, more aware that I do have emotions, and I’m trying to believe I deserve to think better of myself, that maybe I didn’t deserve any of this, and that although I’ve allowed things to happen to me I shouldn’t be so hard on myself as I need to understand why, what brought me to that point, why I can’t say ‘no’ easily.
So the quote is very appropriate.
About the art
This is very much a work in progress at the moment.
I printed out the quote and borders on Bristol Board. The design is a little less than A5 in size (4.5″ x 7.25″ approx). Then, I added the patterns around it using two Pilot Kakuno fountain pens – one with a medium nib and one with a broad pen.
After scanning the design in, I wanted to add colour to it, so I used my trusty trio – Microsoft Surface Pen, Microsoft Surface Studio and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.
I think the dark stars at the top could symbolise those parts of me I’d like to ignite after they were extinguished a long, long time ago – confidence, self esteem, the ability to say no, valuing myself, being a good friend to myself, and more …
The tangled nature of the design, with many parts seeming to blend one into another, sometimes not in a very comfortable manner, is like all the trauma and experiences I have had – a tangled mess where I pull on one thing in EMDR and a whole host of others come along with it, all linked by a common effect or effects they had on me.
Flowers blooming, leaves all signs of growth though, even if some are hidden at the moment.
I’m sure there’s more that could be said about it in terms of my journey of recovery from cPTSD along with developing mental and emotional wellbeing. However, not today as the chap from Amazon has delivered the parcels to me. In them are some basic things for me to try my hand at paper quilling.
I’ve been fascinated with some youtube videos on paper quilling, particularly the more modern forms and I was also struck at how some of them seem to be similar to my kind of drawing that has lots of spirals and swirls in it. So, I thought I’d have a go and see what I can do with it!
But first, it’s time for a walk … to see if that can help clear my head a little. I think a little trip to Barry Sidings is in order.
I think all the line work is done on this design. I say ‘think’ because I’ll leave it to one side for a little while and come back to it with fresh eyes later on today to decide if I need to add details anywhere.
I also need to decide whether I just add shading/shadow in greys or whether I colour the design, or create a coloured background, or re-colour the lines, or any combination of these possibilities!
Shadows really help with increasing the sense of dimensionality of the design, as can colour. That’s the one thing I do like to do with my art once I’ve drawn it -create dimensionality, especially if I can manage to make it look like different elements are not just layered but are on different planes.
I have other decisions to make too. Whether to add shadow/colour digitally or whether to do this with traditional media. I do tend to favour digital colouring because of the wide range of colours and vibrancies available, and also it’s easy on my achy joints. The same applies to markers such as Chameleons or Copics; they require a lot less pressure than pencils and the wider barrels make it easy for me to grip them when my joints hurt, as they are today with the colder weather.
So, I need to have a bit of a break and come back to this image with a clearer idea of what to do. I also need some breakfast – it’s getting on for 11am here in the UK and I got so engrossed in completing the artwork after showering that I’ve not had tea or any thing to eat yet. That could help me with making those decisions about this drawing.
It’s WIPWednesday over on the Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans facebook group today. #wipwednesday
It’s also #wednesdaywisdom or #wisdomwednesday, so my wisdom for the day is if you’re not sure what to do with a drawing, colouring or anything else, just take a break from it and come back with fresh eyes and a fresh mind.
Do this especially if you think it’s not working out for you. Come back to it and push through that doubt. There’s always a point part-way through any art I create where I think what I’ve done is awful and I just want to destroy it and throw it away, but I’ve learned to either push through those doubts or to take a break and come back to it later with the intention of completing it.
Even if you don’t like the end result, learn from the process and work out what hasn’t worked for you. Focus on which parts you like and why you like them.
Even then, don’t throw it away or destroy it. Leave it aside for days or weeks and then come back to it. Your mood will have changed. You’ll really have fresh eyes and you’ll notice different things about it. It may be that the bits you didn’t like are actually the ones you now really, really like.
Make use of those bits in future work. I think that’s how we learn and grow as creatives. if we’re outside what we usually do or make choices of colour or pattern or shape etc that we’d not usually do we’re usually uncomfortable with that change. Once we’ve taken a break from that uncomfortable feeling and are able to look back on the artwork we can appreciate it far more.
Even if we still end up disliking it, we can learn from that as to what is ‘right’ for us and what doesn’t work for us and use those lessons in future works.
Today I thought you’d like to see my current work in progress, including the tools I’m using for it – Unipin Pens from Uniball and a mechanical pencil.
The pencil was only used for drawing the margins delineating the space within which I’m working. This helps stop me run off the page as well as keeping my mind’s desire for straight-ish edges happy.
This has already taken some hours to complete; I’m not sure how many as I don’t really keep track of my time. I know that I may get it finished at some point this evening (I’m writing this mid-morning UK time) if I manage to get all my errands and other tasks done in a timely fashion.
My process is quite simple really. I start with a motif somewhere on the page, a simple outline shape. I then add detail to this shape. I then let shapes flow out from this point, first drawing the foundation lines, then adding the detail.
Finally, I’ll decide if I’m going to add shadows/shading and with what medium I’ll do that. Sometimes I may decide to colour the image, or digitally alter the colours of the lines or background.
If I decided to draw digitally, my steps are the same, though I may start with a sketch on paper of the main lines in the design so I can make sure I have some reference to the actual scale of the design.
Oh, and I rarely draw in pencil first when I work directly on paper. The only times I do is when I may use circle stencils or french curves to add a large curve/shape. Mostly, it’s pen without any pencil guides.
I work very intuitively; I just let the lines and patterns flow in a way that is pleasing to my eye and mind at the time I draw designs such as these.