Letting go. Handing it all over to God.

“Father, I feel you nudging me to write another post. I hear you and obey. Soften my heart and mind and help me to allow the Holy Spirit to speak through me, giving me the words and story you most want me to tell. In Jesus name, Amen.”

It may seem strange to see my posts now beginning with a prayer. For me, with the changes in my life, it makes more sense than ever. I want God to guide me and I want Him to know that I want his guidance. Prayer is my intentional way of letting Him know.

I feel compelled to write a bit about my story.

In 2014, I was diagnosed with breast cancer but prior to that I had been intentionally living a life that was taking me farther and farther away from God and my beliefs. My rational mind gave me all kinds of reasons which gave me permission to do this. The main reason was to satisfy my desire for happiness in my life. It didn’t matter where I looked, happiness was only temporary which just kept me searching for it until my life came to a screeching halt.

My diagnosis of breast cancer had not been a huge surprise. I had lived in denial over the lump for quite a while but life intervened in such a way as to make me finally take responsibility and have it looked into.

I handled this diagnosis like I did everything in my life. I got the information from the doctors I needed. Then I researched it to death. By the time the day of my first surgery arrived, I knew all the alternative treatments. What I could afford or not afford of those treatments and even knew the type of anesthesia and pain control medicines I should or should not take. This of course all happened after I was told by my surgeon who did the biopsy that I definitely had breast cancer but the most common and treatable kind. That day I sat in his office like a zombie, hearing and yet not hearing what he had to say and what he saw as my options.

You would think this diagnosis, the surgeries and treatment would have turned me back to God. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I prayed. I was angry. I was furious that this was happening to me when I had an 11 year old daughter to take care of. But it didn’t change my direction in regards to my relationship with Him. All it did was bring my life to a screeching halt. What I had been pursuing stopped completely. I had no direction other than to just get through this.

There were problems with chemo. After my third treatment complications threatened my life, so I stopped chemo and all treatments including their recommendation for radiation treatment. They recommended these things even though they had no proof I still had cancer in my body. The surgeries I went through and the tests they did of the lymph nodes and breast tissue indicated they got everything but they have no proof because there are no instruments strong enough to detect single cells of cancer. In fact, the devices they have today only detect cancer if it has begun to cluster where there are at least millions if not billions of cells. My last treatment was two days before Christmas in 2014 and since then there has been no since of cancer. This December will be 5 years of being cancer free. Five years seems to be a milestone for determining if someone is cured or healed from their cancer diagnosis. It doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t come back. It just means according to their statistics, the chances of it returning are lowered greatly. I don’t hold much stock in statistics. I seem to defy them all in some way or another, usually for the better.

In 2015, we decided to celebrate the end of my cancer treatments and started looking for a house to buy. We found one and bought it, moved in August 2015, and from all appearances it looked like life for me and my daughter was looking up. We were better off financially than we had been renting. Had a larger place than we had when renting. And we had plans to slowly improve our new home.

Then, January 2016 arrived in an unexpected and devastating way. I was informed that my position which I held for over 30 years was being eliminated and I was being laid off. This news hit me harder, much, much harder than my cancer diagnosis. It threatened the very foundation of my ability to take care of my daughter. I am the sole income earner. I get no child support. I have no other source of income. This news came to me and completely destroyed the foundation I stood upon that helped me feel safe and secure and positive in my belief that I could care for my daughter on my own. Every future my imagination could come up with ended up with us losing our new home and being thrown out on the street to live. I was terrified.

I had 8 weeks to find a job within the company but every job I looked into, I was told I did not qualify for even if I was willing to relocate me and my daughter using my own money. I came to realize this company had no intentions of keeping me on as their employee no matter how much they told me I could look for an internal job to transfer to. I started looking externally.

It looked like everything was falling into place with a new job I applied for. I was hired to start only 2 days after my layoff date. In a matter of 6 weeks, I had an emotional breakdown in the office and was unable to perform my job. At the advice of my doctor to take three months off, I had to quit since I was still in my probationary period. Prior to the breakdown, I was their top performer.

This breakdown added another layer to my terror. I had discovered the limit of what I could endure. My doctor prescribed medication to help. After three months I started applying for other jobs. I applied for all the jobs I knew I could do which were mostly a subset of the job I had been laid off from. I received no call backs. This went on for a year and in that time I had only two interviews. I lived that whole year in terror.

In May of 2017, I looked at my prescription and discovered what was supposed to be short term, I had now been on a year. I didn’t know where that year had gone. I couldn’t really remember it other than I had submerged myself into drawing, painting, mixed media, and ink. I loved that aspect of having all day to play in my art supplies. I went to my doctor, told him I didn’t want to be on the medication anymore but asked him to provide a prescription for emergencies when I felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. He did.

Finally, in July 2017, I was hired as a cashier earning minimum wage. My financial advisor said this would be enough to eliminate the shortfalls in my retirement. But I soon learned it wouldn’t be enough because of how much time it had taken for me to find a job. I lived that whole year off of my savings from my severance package. Working part-time at minimum wage also meant I would have to continue pulling money from my savings and reducing my retirement funds.  I used the emergency prescription intermittently as I learned I could cope in my new job and then not at all when I realized I really enjoyed interacting with the customers. As a replacement I started to use GABA which was sufficient from then on when I needed something to calm my nerves, except in a few situations.

Almost a year later (April 2018, 2 years by now), I was still living in terror over my financial situation. I was still applying for jobs, hoping to find a full time job or a part-time job that would pay more but again no call backs or out of the one or two call backs I received that ended up in interviews, none ended up in any job offers.

I still could only see in my future, my daughter and I being thrown out of our house and living on the street if we couldn’t pay our bills. You might wonder why and think my imagination is extreme but it isn’t. Renting an apartment in our city isn’t any cheaper than the mortgage payment I have for our home, in fact it can be more expensive than a mortgage. Housing is in high demand in this fast growing city. Reasonable rent isn’t possible, at least not without ending up in some poverty ridden cesspool. This is the way I saw our life going and it was becoming more and more apparent that I had no control over this situation.

I lost hope.

I had no more dreams for our future other than just surviving from one day to the next.

Then on April 8, 2018, I heard very clearly that it was time to turn back to my roots but in a different way. Because, what I had relied on in my past had never worked for me. I had grown up in a Christian home, going to church each Sunday, and relying on Sunday school teachers, teen leaders, and pastors to tell me what I needed to know about God and the bible.

On April 8, 2018, I was told to pick up the bible and read it cover to cover so I could know the true God which was written about in His Word. I had nothing to lose, so I did it. I started at the beginning and started reading one chapter at a time. In time, I started to pray daily. I felt compelled to search for bible study methods which took me to bible study groups online and eventually to going to one church or another locally just to see if I would find any connection there. I haven’t really found any connection with a church yet. I have felt a connection to God during a Sunday service once or twice.

In my search to know more, I learned to turn EVERYTHING over to God. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Because my work schedule doesn’t leave very many Sundays available for me to attend church, when I pray to God I tell him, if he wants this to be part of my life, then he will need to make it happen. Which is how I usually approach everything, including my job/financial situation. If he wants me to have a new job, he will have to make it happen… and so forth.

It was interesting in regards to the job situation. I ran into some conflicting and aggravating situations with my manager at work some which caused me to take GABA. I let it go and let God take care of it. I saw her in turn have a situation happen which caused her to come to tears. This isn’t anything I wished for her, no matter how she treated me but I saw God’s justice in it. I desired another job, and so I would apply for job postings I knew I could do but always with the same result, no call back, or no job offer. All I heard was, “Stop, let it go. I’ll take care of it.” Everything pointed for me to just stop applying, to stop trying to force my way to a different job while I heard this voice saying, “if you do nothing, then you are proving you are just like all those people on welfare who just sit around, are capable of working but don’t even try. You are proving you are worthless.” It was hard to know what to do. Which one was right? I decided to trust in God (at least for a while) and see what he would do. I know that sounds terrible but that is what I decided to do. I was at the end of my rope.

I knew my trust would come slowly. I often felt like I was an awful child of God, or not truly a child of God. Did I have the right to test him like this? Was it a sin to do so?

Things happened in stages. First, I prayed, “God help me to become the person you desire for me to be.” I would pray this every day as I drove to work, and as I drove I would tell him how beautiful our world was that he had created. How amazing He is to create such a world where we can make so many things to help us to live more comfortable lives. The beauty of nature around me and how it all worked together. On and on, I would praise him.

I slowly started humming as I drove back and forth from work. Sometimes I would even hum as I worked, and sometimes it wasn’t even the music which played over the store’s sound system. I hummed what came spontaneously upon me. Sometimes words would form and I would sing them. I found myself humming and singing in the shower or as I washed dishes or did chores.

Slowly, I learned to turn EVERYTHING over to God, and to ask for his protection from the enemy which was trying to take everything away from me that God had given me throughout my life.

One day, I realized worry and fear became less and less a part of my life. I started to truly believe God would take care of us. As worry and fear became less, anxiety and panic became less and less. I realized my humming was actually a sign of happiness and also praise to God for how he had brought change to my life in such subtle ways.

I still had concerns financially and couldn’t visualize how God could change my situation unless I won the lottery, which yes, I do play, just in case he would want to provide for me through it. (it’s okay to laugh, I do, I’m grateful the lottery here does help pay for health care, education and other services needed across the province)

Then during this time of not applying for jobs, and just letting go of it all, giving it all over to God, I prayed, “God, if you want me to have another job, then you will have to provide it.” I don’t know how long it was after that prayer, but I do know it wasn’t more than a couple of weeks when, at work, in our lunch room, there was a notice stating that the pharmacy was hiring, and no experience was necessary.

Should I? Shouldn’t I? What was I supposed to do?

I prayed. “God, do you want me to apply for this job? If so, you have to give me a sign I can not doubt. You know me. I doubt everything. I see both sides of any sign. A sign can mean, yes go for it, or it could mean, no don’t go for it and I could see the same message for one sign. I need something I cannot doubt.” The very next day was my day off. I woke up around 4:30am in extreme pain. It was the pain I had experienced from my 3rd chemo treatment that made me stop taking chemo. Well, it was part of the reason. The subsequent issues I had following that pain were the main reason for stopping chemo, that being, I was unable to eat or drink anything but tiny sips of water for a week.

Back to my story… I woke in pain. I knew it was from over production of stomach acid which was what was the issue before, so I took some tums, hoping it would help. Two hours later I was still in a lot of pain. I knew a walk-in clinic would open in an half hour. I woke my daughter asked if she wanted to go with me, no, she was too tired, so I went alone. I had taken two more tums hoping in that half hour it would help more. They did a bit but not enough and I wanted to make sure my self-diagnosis was right.

To make a long story short, it was the same, I ended up with a prescription which made me go to the pharmacy. I couldn’t deny the message. I put in for the job. I, of course, ran into some opposition. My manager wasn’t happy. She probably opposed it and discouraged me as much as she could without outright telling me she wouldn’t let me transfer. In the end, I gave her a copy of the transfer paper and handed the other copy to the other person in the office who was handling the process. Everyone else was excited to learn I wanted to work in the pharmacy. But I left the office feeling like it wasn’t going to happen.

The next day, circumstances happened where I ended up having a discussion with the store manager. The discussion had nothing to do with my transfer request but at the end he told me they were going to make my transfer happen. I was ecstatic!

The day after that I was told I would transfer officially on the 19th.

I have known my whole life that when things are meant to be, they happen quickly, easily and sometimes with the speed of a locomotive. That is what happened in this case. I handed in the transfer paper on 6May and on 12May the store manager came to me and asked if I was okay transferring that day (a week ahead of schedule) because the pharmacy was in dire need of someone now. I said, “sure no problem. I would be happy to.” And it was made so that very day.

I have been in pharmacy ever since, learning to be a pharmacy assistant. I don’t make any more money right now though the possibility does exist for getting more hours. Every day I work,  I am filled with exceeding joy. I am left with no doubt that this is God’s plan for me. I am trying not to read into where this will take me.  I am learning to let go of my financial concerns and just hold tight to God’s plan for me and always look to him in ALL things. In doing so, I get a sense of comfort I have never felt before.

I can see Him working in the background on other possibilities, they give me hope. Hope I have not had in over three years. I see his handy work in this new job. Since starting it I have worked only one Sunday. I work fewer days but no less hours than I did as a cashier so, it feels like I have more time for my studies and reading.

I continue to read my bible every day. I finished Zechariah this morning which means only 1 more book and I’ll have finished the Old Testament. I have been looking forward to starting the New Testament and learning about Jesus. I can’t tell you how excited it makes me feel.

Today or tomorrow, I will complete the “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way” bible study I mentioned in my previous post.

I started Proverbs 31 & Bible Women from Robin Sampson’s bible study and journaling class. I start lesson 3 today or tomorrow. In just the first two lessons, I am finally connecting with how I can study and journal about the Word of God. It is exciting to use my artistic skills along with my studying the Word.

30May2019 Lesson 2 Rahab

Digital journal spread for lesson 2 of Proverbs 31 & Bible Women

30May2019 Lesson 2 Rehab spread

Handmade Traveler’s Notebook insert for Lesson 2 of Proverbs 31 & Bible Women

I am still handwriting Psalms. I’m up to Psalm 103. I don’t just handwrite it. I, also, type it out in a digital journal using the NLT version and the CJB version. I learned about the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) from Tom Bradford’s Old Testament Survey class on Torahclass.com. When I read the CBJ version, I get a more positive feel from scripture than I do when I read the KJV, NIV or NLT versions. I type the NLT and CJB versions side-by-side, sort of creating my own parallel version. I like being able to compare the two versions side-by-side. I have room to add graphics so when something grabs my attention and I feel called to add something visual, I will insert graphics which helps me to connect with the scripture. Nothing too elaborate because with everything else, I don’t have the time. My plan though is to go through each book of the bible, creating my own digital version which I can then use in my deeper studies, probably using the inductive study method.

I don’t know if you caught on to what happened over the past month. I have had two major prayers answered for me:

1. a new job

2. more Sundays free for attending church, God’s way of letting me know he does want me to attend church, I just need to find one that fits

There are numerous other prayers which have been answered so indirectly, I have yet to really recognize all of the ones which have been answered. I feel God working towards transforming me into the person he desires for me to be. I also feel God working towards transforming my life into what he had always intended for it to be.

He is building my trust and faith and not demanding it be given completely or fully upon his demand. I think this is important for me, as well as, others to understand. God wants us to willingly trust him and have faith in him. He isn’t about forcing us to do what we don’t want to do. I just had to see that he will be who he says he is and do what he says he will do. This is what builds my trust and faith in him.

I also have to be willing to let go of MY expectations of what he will do. In other words, I can’t make him or demand he provide the results I want. I have to be willing to accept his choices for me. For instance, if I could only visualize myself in an administrative job and that is the only job I wanted, it doesn’t mean that is the job God wants for me. I had to let go of all job possibilities and let God choose for me. This really was the hardest thing for me to do. I don’t relinquish control easily. God knew I needed time to learn how to do this and I think too he knew I would need extreme circumstances to get me to the point where I could.

There is one thing that comes to my mind periodically, these past few weeks. As I was reading the last two chapters in “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way”, it came to mind again. Sometimes, we are so focused upon ourselves that when things happen we perceive them as a personal affront to ourselves. That God, or the enemy is doing this personally to us. If we step back, we may discover what is happening is a side effect of something someone else, someone who is close to us, needs to learn.  I find, I am often so focused upon my own suffering I don’t see someone else standing right next to me is suffering too or that what I’m going through effects them too.

When I was going through my cancer treatment, dealing with the pain and discomfort of the surgeries and the chemo treatments, my daughter was right there beside me. I knew she felt helpless and didn’t know what to do for me but what I didn’t know until much later was how afraid she was to go to sleep at night. That something might happen. That I might need her at night and she not know it. She felt safe to sleep in the day when I was awake. She suffered through this time with me but in such a different way and so silently on her own. When I look at it now, though I was the one diagnosed with cancer and felt this was happening to me, it might have happened to me in order for my daughter to learn something she needed to learn. Yes, we both had something to learn from the situation but maybe my suffering was required in order for her to learn.

When you find yourself in a difficult situation, look around, see who is standing next to you. Maybe your suffering is what the other person needs in order to learn something God needs for them to learn. Maybe it will lead to their salvation.

 

Art Practice, Work and…

I started writing this post last week. I’m not sure what happened. Something got in the way. Either it was my mental space or something else entirely. This is where I began last week:

I am finding it difficult to believe two weeks has passed since my last post. It isn’t easy trying to describe the past couple of weeks. I had to look at my calendar to remember what has consumed my life these past fourteen days. Out of the fourteen days, I worked eleven days. The last stretch was seven days long. On the last day, yesterday (16th), I was so looking forward to my time off the last hour and a half of work felt like three hours. My mind no longer wanted to think. Upon arriving home, I made myself and my daughter a cup of hot chocolate and sat down to let myself unwind and let my body and mind absorb the fact that I have two days off.

I have so many things I need to do and yet my mind bulks at wanting to do any of them because it would eat up my personal time for myself during these two days off. I decided to focus on one thing which means seeing my doctor for a prescription refill. This means half my day today will be spent driving to see my Naturopath for the refill and getting my daughter’s supplements evaluated and resupplied. Expenses which are no longer covered by insurance. Changes I have to learn to work into my new budget. Only time will tell how hard this hits.

The rest of the things I need to do will need to be addressed as time allows and as my finances allow. They will get done, one at a time, just maybe not as quickly as they would have been done in the past.  This seems to be the case for everything in my life these days.

This is also how my art journey is also progressing.  Although, in retrospect, as I looked back at the images I had to include since my last post, I had done more than I had first thought.IMG_1245

The image of the tulip is from Week 34 of Life Book 2017 “Be Bold” with Gwenn Seemel. This was way outside of my comfort zone. I generally prefer realism, using colors that are the colors in the real life object I am creating and using a solid application. To go outside of the natural colors is difficult for me and I had trouble doing the crosshatching technique the instructor did. I ended up just letting my strokes come naturally to me while varying slightly with the colors. I doubt I will use this technique again or very often.

Make Your Mark2This next piece is from Life Book 2018, Week 1, “Make Your Mark (Warm Up)” with Tamara Laporte. I felt much better about this one. The layering and colors I felt came out better than some of my past pieces even with the addition of collage. I created the symbol myself, loosely basing it off of the Ayurveda symbol of harmony and balance. I wanted to include my word for 2018 , balance, in this piece. I added the colors that closely represented the words balance, harmony and happiness. This is what I hope to bring about for 2018.

 

IMG_1257

These next two images are works in progress. With my work schedule such as it was, I needed to work on something that would help center me and allow me to work on it in small pieces while I sat with my feet up, resting them from long hours of standing. Mandalas and Circles seem to help me to center myself. Working with tangles enables me to work in broken periods of time.

I also started adding color, whether it is an acrylic wash background, or a different color of ink, or using prisma colored pencils, it helps me to feel like I am allowing my inner artist the food and fuel she needs.

I have been slowly working on these over the past couple of weeks. I haven’t felt hurried to complete either one of them.IMG_1258

For this one, with the acrylic background, I used neon colors because they are more transparent than the regular acrylic colors. I added some patterns using a silicone pot holder that had a sort of honeycomb pattern to it and then overlayed a bit of white using a wet wipe to put it on thinner. This gave a more muted background for me to draw the mandala. Then added premier prisma color pencil. I may add some more color over time.

I have never studied mandalas and lately I am finding I have a deep desire to get into learning more about them. I have a couple books in mind to get and hope a class that went on last year will be made available again soon. I want to understand more about how they relate to our inner self and how they can teach us more about ourselves. I believe this extends back into Carl Jung’s teachings as well which I had delved into a few years ago. It is time for me to return to those studies.

Here is where I stopped and didn’t return to it until today (23rd).

Today, I find myself in an emotional state I very much dislike. This state is one where I feel almost constant anxiety and anything I haven’t done or need to get done and I’m not working on or seeing to, becomes a focus of my inner critic to berate me on what an awful person I am. I am in this place right now and feel powerless to do anything about it. I’ll explain something which may help to put some light onto this situation.

I’m in my late fifties. I’m completely menopausal. While going through Peri-menopause I discovered my lowered progesterone causes me acute anxiety and sometimes panic attacks. Things that normally don’t bother me on a day to day basis can become overwhelming during low progesterone periods which can become worse with stress (emotional or physical). My Naturopath recommends I take natural progesterone supplements and take them cyclic, meaning I go off of them about five days to try and mimic my body’s way of cycling hormones. When we first discovered I was definitely in Peri-menopause we decided to put me on a complete range of hormones. I had to go off of all those hormones except thyroid and progesterone due to my diagnosis of breast cancer, so I am trying to handle this by just using progesterone. When I was on the whole range of hormones I felt so much better but the doctors will only prescribe progesterone and thyroid now due to my cancer diagnosis. By the way, I know without a doubt that adding the full range of hormones didn’t cause my cancer, I had the lump before starting the hormone treatment.

Today is only day two of not taking my progesterone during the five day period.

I made that sentence separate to emphasize this fact. DAY TWO. This started happening recently where my emotions start plummeting severely within only a day or two of stopping my progesterone so much so that in at least one case I returned to taking my progesterone on the evening of day two because the anxiety and my emotional well-being just got too bad. I may do that tonight too. I absolutely hate feeling this way. That other time I saw an immediate change the next day so this is not my imagination. Today, I am trying something a bit different by trying a slightly lower dosage instead of going back completely at my full dose to see if that helps. In my studies I have learned that our hormones fluctuate in a cyclic manner. If they are working properly in our prime they do not deplete completely they just slowly cycle down and then cycle back up over a period of time and we always have some of all our hormones all the time.  For women this is generally related to our woman’s cycle. In Peri-menopuase and menopause our hormones can deplete so badly we may not have any for varying periods or at all. It is much harder for men because they don’t have the obvious signs like women do for their reproductive period in their lives to teach them what this cycle is.

What I hate about this most is how this effects my life and especially the creative aspect of my life. I can’t think straight. I often forget things and I rarely have control of my inner critic which means it might have full reign. When my inner critic has full reign then I often have difficulty working on anything new where my skills are lacking. For instance, I have been wanting to draw a dragon, which I have never done before. I don’t want to copy someone’s design of a dragon. I want to create my own design. Yesterday, when I finally picked up my pencil to work on it after having studied some drawings online, it took several tries. My attempts felt child-like. I sketched across four pages in my sketchbook, four different versions. Each try, I put my pencil down afterwards, sometimes after only drawing a circle for the head and walking away from it, sometimes for a few hours before returning to it. I can’t repeat what went on in my head during each of these attempts. A repeating theme though was about giving up, and I can’t do this.

When my inner critic gets involved it isn’t just words I hear. Sometimes I don’t hear words at all. I FEEL. I FEEL VERY STRONGLY. Those feelings sit heavy and hard like a rock in my chest and my head feels like it will explode. I can write about this now because I feel it as I write this. My inner critic tells me I’m getting too personal. I’m talking about things I shouldn’t be saying on this blog. That this blog is supposed to be to show my art, not to reveal my inner pain. But it doesn’t just say this, it makes me FEEL it. It doesn’t make me feel shame for feeling these things. It makes me feel shame for revealing them to those who will read this and it makes me afraid I’ll be laughed at or shunned or think less of for showing my weakness.

All these feelings are so much stronger today than they are when I’m on my progesterone. It doesn’t mean I don’t have them when I’m on my progesterone. It just means the progesterone helps me to put them into a more manageable place and lets me feel the GOOD feelings more than the BAD feelings.

Today, I want to hide away from the world. I don’t want to be around people. I hear the verbal criticisms I have received in my lifetime louder today when most days they are silent or just whispers. Today, I just want to wrap myself up in a warm blanket and turn up the TV so I can’t hear the words in my head and watch shows that will make me feel differently and better than I feel right now. Which means I have to choose the shows I watch wisely or they will just bring out the voices even louder and the feelings even stronger. The same goes with my artwork which is why I tend to work on things I know best, like my mandalas.

I generally don’t show my rough sketches or failed attempts at something I tried to create so doing this is stepping outside of my comfort zone. Here are my attempts at creating my dragon. I wanted something different because of the piece I plan on including it in is my week 1 class of Life Book 2018, the Garden Fairy.

IMG_1265I decided not to worry too much about taking a good picture. I just wanted a couple pictures that would reveal my struggle. In all of my sketches you can see I erased quite frequently and tried again and again to get something I liked. My very first attempt is actually the image on the right in the first picture. It didn’t look that way in the beginning. In fact, I came back to it after working on the other three. It had a partial body to go with it which I removed. I like how it now looks like the dragon is snuggled up to the neck of the girl I’ll draw, protecting her.IMG_1266

These two were just an attempt to figure out what angle I wanted because I wanted my dragon to end up sitting on the shoulder of the girl I will have in my final sketch. This may change to the snuggle image, but this was all done before that sketch morphed into it’s form to snuggle.

You might wonder why a dragon. Part of week one is a meditation and in my meditation I was surprised to find my animal to appear as a dragon. I want this represented in my art piece. Even though in my meditation my dragon had the appearance of a dragon like in DragonHeart the movie, I wanted a less imposing dragon for my art journal page since this will be more of a whimsical art piece or at least I think it will be. My first drawing was the closest to what I wanted so I returned to it to work on it some more. I am not totally happy with it right now but it is close enough to begin my art journal page using the suggestions from the week 1 class “Garden Fairy” of Life Book 2018.

I wanted to somehow explain my art process and how life, emotions, physical health can have an impact on that process. I don’t have a set process. I try to do something creative every day but what that something will be isn’t something I plan ahead of time. I don’t set down any rules that say okay, I’ll draw something every day, or I’ll paint something every day or I’ll do some art journaling every day or I’ll work on an art lesson each day or every week. That isn’t how it works for me.

Because my work schedule isn’t for the same set of hours five days a week, I can’t set a particular time to sit down to be creative or work on the classes. I can’t even set a particular time to write my blog. I do try and write a blog post on a day I’m not working because it does take time. It just doesn’t always work out that way and sometimes I miss a week or two. After my two days off, I have another seven days I work in a row which ends with the last day being an eight hour day with only one day off. This will be especially hard for me. I’ll be exhausted at the end of those seven days with not much time to recover. Luckily the other days are four hour shifts with about three of them being morning shifts. I like those because they give me the rest of the day to work on art in between the other chores I need to do. This is also why I will never ‘keep up’ with any of the art course I take.

There is one other thing to mention. I used to rush my way through the art classes but since I decided to incorporate the possibility of not copying them exactly, I find I need time to consider what I’ll do. This might take a few hours or it can take weeks. It depends on so many different factors going on. One of them being like trying to work out the dragon sketches, sometimes it is about deciding what I want included in my art journal page. These things go on all the time in the back of my thought processes while I’m doing other things like work or chores or errands. It isn’t until I feel ready to put pencil to paper that I begin like I did with the actual sketching of the dragon. That dragon was in my thoughts since I meditated more than a couple weeks ago.

I think I am already beginning to feel the smaller dose of progesterone working and slowly lifting the dark shadowy blanket permeating me. This is good. Today, I have chores to do and I plan on working on my sketch for my Garden Fairy. I want to make this page my own which means not sitting down and copying exactly what Tam created in her class but using her ideas and finding a way to design and create my own art journal page.

I welcome comments and love reading them. I’m not good at asking people questions to invite discussion but I would like to hear your thoughts and would love to hear about your own experiences especially if anything I wrote here brought things to mind. If  you don’t want your comments public, you can reach me through my contact page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ongoing progress…

It has been ten days since my last post. Time slips by in varying degrees of progression. Sometimes fast and sometimes not so fast. I’m finding it difficult to get back into the art courses I was taking before I started my new job. I know I’ll get back into them and possibly I’ll need to do it in stages by focusing on a course that is less complicated or more in line with what I want to develop. Basically, my focus since beginning my new job has been mandalas. They started out simple, or what I consider simple for myself and have gained in complexity. Today’s post is about the last two pages I have been working on.

This is a picture of the first one, which I believe I showed in my previous post.

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For me this is more complex because it isn’t a single mandala and the mandalas are intersecting. I drew the circles first, then bisected them with the grid lines which I extended out past the furthest most circle to the edges of the paper or almost to the edges. Then I began adding patterns to the different sections. Once I was finished with the patterns I added bits of shading. Here is my progress so far, which I am not sure if it is complete at this stage or not but right now I feel no need to add anything more to it.

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When I reached this point in this piece, I started another. The next one I started in my larger art journal. The page is probably twice the size of this one. I felt driven to go even more complex because the simple mandalas were no longer challenging to me. I have taken pictures of this one so far in my progression and it is not complete yet.

This is the first picture I took after I had all the inking done or at least almost done. there are two elements at the top and bottom which call to me to make it darker and add something to them. I am still contemplating what to do with them. This page is about 10 1/2″ x 14″.

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I always start my drawings in pencil first, then I ink over them. Some of the elements and patterns added later are done in ink without any pencil. This challenges me to deal with whatever ends up on the page and accepting it as it is or finding ways to incorporate it. The triangles with the circular pattern in them is an example of this. I didn’t like the first one I did. If I had done it in pencil first I would have erased it and chosen something different. Doing it in ink first made me accept what I did and then work with it. I find I am liking them more so now after adding some of the darker elements to them.

These two pictures are the beginnings of adding shading using the warm shades of grey Prisma colored pencils in an attempt to achieve a 3D effect in the grid of the diamond shapes on the outer edge of the mandala.

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As it happens when I start trying to create a certain effect, I don’t often see it as I’m working on it. Most times I have to step away from what I’m working on and come back to it a few minutes later in order to see if what I was doing actually created the effect I wanted to achieve.

The next two pictures are closeups of different parts of the page. I am still deciding what to do. Choosing to use colored pencils for the shading was a hard choice to make. I love my black and white ink work but this one is calling out to me to add color. So instead of using graphite for the shading I decided to use colored pencils.

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When I look at this piece in it entirety so far, my imagination automatically adds color to various elements. How much color I will add, I am not sure of right now. I want to retain some black and white elements while others call for color.

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Having reached this point today with this piece, I have found myself searching for what I’ll be working on next. Adding color will take some time and I know from experience I will want to work on something else as I take breaks from adding the color. This stage is more like coloring in a coloring book which for me doesn’t hold much interest. I’m slowly understanding why that is.

I thought at one time I would love working with colored pencils. However, I am learning something quite interesting about myself. I have always felt an affinity towards water. Therefore, it is not surprising to discover I love working with watercolors. Or using art supplies that can be manipulated by adding water. If I’m not using colored pencils with a liquid or wet product I find them uninspiring even though I can achieve interesting blending by using blending pencils, white or light colored pencils or blending stumps.

One of the other reasons colored pencils don’t appeal to me is they are hard on my wrist. Graphite pencils and ink pens are as well. I can do the work in stages with graphite and ink, whereas colored pencils, especially when coloring in a repeated pattern, I feel I need to complete all the same pattern in one sitting in order to achieve the same result. This can make my wrist very painful. Using brushes and watercolor or art supplies that can be manipulated with water requires a much lighter grip and therefore less stress upon my wrist.

As an artist, it is very frustrating to find myself limited or having to limit myself in order to avoid pain. It is compounded by the understanding that no one really knows what is causing the pain. At first my doctor thought it was a ganglion but the ultrasound disproved that. Then he thought it was arthritis but the x-rays results indicate my bones are healthy with no sign of arthritis. I was sent to a physiotherapist when my doctor then thought it was tendonitis. My physiotherapist feels it isn’t tendonitis and maybe arthritis even though my x-rays show no sign of it. I am hoping over time it will get better and the pain will go away. I take frequent breaks when I’m using a pen or pencil type object and the pain starts. I used to push through the pain and continue working but, that seems to just make it worse so now frequent breaks will have to suffice. Which is why, adding color to this last mandala page will take time and I will find something else to work on when I need to take breaks.

I look at my watercolor facial features study and I want to do more of them or work on watercolor portraits. I showed these in an earlier post and often find myself revisiting them as I have them on display on my mantle.

I find myself hesitant on trying this again or trying a portrait. It is silly to be so afraid of doing something because I’m afraid I won’t be able to repeat what I did before or do something as well as I did before. I sometimes feel like this was a fluke because it was my first in doing facial features in watercolor. In fact, it was my first real attempt at doing anything conceivably realistic in watercolor. It is ridiculous though to feel this way, because I took a break of days if not a week between a couple of these and I was still able to reproduce what I had learned.

I have this strange fear of experimenting with anything, of doing anything remotely creative with art supplies in which I have not already seen someone else do. Even then because it is all new to me, I have this irrational fear of something going terribly wrong. You would think my hands would fall off, or my arms would break or maybe I would go blind if I tried anything new and was not hugely successful at it. I have even let myself imagine just letting go and drawing a wonky face with eyes all askew just to get past this fear and yet I can’t seem to bring myself to do even that.

I am not sure if we develop a perfectionist personality from our environment growing up or if we are born with it. All I know is, I have a tendency to not do something out of fear of it not being perfect when I’m done with it. When I think about it, I have flashes of memory from my childhood of when I didn’t do something well enough to satisfy a parent or someone important to me. Perfectionism is a killer of creativity. Getting past it is a struggle every single time I try to pick up a tool to create something. It infects every part of my life and keeps me from progressing… IF I ALLOW IT….

I HAVE TO MAKE A CONSCIOUS DECISION EVERY MOMENT IN EVERYTHING I DO TO NOT ALLOW THIS PERFECTIONIST MENTALITY TO GET IN MY WAY OF MOVING FORWARD. It is my hope, my next post will be a post about drawing portraits and the next one after that, in doing them in watercolor. I do however retain the right to change my mind and allow myself to be inspired by whatever seems right for the moment.