Slowly but surely….

I am adding some unexpected interest to my digital planner.

I’ll state this up front, the actual digital planner was not created by me. This planner was offered in the Friday Freebies on Boho Berry’s Digital Planners Facebook group. I have only made slight alterations to the planner so it will work for my personal use.

It first started when I decided to add a tracker for my bible reading. Then I thought I would try adding the daily weather. Things progressed from there.

2018Dec20&21 journal

These are my pages for yesterday and today, without my journaling. I inevitably fill up the white space with journaling about my day and my thoughts. I should tell you now, the artwork is NOT mine.

The graphics for the weather came from a Friday Freebie on, you guessed it (if you read my previous posts) Boho Berry’s Digital Planner Facebook group.

I did create the box with the list in it and the trackers at the bottom. Thanks to someone in the same group sharing how they could easily create trackers in a spreadsheet, copy them and paste them into their digital planner.

The flower on the list and the background fox image came from a coloring app I use on my phone, called Happy Color. After I completed coloring in the graphic, there is an option to share it so, I sent it to my computer and pasted it into my digital planner.

I really loved how the flower looked in my planner yesterday so today I decided to see how the images work in the background. It worked AMAZINGLY!! So now, I can capture some details about my day without having to say anything, by choosing one of the pictures I color that day and placing it into my planner.

None of this is difficult to do. Some of it requires using a couple different applications. I had a few obstacles to overcome, like acquiring Affinity Designer. If push came to shove, I could have done most everything in my older version of Adobe Photoshop Elements but the process takes far longer and is much more complicated. I discovered Affinity has all its products on sale so I jumped on it and gave it to myself (a few days early) for a Christmas present.

I did have one issue in trying to figure out how to make the background of the images transparent in Affinity Designer but a quick google search took me to the Forums on Affinity where someone had already asked the question and received an answer. Again, it is a very simple process. It was just a matter of finding where in Designer it could be done. This wasn’t one that would have been intuitively obvious. I might never have found it if I hadn’t searched online for the answer. Once learned though, it is quick and simple and I don’t have to use a magic tool to click in all the small areas where I want the background transparent.

There is at least one huge difference between Adobe Photoshop Elements (I have version 10), and Affinity Designer. Affinity Designer will import a PDF file and build layers. If I open a PDF file in Affinity Designer it shows a dialogue box where you can import ALL pages or select a page to import. I usually select one page. Designer builds layers for each element in the page. How quickly Affinity Designer does this is amazing.

My version of Adobe Photoshop Elements does NOT build layers. It opens a single page onto one layer which means there are NO elements which can be altered.

The layers Affinity Designer creates are great because each element is given a layer. I can then select an element and alter it if I want to change part of it. For instance, in the digital planner, if I want to change the text on a tab, all I have to do is select the text and change it. Same with the tab, if I want to change the color, I can do that as well. I can alter the shape of the tabs or any part of the page.

In Adobe Photoshop Elements, I’m either stuck with the shape and design or find a way to put a layer over it to cover it with what I want. Adobe Photoshop Elements is also VERY slow in rasterizing the PDF file.

I know this functionality of creating a layers from a PDF file so all the elements can be altered can create an ethical dilemma for designers. When I first came across digital planners, I wanted to know how they worked. Knowing how they work, also helps me to know what software was needed to make them work. I needed to know this because I was wanting to use them on my Windows desktop, not an Android table or an iPad. Watching some of Boho Berry’s videos gave me enough information to find some software to play with but it took a lot of searching to find the RIGHT software for the job I wanted them to do.

The other thing watching her videos did was help me to understand the planners are built by using layers upon layers to achieve the effect. I wasn’t sure how deeply this went until I discovered Affinity Designer. Breaking a single page down into ALL of its layers gave me the information I needed.

These planners take a lot of work to build. What Kara and others have built took a lot of time. Seeing all the layers in Affinity Designer for just one page makes me appreciate all the HARD work the creator of the planner did to develop it.

Affinity Designer enables me to alter an existing PDF to make it the way I want it. But it also opens up a possible ethical situation if someone should use it to take someone else’s design and change a portion of it and then call it their own. As an artist, I would never do that. It bothers me immensely when I hear of other “artists” taking someone’s work and either not crediting the original artist and letting people assume they own it or altering it slightly and then claiming it as theirs. They are not artists in my opinion.

I may one day attempt to create my own digital planner. If I did, I would create it from scratch. But right now I’m just happy to be able to use a planner someone else built for my own personal use so I can determine whether this is a daily practice I will continue with or if it will peter out like it did when I tried creating my own bullet journal. Working with a bullet journal lasted maybe six months before it became old.

I had, also developed an issue with my wrist due to all the handwriting I was doing. Switching to using the computer to type out my journal digitally has allowed my wrist to heal. I,also, learned the benefit of being able to keep up with my thoughts through typing. Many of my thoughts wouldn’t end up on paper because I couldn’t write fast enough.

I am an interesting balance of analytical/logical and creative/abstract. This becomes apparent when I consider what I’m drawn towards. I love math, especially algebra and geometric shapes. I think things through logically. I’m always wanting to create things with my hands. I knit and crochet, draw, paint, write stories and poetry along with my journaling. Once I learn how to do something I then find ways to tweak it, especially in my handmade items, like knitting. Computers have enabled me to combine both worlds which is why I think digital planners/journals will be my forever “go to” for expressing myself.

If an app is ever created which will allow a user to work completely within one app with their digital planner, I can see using these digital planners by everyone from church leaders/pastors to, business leaders, government aides and even children with their school work. I have been able to incorporate pages into my planner from a Bible in PDF format, have a blank page opposite where I write my notes, highlight the bible text, circle, underline and add supporting pictures and whatever else someone does to make it stand out. AND… it is all searchable in the PDF document once it is saved, including any annotations and notes. This can’t be done in hand written notes or hard copy books. I can add links to the PDF document as well so a reference can be found easily. In essence, these planners are becoming archival information of people lives and the knowledge they gather for themselves.

WE ARE CREATING OUR OWN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS.

For someone who didn’t excel in history class, I find this fascinating.

 

 

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.