Movement medicine inspired artmaking 

Over the weekend I participated at a movement medicine workshop. It was called ‘This being human’ and was facilitated by Catherine Wright.

During a meditation about the tree of life I had this really clear image in my head of a human figure as a tree trunk with a black heart or hole where the heart should be. I have had a tight chest recently and palpitations as menopausal symptoms. I danced the feeling out. I am aware of being in touch with my head and my stomach – but there is a numbness where my heart is. 

During the workshop we worked with a poem by  Rumi called ‘ The Guest House’ 

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 

some momentary awareness comes 

as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, 

who violently sweep your house 

empty of its furniture, 

still, treat each guest honourably. 

He may be clearing you out 

for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 

meet them at the door laughing, 

and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes, 

because each has been sent 

as a guide from beyond.

We did an exercise on Saturday where we welcomed a ‘guest’  and worked with a partner – talking, witnessing and using dance. I chose the idea of ‘disappointment’.  As I danced I became aware that I was relieving ‘something’  but it wasn’t disappointment. So I chose to revisit my confusion on Sunday. 

I am still unable to verbalise what is exactly present but I realised with relief that the hole is not black or vacant but a conduit that is not to be frightened or scared of. 

I needed to revisit this experience today through art making. 

Sketches for  ‘a black heart’ – I wrote in my journal ‘ figure rooted but with a hole where the heart should be’ 

 As I was dancing , holding my heart or the feeling of my hands up to my chest was important – drawing hands that don’t look like claws or sausages is always a stretch of my ability – I also needed the tree/body to be a real rounded shaped woman  

Conduit / portal heart sketch – there was such a sense of relief at the realisation that what was going on felt like a portal. As I was at a dance session it was important that I tried to convey movement. 

Black heart – in my head the tree trunk / body was red – the background is newspaper that I used as  protection paper. It is advertising a film and it has amused me that my figure could also look a bit like an ‘Oscar’ there is no way I would offer to be the mouldy for any figurine 😂😂😂😂 

Conduit/portal heart 

My mandalas seem to need to be in everything I do at the moment. The conduit doesn’t feel draining and the energy feels like it is not restricted by time and space. 

During the dance workshop we did a session where working in groups of 3 we witnessed , danced and or meditated , wrote or drew. During my first role as ‘meditator’ I doodled , the portal was very strong in my head and I produced this 

Mandalas and Doodling 

When I doodle – I draw flower based mandalas – I am not  sure that what I draw can technically be called ‘scribbling absent mindedly’ – the drawings are not perfect designs that use accurate concentric circles or realistic flowers. I started drawing them when I moved up to Edinburgh . I was a bit bored , lonely and wanted to improve my hand eye co-ordination. 

I have included examples of my circle obsession below in the form of doodles and photographs 

That was three years ago – I have been doing some research because I wanted to be more reflective about my rather excessive output. I tend to draw my ‘doodles’ on trains and planes – during stressful family situations and watching thrillers and suspense programs on the TV. In fact I have had to restrict my out put because I was getting repetitive stress pains in my hands 

Below are my research notes : 

Mandalas were first used in therapy by Carl Jung, who found that the act of drawing mandalas had a calming effect on patients while at the same time facilitating psychic integration.

Powerful and centring expression 

Fascination with a circle 

Instrument of self reflection 

Spontaneity with which we create circles 

Drawing a mandala takes you through a multi sensory path of processing 

Colours that you use important and shapes can have meaning 

Personal growth as a cycle 

Analysing patterns in your life as a way to tap into my unconscious self

 use of circular forms for meditation and self-exploration are found in several cultures and religions, such as Native American, Celtic, Aboriginal, and Christian (Olsen & Avital, 1992). 

Mandalas can represent spiritual wholeness and the equilibrium of all cosmic and life forces of our world, symbolizing the totality, including the outer as well as the inner forces 

Students who participated in drawing their own mandalas reported higher self- awareness, unbiased processing, and personal development, supporting the premisethat the mandala can be an effective tool for helping people facilitate greater self- awareness, and moving toward a higher level of psychological well-being.

These results demonstrate that the circular shape of the mandala serves as an “active ingredient” in mood enhancement (Anastasia Babouchkina and Steven J. Robbins 2015 ) 

Mandala is Sanskrit for magic circle.Used for meditation and contemplative purposes

 Traditionally, mandalas served a spiritual purpose and more recently they have been adopted as an artform 

Karen and Henderson, Robyn (2010) 

A mandala ‘‘expresses the totality of the psyche in all its aspects, including the relationship between man and the whole of nature’’ (Jaffe, 1964. p. 266), and may be regarded as ‘‘an archetypal symbol reflecting the common neuropsychological inheritance of humankind’’ (DiLeo, 1983, p. 13). It also represents ‘‘the center of personality, a kind of central point within the psyche, to which everything is related, by which everything is arranged, and which is itself a source of energy’’ (Jung, 1959, p. 357).

 For Jung and others, mandalas often symbolize the Self, and appear sym- bolically to represent the striving for individuation, wholeness, and psychological integration through the reconciliation and unification of opposites (Arguelles & Arguelles, 1972; Clarke, 1994; Edinger, 1992; Fontana, 1993; Jung, 1959; Moacanin

have found that the construction of mandalas – particularly when drawn spontaneously – may be useful in the individuation process. Indeed, ‘‘the mandala image is not only a symbol of wholeness and healing, but can be actively employed as a means toward that end’’ (Clarke, 1994, p. 139). 

(Chandelier from Lodeve Cathedral France )

Research with infants conducted by Fantz & Miranda (1975) demonstrated that people are born with a desire to look at circles. Kohler (1992) also found that circles are more quickly perceived and recognized as meaningful. Children as young as two years of age draw circles, and by age three children begin assigning meaning to the circular forms they created (Kellog, 1967). Therefore, drawing mandalas taps into a child’s natural affinity for circles.

I was much struck the concepts around the striving for individuation and wholeness – I was amused that my ‘doodling ‘could be an active employment towards improving my wellbeing – I also liked the idea that we have a natural affinity for circles – means I am not as completely bonkers as I thought 

More overdrawing 

One of my contacts on Instagram suggested that I try doing my overdrawing exercise using colour. I haven’t been able to stop  

For the first one I used the rainbow colours as layers but found that the violet didn’t overwrite the indigo/ blue enough so I played a bit more 

 This is the first one played with a bit more 
  Below is the blue as the last colour which is more successful coverage wise – and one that is less random in design deliberately 
I couldn’t decide if I like the doodle with a cross hatched background in blue or not – so I had to do another one to find out  – I added more coloured doodles into the top one after finishing the blue layer – it’s nice finding new ways of using up my stash of pens . 
  I decided to have a go at adding some colour onto an earlier doodle of a face I called spirit of Autumn – bit whimsical and her eyes are a bit far apart 


Travel doodling 

On my transatlantic holiday I have a kept a book which I have doodled in – I draw and make circular designs ( since the move to Edinburgh)  I have tried to use images and motifs from the countries visited to influence the designs . I have developed a lazy way with flowers so I have tried to push my self to develop different images – though using the same pen and ink / hatching / textures – flowers are my thing 

Not all of the designs are shown below – 3 have been given away -2 to friends on the trip and one I swapped with a little Chinese girl at Tokyo airport – I have included her picture below 


The doodles are called ‘travelling doodles’ I tend to do them on public transport it sitting in coffee shops the last one in the grid above is my logo for the holiday – I started doing mandala designs , but they are not quite perfect enough to be called that , they are definitely therapeutic 

A few larger ones 

My logo  
  Japan and Seoul influenced 
  One of the first ones 

 One influenced by an Iraq decorative panel in the Met New York  

Surviving the elements – The documented life journal 2015 

This week the prompt was surviving the elements. Since I moved to Edinburgh my hair has got shorter and shorter because I couldn’t standby hair whipping around my face and in my eyes .I wanted to do smithing with a wet and windy feel 

I was influenced by Robin Meads spread on the DLP website

  I drew flower doodles all over the page ( not that you can see very many of them in the finished piece )

Then I covered the pages with Gesso , blue acrylics , my own feather stamps and a doily stamp – I used blue and bronze Stazone ink 

The top layer of feathers are hand drawn or my stamp on security envelopes. 

I added the text using my ransom note letters cut from magazines .

 I added the feeling of wind using a water soluble Stabillo pencil in great big swoops above and below the letters 

The feathers felt like they needed anchoring so I covered the bases in a lace stamp and more stabillo scribbles 

Greenwhich and family 

we visited London for a long weekend – family stuff needed doing . We stayed across the road from my brother in an airbnb apartment in Deptford. 

My daughter was moving out of the brothers into a room in Greenwich which is all location location location about 2 mins from the maritime museum, the river and Greenwich park. 

Sometimes when I visit family I get all disorientated. Deb used a compass as the motif for our skype art session last week and I have been unable to stop doodling compass roses. I don’t know if it was because we were travelling but lots of well used phrases kept popping up ion my head like ‘feeling lost at sea’ ‘ I need to realign my inner compass’ ‘I feel lost’ 

It was poignant being with my neice she sat on my knees her soft hair in my face and her weight on my lap made me want to hold on and not let go.

 My son has been in South Korea and Vietnam for 3 years now has fallen in love with an American girl and may go and live in the US 

My friends Dad died, it is 9 years since I lost my Mum and it is Mother’s Day soon. There is a constant reminder in the shop windows as I walk past. 

My response to Deb’s prompt 

Doodling compass roses

My journal page 

Irritable bowel syndrome

I have had IBS for about 7 yrs now – it all started with a summer of tummy migraines that only children, not 46yr olds are supposed to get. I don’t know what started it off – stress? Loosing my mum the previous year?

I haven’t always had a problem with food – my family has a round shape on the female side, too much food and not enough exercise?

Las year my daughter persuaded me to get tested for food intolerance so I try and be gluten and dairy free- I am fine as long as I don’t get emotionally upset or get exposed to too many allergens- which set of excema and asthma.

I think the most annoying aspect is the lethargy which has improved with cutting out gluten – I have a sweet tooth and am constantly bashed by packaged gluten free alternatives which are packed with chemicals – that I can’t seem to stay away from

I have a love hate time with it. I tried to do two images today in my journal- one which showed a healthy gut filled with all the foods i can’t eat and decorated with flowers ( trying to represent the love side) , the other page an unhealthy looking gut and my latest favourite doodling – the wave pattern – which I have used to represent migraines,thresholds and several other concepts lately.



I was frustrated by the layouts – the documented life journal prompt this week is ‘more is more’ so I stuck some of my ubiquitous magazine letters on top of the drawings



I was not happy with after I tried to outline the letters with ink – to add impact

So I covered the page in gesso – dried it and added more letters – it is very messy and complicated but is a good representation of how I feel about food and my stomach