Paper dolls and miscarriage

I had 5 pregnancies and 2 live births 30 years ago. At the time I didn't really mourn my loss and I wonder if my anxiety and chronic migraines stem from the upheaval of hormones I experienced over 4 years.

Mostly I feel like have worked through my grief . However, I was knocked for six this week after reading an article in 'Therapy Today'

( Who Knew ? j.Gosney June 2017 vol 28 issue5) The article describes Gosney's work with grieving pregnancy loss. (I could have done with meeting her in the late 1980's). She talks about why there is 'such a silencing shame around miscarriage' I suspect it is because we don't want to upset or worry other newly pregnant parents.

I remember 'retreating from a world that had become a hostile environment peopled by babies, pregnant women and proud fathers' I moved my living room to the back of the house away from the twice a day school run of chatting happy Mums and buggies

I am not sure I experienced post traumatic stress but I definitely 'became vulnerable to anxieties….. and questioned my bodies ability to carry full term…. I realised I couldn't trust my body anymore.'

With my dyslexia and continuing migraines I still feel this phrase resonates strongly.

Most of my art doesn't look into this as a source of inspiration. however after the embodied reactions I keep getting to @gracemorgan's art on Instagram – I felt inspired to look at how I could explore this, using my paper doll technique.

My first go at womb mandala

Wombs with 8 week embryos( which is when the doctors thought things when things went wrong) I quite like the difference in the colours of the womb – photocopy , against the rawness of the real painted colour of the embryos

These feel a bit sanitised, I am shying away from blood. Which is ridiculous really. Though I am being a bit hypocritical because I dislike sanitary towel adverts on the TV

And another pretty one

http://www.bacp.co.uk/docs/pdf/16027_all%20editorial%20tt_jun17.pdf

Migraine mandalas

I get hemiplegic migraines ( which I am sure I must have mentioned in an earlier post) they are exacerbated by flashing lights and hormones. Most of the time they are under control with a very small dose of antidepressants. However, menopause and my irritable bowel has been fun!!! Sometimes, the migraines are brought on by flashing lights – sometimes food (if I am being sensitive). This latest episode was self inflicted really – reading a book and drawing mandalas in 4 hrs of flickering light on a car journey -was asking for trouble. 

I decided to have a go at working through my frustration and anger at my self , after several  reared their ugly heads , consecutive evenings. 

I am staying at my Dad’s house in the south of France with only my travel kit. I painted  loose ovals on lots of sheets of heavy duty cartridge paper with  very diluted acrylic. Then added swirls of neocolours, oil pastels and more paint- it’s warm and arrid here so everything dries very quickly. 


I wanted to continue working with my paper dolls. I tried a design where a female shape is curled up in painholding her head but it ended up looking like white splodges in some sort of fiery constellation. 

A head screaming (below) just looked weird( lol) and didn’t convey what I wanted to express- I like the colours , textures and patterns , so they became backgrounds. 


I needed some figures that worked in circles so I searched on line and came up with an ancient artifact from Mexico 


Practicing blind contour faces in pain ( really getting into the details 😂😂😂😂) 


The above design uses an African figurine as motif but even though it made a lovely mandala in the centre with its arms and legs I didn’t like the proportions of the head and neck. 


Nice uncomfortable screaming baby type figures are amusing me now my head is better and I like the nightmarish qualities – there is an other worldly feeling and out of body experience that I seem to have captured too , which sums up my aura stage quite nicely. Though if I think about it -I don’t experience all that colour 

Mandala teaching 

I had fun teaching some of the other people on the retreat how to draw mandalas. Everybody did very well. It was interesting seeing who wanted to follow my examples exactly and who felt confident enough to start innovating from the beginning 

I prepared a sheet which had examples of suggested shapes to use and how start building mandalas. I had a brain wave to do it on stickers so that everybody could take them away or stick them in their journals 


Here are the finished designs. This is only my second go at teaching my style so it was interesting seeing the other people’s designs develop. The first drawing is probably the nearest copy of the design I drew with them 




The design with the lavender on is my tutorial – I was very amused by how difficult it is to draw , teach and talk – my design looks very wonky 😂😂😂

Meditation inspired art making – Portugal 

One of the things I have enjoyed at the Omassim guest house is the daily meditation sessions. There has been a variety of different approaches to meditation on offer – an energy bath, candle and eye gazing and chanting. These sessions have inspired me to make art around the ideas explored – I had great fun making my paper dolls in meditation poses. 

Above are a few designs from the energy bath session. I had brought some backgrounds ready prepared with me – where I used pink ink sprayed through a doily. I used a mixture of pen and ink mandalas, neocolours and oil pastel to create the other effects. 

We chanted about the elements. (I wandered into the village one morning and found a shop selling primary coloured papers and oil pastels. These new supplies lent themselves very well to more paper doll mandalas) 


Then I had a very strange experience meditating looking into Jon’s left eye. It felt like everything else fell away except his eye. I got annoyed when he blinked because it broke the sensation. It felt like I didn’t know him at all and that the whole universe was some how available in his murky green eye. ( he he he) 

More Movement Medicine dancers this time in Orange 

Over the past 6 months I have made so many different mandalas that sometimes I don’t know what to do with them. I had been wanting to work with my movement medicine dancing ladies some more. So yesterday I made loads of cut out dolls. 

I was very amused about 30 minutes in,  that I needed to make the images stand out more – the colours were too samey or the patterned mandalas meant that the dancers got lost on the similar coloured backgrounds. 

An orange frenzy ensued which was very therapeutic and got my creative juices going. I had thought I was a bit stuck because I hadn’t danced for a week. 


I made some smaller templates so that I can cut circles of joined dancers – the idea of them all being connected appeals. Catherine ( http://catherinewright.co.uk/workshops/) mentioned us all being joined by a gold thread last session – but I can’t quite get my head around how that would fit visually within this work  – there is so much colour and pattern going on- they feel more like a  ‘5 Rhythms’  Chaos session (https://www.5rhythms.com/). I think I must have had Matisse’a ‘The dance’ going on somewhere in my head too 


https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/portal/hermitage/digital-collection/01.+Paintings/28411/?lng=


I love complimentary colours and the circles of dancers fit in with my mandalas – it’s all a bit bonkers colourwise – I enjoyed scrawling in blue oil pastel over the finished collages , but I think some of the more simple ones are very effective.


I produced some single dancers for some A5 pieces I had in my stash – I think maybe I should draw these figures individually. 

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. 

http://catherinewright.co.uk/

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. 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/1931-3896.1.3.148

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 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/1931-3896.1.3.148


 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.

http://jsc.montana.edu/articles/v14n6.pdf


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 

http://www.atpweb.org/jtparchive/trps-37-02-164.pdf


 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