Introduction to Counselling course – listening fail

I needed to do a basic counselling training course to continue teaching my art journalling for self- care. So I signed up for a 12 week course at Edinburgh college. I am enjoying the course very much. We are learning some theory alongside listening skills.

Part of my dyslexia presents its self as an listening/ ear / brain processing problem. So I have been a little bit apprehensive to see if I can succeed in this area.

Last week we worked in triads – we had a speaker/ listener and an observer. You took it in turns to take a role. The listener had to be in charge of the clock. The speaker talked for 5 mind about a topic. The listener had to stop and give a summary half way through and then summarise at the end.

When it came to my turn as listener I found it very hard to keep an eye on the time and listen, I fact I went completely blank at the half time summary. Then at the end I found that even though I couldn’t repeat a word of what had just been said to me – I did have a general impression of what had been said, it was more like an over view.

Being uncomfortable with public speaking didn’t help either!! My stomach was not happy and twisted itself – I felt humiliated and a failure. Interesting when we returned to the group disscussionlots of other people had had simillar problems. Rationally I could see that this was something to be improved upon. I struggled with my physical reaction and how much I was unable let the emotional response go – something similar has happened too many times before.

Journalling was required

It says ‘when I am fragile and humiliated, I have my Mandala webs and the beginnings of my soul restoration process to support me.

I am not sure how the habitual’ lies’ that I tell my self – I am not good enough , I always make mistakes , ‘how could you not remember what was said to you!?’, ‘Failure’ will be released by this process they feel too ingrained.

I am ready to do the work ……


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 

30 days journaling , 9-15 

 Day 9 – revisited 
I didn’t like how samey my Day 9 ‘ making art everyday ‘ turned out so I attacked it with abrasive cleaners and then finger painted over the top! 

Day 10 – Being present – brave enough 

Was all about layering and attacking – obviously in a destructive mood still   
 Then I added text using stencils – I love working like this but there is always the threat that my dyslexia will rear its head – hence the ‘smaller’ than desired ‘path’ on the right hand page.  

Day 11- Daring to be my self – group hug 

I love bright colours and playing wth the spectrum – 2014 I had an exhibition that used lots of permanent marker pens as the main medium – I was horrified today that lots were drying out so there are a few more colourful pages coming up.

Day 12  – Difficulty as a way finding tol – how I built up my layers 

Day 13 – On fire from within – Pablo Neruda

My Mate Deb wanted more souls work and challenged me to do some finger painting – I can’t remember who produced the image of the lady – I liked the fact that you can see all her organs – the purple and red page were already in my journal , where I had smeared leftover paint onto the pages with a credit card 

Lisa sent lots of links to Pablo Neruda poems the image is an illustration for 

“As if you were on fire from within.

The moon lives in the lining of your skin.”

Day 14- Rejoicing in ordinary things – I love a cup of tea and fancied line drawings of all my favourite things – cups and saucers are a bit over done so I smeared the page with a used tense instead 
Day 15 -The art of resting  

I needed this today – my back has seized up and I needed to move and smear paint with my fingers ( again) 


30 Day Journalling ,Days 1-9

I decided that I wanted to journal using a program, that provides daily prompts-  so I signed up for Lisa Sonora’s  at you get 30 days of prompts via Email / Facebook or her blog 

I have really enjoyed the discipline and someone else inspiring me to think through the process of art making 

My first 9 days of journal pages -I like building up layers – I use old books and prepare pages – using lots of different papers and left over paint. Then I doodle and layer with more paper, stencil acrylic paint and images . My favourite way to add text is to use letters cut from magazines. 

 Day 1 – Daring to begin 

  Day 2 – seeking my people 

Day 3  – daring to Dare 

Day 4 – The cost of perfection – seize the day 

Day 5- Dilema 

   Day 6 -selfconsconciousness  

 Day 7  

The prompt today was about self consciousness and bravery .I like art making and earning money by exhibiting – but I dislike getting my work exhibition ready , organising publicity and private views. I always feel so exposed . I used up old flyers on the next few pages – reminding my self of when I have been brave in the past . I think the course is good for me – I have signed up for another exhibition in March …..

Day 8 – courage is whispering to me now 

Day 9-art every day 


Letter Journals and mail art 

I have been exchanging art with people on Instagram for 2 years now- it started as an exercise to relieve loneliness when we first moved up from Edinburgh. It is such fun and I have learned a lot aboutworking in different  formats and  ways of working – Artist trading cards, postcards, journal pages, pocket letters and then over the summer letter journals 

These are 8″x4″ and are made as collaborative pieces that fit in a business envelope to keep the cost of postage down -4 sheets of paper  8″x8″( and a cover) sewn together 

I like the idea of them travelling – the relative cheapness of the miles – the fact that other people work in them and the opportunities for me to doodle away. 

By the end of the process I was cutting , stamping holes and ripping pages – in my books.

 A selection of my covers from over the last few months  
I have been teaching occasionally at a friends art group in Edinburgh. The organiser has asked me to do a session on letter journals to encourage collaborative work within the group. The sessions are 2 mornings with potentially 40 people 

   Paper cut to size and ready to make up 

  Sewn and some covers decorated 

  45 flower doodles 

  Striped pages 
35 journals down 10 to go   
I hadn’t intended to work in them but – you know me (lol!) And there was a lot of scrap paper created-  converting from A4 into inches. And what else is a girl to do watching the TV in the evenings – Jon and Deb were amused any way

You can find a really nice video which shows how to make a letter journal on YouTube – this is by my Instagram friend Cfalbro – she isn’t the  originator of the format – but it is easy to follow 

Doodling around thresholds

After last week’s journalling and thinking about my family I was exhausted – I haven’t felt like doing any more emotionally draining stuff. I felt like I was a bit numb and standing back and looking at that ‘me’


I didn’t really feel comfortable working in my journal at all. Then Jon turned on the TV and it was live football so I did a spread looking at the different surnames I was associated with as a child- i don’t feel happy posting the whole spread so here is a sneak peak
I used a loud background and found bits like washi tape, my magazine letters and a print that I made when carving a figure stamp.


I liked the idea that I am standing at a threshold- wanting to make art but not wanting to delve too deeply . So I played it safe and doodled doors at work on Thursday and windows today
I love architectural motifs and so this was easy play for me. Image making around the topic – cartoon windows and doors



I printed my doors , scored and cut them so that they opened and then stuck them in my journal – more doodling and thinking about what is going on behind the doors


A concertina book about me

I am making a concertina book about me – I had a Freudian slip on the cover – I put Me , UK , born Blonde – white Middle class –
Am I still so shallow that I would accidentally put my hair colour first? I meant to leave a gap and put 1961 – to label my self in a temporal setting – I must have stopped thinking and my dyslexic brain added another b word – what about female- educated ? Western? Feminist? I am horrified and amused at my self at the same time – to be Blonde , tall and having a small dark haired sister was important in terms of competition and getting boy friends , when I was growing up ….. I am prematurely white now and revel in it – no more hair dye – it is a statement – and my sister is almost the same colour aging has levelled the playing field”>2015/01/img_6465.jpg




Working along the book
I used gesso and blue acrylic patterns with collaged paper as a background

I added as many words I could think of that described me at the moment

I commented again on the blonde issue and the fact that I am full of contradictions

Jon bought home an academic book and flipping through it reminded me of the vocabulary I used during my MA so I added that I am a post structuralist …….

At the end I added lots of pictures of me and my family – concentrating on the female representations of me – and relationships with mother / daughter – partly because I forgot to put female on the front of the book and also because of there importance

I also added a fiery, rainbow semi nude self portrait – that I found empowering to do a couple of years ago – it is very small and when I asked Jon if he could see a nude figure in the layout he said no – ( good luck finding it)

I am thinking of doing some journalling teaching so I will be working through Some techniques that I have learnt over the past couple of years in the next couple of posts