I was flipping through my Instagram feed this morning at 4.45am ( I keep waking up early ) when I was arrested by a piece by ‘gracemorganart’.  Which showed a photograph of some gloves. These had been stitched , the fingers joined together with  many tiny stitches. White on a red background. To me the fingers looked trapped. 
I am still floored by my emotional response. Which has stayed with me and which I can’t quite place. 

An image of my free exuberant paper dancer popped into my head, with her arms and legs chopped off and bound to her body like an Egyptian mummy, cocoon or a butterfly that died emerging from its chrysalis.

 Below is an exploration of the idea – it’s not quite grim enough 

Yesterday I visited a butterfly world near Dalkeith and I was fascinated by the chrysalids hanging from bamboo canes and some pinned to a wall. Most were empty, but a few had died and dead bodies lay on the floor. I felt a great sadness disproportionately to the event. 1 in 4 don’t make it ( according to the attendant ) 

The trapped feeling is focused on my neck and shoulders and stomach. A tingling embodied response. 

I have a strong need to write I MUST SAY NO TODAY. 

The thought of not being able to move my fingers freely is terrifying- to be caught in that web. I feel trapped, but what binds me? 

The need to say ‘No’ to my self , relates to a trance like state that I can get into where I am not in control and feel in free fall. ( Tara Brach talks about it being the state you are in before you become mindful) 

gracemorganart posted that she had to make the stitches to keep sane.’little bitty stitches on little bitty gloves, these little stitches kept me sane today’  I was in a trance state this week making too many flower stickers. I feel trapped in my mandalas and doodling sometimes – sitting on the sofa not moving enough. My hands hurt with all the small details. 

Then Yesterday I had great fun splodging paint on top of my neat outlines like some kind of rebellion against ‘neat and tidy stuck me ‘ ( lol) 


Below is another version of trapped – it reminds me a bit of ‘Aliens’ when they are waiting to explode out of bodies ……

Below A moth chrysalis up close and a butterfly that didn’t make it . I don’t like the drawing pins . 

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 

Developing a style , A3 size part 1- step by step 

Frequently over the years, I have been asked to do bigger work. I bailing at it because I like working in my kitchen on several things at once. However, the still life style I have been producing would work well A3 ( 12″x16.5″)

Drawing a mandala that big was a bit tricky until I got the hang of it

Stage 1 – mandala  drawing using water soluble teal ink on 140lb watercolour paper and cartridge paper 

Stage 2- Spritzed with water x4 

The second one is drawn with thin sharpie just to see what happens ( my turquoise pen ran out) I always think as I do each stage – leave it here …..

I love the slight differences that you get doing a series 

Part3- adding texture and energy drawing loose spirals in a variety of different pencils , gelatos and pens 

I also added some Galeria  Matt varnish because the blokey in my local art shop said it would act as a resist …… we shall see 

Stage 4 – sprayed pink watersoluble pink ink through a crochet diolly 

I have decided that If I am doing teal and turquoise acrylic backgrounds on top and of these I need to add a bit more zing to the underneath layer. Disappointing there is no evidence of the varnish acting as a resist at this stage …..

But not too much 
Fluorescent pink and yellow is just a bit too much even for me …. ( above I spread it on with a credit card) 

Developing a style part 2 

I have been churning out my back grounds for my still life paintings. My ‘Critical Friend’  Deb suggested that they didn’t look ‘ finished’. I borrowed another vase and messed around with my IPhone looking at composition. 

I like me my layering app- Image Blender and the filter App Prisma for messing about with my images . I wanted to try and get a simillar effect to my painting but using digital methods  

I was pleased with the result – sometimes I wonder why I paint. I don’t get an  emotional response working digitally. 

I started working on several paintings of the same thing at once – because I find it easier to become emerged and like series paintings 

I wasn’t satisfied with these, the vase is horrid to draw and the flowers looked too solid and fleshy. I wondered if the landscape format was too big for the subject 

This was still feeling dull and had lost much of the energy of the initial background . The patterns showed through, but the over all effect was too flat , (teal does not photograph well either) . 

I sent a couple of images to Deb – she liked the last picture  but said: 

‘I think you need to find your ‘why’ and then it will all come together – Why are you making these pictures, what’s the motivation, where’s the energy coming from? ‘ 

I was annoyed at my self – I am trying to find a way to paint  that is mine – then I was more honest 

‘It’s got something to do with my life being a facade – all the turmoil underneath – feeling unwell, traveling , making a mess, mandalas, seeking for spiritual connection . The flowers being plastic because Jon and I are allergic – all the conventions of  a still life – on top of that the flat colour – but some of me coming through ‘ 

I knew what I had to do – I ran the pictures under a tap and attacked them with a washing up abrasive sponge 

The facade is peeling 

I attacked the smaller ones too. I have some others that I produced on printer paper but they are too fragile to be treated in the same way ( lol) 

It’s funny – I have restricted  my self to blues/ teals because I love them  – but I think the stronger colours underneath represent how I am feeling , and work better with the teal/ blue combo on top. 

Next week I shall probably be doing something completely different 

Manic layering 

Part 1 

Christmas and New Year are always bitter sweet for me. Over the years they always meant a lovely time and great food with my Mum. She has been gone 10 years now and they never feel quite the same.

 This year we had illness and drama and so much travelling. I have been like a  maniac making art since we got back . I am still addicted to tea staining and I have bought so many turquoise mark making implements that I need locking up.

Did you know that you can buy my favourite uniball eye markers – in 3 different versions – plain and decorated barrels ? Only 1 of which type has permanent ink? 

It presumably doesn’t usually matter, unless you spend hours alternating pens drawing mandalas  – covering the design in gel medium and tea dipping – expecting to see half your design disappear rather than all of it? 

This is the level I am functioning at, hyper vigilant – I am having a manic menapausal episode with very little sleep – hot sweats and bonkers dreams

Since December I have been working with turquoise. In the New Year more horrid things happened.  I needed  orange. I love using complimentaries so this wasn’t really a problem but I only have one decent small pen in orange and it’s waterproof. I needed to look in my pen stash. 

 My one word for this year is supposed to be ‘passion’but after the week we had had , I think it might have to be ‘equnamitity’.

I  thought about balance and what that represents to me , but couldn’t think of an image that encapsulates the concept that I liked – I found a pattern on the internet that used circles and squares. I decided to try  and incorporate orange/ blue as a way of  trying to cancel out how I was feeling and behaving. I still wanted to use the tea dipping but to develop something new 

I enjoyed the process but when I looked at the  images they weren’t speaking to me. If my art is going in a direction that I like . If  I look at the images and I can see faults but they  say things  like “Yes” or “Somethings happening  here”.   My unadulterated mandalas don’t talk to me either. 

There is a sense of pleasure  – when I produce a new design, but they don’t feel part of me, they are just there. Before I realised I needed orange , I smeared fluorescent pink and yellow onto two  tea dipped pieces with a credit card . I didn’t take pictures because the result was horrid, I added more paint and made  it worse.

 Orange struck, as I  was searching through my pen stash  I found something called a “Crayloa Spider Pen”. The ink was fluorescent orange and came out all sticky – I have no idea where it came from or how long I have had it. I started scrawling all over my reject pieces. It’s fabulous, I don’t think Crayola make them anymore …….. These are yelling at me. My sister will complain  “why are you drawing my migraines?” 

Part 2 

I had to stay out of the flat yesterday – there was too much mess in the kitchen , my blue  images were not speaking to me. There was piles of tea stained paper towels and newspaper. I had emptied my pen stash out all over the sofa and got blue ink on a new dress. 

When I got back after a full body massage and a jacuzzi session I decided to reduce my pile of work by making small pamphlet journals.  These are the same format as letter journals but rather than just folding the A4 pieces in half I trimmed them down to 8×8″ and kept the strip of paper that was left to make mini journals. Some calm reigned for an hour or so. 

After scrawling all over my rejects with the spider pen I wondered if some of my other work could do with one more layer? I drew big mandalas in dark blue Sharpie – they were flat and unresponsive – White Signo pens work well over Sharpie …. 

It felt like a eureka moment – so I drew on top of my least favourite spider pen design as well – the orange was not as punchy when the ink dried . 

Last night the pictures were yelling at me – this morning my sister will definitely complain when she sees them on Instagram lol. 

Messing about with mandala process – tea staining and layers 

Since boiling our journals a few weeks ago with tea and rusty metal .  I have had great fun messing about with my mandala process  – playing with permanent and water soluble pens and layering with tea, gesso and gel medium 

I have joined a woman’s circle in Edinburgh. One of the aims is to get us to move more and get in touch with our inner self . Staining and layering my mandalas is part of this process. I am still sitting still to draw but , an getting up, making tea , steeping , drying and making bigger marks. This feels  more intuiative and freeing something that was tight. 

I love teal and turquoise, the only pens I have these colour are water soluble. I can’t boil these designs but dipping them in a tea / rust mixture adds a lovely transparency to the marks . The designs are more effective when drawn  on printing paper and drawing on both sides. I like the lack of control and the inability to predict exactly what the final product will look like. 

I wanted to see if I could stop the ink running in some areas so I  added swirls of white gesso and gel medium.

I have been adding all sorts of other materials to add interest and water resistance  – gelatos, stabilo pencils , oil pastels and wax crayons. 

The gelmedium protects the ink but it still runs a bit , the gesso is more effective but is harder to work on top of afterwards with the pens. 

Today I started adding gold pen and paint for fun – but I like the contrast and texture that it adds. I also added thin acrylic paint through stencils which was more effective at protecting the water soluble pen as a technique 

Everything isn’t always successful but I am loving the process

On the one above I rubbed off the gelmedium and gesso and drew on top with a blue pen 

A selection of designs showing different experiments. Stencils , painting acrylic paint and an over worked piece showing gold paint. 

One of the objects I make with my mandalas are pamphlet stitch journals. The flower journals below are ripped to make soft stacked edges . I boiled the top one in tea again after I made it with a strip  of rusty metal I found in the road . This added the dark colour at the centre. 

My mandala history 

For the last couple of years creating mandalas type images has become a bit of an obsession. I was drawn to them initially because I liked the patterns and the circular design. They became part of my daily practice to improve my hand eye co-ordination.

Above is a mandala from early 2014  

I played with the elements incorporating architectural details from places I lived in and visited. Ceramic motifs became important after a commission where a client wanted me to use her mother’s collection of pottery and art as source material.


Incorporating architectural motifs from Edinburgh 

Ceramic motifs and French thistles 

Lately I have used them to hide. I have just been sorting through some art journals to take as examples for a class this afternoon and I am shocked by the rawness and emotion contained in some of the pages. My mandalas in comparison have developed a surface beauty that is intricate and detailed. The lines of my pen look flat and emotionless in comparison.

Journal pages 

 Emotionally we have had a difficult year, my son was involved in a road accident in Korea in February. There followed months of recovery and my body rebelled to the levels of stress I was subjected to. The mandalas have kept me sane but also been a trap. To get better I need to move, to walk and get fresh air. All I have wanted to do is sit on the sofa and draw. 

Images Jon took for a drawing I wanted to do 

The mandalas use the same repetitive elements but I have striven to produce slight differences in each one. If I travel away for a weekend or holiday, elements from my journey creep in and over time there has been a gradual change in the designs, to the extent that I decided to catalogue them.

I have bursts of difference and rebellion from the simple shapes, changing the size from A6 to A4, changing the colour of my pen or colouring in with oil based markers or paint – to be honest these are all from my 2014 sketch book (lol!) 
A counseling training course over two weekends caused me to rip up large numbers of the mandalas and make A1 collages, one of which I have been unable to finish.

Unfinished collage – shoe for size

As the time since the course grows longer and I find my self slipping back into old habits.

Last nights offerings

 I have always wanted to make artists dolls. Christmas was coming up and I had a flurry of activity recycling card, cutting and painting limbs. The dolls ended up in an envelope, as I felt overpowered by the fear of the unknown. 10’s of copies in 3 different sizes have been finished, their bodies covered in mandala type motifs and patterns. Their joints move as they dance to wards the festive season as angels with wings.

About a third of them ‘laugh out loud’  again!!!