Visiting emotional triggers

2 years ago my son was in a road accident in South Korea – this week my daughter was poorly with asthma and flu and had to go to hospital. I am doing an initial counselling course and found it very difficult to do an empathy exercise with another student.

My irritable bowel has also been playing up, so all my emotional stuff is roiling around my stomach. I wanted to see if I could work through all the rubbish visually to see if that helped

I started off having flash backs after Face book reminded me that I was in Korea 2 years ago. My son was not really in any critical danger but he did fracture his skull in 3 places. So I went to Korea. It was a difficult time as you can imagine.

I came up with this image as a starting point after searching for flash backs in google images

Thinking about PTSD – which I don’t have, but being a visual animal and sensitive to being over stimulated – I thought it would be interesting to have a look at what images came up for PTSD

I love this one but it didn’t resonate with me at the time.

Here are some more I found interesting

I decided to start messing about digitally with a couple of these to see what I came up with – this is how I usually work. I liked the scribble and the spiral

Unfortunately when I worked in my journal I didn’t do a step by step, but after a series of layers this is what I came up with.

You can’t really see the resemblance to the original images. I started off with a spiral clock doodle and then added layers of pattern, text , and a big loose scribble. I tried adding a lady in the middle but it didn’t seem to convey what I was feeling. however I liked the phrase ‘in the eye of a storm’ so an eye seemed more appropriate.

After lunch I doodled while waiting in a cafe, for a friend. Typically I forgot paper, but I had a pen. A few companies produce nice weight paper advertising leaflets which were on display at the cafe, so I decided to appropriate a diary to work on.

It helped to situate the doodle in a time frame of Feb/ March to anchor my thoughts. I like the look of asemic writing – what I use is technically not that – I write on top of my words a couple of times to hide the meaning from the reader – so I write out all my feelings but you can’t read it.

Asemic writing is a wordless open semantic form of writing. The word asemic means “having no specific semantic content,” or “without the smallest unit of meaning.” With the non-specificity of asemic writing there comes a vacuum of meaning, which is left for the reader to fill in and interpret’ (Wikipedia)


Sometimes it feels like I am in a dyslexic fugue-shining a light – ‘Soul Restoration’

I am ‘doing’ Soul Restoration with the ‘Brave Girls University’ . my best arty friend Debbie Howard is tutoring me electronically and I have signed up for Melody Ross’ video tutorials and bought the work book….

I am shining a light on my truths, today looking at my dyslexia which is driving me mad this week. I have trouble with dates and calendars – I try so hard to compensate but sometimes I have a melt down – 4 double bookings over the next few months has me reduced to a quivering jelly with a lack of self esteem……. I drew a table last night of my cock ups to get a better idea of how much grovelling I have to do , over the next few days.

As compensation I decided to stop beating my self up and look up symptoms of adult dyslexia

I tried very hard to spell the title properly but – drawing letters sends my potty – concentration on tooooo many things at once ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

I picked out those that apply to me the most – if you have 10 the website has a course that you can attend to help you ……

I try an compensate but when I was a teacher it was a bit tricky with report writing and timetables….

I was reading the list – which I found interesting – it has a disclaimer at the top

‘Most adult dyslexics will exhibit at least 10 of the following traits and behaviors. These characteristics are often inconsistent, and may vary depending upon the day or situation.’

My art journalling called – I sometimes see pages in my head just before I wake up properly in the morning – today a girl was drowning in a sea of dyslexia – a bit dramatic but I liked it.

In the sea it says ” the very things that held you under are going to lift you up’ there is a randomn ‘ ‘achieve’ and ‘pressure’ and watches to represent time – calendars etc

The Soul Restoration course asks you to look at your light and shade in your life

Yesterday I had a mad art day and produced quite a few pages based on the idea around shining a light on the shade/ lies that I tell my self – I am finding the ‘lies’ quite difficult to get my head around

The one below looks at how there is too little natural light in my basement flat and how it is necessary to get out and walk everyday

Below I look at how I achieve when I push my self – this is quite a hard balance to achieve with the beating myself up that goes on with my dyslexia. These pages feel raw, untidy and unfinished but the express how I was feeling and the struggle to be authentic on the page

My first spread for this course looked at 3 different senses of self – a facade that I can present to the world , a shadow self and an authentic self. I made the page after a movement medicine session. Sometimes it feels like I dance to feel the light. – the page is a fold out piece so there are several pics

New commission, Osteopath -23Eyre Place, Edinburgh

We had a fab but tiring time in Sacramento visiting our son and his wife over Christmas and the New Year. I feel like I am emerging from jet lag and had a meeting today with my Osteopath who would like me to produce some art for her practice.

She has been advertising in the yellow pages since 2000. The paper version of the pages is stopping. I am to use her collection of adverts as a basis for some art work

I had fun using layout to make some patterns – though I think these are a bit too representational

We talked about ideas for 3 pieces

– I fancied making some origami from some of the adverts ( there are lots) to make up the shape of a spine which could be framed in a deep window box. I like the idea of the finished origami shapes breaking up the text through the folding. And the link with a spine/ osteopathy

Image from Pinterest no citation ref

I thought a frog might work because it could work like a vertebra

The Osteopath likes my dancing ladies that I produced for my last exhibition – she is happy with this concept in terms of the idea of movement links in with Osteopaths helping people to move.

The third idea is to do what ever I like with the papers …… watch this space.


Group work and art journalling

I ran an art journalling session for group workers. They attended my initial session which introduced art journalling for self care back in May.

I started the session with a selection of journals that I have worked on collaboratively with friends from Instagram and FB. After talking to the group work facilitator we felt that collaborative work would be a key part of our art work with clients.

As a safe way of working collaboratively I got the group to work on sheets of A4 circular stickers so that they could explore the materials provided

I showed the group how to make a couple of journals using different folding techniques – a Zine format and a concertina fold. We noticed that the folding and handling the paper was relaxing in its self.

The concertina journal is made using the preliminary origami fold and glueing together 4 shapes with the top single points all facing the same way ( I do quite a lot of origami and wouldn’t recommend trying this unless you know the group quite well)

We decided that we wouldn’t work further with the concertina folding because it was quite problematic. I asked the group to work in pairs and come up with ways that they could use the Zine journals in a group work


We chose to look at making a sample journal that the participants could use as a teaching tool . We initially decided to explore how colour could be interpreted.

I provided a range of materials and equipment


Ink blocks


Colouring pencils

Paint / brushes

Glue sticks



Paper sample bag – printed matter/Photos/ coloured paper/

As we worked the group decided that they wanted to keep working on this aspect during most of the time allocated. We discussed the work in progress in pairs and as a whole group.

I am new group work so to I tried to let the group work in a self directed way as much possible. I am not sure how successful I was. I attempted to make my comments related to art techniques and encouraging members to stick to the task we had agreed upon …….


Movement medicine inspired artmakingย 

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 ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ 

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 


Self Doubtย 

Wed 31 May

Over the last couple of years I have been meditating and working( art journalling )  with Tara Brach podcasts. My friend Deb instigates which podcast we listen to each week. Every time something shifts. Today  we listened to ‘Healing Self Doubt’ from 9th April 2016

 I regularly feel that I cannot be trusted , that I let people down, Not in a moral sense but ,because I make mistakes, struggle with boundaries, am dyslexic and  have migraines 

Notes from listening to Tara Brach’s podcast will appear in bold italic through out this post 

Self doubt, shadow side, who do you think you are? Final challenge of the Buddha. Universal problem. Do I have the capacity to be free? ‘Wee being’ with a badness at its core, definining feature of who I am. Identity can solidify become a cluster of repeating beliefs that catch us. Need to unpick, investigate, weaken hold, release thickness. Belief has power , identity is wrapped up in sticky beliefs , a vulnerable seperate self. Primaries , core identity, false self, 

I have been manically doodling this week – making zine fold books 

I like this format because you can see the inside and outside of the Zine  inbetween stage E and F above 

It’s necessary to shift doubt , find the authentic self and release the not good enough syndrome. There can be an endless hunger for affirmation, imposter syndrome. The ego doesn’t like itself for seeking affirmation. Ask your self – who are you really? What could happen if you let your negative belief go? Veil of belief . Take back your own listening. RAIN* . The beliefs might feel real. How has this squeezed your life? 

The podcast feels very relevant because it talks about unpicking self doubt  – ‘lifting the veil , looking at identity, releasing a thickness in oneself , and sticky beliefs’. I find listening to the podcast , making notes and then collaging a physical release. Cutting out images , layering ,waiting for things to dry , repetition, all help with healing (though this can be quite transient and momentarily) a sense of self . I am having tummy migraines, my head hurts and my  perception feels displaced. This art making feels embodied

Making my ‘Zine’ I have lots of layers – doodling , tea dipping , paint , black marker. It’s like exposing stratum or a map 

After working with Deb/ Tara and thinking about how my self doubt limits me.  I went to work. I am a receptionist and I have to check data. I went through a pile of papers 3 times and then devised  a different way of verifying  so that it got checked again – I didn’t trust my self …….. I needed to tell my manager that my findings were correct, That I could be trusted , the irony of the  repetitive checking today after working on self doubt this morning was not lost on me. 

What would it be like to live without that belief? Liberated, space, relax , trust enough . Not my will but my hearts will, real but not true. 

Thursday 1st of June 

This morning I felt ill, but wanted to keep working on my ‘Zine’  making the pretty patterns is  a relief in it self , but the finished resultsdon’t seem to  articulating any meaning. 

 Yesterday Deb reminded me of a technique we have used in the past caledl ‘veiling’ . This requires  dragging  white paint with a credit card over imagery to knock back or hide sections .This time we used a stencil to add texture 

I found this very powerful and added it over my patterns and text throughout my Zine ( for some reason I really dislike that term) 

I still needed more – more text , more images, more scrawl.  (I am back into my black mail typography at the moment. It feels cathartic to search for individual letters , cutting them out as I work and I don’t make so many spelling mistakes) 

I highlighted the eyes because I felt it was important  highlight the fact sea of looking inward, to be seen , ‘to investigate, to unpack my core identity ‘ ( Brach 2016) 

I am frustrated by fashion magazines lack of diversity of shape and age in the models they use. But I did find a picture of Vanessa Redgrave (who is still very thin) but has nice wrinkles. What is funny is that I still managed to obscure them.

 Using the Zine  layout is that it is possible ( by not making a cover) to confuse the reader. To not have a definite beginning or end, one can go round and round not stopping , revisiting the pages  ( which is what it can feel like when I worry things like the stack of data). 

There is also the possibility of turning it inside out so that all the painful navel gazing is on inside and  a bit less exposed. 

I do like art therapy journalling. 


R โ€“ Recognize what is happening

A โ€“ Allow life to be just as it is

I โ€“ Investigate inner experience with kindness

N โ€“ Non-Identification.


Art journalling session 2 – session outlineย 

Session 10am-1pm then 2pm-3.15pm 

Co -facilitated with Jo from the charity in Dunfermline- the participants were  all counsellors interested in introducing art journalling to clients ( 4 participants) Due to the small size of the group Jo and I worked together on a couple of exercises so that we gave the participants space 

Start 10-11am I demonstrated  how to make two simple journals (see previous blog post) 

 Jo suggested that we started by making a ‘safe page’ in the journals, ( one of the participants had been unable to attend the first session so we revisited magazine collages) . Some suggestions for ideas if clients don’t know where to start were – to do a page of your favourite colour, use words that suggest what your safe space might look like., use found images to create an image of your safe space 

Group discussion 11-11.20


Exercise 11.30-1pm 

Demonstration-  Jo and I explored how to use pastel and felt pen to express feelings – I drew whilst Jo prompted me to be reflexive about my mark making in front of the group ( at their request  10-15mins)

The group divided into pairs and had 25 mins each working as counsellor/ client in the medium of their choice- 3 used Patel and crayon, 1 person used collage. 

Jo and I did the soft eye flicking through a magazine and chose words and phrases that appealed to us – I found that I had chosen the word ‘colour’ but my words lacked colour or were in  black and white. So I added wax crayon and circled words that had more meaning to me than others 

Group discussion 

Lunch 1-2pm 

Exercise 2-245pm 

Before this session Jo and I discussed different ways that we could use collage in pairs – Jo suggested having a silent dialogue

We suggested that the participants worked in collage collaboratively in 2 journals at the same time so that they each had an example to take home – this diluted the experience a bit, some people found they had two seperate conversations. Jo has found it more intense  if you just work on one page and watch as the other person makes their part of the conversation. Looking at body language and how images and text are placed on the page 

Examples of conversations 



2.45-3.15 pm Evaluation/ discussion 

Jo fancied the group producing an evaluation of the session as collage/ mixed media. So we each produced an index card that illustrated how we felt about the session- one of the participants cards was two sided. (Mine is bottom right these sessions always make me very happy)