Laya’s Love: Still Obsessing Over Face Coverings…

Today’s portrait is of a photo posted on Sktchy by Laya of someone she describes as her love. I’m not making any assumptions about whether that’s a partner, husband, best friend or family member! What I do know is that I’m still obsessing about whether or not to cover my face when I go outside – most people still aren’t, and while I know it’s a sensible thing to do I hate feeling conspicuous. I want to be invisible.

I painted this portrait in my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook with Zecchi Toscana watercolours and finished it with Prismacolor coloured pencils.

Akeem: Finding Peace of Mind in a Pandemic

I’ve practiced mindfulness for many years. It’s been one of my most important coping strategies when it comes to looking after my mental health and managing my chronic pain. In the many years I’ve been using it there have been only two times when I’ve really struggled with it, finding it hard to focus well enough even to practice and/or finding myself avoiding practice because to do so was so difficult. The first time was after I developed Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and the second is now. Both times the enormity of the situation has just felt too huge to allow my mind to be calm.

And yet, in the past few days, I am finally finding calm when I pick up my pens and my sketchbook or iPad and draw. I am beginning to find that mindful attention to the present moment returning when I’m focused on drawing portraits, more so every day. It’s taken five weeks to get here and it really is baby steps but I’m counting it as progress. I still can’t find the focus to sit down with my Mindful or Headspace apps, that’s asking too much of my frazzled, panicked mind, but an hour or so of portrait drawing a day is something I’m deeply grateful for.

I drew Sktchy muse Akeem on my iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil using the Procreate app.

Anastasia and the joy of getting lost in a painting

Sktchy are hosting a Backward Portrait Party this weekend, challenging members to reverse their usual drawing or painting methods and works “backwards”. So I totally reversed my usual process to draw Anastasia’s portrait on my iPad. I usually paint hair last so I did it first, than I painted the face and features, and then added some colour for the sweater. I added some linework right at the end. You can see a short timelapse video of my drawing process on YouTube here.

The most interesting thing about this for me was that I was completely absorbed in my work while I was painting and drawing, more than at any time since the coronavirus lockdown began. For a whole hour or so I wasn’t anxious at all, I wasn’t thinking about anything else, I was just making art. It was so lovely to have some peace of mind.

Jackie: No Words

The Financial Times has analysed figures released by the Office of National Statistics and estimates that the real figure for COVID-19 related deaths in the UK as of yesterday was in the region of 41,000, more than double the government’s official figure (https://www.ft.com/content/67e6a4ee-3d05-43bc-ba03-e239799fa6ab).

41,000 people dead, and I’ve seen today’s figure put at 43,000. I have no words to adequately express my feelings. I can barely breathe when I try to imagine that number of people grieving for their loved ones. How many more…

I painted Jackie’s portrait in my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook with Zecchi Toscana watercolours and finished it with Prismacolor coloured pencils.

Nande: is anger better for my mental health than anxiety?

This is Sktchy muse Nande, wearing hospital scrubs and basic PPE, or personal protective equipment, which is now the subject of so much political debate here in the UK because hospitals are running out and Public Health England has been suggesting staff should reuse some of it.

My husband is a resuscitation practitioner in our local hospital, so he’s currently training other staff to resuscitate & intubate, as well as working in A&E, ITU, in operating theatres and on COVID wards. When he comes home my daily questions are “Did you have enough PPE today?” and “Was anyone you work with diagnosed with COVID-19?” I’m trying to stay angry at the incompetence of the government because I think anger is better for my mental health than anxiety, which just consumes me… and it’s not hard to be angry at this pathetic excuse for a government right now.

I drew Nande in my Midori Cotton sketchbook with Copic markers.

Milena, hiding

Sometimes you just want to hide away.

Thanks to Sktchy muse Milena for providing the inspiration for today’s portrait. It was drawn in my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook with a Unipin fineliner, painted with Zecchi Toscana watercolours and finished with Prismacolor coloured pencils.

Mussu in a Mask

To mask or not to mask is becoming more of a conversation every day in the UK, but they are still very difficult to get hold of. But you can make your own now, so long as you don’t need them to be medical quality – YouTube, Facebook and Instagram are bursting with instructional videos for sewing your own and even hacks for making stitch-free versions using scarves and elastic bands. I ordered a couple of washable ones from Amazon a month ago and they finally arrived this week so I have some if I need to go to the shops or chemists. But official policy at the moment is that they don’t need to be worn in public.

This is Sktchy muse Mussu. I drew her in a Midori Cotton sketchbook with Copic markers and Prismacolor coloured pencils.

Calysta: Things I Miss

This is Sktchy muse Calysta. While I was drawing her I was thinking of the things I miss.

I miss small talk in the margins of meetings.

I miss passing the time with neighbours in the street.

I miss the sound of children heading to and from school through my open window and the distant hubbub of the school playground at playtime.

I miss pub lunches and chip shop suppers.

I miss days at the farm.

I miss not feeling scared, anxious and sad all the time.

I miss feeling in control of my mental health, my agoraphobia and claustrophobia.

I miss being able to just leave the house and go somewhere, anywhere, when I want to, just to remind myself that I am able to do that these days. Will I be able to do that by the time the lockdown is over or will I be agoraphobic again?

I drew Calysta on my iPad Pro using the Procreate app.

Ariana

How many of you, like me, feel like you’re disappearing from the world in this lockdown? We have no material impact on it any more. The only presence I have in the world is the one I have here, in cyberspace, through my words and through my portraits. And I feel so inarticulate when I write, at least when I draw I feel as though I’m expressing a little of what I’m feeling.

At the moment I feel as though I’m gradually vanishing, so that if, in a few days time, I disappeared completely, no one would notice. This portrait of Ariana expresses that feeling very well indeed, that the outer edges of me are already gone, melted away into nothingness.

I drew this portrait on my iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil using the Procreate app.