My drawing therapy is working. I’m finding easier each day to get lost in the process of just drawing, of finding the lines and playing with colour and gradually I’m making my peace with the world again. I know it will be some time before I’m back where I was a year ago, but that’s OK. I’m going in the right direction and I know what I need to do. And this portrait of Janet from Sktchy was today’s step in that direction.
I drew Janet on my iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil using the Procreate app. I’ve uploaded a Procreate timelapse video to YouTube. If you’d like to see it you can watch it here.
As those of you who’ve been following my blog these past few months will know I’ve been struggling with my mental health and with finding the motivation to draw since the coronavirus lockdown in the UK. I’m having some talking therapy now and my therapist has giving me homework this week of doing 1-2 hours drawing every day! So this portrait of Cilla is my homework for Day 1.
I drew Cilla in my Midori Cotton sketchbook with Copic markers and Prismacolor coloured pencils.
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.
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.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while you probably didn’t know a month ago that I have a history of mental health problems. It’s not that I hide it, I don’t. I may we’ll have mentioned here before, I’m not sure. It’s just that it’s generally not that relevant to my drawing. But that all changed with the C-19 lockdown.
Drawing, painting, any kind of art, has been an essential therapeutic activity for me since I started to draw 5 or 6 years ago. But it’s only in the last week or so that I’ve actually used my choice of portrait to process my emotions. I tried to write about how I was feeling last week but it was too difficult.
I think many people don’t understand how triggering this situation is for people with a history of mental health problems. I had severe depression and anxiety which left me agoraphobic for a long time. Learning to leave the house again regularly and relatively easily was a long slow difficult process. Not being able to triggers very difficult memories and the fear of a relapse. It’s hard to write about all the feelings I have without provoking intense anxiety, it’s much easier to draw a portrait that reflects my feelings, and doing that reduces my anxiety.
Today this is the image that best fits my mood because I want to roar. Not in anger, this is more of a shout-out, a roar-out, for all those amazing people in my online mental health community who are managing those difficulties in this lockdown with minimal help, if any, from mental health services AND supporting each other. Yes, healthcare workers and delivery drivers are amazing but so is someone who has ever had OCD who is coping with all the public health messages about a virus and handwashing. I’m so grateful to my mental health community both on and offline for being there for me and for everyone else who needs them right now.
Thanks to Sktchy muse Adamo for being inspiration for today’s portrait, which I painted with watercolours in a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook.
I’m feeling very anxious at the moment. Who isn’t, right? But I have a long history of mental illness and I’ve been trying really hard to ignore my rising anxiety these past few days but it’s refusing to be ignored. It’s waking me up,in the early hours and affecting me physiologically now. So I’m having to pay it some attention.
I’ve become very good at managing my day-to-day anxiety over the past few years but it’s obvious that those management techniques aren’t going to be enough in this new lockdown world, I have to adapt and find something more rigorous to help me through this. So I’ve started by simply admitting that, not only to myself but publicly, I think he way I know best, drawing. And I’m sharing this with #MadCovidDiaries, a project for people with mental health issues to share diaries of their experiences of the lockdown in the UK.
I drew this portrait on my iPad Pro using an Apple Pencil and the Procreate app.