Maybe I’ll do a little blogging (and sketching) again

A few weeks ago I turned off the blog – set it to private – because it felt like the only thing I had to talk about was chronic illness, and that gets pretty exhausting to live, let alone write about. I wonder sometimes if other chronic illness bloggers ever feel that way.

Then, a couple days ago, someone commented on a post! I heard the ding on my iPhone and thought, “Whaaaa? Didn’t I turn the blog off?” But maybe here’s where I talk about ADHD and feeling scatterbrained, because who knows, it’s possible I turned the blog back on without remembering, but there it was, not hidden and getting a comment. And it was nice, too, this note from someone about how my post about dyeing my Macabi skirts helped them out. Yay! I love that I got to be helpful.

Here’s what I’ve been doing lately: painting. Again. I have a watercolor sketchbook. Right now I’m using a Global Art Materials book sized 8.5″ by 5.5″, and it’s just the right size. The cover was an off-white linen, but in honor of my second-ever visit to the Oregon Country Fair recently, I made some adjustments to its cover:

I painted it with Dr. Ph. Martin’s watercolor ink. I love that stuff!

I decided to see if I could make daily sketching and painting a habit, specifically to help with stress, to get into flow on a regular basis, and to just get better at drawing and painting.

I had to get a good basic palette going, so I checked in with the three watercolor painters I like the most, Liz Steel, Kateri Ewing, and Jane Blundell, and I got their lists of basic starter colors. Kateri’s list is just the colors she recommends for her Bluprint class on basic watercolor technique.

I had many of these colors, but I got a few more and created my own palette:

Creating palettes is so much fun, I could do that for hours. If I could, I’d just sit in the Daniel Smith factory all day and create palettes for every purpose. Underwater palettes, forest palettes, desert palettes, sunset palettes, painting dogs palettes, on and on.

My sketchbook is slowly filling up. I have been painting every day, like I planned. I don’t know how long this streak will last and I put zero pressure on myself, because pressure or beating myself up doesn’t help me (does it help anyone?). What helps is gentle reminders, and noticing how happy I feel when I return to the book every day. I usually start in the morning with tea and painting, and end every day with a little more tea and painting. It’s calming, I highly recommend it. I always say that watercolor is like ukulele – you can be a beginner and still make beautiful things happen. No one would mistake my work for a professional’s, but that doesn’t matter. Just putting lovely colors together is a delight, and it lightens the heart and mind. Art is powerful stuff!

Inktober Day 8 – “star”

Things I enjoyed about this:

  • It was fun to mix the colors. I started with the red by itself (Rose Madder from Daniel Smith, mixed with Arctic Fire, because SPARKLES!), and then I just kept adding colors to the rose to make the rest of the colors. A little yellow to get the orange, more yellow to get the yellow, then blue to get the green, then more blue to get the blue, and then more rose to get the purple. Mixing colors is relaxing.
  • I love stars, in general. So yay stars!
  • I used gold ink for the middle, which I applied with a brush. It was fun to paint with what felt like liquid gold. Hi! I’m five. Glitter is still the bomb.

That happy little zing I get from some little pieces of art I do, it wasn’t there with this one. This was more a nice shrug. The Shrug of Niceness. That’s okay! I love the zing, I want more of the zing, the zing is what drives the desire to get better. But if I only made art for the zing, I’d never make art. It helps to know that the zing comes every x times I do art. It’s the intermittent reinforcement that keeps me going. I got a big zing from the one I did yesterday. I still get the zing when I look at it.

And the important thing is that no matter whether the zing is there that day or not, I always feel better off, emotionally, for having made art. However imperfect, however novice, however un-zingy. It’s healing just to use the paints, just to scrape that nib of ink across the paper.

People keep asking me how I’m doing, and it’s hard not to just say, “I’m in pain all the time!“, with the same urgency I’d feel if my answer were, “There’s a tiger right behind me!” Pain can bring with it such urgency. It’s hard to explain how distracting it is, to someone who only gets sore when they workout (ahhhh, workouts, I remember those), or if they stand for hours (I’m in pain when I’m standing, and it gets worse and worse until I have to sit down, usually after about five minutes).

People think it’s just no big deal, but it’s such a big deal. Chronic pain is so exhausting. Mentally, physically. Shoulders, spine, and hips always flaring like fire, always creaky and stiff. What I’m sure must be gravel in my low back. I want to break out of this shell like a caterpillar from a cocoon. Leave it all behind. No, that isn’t suicidal ideation (I promise – I have good support), it’s what I almost literally wish I could do. Somehow crack the shell off and crawl out with a fresh spine, fresh nerves. If I were a good enough artist, I’d draw that.

Oh! I did take some turmeric today, after my friend Elaine suggested it. I’ll give that a few days and see if it works.

Okay, that’s enough about pain. FOR TODAY, muhahaha. You know I’ll talk about it tomorrow.

Inktober Days 6 and 7 – “drooling” and “exhausted”

I missed yesterday, I had some mysterious illness and was on the couch sick for hours. That means I missed yesterday’s Inktober prompt, which was “drooling”. But when I saw that today’s prompt was “exhausted”, well, hello fellow fibromyalgia/CFS sufferers! It’s our word, eh? I knew this had to be my first self-portrait.

So why not put exhausted and drooling together? Here’s me, asleep and drooling.

I took a reference photo of myself, and used a pencil to do some line work before I went in with the ink:

This was really fun to do, because I gave myself enough time! I worked at my little table upstairs, not on the couch with my corgi half in my lap and the TV on to something distracting. Instead I got a snack, I came up and cleared off some space, and I sat down  to do some art. Being intentional about it made for an entirely different experience.

Last night I watched a video on Skillshare from Yasmina Creates about pen and ink. It was great, I was surprised how much information she packed in to just a half hour video! One of the things she went over was hatching and stippling, which I really need to practice but that’s fine because I love it, as well as how to take care of ink nibs, and brushes that you use with ink, and a bunch of other things. I tried to use some hatching in today’s piece, and I’m moderately pleased with the results. I can see how I need to get better at it, but for a first go, I’m liking it a lot. I get the little zing of happiness from this one (that I sadly didn’t feel from the chicken, lol).

My forehead is also way bigger than I thought it was! Proportion, it’s a thing. And the upper left side of my forehead isn’t actually so squared off, but that falls under, Oh Well, I’ll Do Better Next Time. Such a nice heading that is. I put everything under it these days.

What really matters is how much joy I feel when I draw and paint, and I felt that tonight. I was having a hard day before this. The pain continues to be awful (I feel like it’s a fall/winter thing, but taking loads of Vitamin D don’t seem to be helping, and I’m not yet willing to move to California), and there comes a point where I just feel broken down by it. Being in pain all the damn time is the most distracting thing I can think of, and I hate it, so much. It interrupts my thoughts, my sleep, my every waking moment. It like a Pac-Man in the brain that just looks for any happy chemical your body produces and rushes over to it, gobbling it up.

When I draw and paint, it puts more of the good chemicals out there. Oh sure, Pac-Man will eat them up, later. I know. I’ll wake up tonight and have to walk to the bathroom with this crazy stiff spine and hips, gripping the end of the bed, trying not to exhale from the pain so loudly that Greg wakes up. But tomorrow I can draw and paint again. I can make happiness happen, with a tiny little sketchpad and a set of paints and a brush and a glass of water.

Stanford’s fatigue scale in a questionnaire I was sent

I’m putting this here just for the sake of interest. If you have CFS or Fibro, or wonder if you do, and you have a hard time describing your fatigue to others, here’s a scale that I found in a questionnaire sent to me from Stanford (where I went for some treatment a year ago).

It might be useful for you if you’re having trouble describing what you mean when a doctor is asking you, “What do you mean by ‘really tired’?”

The blue dot is my score. I look down to the bottom of the page. I love that: normal. I really miss normal. I miss being able to exercise.

I loved dancing. I would dance for an hour or more, every day, just bopping around the room to music. Worked up a great sweat, kept all the joints lubricated, and it was just awesomely fun. The last time I tried to dance like that was about two months ago, when Greg got a new wireless speaker and I was testing out its capabilities while everyone was at work/school. The music sounded great. I started moving…carefully. I got into it. Memories came flooding back! I loved it. By the end of the second song I was exhausted. I had to stop everything I was doing and go sit down, and stay there until evening. I slept the whole next day.

It’s scary knowing that I’ve been sick for about 11 years, and slowly moving down the scale every year. Will I hit 1 this year? Next year? What about 0? It’s terrifying.