Intro – read this first

I discovered this amazing blog today and believe everyone should read it.

What is therapy like?


Hopefully this explains why I started recording my therapy. I wanted a way to remember all the important work that was happening. It also became a great way to communicate to my therapist some difficult thoughts, feelings and experiences, and for me to chart my progress. So it was meant initially as a way to express things going on for me. My hope by putting it ‘out there’ on the ‘tinterweb is that it may help someone is some small way as it has helped me. Therapy is not easy. I wish I had known some of the things I know now when I started out! I’m not an artist, nor am I very good at spelling – but well, they are not the important things.

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Zentangle Day One

Banji’s gotten me into a new trend: Zentangle. The basic idea is to use drawing purposeful, repetitive strokes to enter a calm, zen state – what artists tend to call being “in the zone.” I’ve been having a lot of fun flipping through Banji’s Zentangle books for inspiration and trying things as they meet my fancy.

One of the books she has is particularly interesting: One Zentangle a Day by Beckah Krahula. It teaches the Zentangle method over the course of 6 weeks. I like the idea of having a more structured approach to learning an artistic method, and frankly I need the daily zen practice. I’m hoping it will help me to quiet my mind, focus, and be more intentional in my everyday living – and to manage my anxious depression symptoms.

I started out on the kitchen table with just the book, the same sketchbook I drew the dark horse in, a regular ball point pen (black ink), and a mechanical .7 mm pencil.

A table top with the book "One Zentangle a Day," a sketchbook, a green mechanical pencil, a purple pen, and a square piece of white paper.

I was glad I could start out using items I already own.

After practicing today’s tangles a few times in the sketchbook, I started my Zentangle. I took a 3.5″ x 3.5″ piece of acid free drawing paper, used my pencil to draw a dot in each corner and connect them, and drew a couple of lines to separate the drawing area into 5 sections. Then I used my pen to fill each section with one of the 3 tangles I’d just learned.

The process was relaxing and a lot of fun! I love focusing in on one small area, doing the same repetitive motion over and over again, and then zooming back out to see a much more interesting and dynamic whole than I had expected. Happiness rushed through me – not the calm, contented, “zen” happiness I had expected, but an excited, engaged, and active energy. I focused it in on each stroke of my pen and savored the feeling of that energy flowing through me.

In the meantime, my mind would allow only brief moments of silence, when the only thing happening was drawing the Zentangle. I didn’t have any music playing, so it decided to play “Let It Go” from Frozen. I’ve started learning the piano part, so I’ve got the introduction fresh in my mind, playing on repeat, very slowly. It’s in minor, so if you slow it down too much it gets rather depressing. I’ve been trying to nudge my mind into playing the whole song at the correct tempo, with the lyrics in the correct order.

My mind decided that, instead of acquiescing to my request, it was going to play around with the melody and rhythm – essentially, creating its own variations on the opening of “Let It Go.” I grinned. I can totally do that for fun, and I’d love to jot down the melodies as my mind comes up with them. They could make great inspiration for an original composition.

I liked it a lot less when my mind decided to start going into things I need to do in the near future. I told it that this is time to focus on drawing. The redirection was a lot easier than I’d expected. Drawing is fun and relaxing, and my mind likes being creative.

When I finished working in pen, I started to feel anxious and a little angry. I didn’t want to be finished! I wanted to keep Zentangling! But then I realized that I still needed to add shading. “You wanted to keep going. Well, we’re not finished. Help me shade this.” Once again I zoomed in, not worrying about how the gestalt would look, but following the procedure. “You’re supposed to shade this part of the tangle.” I had my own interpretation for one of them, but I was consistent. I relished the new visual textures I was creating.

Then I zoomed out, and wow! My Zentangle looks as good as any of the ones in the various books I’ve had the pleasure of flipping through. I love looking at it as much as I enjoyed drawing it. And I get to make one of these every day! It’s fantastic. I want to share it with everyone.

original artwork by Ziya Tamesis

original artwork by Ziya Tamesis

On the back I wrote: “One Zentangle a Day, Day 1, 3/31/14, [my home address], kitchen table.” I appropriated a plastic storage container for this and any future Zentangles, my remaining 3.5″ x 3.5″ squares, and the cardboard cutouts I have for making new squares and circles. It, unlike far too many items in this house, has a specific home that is easily accessible.

Celtic Design Knotwork

Wakana strongly encouraged me to try something new. So, I pulled out a book that’s been on my shelf for a while now, Celtic Design: Knotwork by Aidan Meehan. It has instructions for drawing your own Celtic knotwork, starting with how to create various grids (e.g. 2×2, 5×5) and moving from simple to increasingly complex patterns. After experimenting with it for a couple of days, I have a few drawings I would like to share:

A foundation knot, including the color-coded grid I used to draw it.

A foundation knot, including the color-coded grid I used to draw it.

A Josephine knot border.

A Josephine knot border.

A Josephine knot panel. I used differently-colored pencils to create the 10x10 grid that serves as the foundation for the knotwork.

A Josephine knot panel. I used differently-colored pencils to create the 10×10 grid that serves as the foundation for the knotwork.

Although artistically-speaking it’s probably better not to allow the grid to show through, I love how it remains visible in this final piece. There were many overlapping layers involved in the creation of the grid, and the knotwork forms yet another layer on top of it. I love that the knotwork serves as both the focus of the piece and a means of seeing parts of the process that went into its creation.

I see it as a metaphor for how people have multiple layers of being – thoughts to words, emotions to affect, impulses to actions, etc. What anyone sees me doing at a given point in time is only a small fraction of who I am.

In Search of Truth

A series of 4 images.

First, I used oil pastels to color in a spiral – or, as Fox put it, a rainbow snail shell.

I drew both spirals from the outside, in - but I colored the big spiral from the inside, out.

I drew both spirals from the outside, in – but I colored the big spiral from the inside, out. My original intent was to go from the darkness within through the blood red to the light and growth without.

Then, I used darker colors to cover it up. By the time I was done smudging everything, my hands were almost completely black.

This is just one potential way to visualize depression.

This is just one potential way to visualize depression.

I wanted to bring out some faces I saw in that mess, but drawing over it with oil pastels wasn’t working. If only there were a way to cut through the smudgy, messy depression and see something – anything – clearly!

I used a scratching tool to scratch off some of the oil pastel to create the image(s) you see here.

I used a scratching tool to scratch off some of the oil pastel to create the image(s) you see here.

Finally, I was able to discover what was truly hiding behind that mess …

An unexpected self-portrait.

An unexpected self-portrait.

The Bloody Arms Project

Today the good folk at The Daily Post offered the following prompt:

Tell us about a time where everything you’d hoped would happen actually did.

Well, I’ve been plagued with thoughts about cutting myself for some time now. Mostly lately they come in the form of mental images, rather than as an urge or thought that I should do it. I’ve been interpreting them less as a message about what I could or should do to my body, and more as an expression of what has already been done to my soul.  My spirit. My emotional self.

I’ve been trying to find some way to get these images out of my head, where they tend to hurt me, and into some form I can share with the world. I thought paint would be the best medium, but for the time being I seem not to have access to any. Today I experimented with crayons, oil pastels, and finally modeling clay (plastalina).

Art Materials

Not only was I able to express at least some of my inner turmoil without harming myself or anyone else, but as I was working with the clay I actually felt a sense of peace. Gone were the disturbing mental images and verbal abuse. Thoughts about the process of creating art – even the thought, “Ooh, yeah, that’s beautiful!” – took their place.

So now I have a safe outlet for dangerous emotions and a means of exploring emotional experiences that really do not lend themselves well to words. I can even experience some peace and a sense of accomplishment while I do so. And that gives me a lot of hope.

The images I created are behind the following link. They may be triggering to some people, particularly anyone inclined toward self-harm and survivors of abuse.

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The Wyvern


“Wyverns are michievous, vicious, and malevolent creatures believed to cause disease and death.”

a not-so-friendly dragon from Northern Europe, Greece and Ethiopia

thanks to Ralph Masiello’s Dragon Drawing Book for step-by-step instructions on how to draw this creature

Mushussu-Sirrush: Babylonian Dragon of Chaos

It’s 15 years to the day since my father died from cancer. I … have been trying not to think about it too much.

When I do think about it, I’m sad. I miss him. I mourn for the relationship we could have had, now that I’m an adult. I mourn for all the things he has missed and is going to miss: graduations and my (someday) wedding, for example. Meeting Banji and Fox – I think they would have gotten along with him rather well.

I’m also angry. I’m angry that I keep repeating the same response I had when I first learned he had died: I freeze, unable to think or move, feeling empty. The emptiness is the worst. I’m not angry at myself for doing it. I’m angry about the harmful impact it has had on my life.

I’m also angry and sad that my (someday) children will never meet one of their grandfathers. I never met one of mine, and I still feel like something is missing. At least I have some vague, but fond memories of my very limited time with the grandfather who died when I was in preschool. The one I never met is like a hole in my life. My children haven’t even been born yet and that same hole is in their lives, too.

The anger I feel now is not rage. It’s that cold, calm, simmering anger that often masquerades as sorrow. A tense feeling that something is not right; some injustice has been done. It’s far more dangerous than if I wanted to stomp around screaming and breaking things. I probably won’t express it; it will just eat away at me.

But I’m used to it. We can sit here, side by side.

I struggle to remind myself that Dad is the one whose life ended on that day. My life changed drastically, but I continue to live.

And live I have. I’ve done a lot of awesome things. I’ll do even more.

I’ve done things I might not have been able to do, had he been around to think he had a say in the matter.

So why does the title of this post reference chaos?

I’ve had a fairly awesome book for some time now: Ralph Masiello’s Dragon Drawing Book: Become an artist step-by-step. Today I decided to make my first attempt at drawing one of the dragons – admittedly, as a way of shutting out the world and doing something for myself that required relatively little verbal thought. It worked fairly well.

As I flipped through the book, the dragon that called out to me most was Mushussu, also called Sirrush: the Babylonian dragon of chaos. I like its mischievous grin and, well,

My first attempt. I loved the look of the dragon's face, but I hadn't given myself enough room to draw the flame, etc. so I started over.

My first attempt. I loved the look of the dragon’s face, but I hadn’t given myself enough room to draw the flame, etc. so I started over.

There’s been a lot of chaos in my life. Dad and his side of the family certainly contributed quite a bit of it. Their actions toward and the direct effects of their actions on me did not make for the most stable, healthy childhood and adolescence. They also hurt Mom in ways that created more chaos for me; her stress became my stress and our relationship has always been at least a little strained.

My second attempt. Once again, I didn't have enough room to draw the legs. So I switched to a bigger piece of paper and started over.

My second attempt. Once again, I didn’t have enough room to draw the legs. So I switched to a bigger piece of paper and started over.

Sometimes it feels like chaos runs my life. My room’s a mess; I often can’t find the thing I need. Interactions with people I care about often feel chaotic. The world, crowded places, and the sounds of life (especially unwanted background music) are chaotic. My brain …

I frantically do stupid things, often harmful things, to try and control things I can’t. To find a small bit of calm. To organize my brain enough to do the things you keep asking of me …

I mean, to function.

My first successful drawing of a dragon's entire body.

My first successful drawing of a dragon’s entire body.

I can’t even control my pencil as well as I’d like; I try to draw the shape I see in the book, but my pencil goes some weird direction that is not what I intended. I have to erase, try again, really concentrate …

I added "fish scales" by drawing "U" a plethora of times.

I added “fish scales” by drawing “U” a plethora of times.

And at the end of the day, it feels like none of it matters. I’m still hurting. I have vague ideas of what I want for the future, but I’m not entirely sure I see them happening. I don’t know if I can. Everything is a grey blur.

Mushussu-Sirrush, dragon of chaos. Drawn in mechanical pencil. Colored with oil pastels.

Mushussu-Sirrush, dragon of chaos. Drawn in mechanical pencil. Colored with oil pastels.

Is it so much to ask, to just have one day to sit here and cry?