Thursday, 11 February 2016

Monthly favourites, January 2016

Flare ups. They happen. They did happen. This is late. My apologies, but let's move on. In keeping with my efforts to do more this year I'm adding more elements to Chronically Whimsical Tales. Including more personal projects and experiences with art therapy but not forgetting the inhabitants of the Woodland. So first off I thought I'd share my top 5 favourite things that I used for art therapy during January. 

Derwent Graphite Soft Pencils:
I was given a set of these for Christmas which was excellent timing. I've always used Progresso solid graphites, well if you consider always since about year 9 and I'm now more than 10 years out of high school, then always. Having had the same set for many years some of them are running rather low and looking pretty sad. They're also quite heavy when you have a lot of numbness and pain in your hands so I'd been considering buying a set of these graphite pencils as a replacement. I'm happy to report that they produce very similar results to my old Progressos. I've really enjoyed their lightness and the fact they're much easier to sharpen. Most of all I'm really happy that these things mean I can use them more often.

Derwent soft graphics, Helena Lucey, 2016

Top Tips:
-Practice makes perfect when trying new art tools.
-Start with casual sketches before using new tools on special pieces.

Clover Amour crochet hook set:
I love to crochet but it's a pass time that can leave my hands feeling like they've been trodden on by a brontosaurus. Luckily I found these amazing crochet hooks with a rubberized coating on the handle that help you hold onto them without having to grip with any pressure. Does that make sense? I'm going to hope that made sense. Anyway using less pressure to hold the hooks causes less pain and lets me work a little longer. I've been working on a special gift this last month and these have made it possible for me to keep working. A happy crafter is a safe crafter. Those, I promise are words to live by. 

Crochet supplies, Helena Lucey, 2016
Top Tips:
-Try searching online on sites like eBay or Amazon for more affordable crochet supplies.

Nail Polish:
Nail polish is one of my absolute favourite things to play with when I'm unwell or well. Somewhat of an obsession if I'm honest. All the colours of the rainbow and almost as many finishes; creme, pearl, shimmer, glitter, jelly, crelly, holo and matte. All beautiful and full of endless potential. Let's not forget nail art, when I have a surplus of spoons I love to do nail art. 

What I love most is that for the next few days or so I'm reminded of what I made each time I look at my hands. They simply are something fun or pretty just for the sake of it, with a fresh canvas waiting underneath for the next time. 

Indie polishes aka my obsession, Helena Lucey, 2015

Top tips:
-Get yourself a good face mask and open a window, particularly if you're sensitive to smell.
-Plan first and get everything you need ready before you start to save yourself extra trips looking for supplies. Polish, base and top coat, nail polish remover, cotton wool and manicure tools.
-Collect inspiration from sites like Pinterest.

Yes glitter can be a ridiculous mess that taunts you weeks after you've had your sparkly fun but isn't it worth it after all is said and done. It add such life to craft projects and artworks when done right. I for one have enjoyed the glittery good stuff a lot lately on drawings and cards, in nail polish (see slight obsession) and especially in December when making Christmas decorations to send to friends. Glitter is fun, just be careful.

Perils of glitter, Helena Lucey, 2016
-Don't spill it

Watercolour pencils:
In spite of my promenant artistic side I've never been a painter but I always love to learn. A couple of months ago I was given a set of these to play around with by my always thoughtful Mum. I put them away when I was trying to organise my supplies and forgot I had them but rediscovered them in January and began to play around. I haven't gotten the hang if these yet but I really love the range in depth of colour these can achieve and the fact that they help me mimick water colour painting. You will definitely be seeing them on here in the future.

Watercolour pencil set, Helena Lucey, 2016
Top Tips:
-YouTube is a great resource for learning how to use new materials. 

Thank you for stopping by Chronically Whimsical Tales. I hope you enjoyed this little list of recommendations I put together inspired by last months artistic shenanigans. As always 
leave any special requests that you have in the comments below and let me know what your favourites have been this month. 
Talk soon woodlanders,
Helena xo

Monday, 1 February 2016

Pick Up Your Pencils

You all know I'm on board when it comes using art to deal with the day to day "fun" that is chronic illness but sometimes you just don't know what to do. Or you know what you want to do but you're not able to for one or one hundred reasons. Luckily art therapy comes in many forms so when your body decides it would rather act more bananas than functional human being there is always something to do. So let's do this.

Last week I treated myself to a couple of makeup items I had wanted for a very, very long time, thanks to a gift from a friend. Of course they would arrive the day after I was recovering from a flare up of one of my conditions so I couldn't test them out. I didn't possess the skill of holding ones hands up to ones face for several minutes at a time that day, a prerequisite for applying makeup. But by the evening I could hold a pencil for a short time so instead of putting makeup on I drew makeup. After a few hours working on an off I had drawn this elaborate nail polish bottle in graphite pencil. 

Cosmetic Cluster in progress, graphite pencil on paper, 28/01/16
I was much stronger the next day so was able to finish the drawing while I rested. Sketching was a great distraction to the pain and my disappointment at not being able to enjoy the new makeup I had ordered for myself. Here is what I came up with.

Cosmetic Cluster, graphite pencil on paper, 29/01/16
Using art as therapy can work in many different situations. Though this past week was very difficult and disappointing that a treat would come at such an unfortunate time, I still found something to do to pass time, distract myself and it had a practical outcome. For me producing something always helps me cope during hard time. 

So I always encourage you to pic up a pencil or your makeup brushes or your knitting needles and make a little something. Make something out of a bad day. Incidentally when I did get to try my makeup it worked beautifully and I couldn't be happier with it.

Until next time, take care woodlanders,

Helena xo

Saturday, 30 January 2016


It has been roughly 6 months since we last spoke or took a casual jaunt through the woodland. Spoonie life is hard. Keeping up with your whole life: appointments, various therapies and treatments, family and friends and your own interests is hard. In short I'm very far behind and completely neglected this particular interest as a result. 

I'm very sorry for this. Sorry for my dear woodlanders who had enjoyed my blog in the past and so kindly wished me well while I planned to take a short break. A break that turned out to be very far past short. But I am also sorry for myself, for letting go of this endeavour that I had enjoyed so much and had helped me with my brain training and my artistic development. Irregardless of my sorrow I cannot be sure that this won't happen again because as I said spoonie life is hard and life in general will always happen and all any of us can do is our best. So let's try this again shall we?

While I was absent from the blogosphere, (do we still say that?) I continued to work on many of my artistic and crafty pursuits. Although this was mainly as a distraction technique and not in a research capacity, so I have little more to report on formal art therapy at this stage. But let's see where 2016 takes us and what we can make together. Until we next speak I'd like you to enjoy this copic sketch of a lemur I drew for a friend late last year. 

Ring tailed lemur devouring delicious watermelon, copic marker and multiliner on bleedproof paper, 15/10/15

Welcome back. Here is to a bigger and better year, because sometimes you need a good cliche. 

Until next time lovely readers,

Helena xo

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Wading Through the Backlog

I am back, and only one week after my last post. I can hardly believe it myself but I promise it is me. While keeping up with research and writing has been living in the "too hard" basket for the last few months I have still been working on special requests that I had received before going on my unplanned hiatus. 

As I have a backlog of artwork to share with you, I have had a stern chat with my brain about this writing business and we have mutually agreed to compromise and share some drawings with a short explanation of what they are and where they have come from. So without any further chit chat lets get to it.

Some time ago a lovely follower on Instagram asked me to add an owl to the menagerie in Whimsical Woodland. I was going through a soft pastel phase at that time so I made the first few using charcoal pencils and soft pastels. 

Owl studies, soft pastel and charcoal on tan toned paper, 2015

Owl taking flight, soft pastel on tan toned paper, 2015

Bust of owl, soft pastel and charcoal on tan toned paper, 2015

Then I decided to try working in Copic marker, I hadn't used them for feathers yet and as they say there is not better time than the present. Unless you mean sharing blog posts on time; then I can make no such claims about running to any kind of respectable schedule. Never the less I gave it a go and I am very pleased with how this little fellow turned out. I like the cut of his jib, he looks cheeky. Too many cliches? I did warm you that brain fog was making writing difficult. 

Owl in tree, Copic marker on bleedproof paper, 2015
He doesn't have a name yet and he definitely needs one. If you have any suggestions leave them in the comments below. Think regal, yet understated. Traditional with a contemporary edge. As always lovely readers please leave any special requests in the comments or over on Instagram and stay arty.

Until next time,

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Blogger's Guilt

Blogger's guilt is alive and well in the Whimsical Woodland. It has been quite some time since we took a virtual stroll through the woods together. In my last post from way back I talked about my health struggles that were forcing a little blogging hiatus, but hoped I would be on the up and back to writing and art making soon.

This decline hasn't yet found its upswing. More of a steep rocky path down which to tumble at speed. Reading is hard, so research into art therapy is hard. Writing therefore is pretty much a very painful and confusing activity to partake in.

But that is okay. This is how my body and my brain is at this time so I will find a new way to share my adventures through the Whimiscal Woodland and art therapy with you. For the time being posts will be less about writing and more about sharing my art with you. More show and tell, less fantasy literary essay. 

Lately drawing has been difficult for a few reasons but a big one being constant jerks and tremors that make keeping my hand still a rather fanciful idea. So I've been practicing zentangles. They are a great mindfulness meditation tool for art therapy.
Just focus on the the line you're drawing then when its done just add another one next to it. It doesnt matter what it is, just draw lines and circles and focus on nothing else but the shapes and lines as they turn into patterns.

Horse head Zentangle, copic multiliner on art :paper, 09/07/15
This works well for me because its an easy distraction from pain without to much thinking required. Also when a tremor or jerk makes me ruin a line I can just make it thicker or colour in a small shape after the tremor has stopped. Its works into the pattern, becoming part of the story.

Flawed zentangle, many crooked lines and large black spaces reveal severe tremors but this 
does not invalidate the piece. In fact persevering through such a strong flare helped me cope 

with my pain and find a sense of calm that I hope was passed onto the recipient of this card.
I've been making many of these small zentangles over the last few weeks and turning them into cards I then send to spoonie friend. They are very relaxing to make so hopefully some of those vibes go with these cards I've sent to my friends.

Finished cards, zentangles in copic multiliner a on art paper, origami paper and coloured card.
More finished cards, zentangles in copic multiliner on art paper, origami paper and coloured card.

So that has been this week's Show and Tell. Realistically I cannot promise that I will be back posting every week as before but hopefully this new format will make it easier to try.

Stay arty lovely readers and lets talk again soon.

Edit: this post took me about a week and a half to write, my progress is slow. I received a new diagnosis, that particular condition got worse and I spent almost a week in hospital and then needed to take some time to recover from that. So this post has come to you later than planned. But hey that's the spoonie life and you have to push in and make the most of it. I am already working on a series of posts to keep you up to date on the types of art I am using as therapy. Since I am less abled then I have previously been, I am going to be branching out a bit, things might get crazy but let's take this journey together and see where art therapy's wild ride takes us. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015


Due to health issues Chronically Whimsical Tales has been on hiatus. 

Lovely readers I am sorry for the long absence I have missed you and the animals of the Woodland. Hopefully things will be returning to normal as soon as possible, though as I am sure you understand sometimes we need to make ourselves the number one priority when it comes to our health. My own health has been quite tumultuous of late and it has not been possible to keep up my writing and art though I have done my best to keep up my own art therapy and it has helped me very much. 

Life as a spoonie isn't easy but it is possible and I will be talking more about my recent experiences relating to this in my next post. In the meantime please enjoy a couple of preparatory sketches I have been working in for some special requests.

Echidna, charcoal on tan toned paper

Owls, soft pastel and charcoal on tan toned paper
Until next time and I hope that it will be soon, keep on creating. 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Special Request

As I prepared a special request this week I began to think about how art therapy functions. In particular what it needs to function. Does it need to occur in a clinical setting to be valid? Does it need to be performed by the person looking for the outcome or can you practice art therapy by looking at and acquiring art? 

I really appreciate the value of therapy and would love to try formal art therapy but like many other spoonies it is both geographically and financially unavailable. But that doesn't mean that I cannot participate and experience real benefits by working on my own at home. I am already gaining new insights from the first chapter of The Art Therapy Sourcebook into how formal art therapy can help me and many others with chronic pain and illness.

If working on a drawing or craft project when I am in extra pain, fatigued or emotionally 
exhausted makes me feel validated as a person, then I believe that self administered art therapy is an effective tool for pain management. Whether that pain is physical or emotional. 

Last week I wrote for The Wolf and Me, where I spoke about my favourite kind of project and that is what I have for you today. 

I'd like you to meet Rose. She used to belong to a friend who had to give her up because of their illness. Loss is a part of everyone's life but it becomes more prominent in the lives of those of us with chronic illness.

This project has helped me look more honestly at the things that I have lost due to CRPS 
and evaluate those things that I still need to learn to accept. There are many. Some I was 
aware of and understand but many new things I wasn't acquainted with before embarking 
on this request. What this really demonstrates for me is that art therapy can occur successfully outside of a clinical setting. I had no idea that any of this would crop up for me, I thought I was going to draw a horse and do a nice thing for a friend, but instead my brain woke up and I found old parts of myself that I hadn't realised were lost to me.

So I am now faced with the task of working through these new ideas and I will share these along with the insights I have gained so far from reading The Art Therapy Sourcebook over the next few posts.  
soft pastels and charcoal on tan toned paper, 148 x 210mm, 2015

I hope that it also helps Rose's owner who I'm sure must miss her very much. I truly believe that art has great potential for healing. Whether that means making it yourself, enjoying some art appreciation in a book or at a gallery or requesting a personal and meaningful commission from an artist. 

Art therapy is a complicated and long process and of course formal art therapy would be advantageous, but if self administered art therapy is all you got, then get in there. Take out your pencils, open a book and just go for it, as I found out this week, you never really know what you'll find out about yourself. 

Until next time lovely readers, stay creative and leave your requests below xo.