Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Push and Shove: learning when to let go

As a spoonie there are days and even weeks when you have to make the call between pushing through and giving in to you need to rest. These last couple of weeks my migraines have flaring so drawing has been out of the question and I have missed you and all of the creatures of the Whimsical Woodland terribly.

Living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a complicated business. There is a reason that particular c-word in in the title. I've learnt more in the last 5 years than I thought was humanly possible but most of all CRPS has taught me that balancing my plans against my obligations means that sometimes I have to let extra things Go. This dear reader is known as the practice of pacing. This past few of weeks it has been my art that has been set aside but that does not mean that I have let go of the Woodland all together. 

Instead of drawing character studies I have been writing down my ideas because if you don't jot down your ideas once you feel better you'll find their hazy threads difficult to pin down. A hard lesson I learnt at Art School when I stubbornly insisted on working on my photographic pieces without first working through my ideas. By my second year I discovered the splendid practice of proposal writing and it helped me to work through my ideas. This has meant that this last couple of weeks I've simply switched up my creativity and used it to cope with my flare up in a different way. There is always a way so keep on keeping on lovely readers. Don't forget to leave any requests in the comments below or on my Instagram account where you can follow my spoonie journey.

If you or someone you know lives with a chronic or mental illness of any kind and you would like to learn about pacing please go to www.butyoudontlooksick.com to read The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino. It is by far the most honest, affirming and helpful explanation of how we live with chronic illness day to day.

The creatures of the Whimsical Woodland decorate their tree for Christmas.
The Rabbits and Mr Hedgehog hang baubles but it looks like Freddie the
Fox kit isn't quite up to the task of hanging the lights. 
I hope to be back with you in the Whimsical Woodland very soon and I hope this quick sketch makes up for my recent absence. Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season and I look forward to introducing you to more members of the Whimsical Woodland in 2015. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Special Request

A new friend has come to live in the Whimsical Woodland, this chubby little red fox kit.

As you know I love to draw and the most common advice you hear from successful artists is to make what you love. I love animals so for the most part that is what I draw. This week I have had a special request from a friend on Instagram to draw a baby red fox. 

I have had a problem with foxes since I was a child and when I first started this request I found it extremely hard and wanted to give up. I have spoken to you a lot already about using creativity to cope with chronic illness. To find a sense of purpose, distract yourself from and simply enjoy yourself, so I thought this week I could use this opportunity to talk to you about how others areas in which you can use art to heal and move on. 

You've all noticed that I absolutely love rabbits. I have had a pet rabbit for most of my life. When I was about 10 years old my rabbit Snowy, who happened to be the first pet rabbit I ever had, was taken by a fox. I got him from Santa the Christmas before I started kindergarten, I was 4. I was completely heartbroken when it happened and to this day I am still filled with sadness and anger each time I see a fox. This is unfortunate because they are everywhere at the moment, on just about every dress, t-shirt, handbag, mug and every other trinket you could imagine. More importantly they are an animal just as important as any other, so as an animal lover having such feelings towards any animal doesn't sit comfortably with me.  

A chubby little red fox has moved into the woodland, I
hope his mum, dad and siblings are close behind him.
It's safe to say that I have a problem with foxes but now that we have gotten the angry sads out of the way let us think about how I could take my own advice and draw through it even if it has nothing dealing with pain, fatigue or frustration. This year particularly, I have found that drawing animals I haven't drawn before (which aside form rabbits is most of them) stimulates my brain in a similar way to my brain training. So I decided to use this to work through these feelings I have and try to move on from this trauma I experienced so long ago. Let's face it, it is about time.

I sketched a lot of foxes in graphite, my favourite medium. After a while I started to see the arrangement of shapes that made up the fox. A series of triangles, set up in the right way made a great fox. I then started to focus on the colours, the golden shades of orange interspersed with black and white. Mr Fox really was shaping up as a dapper fellow and I began to see that there was a cute side, just. Their bright eyes and coy expressions really captured my attention and I started to think about where they would fit in in the Whimsical Woodland.

Art gets us through so many things. The process of art making helps us make sense of those wispy notions that swirl around our minds when we are quiet and pensive. Simply materialising these thoughts is even helping me change my attitude. I wouldn't say I was cured yet but it is safe to assume that more foxes will be moving in to live with the rabbits in the Whimsical Woodland.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Follow your own advice, you were probably onto something

It happens so often, we give advice to a friend who is sad, sick or overtired but we don't hear the genuine advice that is coming out of our own mouths. You tell them to be kind to themselves. Take some time to do what they love. Talk to someone. Recharge and do something different. It may help you turn that corner you're stuck on and get back on track. These are are all cliches but cliches can exist for a reason, they come from lived experience. A shared experience that we all need to be reminded of sometimes, myself included.

This past week has been a difficult one with many peaks and troughs, which is why you missed out on meeting this charming man last week. Despite some progress my pain took over and I ground to a halt. I reverted to a routine of appointments, physiotherapy and a lot of lying down. It may sound like I basically kept it together but really this was just surviving. I am an artist, I need to be creative and make things. Despite the pain I was bored, but fortunately I remembered what I'd said to people in my life so many times before and to you dear reader not so long ago and jumped back into it. I finished some small crochet projects and started some sketches and this week got right back on track. 

In that fashion I'd like to introduce you to Mr Hedgehog, a potential neighbour for the Rabbits, he is looking for a new home for Mrs Hedgehog and their new bundles of needly babies. I think he will find the Whimsical Woodland a safe and happy place for his new family. There are, after all very few forests with a tiger guarding them.

Mr Hedgehog has just had a litter of babies with Mrs Hedgehog
And they're looking for a safe place to build a little to nest.
It looks like he likes the look of the Whimsical Woodland.

Next week we will meet more new friends and perhaps Mr Hedgehog will bring his family to live with the rabbits. Until then keep on creating while following your routine, it's makes travelling around those sharp, unexpected corners smoother.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Productivity Through Creativity

Some days symptoms flare and plans you had meticulously arranged so that everything was correctly paced fly at great speed out of the window. On these days I push my body to crochet, stitch or draw something, no matter how insignificant, because making something out of nothing is never a waste of time. It fulfils hours and brings meaning to my day. Creating is medicine for the soul and medicine for the soul is medicine for the body. 

The rabbits of the Whimsical Woodland are entering a Sculpture Prize. They were hoping
getting into character would help them to sculpt the perfect likeness of themselves. 
Even rabbits are
this little bunny is hoping method acting will inspire him, though it isn't as easy as he thought. 
Always keep going the little rabbits in the woodland and you won't go wrong.
When my day is put to rest by flaring symptoms that pull me down nothing revives me like creating does. There is always a better day coming where plans can be rearranged and life brought back on track. It's a time to take it easy and enjoy the gentleness that comes from accepting your limits and your body.

Next week we will see who else we can find living in the woodland. The rabbits a looking for some new friends and I have heard that there are some new creatures looking for a place to live.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Colour the World Orange for CRPS

Today is Colour the World Orange for CRPS Day. It aims to raise awareness about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome also known called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. A chronic nerve condition where misfiring nerve signals send constant pain signals to the brain. It usually begins after an injury to an arm or leg or after surgery but can develop spontaneously as it did in my case. The main symptom is intense burning pain which is why CRPS is represented by the colour orange. 

Reduced mobility and isolation are the biggest problems faced by those with CRPS but there are a variety of other issues such as extreme fatigue, insomnia and sensitivity to touch. It is very difficult to treat and not very well understood which is why it is so important to spread awareness and push for further research. There is no definitive cure at the moment, only a range of treatments such as physiotherapy and medications that can help manage the disease. Each patient responds so differently and some have more success with these treatments than others. To find out more about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome the websites of major hospitals and universities such as the Mayo Clinic are the best place to start.

This beautiful tiger wanders into the Whimsical Woodland sporting orange for CRPS awareness

This condition has taken my life down an entirely different path to what I had planned but I guess that is what plans do. They hit roadblocks and evolve as we learn to move over, under or around these blockages. While this is the hardest thing I have ever had to learn to deal with it am determined to continue to work hard to improve my mobility and enjoy life to it's fullest.

Let's hope our feline friend doesn't see any of our woodland inhabitants as a tasty treat. The Whimsical Woodland sure is a strange a surreal place...lions and tigers and bears oh my.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Putting pencil to paper

One random day a few months ago I suddenly felt that sketching and uploading my drawings to my Instagram was no longer enough so I googled 'illustration' and found Illustration Friday. An illustration blog from Illustration Age featuring professional illustrators portfolios and tips as well as a weekly competition of sorts where readers submit illustrations based on a weekly theme. It seemed as good a reason as any to get serious about this drawing caper so I have been submitting as often as I can for the last couple of months. The challenge of thinking outside your own ideas makes drawing more engaging. It forces you to look at your favoured subjects in a different way as well as looking at subjects you might not have drawn before. 

Here are some examples of my entries

Theme 'Octopus'

Theme 'Metamorphosis'

Theme 'King'

Theme 'Puppet'
Now I do realise that there is an overriding theme of my own on display here but I promise you that this is extending my practice. Instead of drawing rabbits in all their fluffy glory I'm finding new ways to draw them and I am starting to practice other animals too, the baby birds featured in week 2 are an Illustration Friday entry as well. 

I am thoroughly enjoying my time with Illustration Friday. If you are looking for a way to challenge yourself or grow your creativity then I couldn't recommend this kind of platform more. The weekly timetable provides just the right amount of pressure without the stress of competition or judging. Whether you are chronically ill or not art and craft make ones life happier and healthier so pick up a pencil or some knitting needles and get making.

Next week we will return to the Whimsical Woodland where you never know who you'll meet.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Special request

This weeks post is a special request from a friend who shared with me her immeasurable knowledge on museums, photography and writing when I did an internship with her a couple of years ago. Although I am not putting these skills into practice in the way I had originally envisioned I am finding new ways to curate a life full of creativity. 

In that spirit Chronically Whimsical Tales presents to you lovely reader and to my friend a new bunny friend for Mamma Rabbit and her sweet babies. After a long day running through the leafy trees and flowers Bunny must make sure his fur is immaculate before he goes to meet his new friends for dinner. Perhaps they will find some juicy wild herbs to eat.

Bunny makes sure each ear is squeaky clean after a long day
hopping and
binkying through the Whimsical Woodland. 
If you have a special request please leave a comment below. There are many more creatures in the woodland just waiting to meet you all. Until next week enjoy your wanderings through the woodland.

[Please note that it is never safe to submerge your pet rabbit in water. Rabbits are very good at cleaning themselves and rarely need help. If they ever need extra help use a damn cloth with only 1cm of water in a small dish. Never get your rabbits face or ears wet or leave them alone. Make sure they are dried immediately, they are highly susceptible to pneumonia.] 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Make do and mend

The thing I love the most about drawing or creating of any kind is the feeling I get from taking a blank piece of paper and creating this

An artist's tools, begging to tell a tale.
This fluffy little chic leaps out of the nest for their first flight through the Whimsical Woodland. 

As a writer a blank page is a terrifying menace but as an artist it is like being handed a key to somewhere fantastical, a place I never get tired of visiting. Creating has an effect on the mind that is immeasurable, both in it's healing power and it's entertainment value but being chronically ill has an effect that can be more destructive than constructive. 

One of the most difficult parts of living with a chronic illness is the sense of loss. Mobility, brain function, sleep and independence are just some of the things that are negatively effected when you have a chronic illness. Add to this the extreme pain and isolation and the 
task of living day to day begins to feel insurmountable. The degree of loss varies for each person, starting with where they were in their life when the illness began and fluctuating as the illness either improves or progresses. Your identity is forcibly rewired when you find yourself constantly recovering instead of working or studying towards your goals. It is enough to break a person. 

So I draw and crochet and sew and cross stitch and bake and write, what I can when I can because it has a positive and healing effect on my life. 

This is how I use art and creativity as medicine. I literally fill the negative with positive. A blank page becomes a vibrant drawing that I turn into a birthday card. My time spent resting after physiotherapy etcetera is filled by the creation of a physical object that is passed on to someone special, transforming my otherwise unproductive recovery time into something that  also makes someone else happy. Suddenly there are a lot of constructive things happenings everyday, little things, but little things are big too in their own way. 

So go on make something and start mending. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Welcome to the Whimsical Woodland

Almost everyone has a list of favourite animals. Sometimes that list exists as a menagerie of creatures that frolic about in no particular order, others meticulously rank their favoured animals by degrees of cuteness, type or power. The majority of us however recognise a supreme number one. An animal that conjures up so much love, joy, strength and general awesomeness that it very often turns into an obsession fuelled/enabled by our loved ones who both love and loathe said animal. My spirit animal through no fault of my own always has and will always be the rabbit.  

Some of the people in my life, possibly all of them, consider my rabbit appreciation to sit firmly on the obsession side of the fence. In the nicest way I am sure. My enthusiasm for rabbits was decided by a small yellow bath toy chosen for me by two of my brothers before I was born, so, I feel that I own very little of the responsibility and should therefore be left to my rabbit loving devices. A quick stocktake of my house quickly reveals just how much my loved ones enable me and this makes me very happy indeed.

But lovely reader before I delve further into that I should introduce myself to you and to Chronically whimsical tales. I make art, I love photography and I make craft. For as long as I can remember I have loved to draw and make animals. It is what makes me happy and at this point in my life that is a very important thing. I am living with chronic illness so creating brings me pleasure and it gives me a sense of productivity, it is a distraction from the pain and a positive addition that fills in some of the things that chronic illness has subtracted from my life.

The Whimsical Woodland is full of tales of sweetness, strength and creativity. I hope this will be a place where I can share my love of whimsy with you and perhaps increase awareness about living with chronic illness too. 

Let us begin our journey at the very beginning on the edge of the Whimsical Woodland where mamma rabbit and her precious little ones are on the hunt for something sweet to eat and something fun to do. This woodland is a safe place for the bunnies to live, perhaps that is why mamma rabbit looks so strong and contented as she leads her babies forward into their new home.


Mamma rabbit and her babies set off into the woodland in search of sweet flowers to eat.

Until the next chapter lovely readers have a safe and happy journey.