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. 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Wolf and Me

This week I wrote a guest post for The Wolf and Me where I shared my experience living with CRPS. I also talked about how I use my art practice as art therapy as a pain management technique. You can read the post here. I hope you enjoy reading my story and that you find something within that you can apply to your own journey.

The Wolf and Me is a fantastic blog about living with Lupus and other chronic illnesses. The author Cass generously shares her everyday experiences with chronic illness. Her thoughts and tips are so insightful. Please read her other posts, I cannot recommend this blog highly enough. 

Until next time lovely readers, make sure you take some time each day to be creative.

Helena xo

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Hedgehogs moves into the Whimsical Woodland

The past week has been tough, health wise, so I made the decision to practice self care and produce a post for myself. No studying, nothing complicated, just drawing and story telling.  Chronically Whimsical Tales would like to welcome you to the first tale of the year, I hope you enjoy it. 

The Hedgehogs move into the Whimsical Woodland.

Moving day is usually a stressful day, but when you are moving into the Whimsical Woodland it's hard to feel anything but happiness. Mr and Mrs Hedgehog have their shiny red wagon neatly packed high with boxes.

Behind them, scurrying excitedly, their three tiny babies talk excitedly about the first thing they are each going to do in their new home. 

After a long journey through the Whimsical Woodland the Hedgehogs finally arrived at the big hollow log that Mr and Mrs Hedgehog had chosen as their home. Sometime later after boxes had been unpacked, pictures hung, clothes and toys and books put away, the Hedgehogs settled in for the night with a bedtime story. Tomorrow would be their first day in 
Woodland and they could not wait for it to begin.

Chronically Whimsical Tales has received some requests lately which I will be sharing with you over the coming weeks. If you have any animals you would like me to draw or subjects you would like me research just leave me a message in the comments below.

Until next time look after yourselves and go an find your creative side. Sometimes being selfish is the best way to look after yourself and everyone else in the long run. 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Let's get serious

Before we begin let's talk about what art therapy actually is and what it is useful for. I am not an art therapist but an artist who found that returning to drawing really helped me to cope with my chronic illnesses, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. 

Art Therapy or Art Psychotherapy uses the creative processes of art making, dance and drama to explore emotional, psychological and physical issues. It is both diagnostically and therapeutically in conjunction with traditional psychoanalytic or psychodynamic principles. Patients can find that working through a creative framework helps them to build self esteem, explore and clarify emotions that are difficult to verbalise, learn better ways to communicate, strengthen fine motor skills and develop coping skills and confidence. 

That is all pretty technical so why don't I show you what I do. Living day to day with chronic illness brings with it constant fluctuating pain, fatigue and insomnia and with all these often comes a loss of self worth. I've have relished in drawing and making things for as long as I can remember so throwing myself into art again when my health began to deteriorate further seemed like a reasonable idea. A year on I count it as one of the smartest ideas I've ever had. Despite this being one of the hardest years health wise, since my diagnosis in 2009, it has also been my happiest. 

The first thing I want to draw when I feel the creative itch or want to distract myself is always animals and the first animal is always a rabbit. I am always drawn to their gentle nature and sweet faces. I recently received a set of Copic Markers for Christmas after lusting for them for months and months. Of course my first experiment was an inquisitive baby rabbit.

Baby rabbit study in graphite, copic multi liner and copic ciao marker

There are times that working on detailed portraits is too much for my eyes or hands or both so I fill sketch pages with quick studies of a new animal I like to learn to draw like these powerful lions I was learning for a friend who wanted a piece of Chronically Whimsical Tales for their home.

Lion studies in coloured pencil 

Mandalas are a very popular art therapy exercise and also tie in very well with mindfulness meditation, which I have been practicing diligently for several months for my chronic pain. I couldn't recommend it highly enough. Although mindfulness takes many months and years 
to learn it is well worth it for the sense of calm it teach you to induce at a moments notice. 
When it's too much to work on animals, mandalas are easy and enjoyable. Their simplicity, 
repetitive patterns and playful colours soothe brain fog and distract from physical and 
emotional pain.

Mandala in coloured pencil

Zentangles are new to me, they're all the rage on Pinterest, Instagram and every other form of social media you could thing of. They're like freestyle mandalas but have a lot of more 
structure at the same time in that they are composed of smaller and more detailed patterns. 
I have found that they are good for working my brain rather than soothing it. Sometimes it is 
nice to wake up and work hard and the results become more beautiful the more you 

Zentangle in graphite

When friends and family have a birthday or special occasion I like to make them a card 
instead of buying one. Sometimes I use a drawing I have already done but I often do custom pieces specially for them, usually of their favourite animal, because when I am feeling at my 
best I love to work on detailed animal portraits. This gives me the greatest sense of productivity and the happiness on my loved ones faces fills me with happiness too. Some cycles are are sweet and kind and should be practiced as much as possible to keep away the vicious ones. I drew this baby fawn for a friend's birthday last year.

Birthday card, baby fawn resting in the grass in coloured pencil

This year I'd like to learn about formal art therapy so I've invested it The Art Therapy 
Soucebook by Cathy A Malchiodi, ATR, LPCC. Over the course of the next year I am going to be going through this book working on the various exercises so that I can develop a deeper understanding of how art therapy works and how it could help manage chronic pain. As I work through the book I will share my progress with you so you can all learn along with me. 
Let's get serious, self imposed study

If you would like to learn more about art therapy see the Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association website ANZATA

Until next time lovely readers pick up your pencils and create something and don't forget to leave any requests in the comments below or on my Instagram page xo.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Evolution: Art Therapy in the Whimsical Woodland

Last year I introduced you to the first residents of the Whimsical Woodland, a place that came into being through self imposed art therapy. As is the custom at the start of the year I resolved to return to art making and as my health "evolved" I found that drawing helped me scoop up all the little parts of me that we're floating away. All this scooping eventually turned into the Whimsical Woodland, partly in an attempt to draw something other than bunnies but mostly to practice storytelling through pictures while sharing my experience as an artist living with chronic pain. 

In the spirit of living the January life it is time to renew my resolutions and refresh Chronically Whimsical Tales in the hope that my experience will be beneficial to others living with chronic pain, invisible illness and mental illness. This year I have resolved to treat my art therapy more formally, through self imposed study so that I can share my experience with you in a more practical way and in turn expand the stories of the Woodland. In my last post I spoke about letting go when you need to rest, which I still hold to be true but I think it is incredibly important to continue to make make plans and expand your work as much as possible. Just keep in mind that bumps otherwise known as flares will inevitably slow you down and excepting this slower pace is usually the fastest way through in the long run. 

So this year expect to see a greater division between posts about art and living with chronic pain and the stories of the Whimsical Woodland. However do not expect an absence of bunnies, they are the first thing I go to draw whenever I hold a pencil in my hand, this first thing I think of when my nervous system throws a hissy fit and quite frankly so deeply ingrained in my heart that there really is no hope.

Please enjoy the first official bunny of 2015 with love from Chronically Whimsical Tales.

Until next time my friends, pick up a pencil and draw something. Don't forget to leave a photo for me in the comments down below.