Workings of my Mind

Hello friends

10 October 2017, is World Mental Health day.  I was going to post this post on that day as  it would be an appropriate time to share this news.  However I’ve realised that 10th falls on Tuesday and as I don’t always have the time or energy to write blog posts after being at work during the day, I decided to write it today.  Now I’ve written it I may as well post it rather than waiting a couple of days.

This post is about my entry into a competition run by CultureLabel and the UK mental health charity Mind from 18 July ’til 3 September 2017.

Here is the brief :

CultureLabel and mental health charity Mind have joined together to run a competition exclusively for Mind members

This summer, we want you to tell us about the ‘workings of your mind’ through art. Inspired by artist David Shillinglaw, we want you to create a snapshot of the workings of your own mind in a creative way such as a drawing, illustration, painting or photograph.

We all have our own unique ways of working through the things in our mind, and we want to see yours!

Here are some things you could consider to help get you started:

  • What does the landscape of your mind look like?
  • How are things organised in your mind? Are they structured? Or do they feel chaotic?
  • How do you approach problems?
  • What keeps your mind working well?
  • How do you balance things out in your mind?
  • Where do your thoughts start and where do they finish?

The winner will be chosen by David Shillinglaw, and their artwork will appear at an exhibition in London on World Mental Health Day in October. They will also have the chance to meet with David and receive creative feedback.   

You will also be in with the chance of winning some special prizes including:

  • £200 worth of Love2shop vouchers
  • Your work featured in the Mind News membership magazine
  • Plus a T-shirt, designed by David Shillinglaw from CultureLabel

The deadline for entries is midnight Sunday 3 September 2017. So get doodling and good luck!

Anyone who follows my blog will know I’m a huge fan of David Shillinglaw and his art so of course I was going to enter the competition.   Mind is a good charity and mental health issues are significant to me.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before on my blog, but T, who has been my partner and husband for nearly 45 years, has Bipolar Disorder (also known as Manic Depression), so I’ve witnessed and experienced first hand how devastating and difficult mental health problems can be – our life together has been a continuous roller-coaster ride of ups and downs.  Mind is a good and supportive charity and I love their mission statement: “We won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect.”

I also think it’s important that people with mental health issues are able to talk openly about them, no-one should feel that they have to hide it from others, feel ashamed about it or be judged for things they are unable to control.

However my entry for the competition was not about T but about the workings of my mind, I wanted to show how full of self-doubt, uncertainty and contradictions I am, how I have this constant commentary going on inside my head and how I use self-talk, art and mindfulness to try and keep calm and stay positive (with varying degrees of success).

I was pleased with how my piece turned out and I think followed the brief quite well.  Once I had finished the piece I had to submit it quickly because I knew that self-doubt would start creeping in and I’d talk myself out of sending it in if I gave it too much thought.

To ceate my piece I painted a background with neon acrylics on 140lb water colour paper and then I created the girl’s head and face from images cut from magazines, I used four different faces to create the one image.  Then I used various types of marker pens to alter and embellish the face and hair.  The symbols around the border and between the phrases are like a secret language to me, I don’t know what they mean, but they appear a lot in my art. I think of them as signs from the universe. The phrases in the piece were written down in a stream of consciousness way and I used lots of different styles of fonts to show that there is no order to the way I think about things.

The winner of the competition was a young man from Liverpool called Ash Alshukri.  I think he really deserved to win as his piece is quite stunning and moving.  I was very pleased and proud to be named a runner up along with Kathryn Watson and Danika McElroy.  You can see all four images here and if you follow the link to Ash’s blog he explains in detail how he created his wonderful piece of art. I must admit I didn’t put that much thought or planning into my piece, but Ash has clearly had a better level of education than me and likes to plan and work things out, he has an analytical mind whereas I just threw myself into it with no planning 🙂  I was so chuffed to be a runner-up though, I had a big grin on my face all day when I found out. 😀

Here is a video of a young woman from Canada describing her experience of Bipolar Disorder.  While I am very comfortable talking about my own life and health issues, e.g. I shared pretty much everything while I was going through cancer treatment, I don’t think it’s my place to talk so openly about T’s difficulties, but hope this video might give you a bit of understanding of the kinds of things Bipolar Disorder does to a person. Please remember though it’s a very complex illness and how it manifests itself is unique to each person.

 

Finally here is a video called Headspace it’s a hand-drawn animation with ink, gouache, white-out and coffee by artist Jake Fried at inkwood.net

Jake Fried (1984) began his artistic career as a painter, but as he went through the process of layering and modifying images, he realized what truly interested him was the way the images metamorphosed in the course of making a painting and he changed tracks to become an animator. In recent years his films have been widely shown internationally, including at the Tate Modern, Sundance Film Festival, and on Adult Swim and Netflix. Fried works with ink and white-out, sometimes adding gouache, collage and even coffee to generate hallucinatory vistas, modifying and shooting the images over and over to create mind-bending animations that evolve at a frenzied pace. He currently teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art & Design and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

That’s all for now, I’ll be back soon and in the meantime please take good care of and be kind to yourself and make some art.

Big love

AJ xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2011-2017 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Just keep movin’ don’t stop

page-13-with-penwork

Hello friends

Gosh a lot has happened since my last post.

The day after we spent the whole day travelling up to Yorkshire to meet up with T’s family.  We left home before 10am and arrived at the hotel in Bingley at about 6:30 pm.  T doesn’t drive so I drove all the way with just a few comfort stops.  Unfortunately this trip back to the place of T’s birth was bittersweet as we were attending the funeral of T’s brother-in-law.  We had both known Pete for 46 years.

Pete was a big bear of a man, he married T’s sister who is about the same age as me when she was 16 years old.  Pete was in the army so they moved about and lived in Cypress, Southern England, Northern Ireland and Canada (and probably other places I can’t remember) while they were young and bringing up their three children.  We saw more of them after Pete left the army and they moved to northern England, we saw them at weddings, family gatherings and when they visited T’s mum when she was still alive.  I liked Pete a lot, he always looked very gruff but he was a sweet man, when he hugged you you knew you had been hugged.  We were very sorry to have to say goodbye to him last week.

It was an opportunity to see the rest of the family though and I have to say I really like T’s extended family they are diverse but all really lovely people.

When T and I visited Yorkshire 4 years ago, to celebrate his 60th, we made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to find the 5 rise locks at Bingley.  It’s a tourist attraction but somehow we failed to find it.  After the funeral we went back to the hotel and T went for an afternoon nap so I followed the instructions given to me by T’s younger brother and set off on my own on foot to try and locate the famous locks.  This time I was successful. I found the canal and arrived at the top of the locks.  I took this photo looking back after I had walked down the hill

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The locks are a feature on the Liverpool to Leeds canal and are the steepest staircase locks on the longest canal in the country.  Built in 1774 the locks allow barges and canal boats travelling along the canal to rise (or fall) 60 feet.  It’s an amazing feat of engineering.

I carried on walking and a little further on there is a set of 3 rise locks, with a rise/drop of 30 feet.  Built at the same time as the 5 rise locks.

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At the bottom of the 3 rise locks is the Damart building and its distinctive chimney is easily seen from Bingley town centre.

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That evening T and I went and had a fish and chip supper with T’s sister as we had to set off early the next morning for the long trip back home.  It was good for just the three of us to sit and have a quiet chat.  I can’t imagine how it must feel to lose your partner after a life time together. 😦

The drive back was not too bad, but still took a long time. I went to bed at about 8pm and slept straight through until the next morning when I was back  at work. It took me a few days to get over that marathon drive.

I have noticed that I get tired more easily now, apparently it’s common for someone who has had chemotherapy to feel tired a lot of the time. When I’m not tired I feel good so it’s just a case of pacing myself better.

Last weekend on Saturday I did some shopping (which is probably my least favourite thing to do) and I also spent some time with my friends from the local history group at an open day event they we  re having in the cemetery.  On Sunday T and I went for a walk along a beach (that’s probably my favourite thing to do) as it was a sunny but breezy day.  T did quite well considering how painful it is for him to walk any distance these days.

Sea and Sky Sept 2016I don’t like to walk too close to the cliffs as sometimes big chunks fall off!  Actually sometimes cows fall off the cliffs too and I don’t fancy being hit by a large piece of rock or a cow! I was curious about the piece of an old building hanging off the top of this cliff, one day, no doubt, that too will end up on the beach.

Orange CliffI have had a good week at work I’m slowly reaching some resolutions to some of the problems I’m dealing with.  The good thing is that I’m not letting the slowness or difficulty stress me out.  It’s taken me 61 years but I think I’ve finally learnt that there is no point in worrying about things that are beyond my control, I just need to do the best I can and be satisfied with that.  I do however wish that I had more time to be creative…

This weekend T and I went shopping together on Saturday morning (deep joy [not!!!]) and then I spent the afternoon with friends from the local history group again.  Today (Sunday) it’s been a lovely autumn day, this morning I helped T clean the decking so that it can be oiled to give it some protection before the winter sets in.  It took us a few hours and it was a horrible job, still it’s done now.

This afternoon I went for a walk along the beach and Duver at St Helens, it was such a beautiful day and the light was amazing. I forgot to take the camera so you’ll just have to take my word about that.  Then I visited Mum and Dad who are OK but seem to be getting much frailer these days, I suppose it’s to be expected as Mum is 84 and Dad is 94.  Their bodies are frail but their minds are still pretty sharp though.  We started discussing plans for Xmas!  Personally I think it’s far to early to start thinking about that, but Mum likes to know what’s happening well in advance of the event, so we are working on a plan 🙂

Other news in brief:

  • *T won his appeal against the DWP to get ESA payments (hurray),
  • *my bongo passed it’s MOT (hurray),
  • *I stopped getting emails on 23 September and when I enquired with my ISP what was happening I was told they had sent me an email giving me 30 days notice that they would no longer provide an email service and I would have to make alternative arrangements and now the 30 days was up so no more emails!  (I don’t remember getting that email)  It’s taking a while to sort this out, but eventually I should be able to continue using the same email address, but I’m thinking of transferring to a different ISP.  They were fantastic when I first signed up with them over 20 years ago but over time the service has deteriorated and the email saga is the final straw! (Grrrrrrr!!!)
  • Yet again I have had no time for being creative this weekend (Grrrrrrr!!!)
  • I’m still practicing mindfulness so that’s OK (hurray).

The image at the top of this post is another page from my small (6″ x 9″) journal  and here is the before and after penwork image:

Keep movin' don't stop before and after penwork

Hope all is good with you.

Take good care of yourselves and I’ll see you soon.

Big love

AJ xxxxxx

 

© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2011-2016 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Don’t Worry

 

Don't WorryHello friends

I hope you are all good and happy.

I’ve been off-line again, but this time not from choice.  The router broke and we were without internet for 10 days, at first I wasn’t bothered about it, but then I thought I should try and do something as I had bills to pay so I spent hours on the phone talking to Tech Support from my ISP, they had me resetting the router, changing pass words and trying to connect again and again without success.  After four evenings of wasted time and still no success someone with a strong Indian accent who I could barely understand and who I think had taken far too much Valium promised to investigate and to phone me back the next day.  He should have phoned me on Friday, but he didn’t, then it was the weekend followed by a Bank Holiday and still no internet.  So on Tuesday I phoned Customer Support and asked if they would replace the router they had originally sent me for free, but I was told as it was out of warranty I’d have to buy one.  I could buy it from them and it would be sent out in 3 days time.  So I went to local shop and bought one instead.  I seems to be working OK so far. (Fingers and Toes crossed while I said that)!

Still the good thing was I had plenty of time for being creative so I’ve finished two big paintings and started a third.  I’m not ready to share those yet though so the image above is another page from my Tikis and Totems Journal that I finished while we were on holiday.  This page was an experiment in black and white – I prefer bright colours.

Here is the image with just collage and then completed with pen work:

 Collage first then penworkAnd here is another old journal I made back in 2011 🙂

That’s all for now, take good care of yourselves and I’ll see you soon.

Big love

AJ

 

 

 

© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2011-2016 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hello, how are you?

 

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A page from my Secret Messages Journal

Hello friends

I’ve been away for half a year! I’m not really sure how that happened, but there has been lots going on.  Too much to go into really so here is a quick precis of the first half of this year from my point of view:

The main thing is that I am feeling good now and I am still in remission (got another check up in 2 days time but no cause to worry about that as far as I know);

T lost his job at the end of January due to having had too much sick leave and that was quite a stressful time, so as I was beginning to feel a lot better he was beginning to feel worse – we are muddling through OK;
In March I attended a 2 day course run by Penny Brohn UK which was all about living well with cancer, I loved the course and I gained a lot from it, in particular I learnt about Mindfulness Meditation and that has been a life changer for the better;
I am working full-time again now (although I have had a lot of leave in the past 6 months – due to the generosity of my employers) and things are gradually getting back to normal;
I started going to Hoopfit class in April run by my lovely friend Gina, I’m still not very good at it, but it is fun;
I became a voracious viewer of art (probably at the expense of creating much myself) but seeing beautiful things every day really lifts my spirits and I have discovered so many wonderful artists thanks to the internet :-);
I did some display/information sheets for a new exhibition Poo@theZoo it’s the brain child of a fantastic group of local artists called Eccleston George and it was a privilege to work with them on this project.  My contribution was to tell the story of what happens to human poo after the toilet is flushed;
In May I had a birthday, I was 61! we went out for a picnic at a lovely spot and then we went away (not very far) in the camper van for a weekend;
At the beginning of June we went away again to a very small world music festival Mondomix and that was good;
The following weekend we had another long weekend of camping in the van at a campsite that is within walking distance from home – the reason for staying so close to home is that we have to come back at least once a day to feed and check on the cats;
As a late birthday present T and I went to London on 22 June to see an exhibition by the artist Yayoi Kusama, it was fabulous;
On 23 June we had a referendum in the UK on whether or not we should stay in the European Union
On 24 June we got the shocking result that by a tiny majority of less than 4% (52% -48%) we voted to leave the EU and since then I’ve been in deep shock, both of our main political parties the Tories and Labour seem to be self destructing and the £ seems to have disappeared down the pan. There is so much uncertainty, these are worrying times.  I have spoken about this a lot on my facebook page so I don’t intend to say any more here.

So that’s one half of this year in my life, never a dull moment!

Earlier in the year it was bothering me that I wasn’t being as creative as I would have liked so I decided to finish off a journal I started years ago.  It’s called Secret Messages and is an altered sample book.  I gave up on it a long time ago because I wasn’t very happy with how the first pages turned out. When I went back to it I just experimented with whatever came into my head. I also wanted to use up some of my extensive hoard of ‘stuff’ collected over the years because it  ‘might come in useful someday’ Here is a short video of the book, it’s a bit of an oddity:

For my own records and just in case you might be interested in more detail.  The book was a sample book I purchased in a charity shop.  The samples were window or wall screens, I think.

Front Cover

Front Cover

The only thing I did to the front cover was rip off the label and add the letters to form the words Secret Messages. I intended the journal to have no words in it (I didn’t quite succeed).

Inside front cover

Inside Front Cover

Inside the front cover I just stuck the piece of paper with washi tape and added the small ornate envelope with a message inside.

PAGE 1

Front of Page 1

Front of Page 1

Page 1: This screen was made of 2 layers of fine silk with paper strips with symbols between. I cut some circles out of some paper in my stash and glued it over the screen to form 3 round windows the I added more scraps of paper coloured red with distress ink, added three gold strips, some ‘gems’ and a ribbon border.

Back of Page 1

Back of Page 1

On the back I cut three matching holes in more paper and stuck it on, added white pen work and a border of wire and pink fluffy balls.

PAGE 2

Front of Page 2

Front of Page 2

Page 2: Another screen of fine silk with paper strips between. I painted this one with gesso leaving the two leaf shaped windows. I added colour with acrylic paint, paint markers and glitter and added a stick-on flower jewel and three ribbon strips to the side

Back of Page 2

Back of Page 2

On the back I painted again with gesso leaving the two windows, added colour with acrylic paint and glued on bits of deconstructed jewellery for texture.

PAGE 3

Front of Page 3

Front of Page 3

Page 3: This screen was made of 2 layers of fine silk with bamboo slats between. I added a collage border and then glued on the leather bag clasp and the yellow heart was a prize in a Christmas cracker.

Back of Page 3

Back of Page 3

On the back of the page I added a collage border, stuck a paper doily, coloured with galatos in the middle and added a centre piece from a deconstructed ear-ring.

PAGE 4

Front of Page 4

Front of Page 4

Page 4: This screen was also made of fine silk and bamboo slats but I removed all of the bamboo, then I added texture paste and acrylic paint and stuck on some old coins, tokens and pieces of deconstructed jewelry.

Back of Page 4

Back of Page 4

I covered the back of the page with pieces of old maps then added a border of soft feathers  to the top and side (for some strange reason when I am out walking if I see a feather I have to pick it up so I have quite a collection!), stuck on some gold stars and two old ferry tickets.

PAGE 5

Front of Page 5

Front of Page 5

Page 5: Another screen of silk and bamboo. I removed all but three of the slats of bamboo. cut some paper from my stash to make a border and then added lace around the edges, I put an old photo of T and M into an old brooch and stuck that onto the page with ribbons and fibres hanging from it. I put a strip of ribbon down the hinge side, added a wire work heart and added the letters to form the words You & Me.

Back of Page 5

Back of Page 5

On the back of this page I stuck some patterned paper, then decided I didn’t like it so I Mod Podged some printed tissue paper over the top of that, still didn’t like it so I used up my stock of gold letters on the page, still didn’t like it, added the green border with acrylic paint and stuck on some gold beads.  TBH I still don’t like it.

PAGE 6

Front of Page 6

Front of Page 6

Page 6: This screen was made of silk and raffia. I removed nearly all of the raffia, just leaving the strip in the middle. I wanted to use the piece of lace so I cut some paper to the same shape and stuck it on the page and I also Mod Podged on the piece of orange fabric. I enhanced the colours of the orange fabric with paint pens and painted the paper blue before Mod Podging on the piece of lace. I like the way it hangs over the edge of the page forming a frill.

Back of page 6

Back of Page 6

On the back I added more of the orange fabric which I enhanced with paint pens and I added course texture paste to the top of the page and rubbed in some gold colour to the corner.  Finally I threaded ribbons through the raffia.

PAGE 7

Front of Page 7

Front of Page 7

Page 7: This screen was made of sheer silk with lines of tiny black glass beads. I Mod Podged some white fabric to the back of it and then sprayed it with coloured inks and water, then I stuck on lots of sequins and gave it black border with duct tape.

Back of Page 7

Back of Page 7

On the back it looked a bit messy so I added a double layer of fine red, glittery mesh, still looked a mess so I added the strips of red fabric which made it look better, but the pink tasselled fibre and the eyes on two tags really improved it as did the black border.

PAGE 8

Front of Page 8

Front of Page 8

Page 8: This screen was made of viscous raffia and all I did was thread the coloured ribbon through it. The wooden thing that looks like a bird head is a brooch given to me for my birthday by a friend.

Back of Page 8

Back of Page 8

On the back I painted the black border.  The bark, sticks and seed pods were collected on a walk on our first camping trip.  The piece of wood with the heart was given to me at the Call of the Wild Soul Art Retreat in 2012.

PAGE 9

Front of Page 9

Front of Page 9

Page 9: This screen is made of raffia and silk. The feathers from the top are from our third camping trip, the white ones are goose feathers. The feather at the bottom I picked up when I took my parents to the local Alpaca farm, it is a lovely looking feather but it comes from a very ugly bird. I can’t remember what it is called but it looks a bit like an ostrich only uglier! I added a ripped paper border to the bottom of the page and a piece of ear-ring to attach that single feather. I added a purple border around the page with distress ink. The feathers at the top were glued and sewn down and I sewed an ornate belt buckle over them and attached a bead and tassel embellishment. I really like this page.

Back of Page 9

Back of Page 9

On the back I stuck down the artificial leaves and added a border of orange, ripped hand-made paper, I added a couple of butterflies to the leaves and the flower is from a hat I bought for some occasion (and never wore).  I added the letters to form the words Be Mindful because it is so important to me to keep practicing mindfulness.

PAGE 10

Front of Page 10

Front of Page 10

Page 10: This screen is made of polyester and fossilized leaves. The leaves are so beautiful I didn’t want to do much to it so I added the border it’s just brown paper coloured with distress inks. The little tag which has an imprint of a fern on it is a clothing tag. Down the side is a piece of a ‘hippy’ headband and at the bottom a piece of corrugated cardboard, two more feathers and a paper rose.

Back of Page 10

Back of Page 10

On the back I just used the same brown paper border and those are little wooden disks with numbers on (they might be from a Bingo game).

PAGE 11

Back of Page 11

Back of Page 11

Page 11: This screen was really strange it was made of very thin and fine stainless steel and it was like fabric but metallic silver.  I actually did the back of the page first, I used paint pens to draw on the metal background, I outlined everything in black and added a black border to the page.  Then I added a double layer of red glittery mesh and put the kitty tag between the 2 layers.  I fixed the mesh down with a gold ribbon border, sewed on the strange wooden figure that came from a necklace and added a row of bling to the bottom of the page.

Front of Page 11

Front of Page 11

On the front page to cover up the stitching  I stuck on some torn green tissue paper, I added some green paper lace over the top so that the metal could still be seen, added 3 paper roses and edged the page with red ink.

PAGE 12

Front of Page 12

Front of Page 12

Page 12: This screen was sheer but stiff silk, I didn’t want to do anything to alter the screen itself so I added the border of orange printed paper. On the day of the referendum result it was really hard to come to terms with it, even though I expected the vote to go that way, the reality of it shook me to the core, it’s hard to explain. I went for a long walk along a beach to clear my head. Whenever I go for walks I collect things that catch my eye and on beaches I am always attracted to colour so I collected all these bits of rope and cord and when I got home I stuck them onto the border of the page. The fish tag is from a Weird Fish T-shirt. This is the only page in my book that has a title, it’s called ‘Give them enough rope…’

Back of Page 12

Back of Page 12

One the back I wanted to give a feeling of being lost so I used a piece of a map and then gave that another border with map tape.  The heart tag is to remind me not to give up hope 🙂

INSIDE BACK COVER

Inside back cover

Inside back cover

I wanted to leave the information about the make up of the screen material but I ‘knocked it back’ with a thin covering of gesso, then I randomly added torn paper and the Number 3 card. I didn’t do anything to the back cover.

THE WHOLE JOURNAL

The whole journal

The whole journal

It’s a bit fatter than it was when I started and it’s been good to experiment and try things out even if a lot of them didn’t really work. The process is more important than the result so I’m happy anyway.

Sorry for the long, long, long post, I’ll try not to leave it 6 months before I post again 🙂

Big love

AJ

© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2011-2016 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Happy New Year!

Page 6 7 & 8 sHello!

I hope everyone is doing well.  I hope too that you all had a lovely Christmas and I wish you all the very best for 2016!

I knew I had been neglecting my blog but i didn’t realise it was four and half months since my last post!  I guess I just needed some space to get myself together after the cancer treatment.

The Bongo!

On the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis (mid-September) T and I did something exciting and possibly crazy, we spent a lot of money and bought ourselves a Bongo.  In case you don’t know what a Bongo is here’s a picture of ours:

Bongo! s

It’s an old vehicle but it’s in really good condition and it has everything we could possibly need for our planned adventures.  Inside it has been converted into a campervan and has a fridge, 2-ring gas stove, sink, loads of cupboard space and the seats convert into a bed. The roof also lifts up and there is a tent/bed up there too.  It also came with an awning/tent which can be attached to the vehicle, when it is parked up.  We think it will be perfect for us and it’s great to drive, so far we have only been out for day trips, but we are looking forward to going camping in it in 2016 once the warmer weather and longer days come back.

Making a space for another vehicle

Having got the Bongo I needed to create somewhere to park it.  There was space to park one vehicle on our land and I needed that for my car. While I am working I still need to keep my car. So T had to sacrifice a piece of the garden so I could create another parking space. It took me about a month to do that and it was REALLY hard physical work – digging out shrubs, removing about 4 car loads of soil and transporting them to the local landfill site, then building a low retaining wall from heavy blocks and filling the space with 1 tonne of gravel and more blocks.  T offered to help, but I was worried he would put too much strain on his heart so I did most of the work on my own.  Here’s the end result, unfortunately there was not enough room to make the new space for the van so my car is now parked here and the van is parked where the car used to go.

Here’s the space after the fence was removed and most of the soil taken out:

DSCF7602 s

And here is it finished 🙂

DSC00321 s 1

This is the old parking space where the Bongo has to be parked now, I also built that wall along the side of the path.  The garden used to slope down to the path, and by building the wall I was able to level out the garden with some of the soil I had to remove for the new parking bay, that saved me a couple of trips to the local landfill site, but boy oh boy those blocks were heavy to move about!

DSCF7597 s

All the while I was doing this work the weather was great, in fact perfect camping weather but I had to get on and finish the project and by the time it was done (mid October) the weather was much cooler and the nights were drawing in. So still no camping for us.

Taking a break from the local history group

In mid October I stood down from my role of Chairman and committee member of the local history group, Ryde Social Heritage Group I am still a member of the group but I felt that I needed a break from the total involvement I’ve had with the group since we formed it in 2002 and I’ve been Chairman since 2007.  I started the group with two friends in 2002 and have seen it develop and grow into an award winning group.  It’s something I’m really proud of, but after 13 years of it being a high priority for me I realised that I had left much of ‘normal life’ for T to sort out. It just wasn’t fair to expect him to carry on doing the lion’s share of the house and garden work. It felt like we needed to be spending more time together.  But I am confident that the people remaining on the Committee are as committed to the success of the group as I was, so I know it’s in safe hands and will continue the good work started all those years ago.  I have quite a bit more space in my room now that all the history stuff has been handed over, but I must admit it’s still untidy and chaotic in my room and there is still far too much ‘stuff’ in here!  That’s something I shall be addressing in the New Year (she said).

Decorating

After a short rest following the building work I decided to start another project and we redecorated our living room together: we stripped the walls, repainted the ceiling and woodwork, then repapered the walls.  We finished that job just before Christmas. Actually there are still some shelves to put up but we finished it enough to be able to use the room again over the Xmas holidays and at least it is looking fresher and cleaner now.

In Remission 🙂

I had another meeting with my oncologist earlier in December, it was a good meeting and I was told the usual ‘Everything looks OK, come back in three months’. It had been bugging me a bit that other people I know who have been treated for cancer have been told that they are in remission but no-one had ever said that to me.  So I decided to ask the doctor if ‘Everything looks OK’ means that I’m in remission and she said ‘Yes it does, I’m sorry but I can’t promise you that you will never get cancer again but at the moment there are no signs that you have it, so yes you are in remission’. So I left the hospital feeling considerably lighter and happier.

T’s health is still not 100% he has been off work for another two months and we are not sure he will be able to return to work, but most of the time we are both doing OK and mood-wise at the moment we are fine.

The strange Christmas Tree

I decided not to have a Christmas tree this year as I had seen this really cool idea on Pinterest so on the weekend before Christmas I went out in to the Cemetery (my house is just inside the cemetery gates) and collected a load of holly, ivy, yew and spruce cuttings and then spent a day decorating my dress form.  So for Christmas we had this headless and armless ‘festive’ lady standing in the corner of the room.  The cats were not sure what to make of her, but then Billy Kat discovered he could get underneath her skirt and there was a magical cat cave inside 🙂

Christmas 2015 1 s

Unfortunately I didn’t realise quite how heavy all the greenery would be and by the time Christmas was over the skirt had dropped a bit, but apart from that it did look quite effective.  If I do it again next year I’ll make sure I fix the rabbit wire skirt more securely to the torso so it will stay in place.

Art

The building and decorating projects, health issues and my return to full time working have meant that I have had very little time for art in the past 4 months, but I consoled myself that I was nevertheless still being creative even if I wasn’t making ‘my art’.  The project with my radiotherapy mask is still ongoing but it was stalled for a long while and is not complete enough to share at the moment.

The image at the top of the page is from my small journal (6″ x 9″) and was completed in April 2015 when I was having radiotherapy.  Because I had to travel to the mainland for the treatment, it meant there was a lot of hanging around waiting for ferries, buses and treatment so it was good to have a small journal and some pens with me.

Here is what the 3 page spread looked like before I played about with the pens:

Page 6 7 & 8 collage only s

So that’s all my news, in a long an boring post!  Don’t suppose anyone has managed to get through all that text (I wouldn’t have) but that’s OK because this blog is for me more than anyone else.  So that in a few years time I’ll be able to look back and say “Oh that’s what happened in 2015”  as I will probably have forgotten.

Hope all is good with you in your part of the Universe.

Big love AJ 🙂

xxxxx

 

 

 

 

© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2011-2015 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

More Challenges!

 

Challenges

Hello friends!

I hope you are all doing well.  I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been in a bad head space for a few weeks, life continues to throw challenges my way, and I haven’t been coping that well.

Soon after my last post T developed flu-like symptoms and was clearly unwell and spent much of the time in bed.

On 26 May it was my birthday, you know one of those ‘big ones’ with a big fat zero at the end.  It wasn’t the best birthday, T was very sick and although I did get a couple of visitors to be honest I really didn’t feel that sociable.

Our holiday was booked to start on 29 May and the night before I suggested to T that we cancel and stay at home instead, but he insisted he felt a little better each day and wanted us to go.  So we packed up and went as planned.

I knew that we wouldn’t be able to do much in the way of walking or activity but I thought all we had to do was chill out and take things easy.  I packed a whole bag of art supplies to keep myself occupied so it wouldn’t matter of we didn’t go out at all.

The cottage was exactly as advertised and the area – near to Lyme Regis in Dorset – is lovely.  The weather was not brilliant, in fact it was a bit chilly at times but the cottage had good heating so that wasn’t a problem.  BUT it was not a good holiday, in fact it was stressful and difficult for both of us.  T became really unwell physically and mentally and we both really struggled to cope.  We both ended up depressed and despondent and it was definitely not the rest and recuperation I had been hoping for.

Before T became unwell I was feeling a bit flat and lost as I’d come to the end of months of treatment but had no idea whether or not it has worked. I’ve joined a cancer forum online and found out that this often happens to people when they reach the end of treatment .  All the while you are being treated it feels like you are doing something about it but then it stops and you feel like you are left in limbo all on your own. So I was already feeling low and then when T became unwell it was like a double whammy and I fell apart a bit.

Over a week after arriving home things are finally slowly beginning to improve for both of us. We managed to see a local doctor earlier in the week and he told us that heart surgery can sometimes trigger depression in patients and the heart medication might be affecting the other meds T takes for his Bipolar Disorder.  It’s certainly been a rough old ride on the emotional roller-coaster recently and neither of us have dealt with it particularly well.

It’s a bit of a shame that the medical profession seems to treat symptoms but not the ‘whole person’ in retrospect it’s pretty obvious that heart problems are going to trigger a bipolar episode but we had nothing in place to deal with it when it did.  I just wish I was better at dealing with it, but when T is in that big black hole of depression, even though I know it’s not personal, I can’t help but feel alone and depressed too.

So, anyway I didn’t get to do any art while we were away apart from the lettering on the page above.  The atmosphere was just too tense and not conducive to being creative. I tried really hard to put into practice all those things I know about being mindful, not listening to the thoughts going round and round in my head and just deciding to be happy. Writing that quote in my journal was a message to myself that I don’t have to be defeated by the stuff life throws at me. A few times I was successful and managed to lift my mood, but most of the time, despite my best endeavours, I felt defeated and despondent.  Clearly I need to practice a lot more!

While we were on holiday I went out a couple of times on my own and I discovered a fantastic cafe in Bridport called the Soulshine Cafe  there is a lovely vibe there and I found it just at a time when I really needed some sunshine for my soul.  I also saw a fantastic exhibition at Bridport Arts Centre by the A Level students of Colfox and Beaminster School.  It was really good, so much talent!  I spent ages there looking at the art and browsing through the students’ sketchbooks and then had a long conversation with the lady who was volunteering at the exhibition.

On the Monday after we returned from holiday I went on my own to see the Oncologist at Southampton Hospital.  He examined me and asked me some questions about how I was and said things ‘look OK’.  After a bit of a discussion about whether or not I should return to the local hospital he made me an appointment to see him again at Southampton in 3 months time.  Before that I will need to have another CT scan and on the day I’ll have a blood test, so hopefully I’ll find out more then.  At the moment it seems we are playing the ‘wait and see’ game.

I am so pleased that all the treatment is over now. Physically I feel good and I’m not overly worried about my health at present. I know it’s early days yet but I’m really hoping that it’s all over now.  Next week I will be starting my phased return to work after almost 8 months sick leave and I’m looking forward to getting some normality back into my life. I am a bit anxious because I’ve been away from the work environment for such a long time, but my employers have been very understanding and my colleagues have been keeping in contact with me, it will be fine and fun once I get back into it, all I have to do is ‘get up, dress up and show up’ and start getting on with the rest of my life now.

The page above is in my small journal and here is what it looked like before the penwork:

Page-10-before-and-after

That’s all for now, take good care of yourselves, and I promise I will work on improving my mood before I post again.

Big love AJ xxx 🙂

And here is a video of another old journal 🙂

 

© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2011-2015 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Courage

Courage

Hello friends

I’ve been away from my blog again for a while so I hope you are all doing well.  What a lot has happened since I was last here!

My health

During the last couple of weeks of radiotherapy treatment I was getting quite tired and often went to bed as soon as I got home, apart from that I didn’t feel too bad although the inside of mouth was sore a lot of the time.  The final treatment was on 29 April.  I thought I would feel euphoric at reaching the end of treatment, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  After the treatment ended the sores in my mouth became worse, my tongue felt like a piece of old carpet, I lost all sense of taste and eating was very difficult.  For a few days I suffered from what I assume was depression.  I was still functioning and being creative but I became even more introverted than usual and very emotional.  Thankfully things are now beginning to get better, my mouth is no longer sore and my taste is gradually coming back (I had no idea how difficult it would be to eat when there was no taste).  I’ve got a red mark on my face where the beams targeted the mandible in my jaw bone and I look like I’ve just been slapped, but that doesn’t hurt, it just looks a bit odd.

I do have this strange sense of being left in limbo though.  The last 6 months have been really difficult, but I have no idea if the treatment has worked or not.  I don’t go back to Southampton hospital until 8 June and I’m not sure what they will be able to tell me then as I have no scan or blood test scheduled before then.  The oncologist I saw at Southampton did tell me that after that appointment in June all subsequent appointments would be at my local hospital.  I was horrified and told him I didn’t want to go back there as I was so unhappy with the way I was treated.  We are going to talk about my concerns when I see him in June.

The face mask

At the end of my treatment I was given the mask to bring home, I also asked if I could have the ‘dreaded’ gob-stopper, they thought that was an unusual request but gave it to me anyway along with the piece of thick pink wax which was helping to protect my skin.

I think it needs to be turned into a piece of art eventually.  I’m not sure what I could do with the gob-stopper and the wax so I might just hide them inside so I will know they are there even if no-one else does.

 

Once I start to feel better physically I’m sure my low mood will improve as I generally work on the principle that if I feel OK then I am OK.

The death of a friend

cheesybitsThe friend we visited at the Hospice on 29 March sadly passed away on 15 April he was at his sister’s house and surrounded by his family when he died.  We attended his funeral on 27 April (2 days before I finished the radiotherapy treatment).  We were not very close friends and we hadn’t seen him for a few years before we visited him at the hospice, but he was part of our history. Back in the 1980s he played in the same band as my husband. He was an absolute giant of a man with a cutting sense of humour, but he was always lovely to me and I liked him a lot.

I think his death really brought home to me that people don’t always beat cancer and that probably has contributed to my anxiety and low mood at the moment.

Rest in Peace Dave “Cheesybits” Bowater and thanks for some great memories.

The earthquake in Nepal

Durbar-Square-KathmanduOn 25 April there was a massive earthquake in Nepal, a poor country where life is normally hard for the people.  The devastation caused by this earthquake has left 8,413 people dead, 17,576 injured, 260 still missing and many thousands of people homeless.

We spent time in Nepal in the early 1970s, it is a stunningly beautiful country and the people are welcoming and generous.  It breaks my heart that the people are suffering with this devastation now and I’m giving what I can to the relief fund.

The building in the image is one of the historic buildings in Durbar Square Kathmandu now destroyed.  That is sad but right now it’s the people who need our help.

Other news

On 2 May a royal baby was born and apparently the ‘whole’ country celebrated.  I’m not sure I did celebrate though, I mean I am pleased for them as a family but it’s just another baby and I’m sure there were lots born that day throughout the UK.

Then yesterday we had an election, perhaps you heard about it?  I’m just too pissed off to talk about it really.  Things are about to get even tougher for the poor and disadvantaged of this country and it does not make me proud to be British today.

Right, that’s got all that off my chest so now for something cheerful and positive 🙂

Holiday

I’ve booked our accommodation and the ferry for our holiday at the end of May and I’m just looking forward to getting away and having a break for a few days before I start my return to work.  I won’t even mind if it rains for the whole week because I’m just going to be chilling out.

The artwork

The page above is a page from my Tikis and Totems journal which I did last week, here’s what it looked like with just the collage:

I cheated with this one and I downloaded a totem pole from the internet, it was a colouring sheet for children to colour, I cut all the different parts from collage instead of colouring it in and then did loads of penwork over the top.

Before-and-after

That’s all for now folks, sorry this was a long one.

Stay well and happy.

Big love

AJ 🙂

 

 

© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2015 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

Move the Universe

Move the Universe

 

Hello friends

I hope things are good with you, I’m feeling good at the moment (because I’m between treatment) and feel like I am achieving some things.  I got signed off work for another two months which will allow me to have the radiotherapy treatment and give me time to recover before starting back at work (hopefully) in June.

I sent off one of the ‘give away’ packs to Sanje Sofar this week but I’m still waiting to hear from Lucydragon and Isisimaginings so I don’t know where to send their packs too.  If either of you read this please see my last post and let me know your snail-mail address so I can send you your packs.

My computer screen died earlier in the week, at first I thought it was the computer itself but eventually I worked out it was just the screen.  T tried to fix it for me but was unsuccessful so I went out and bought a new one.  I love it, it’s a bigger screen than I had before and everything looks much better now 🙂

Today we went to the local hospice to visit a friend.  I have never been there before and was a bit anxious about it.  Obviously he has been very unwell but things were not quite as bad as we had possibly expected. Although still not good. He was dressed and up and in remarkably good spirits. He is hoping to be able to go home again soon so that’s good. I’m glad we went because we haven’t seen this friend in a long while and it was good to reconnect and hopefully let him know that we care.

I have to go back to the local hospital this coming week to see a consultant in the Maxillo Facial unit.  That’s where I had the biopsy taken and was given my diagnosis before being transferred to the Haematology Department.  The two consultants I saw in MaxFax were both very nice so I don’t have any concerns about going back to see them this week, I’m just not sure why they want to see me again but I’ll find out when I get there.  While I’m at the hospital I will also try and find out if there is any help with the cost of travelling over the mainland for 17 days for the radiotherapy treatment.

The page above is from my new small journal and this is what it looked like before the penwork:

Before and After

And if you have 8 minutes to spare here is another video of an early journal:

Well that’s all for now folks see you soon

Big love AJ 🙂 xxx

 

 

 

Everything will be OK

Everything will be OK

Hello friends

I hope you are all doing well and enjoying good health.

Sorry it’s been a while again but I’ve been taking things easy and not doing much at all since my last round of chemo.  Tomorrow I am seeing a consultant again and on Tuesday I’m in for round 5.  Here we go again!

It seems to get harder every time.  Last time I had to have injections in my belly once a day for 5 days starting 5 days after the chemo.  I was dreading it, but actually it doesn’t hurt at all, in theory I should be able to do it myself, but I just don’t like the idea of jabbing myself in the belly with a sharp object even if it doesn’t hurt.  Anyway some lovely District Nurses came once a day to do it for me.  Energy levels have still been very low and I am really not doing much at all these days.  Spending a lot of time on the sofa with the cats, well actually one cat at a time because they would never be on the sofa together!

I got signed off work for another two months this week.  My last round of chemo should now be on 24 Feb providing I don’t pick up any infections in the meantime, I think I will probably be given a couple of weeks to get over that and then I should be having more tests and scans to see if it’s worked and if so I’ll be put on ‘watch and wait’ and have regular appointments and tests to monitor the situation.  This is what I am hoping for and expecting.  So it’s possible that I might be returning to work in the week commencing 30 March.  It will have to be phased return to work as it will take me a while to get my normal levels of energy back, and it’s going to be a massive shock to my system after so much time away.

There is a possibility that ‘they’ might want to give me radiotherapy after the chemo, but they will have to absolutely convince me of the necessity of that before I agree.  I’ve been told that radiotherapy zaps your energy even more than the chemo and I will have to travel to the mainland daily for this treatment as it’s not available on the Island where I live.  If I have to then that’s what I’ll do, I just want to be shown why it’s necessary. Anyway I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, for now I’m looking forward to just finishing the chemo. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do even though I’ve been fortunate in that so far (touch wood!) I’ve only been unwell once.  I can’t imagine how people struggle if it makes them sick as well as tired.

Yesterday I started to declutter and tidy my art room, a rather stupid thing to attempt with my current energy levels and as a consequence it now looks even worse!  I do need to get it sorted out at some time though as the mess is not conducive to being creative!  All the work surfaces are cluttered and some of the ‘piles’ of stuff are reaching dangerous proportions!

The page above is the back cover of the Warrior Women Journal finished a few weeks ago.  I really like this journal and it’s been good therapy for me to create it while I’ve been dealing with this cancer.

I hope all is good for you where ever you are in the world.

Take good care of yourselves

Big love

AJ 🙂

© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2015 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In Herself

In Herself

Hello friends

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I’m looking forward to the new year and getting my health back.

I’m half way through the chemo treatment now, I’ve been OK since the last one on 11 December.  OK in that I haven’t felt ill but still very tired.  I’m fine when I’m on my own just pottering about or lying on the sofa watching tv, but it’s Christmas time so there is a certain amount of socialising that has to be done and I have found that very tiring. In fact all communications have been almost shut down and there is still no sign of my muse so no artwork either! Still, so far, I’ve not picked up any infections so that’s good.  Over the next week I should start to feel a lot better and then on 2 January I’m in for another round, round 4.

Not sure what is going to happen when I’ve completed all 6 there has been some talk of radiotherapy, but I feel like I want to know a bit more about what’s happening with my body before I agree to that.

So, am I ready for Christmas?  I suppose I am and if I’m not well it’s too late to worry about it now.  To be honest I’m never that organised or enthusiastic about Christmas, in fact I’m a bit of a Grinch, and this year I just haven’t had the energy for it.  I did put the Christmas tree up last week.  That involved going down in the cold, dirty cellar, finding the tree and boxes of ornaments, carrying them all upstairs, constructing the tree, sorting out the lights and decorating. About half way through I wished I’d never started and just wanted to lie on the sofa, but I carried on and did finish it. It looks pretty good too 🙂

Christmas TreeKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also made the Christmas light, it was a plastic round bowl that had some chocolates in last year and I had been trying to think what to do with it.  Then I had a spark of inspiration and bought a set of LED fairy lights.  I carefully cut a hole in the bottom of the bowl and fed the lights into it, then a modpodged some printed tissue paper over the outside of the bowl. The stand that it is on is meant for a candle but it looks better with the new light. It only took a few minutes to make and I’m really pleased with the result.  Because I used LED lights they don’t get hot so it’s not a fire risk.

When I’ve had some energy I’ve been trying to help out with the cooking.  There have been varying degrees of success and failure.  I ‘nailed it’ with my half plain flour/half spelt flour pastry and made a great mushroom and chestnut pie, and some good gravy but I burnt the roast vegetables.  It seemed to take up a huge part of my day to prepare a meal that only lasted a few minutes then there was a stack of washing up to do and I wasn’t sure it was worth the effort.

The spread above is from the Warrior Women journal and I completed it a few weeks ago (when the muse was still with me).  I like the colour palette of this spread and it’s another message to myself that I can handle what I’m going through at the moment.

Thank you all for your love and support and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.  I am really looking forward to finishing treatment and getting my health back.  And to getting my artistic muse back!

Big Love

AJ 🙂

 

 

© Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal, 2014 unless otherwise stated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janette Gregson and ajsartjournal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.