This morning, I was reflecting on beta-blockers. They were referred to in the book I’m reading at the moment, as having been prescribed to counter feelings of anxiety.
Some years ago, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I was prescribed some medication designed to lower it. The medication made my ankles swell up and, when I reported this to my GP, he reduced the dose and prescribed beta-blockers to be taken in addition. Previously, I had only heard of beta-blockers as something that snooker players took to help steady their cue hands. The combination of medications was effective in lowering my blood pressure and I thought nothing more of it.
This was around 2015 and I did notice subsequently that I had slowed down a bit. I didn’t seem to have much energy. I’d fall asleep in front of the TV or find myself staring into space in work. I put this down to getting older.
Following a procedure to address some atrial fibrillation I’d been having, another doctor altered my prescription in late 2017, lowering my dose of beta-blockers. Well, my goodness, it was like being poked in the face with a sharp stick and I haven’t looked back. The fog of indolence lifted and I felt as if I had twice the energy that I had before. And so it is to this day and hopefully for the foreseeable future.
There ARE downsides. Too much thinking, sometimes obsessively. Not enough sleep. Some anxiety and hyperactivity. Occasional frustration and impatience. Stressing over unimportant issues. Throwing things and shouting (but not at other people, I hasten to add). Putting the energy to good use by, for example, engaging in creative stuff, helps to counteract some of these, however. I rarely achieve calm though, unless I become absorbed in an alternative activity. That can get a bit wearing, to be honest, and occasionally I crash.
That’s got nothing to do with the stuff I’ve been doing in the last few days. I just wanted to get those thoughts out of me and on to a page.
I saw this on Instagram and decided to have a go. I drew a heart shape, some leaves and flower shapes, cut them out with a sharp knife and laid them on top of a contrasting background. Quite a nice effect and easy enough to do.
In the last post, I mentioned that I had made a bags of a macrame bracelet. So I made another one. I kept away from the superglue this time and so the slip knot slips in the correct manner.
I haven’t done any wood carving for ages. One of the reasons is that I’m not very good at sharpening tools and some of them are a bit blunt. The guy who runs the firm I bought my carving axe from, Robin Wood (yes, I know!), suggested making sanding/sharpening blocks out of wood and very fine gauge sandpaper. I bought the sandpaper in Halfords ages ago, but I only got around to buying the wood to make the blocks with on Friday. So I made the sanding blocks today. Here’s the process …
Yesterday I popped into Evans art supply shop and bought a few tubes of Holbein Acryla Gouache. Just black and white. One of the properties of gouache is that, once dry, it can be reactivated very easily by water or other paint. One consequence of this is that if you paint a light colour on a dark background, the paint can mix and become muddy. Acryla gouache doesn’t reactivate.
Finally, on holiday, I started doing some sketches in a journal I keep to record the arty stuff I been doing. You’ll have noticed the lined paper on which some recent paintings have been done. I like doing this. Much of the art I’ve done over the last year is scattered randomly in my attic so doing them in the journal keeps everything in order and means I can track my progress, in painting anyway. Also, it makes the journal more interesting to review.
Here’s today’s page, with the writing ‘artfully’ blurred.
This morning, as well as thinking about beta blockers, I thought, pretty randomly, about the chef Ken Hom and wondered what had become of him. In the gym later, I happened to glance at one of the few remaining TVs and, what do you know, there he was, cooking stuff. I wrote about co-incidences recently and paying attention to them. There was the weirdest string of them at the start of last week. Too complicated to explain but ultimately, positive.
I’m off to adjust my chakras.
A painting on a round teabag popped up in my Instagram feed recently. It was really well done: a dark background with a boat seen from above. Actually, I mentioned it before. It was the inspiration for my rowing boat painting a few posts back.
Google eventually told me that Tetley put their tea in round bags and so I started trying to find Tetley teabags in supermarkets. Tesco didn’t have them but we were walking past Dunnes in town last weekend and Christine suggested having a look in there. And what do you know? There they were. Special offer too. So now I have 160 of them.
I soaked a few, dried them out, emptied them, painted them black and came up with these, as a start. Both a little rushed but you get the idea.
Otherwise I’ve been sketching in snatched moments. There’s this …
And Newgrange …
And an androgynous imaginary friend … (people and faces are not a strength of mine – I gave up on his/her nose after five attempts.)
And last night, before I took Edward out in Christine’s car to practice his driving, I made a really lovely thin black macrame bracelet. I used superglue to fix the locking slip knot. Unfortunately I used too much and it no longer slips. Annoying but I won’t make that mistake again.
Here’s something a little more successful macrame-wise.
Almost forgot. I was messing around with lettering too …
That’s about it for now.
It’s that ‘back to school’ time of year, when people take a deep breath, gird their loins and get ready for the return to term time routine. It’s not my favourite time of year, to be honest. I love the relative freedom of summer, the absence of deadline pressure, the freedom to imagine, daydream, doodle mentally, be a bit late for things.
As a school-goer, I always dreaded the first day back. I don’t know what I was anxious about. Maybe just the unknown and new: timetables, teachers, classrooms. Maybe my peers: would my school friends still be friendly towards me? I’m really not sure. I just remember the tension and the fluttering in my stomach.
This is going to be a busy week, with two very important meetings and a load of other new term stuff to sort out. I’m glad about that because I need the distraction.
I doodled yesterday, mentally and creatively.
Here’s an overworked strawberry in gouache.
And a knotted/macrame dragonfly.
Here are some doodle doodles that I did when thinking about something else.
And then I botched a good idea about bamboo in the moonlight. I’m not even going to put it up here because it ended up an embarrassing mess. Well, OK, here it is. (I did say to myself that I’d put up the bad and the OK.) The bamboo element wasn’t working so I changed it as I was going along and then I wasn’t sure what it was. It was six trees, then three, then five. Ugh.
Christine bought me a book on wabi-sabi, a Japanese concept concerning finding beauty in imperfect, old, repaired or broken things. There’s a lot more to the concept but that’s it in shorthand.
In an early chapter, there was mention of Sogetsu, which is a school of Ikebana, Japanese floral art, or flower arranging, a strong and ancient Japanese tradition.
It reminded my of my mum who, for a large part of the 1960s arranged flowers competitively. This activity was a big part of all our lives then. Towards the end of the 1960s, I remember her being very keen on arranging flowers in a Japanese style. It was all about simplicity and a flowing shape. Not being able to find the sort of vases that she felt would allow her arrangements to have the maximum impact, she made some by melting old 78rpm records in the oven and shaping them by hand. The smell was dreadful.
A quick search in Pinterest revealed some lovely examples of Ikebana and I found that I had to get up early this morning to paint one.
The vase is overworked and I dropped a blob of water on the stem and had to do a bit of repair work, but I’m reasonably pleased with this.
We went for a bike ride this morning, along the Grand Canal to the 12th Lock close to Lucan. Training, really. Nice weather for it although the outward journey was predominantly uphill, against the wind. That made the homeward journey very pleasant, however: downhill, with the wind at our backs.
This is dreadful but I’m putting it here anyway because it doesn’t matter. It’s supposed to be the 8th Lock. This is the best bit of it. The stuff I cropped out was really pretty poor.
Later, I made a macrame bracelet out of hemp. I didn’t pay enough attention to the arrangement of the black and grey cords and so their distribution is uneven and a bit haphazard. Pity. But it’s wearable.
Years ago, I saw a cute idea on Tumblr and saved it. I haven’t been on Tumblr for ages but I went into it the other day to look at something embroidery-related and found the thing I’d saved. The idea is a series of boxes, like matchboxes containing little messages.
Anyway, long story short, I got hold of a matchbox today and deconstructed it, used the now flat pieces of cardboard as a template, and made a little box out of black card. Now I know I can make these easily, I have some ideas for how I can decorate them.
The matchbox I got a hold of had a few matches in it. In work I started trying to glue them together but it didn’t really work. At home I happened to look behind the fire guard in front of one of our fireplaces and found a load of spent matches. I gathered them up, cut off the burnt heads and made an abstract sculpture. Fun times.
I bought some thin cotton cord recently with a view to doing some small scale macrame. Some years ago, I got stuck into macrame with paracord: a kind of man-macrame. I enjoyed it for a while and made some interesting things. The nylon-based paracord came in different colours and one could create interesting patterns. Finishing paracord projects was easy too, With nylon cord, a bit of a flame sealed the ends of the cord and stopped fraying.
Finishing projects made with cotton cord is a bit more challenging. On YouTube I found a few methods involving either glue or sewing the loose ends into the knotted part.
The other thing I wasn’t sure about was how to create a tightening mechanism for, say, a macrame bracelet. YouTube, again, provided the answer. I gave it a go today. So, you make the bracelet. I made a simple square knot one. Then you do a further tight sinnet of square knots around the loose ends and put a stopper knot or a bead at the end of the loose ends so that they don’t get pulled through the sinnet. Simple, when you know how.
Today’s architectural drawing/painting is of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, England, found on p186 of Rice’s Architectural Primer.
Apart from getting used to drawing buildings, the other benefit of this exercise is getting used to watercolours. That’s very useful.