Posted in art, watercolour painting

Creating a colour wheel using my watercolour paints and some tips for making your own

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

A few weeks ago, I decided to create a colour wheel using my Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolours to explore colour value and secondary and tertiary colours that could be made using the three primaries of red, yellow and blue. Although I already have ones of those little reference colour wheels that you can buy really cheaply on eBay of Amazon, it’s not made with actual paints so is of limited use. I really enjoyed the activity and the wheel will be a useful reference when I’m colour mixing and creating washes. It’s also good that it’s made with my actual paints as colours will be slightly different depending on the actual shades of the primary paint colour used e.g. lemon yellow will give different results to say cadmium yellow when mixed with cadmium red deep or a scarlet lake.

Drawing the colour wheel

My Helix circle drawing tool came in really handy for creating the wheel as I was able to draw the circles with it and also section them off using the angle measurer. I wanted to include primary, secondary and tertiary colours and also explore what happened when I lightened the colours by adding more water to the paint on my brush.

If you want to have a go at making one of this size using your own paints, the dimensions here are a circle the exact size of my Helix circle drawing tool (just over 14cm), 12 segments of 30 degrees each (360 degrees divided by the number of segments required) and two inner circles at 2.5cm in and 4.5cms in. My measurer was super helpful but you could also create one using a pair of compasses and a protractor.

Painting the primary colours

I began by painting the primary colours of red, yellow and blue. I started with the yellow segment as I read some advice that said you should always do the lighter colour first and finish with the darkest – makes total sense! To create a lighter colour value, I swished my brush in my water a little then took off some of the excess with paper towel before applying to the segment of the wheel. I then swished again to get an even light colour value.

Tip: before applying a lighter shade of the colour, dry off the segment a little in order to avoid colour bleeds.

N.B. In case you were wondering, colour value refers to the lightness of the colour.

Mixing the secondary colours

To mix the secondary colours, namely orange, green and purple (I called the purple segment violet because that’s what it said on the colour mixing wheel I purchased before), I used equal parts of two of the primary colours each time. So, red and yellow to make orange, blue and yellow to make green and red and blue to make purple (violet). I then repeated the swishing method to create lighter colour values.

Mixing the tertiary colours

Tertiary colours are those which are made by mixing equal parts of a primary colour with a secondary colour. These are then labelled with the name of the primary, followed by the name of the secondary e.g. yellow green, red orange etc. Again I mixed the colour with a little amount of water and then gradually diluted it.

Finishing off my colour wheel

I wanted to label the colours directly onto the paint but knowing that fineliner pens aren’t too good at writing over paint, I used my Dymo LetraTag on the smallest font, printing on transparent plastic tape. I think I probably wouldn’t have been able to write that small anyway!

Tip: Write the name of the paints you used on the back e.g. Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolours, and the names of the three primary colours you used e.g. lemon yellow, cadmium red deep and cobalt blue hue so you don’t forget.

The finished result

You could neaten your finished colour wheel by going over the pencil lines with a fineliner pen but I decided to leave my looking a little rough around the edges.

I hope this post has encouraged you to have a go at creating your own colour wheel. It took a while to do and I had a number of mixing palettes on the go at once but I think it’s well worth the effort. It’s also something I’d recommend doing for each of your sets of paint if you have more than one like I do as different brands tend to have slightly different colour compositions.

Posted in Bullet journaling, lifestyle, mental health, Planning and journaling, wellbeing

Monday Matters: Journalling for Wellbeing

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

If you have been following my blog for a while now, you will have seen from some of my previous posts that I’ve been a fan of journalling for a while now and really enjoy using both my bullet journal (BuJo) for planning and recording and my Traveler’s notebook journals for creative memory keeping. In today’s Monday Matters, I’m going to give a brief introduction to journalling, describe some of the ways it can support your mental health and wellbeing and provide you with some different types of journalling that you might want to try.

What is a journal?

A journal is a safe and private space for you to record your thoughts, feelings and reflections on life. It’s a place where you can write daily or just occasionally, when you feel the urge. You can produce a few short lines or a couple of pages depending on the type of journaling you want to do and what you’d like to get from it. There are no rules to follow and so it is a great way of letting your guard down and expressing yourself in any way you choose. Many people decide to share their journal with others – as you can see on Instagram or Pinterest, but this is completely optional and something you should only do if you feel comfortable or if you find it beneficial in some way.

There are many different kinds of journal that you may want to keep and you can either choose to have several on the go at once or keep it simple with one space to write something each day. There are also lots of dedicated books and booklets available for purchase if you want one with a structured framework in which to write but I personally prefer to create my own using a blank notebook. Here’s a list of some of the most commonly kept journals:

  • dream journal – a space to write down what you dream about and then think about what each specific one might mean
  • travel journal – a book in which to write about all of the places you’ve been, adventures you’ve had, people you’ve met on your travels, places you want to go in the future etc.
  • specific timeframe journal e.g. a record of a holiday, baby’s first year, wedding planning etc
  • reading journal – a record of the books read, your rating and your thoughts on them
  • garden / nature journal – details about your garden e.g. new plants, plans and layouts, nature spots etc
  • gratitude journal – a place to record one or two lines about things you are grateful for or a list of things you are thankful for each day
  • progress journal – a place to document your achievements in a particular area of your life e.g. yoga practice, work you’ve done towards your goals etc.
  • project journal – if you are working on a particular project, you might record how you are getting on e.g. photos of a house renovation or photos and words relating to decluttering a particular area of your home
  • creative journal – a scrapbook / junk journal style where you stick in tickets, receipts, leaflets etc and record your life experiences, adding decorative papers, stickers, stamped images etc
  • personal development – a record of how you have grown as a person, for example, a Level 10 life assessment followed by ways in which you have made progress in the different areas in order to work towards a better life

If you keep a bullet journal, you may even decide to create dedicated pages within your monthly spreads. For example, I draw up a 2 lines a day gratitude journal each month which comes after my cover page and monthly calendar.

What are the benefits of keeping a journal for good mental health and wellbeing?

Regular journalling can greatly improve your quality of life and various studies have proven it to be wonderful for your wellbeing due to the positive impacts it has on your physical and mental health. Some of the main benefits include:

Reduction of anxiety, stress and depression Journalling helps in a number of ways. The physical process of writing can be good for calming your mind and soothing your emotions as it is a meditative kind of activity. Writing can also boost your mood and put you in a more positive mindset – gratitude journalling is particularly great for this as it focuses your attention on appreciating the small things in your life that make things better. Getting all of your thoughts and feelings on paper can also help you rationalise and process all of the things that are going on for you at the moment. As you write, you may think of alternative ways of looking at things or find some solutions to your problems. You can even write a love letter to yourself where you identify difficulties that you are currently facing and offer kindness and compassion to yourself.

Improved self awareness Journalling can really help you get to know yourself better. Learning what makes you tick has been shown to help you deal with life’s ups and downs and can make you more much more resilient in the face of difficulties. It can also enable you to spot patterns and recognise any traps you may fall into on a regular basis.

Better cognition Regularly writing in a journal has been shown to boost our cognition. Cognitive skills include attention, memory, organising information, learning and solving problems. Also, if you engage in a reflective style of journalling which helps you process negative emotions and thoughts, you are creating room in your mind to explore your creativity and engage in more positive activities.

Reach your full potential Many people like to keep a journal to establish, track and achieve their short and long term goals and writing things down can be a great way of checking in with yourself to see how you are progressing.

Nightly journaling can provide an opportunity to reflect on how you feel your day has gone, any issues you had and how you dealt with them (whether in a good way or less than helpful way!), what you are looking forward to tomorrow and anything which is worrying you. This can help you make progress in both your personal and professional life and also encourages you to celebrate your achievements no matter how small.

Improved physical health Studies have found that regular journalling can decrease symptoms of long term health conditions such as asthma and arthritis. They also shown that it can boost your immune system, helping to reduce your chance of catching common illnesses such as a cold, and making your body better able to fight off any infections.

Are there any negative aspects to journalling?

For me, there’s just one and this is related to my perfectionist tendencies. Sometimes, I become overly concerned with aspects of writing such as cohesion, penmanship (handwriting, spacing etc), readability etc, which kind of detracts from the thoughts and emotions that I’m trying to get down on paper. Although I’m getting better at embracing the imperfections, this is still very much a work in progress. One way you can combat this is by writing down everything that’s in your head and enjoying the therapeutic effects, then destroying your pages by shredding them or hiding your writing by covering it with papers, thick layers of paint, pretty images etc,

Things to remember when you start journalling – some tips for beginners

No matter what kind of journal or journals you choose to keep, remember that it should be all about improving the quality of your life whether that’s making you more organised, relieving stress, having a creative outlet, recognising your achievements or any other of the wonderful benefits that come with a regular journalling practice. As a beginner, try to think about what you want to get out of keeping a journal. Do you want it to be all about reflection? Do you want it to be a record of your experiences and how you felt about them? Or do you want to focus on being more grateful and appreciative of the things you have in your life? Find your purpose and once you are clear on this, think about how you might present things.

There are many styles of journalling and there are no right and wrong answers. Some people write to just get everything out of their head in order to create some space – a popular method to create ‘morning pages‘ where you do some free writing first thing in the morning and fill a couple of pages without thinking about spelling, punctuation and grammar. However, this in not for everyone and not something I’ve tried. So one of the questions you might ask yourself is, do I want something that I can look back on for years to come or do I just want to focus on actually getting all of my thoughts and feelings out with no regard to what my pages look like as I’m not going to be looking at them again?

Also, when you first start, you might want to experiment in order to find your own journalling style or styles. In doing this, it may be tempting to spend hours perusing the internet looking at the work of others for inspiration and ideas. However, this can cause overwhelm and hightened stress levels before you even get going. Comparing yourself to other journallers can leave you feeling inadequate which is certainly not going to lead to good mental health and wellness! Also, you may be ‘wowed’ by everything you see online and end up buying every supply available – washi tapes, stamps and inks, watercolours, gouache, brush pens, gel pens stickers etc, when really, it’s probably better to start simple and choose a few basic supplies that suit your style e.g. a nice pen and some tape to stick in a few photos and maybe a couple of embellishments until you find what you like.

Of course, if your passion is the act of writing, you might just want to fill your pages with words and add only basic decoration in the form of a border or a cute sticker. Other journallers might prefer to create arty pages, adding decorative elements such as photos, sketches, watercolour, stickers, stamped images and so on, plus a few lines of text. Again, there’s no right or wrong answers – just do what you feel comfortable with.

Final words…

I hope you have enjoyed reading today’s post and it has whetted your appetite for a little journalling. Maybe you’re completely new to the idea or you’ve tried journalling in the past and would like to give it another go. Remember, start small and above all have fun with it as this is more likely to make it a habit you want to keep. You certainly won’t reap the wellbeing benefits if you do it only once or a couple of times, but if you journal as part of your daily or weekly routine, I’m sure you will soon see the benefits and want to continue. If you want to learn more about instilling new habits like journalling check out this post. Let me know in the comments if you are already a regular journaller and what impact it’s had on your life.

Posted in lifestyle, mental health, wellbeing

Monday Matters: 5 ways that having a pet can improve your wellbeing

My lovely mug featuring our very own Rosie, which my husband got me as a surprise!

If you follow my blog and have read my intro page, you’ll know that as well as being a wife, I’m also a hamster mummy to the gorgeous Rosie. Due in part to my mental health difficulties, my husband and I made the decision not to have children. However, I still love looking after things and having a pet is a great way of doing this. Today, I’m going to share five ways that having a pet, whether a furry friend or something scaly, can support your health and wellbeing.

  • helps manage loneliness and depression

Keeping a pet can be great for combatting loneliness as they may help you to feel needed and can also be a source of companionship. People might feel lonely for a variety of reasons such as loss of a loved one, aging, moving away from family and friends, marriage breakdown or divorce. It’s even possible to feel completely alone when you are surrounded by others, especially if you have depression, feel misunderstood or uncared for. Pets can help as they are often very reliant on their humans for care and attention, and, depending on the type of animal chosen and their temperament, might also offer unconditional love and affection towards their owner.

Additionally, having a pet gives you something else to think about when you are finding yourself consumed by negative thoughts and are therefore a great distraction when you are struggling with anxiety or depression. Obviously, some animals need more attention than others and dogs have been found to be particularly good at offering emotional support to their owners at times of difficulty.

  • helps you make friends and improves your social life

The obvious pet that comes to mind for this one is a dog where there’s the potential to meet other dog owners in the park or other place that you take then for walkies and get chatting either about your own pets or about other common topics such as the weather. However, you can also make virtual friends online by joining a group on Facebook dedicated to your furry, feathered or scaly friend. For example, I belong to a Hamster group where we share cute or funny pics of our little ones, discuss any issues we might be having and console each other during times of loss. You can also share images on Instagram – I personally use #hamstergram, #hamsterlife, #hamstersofinstagram etc and gorge on cuteness from other members. And there are even little videos to like and comment on.

  • can substantially improve your mood

Pets can be great for elevating your mood and making you feel happier. I certainly found this to be true when I was struggling with depression, but even if your low mood is just temporary and due to, for example, a bad day at work or a particularly stressful commute home, a pet can be a great tonic. Also, studies have shown that making eye contact with your choice of creature can stimulate the production of oxytocin aka the love hormone whilst spending time together can boost serotonin, a substance which regulates mood as well as supporting a range of other aspects of wellbeing.

  • provides sensory stress relief and help you unwind

I love having cuddles with Rosie and sitting her on my knee for a stroke. Petting a furry friend has been shown to be a really soothing activity and one which helps release the stresses of the day. Now, you might say, but I keep fish, I can hardly get them out of the tank for some close one-to-one time, but you can still use your other senses to help you relax. For example, watching tropical fish as they glide around their environment or watching them feed or weave through the plants can create a sense of real calm and relaxation. In fact, that’s why they are sometimes found in the waiting room of a dental surgery or in hospitals. Other pets in tanks, such as stick insects, can also be fascinating to watch as they feed on leaves or blend in to their surroundings.

And even if you don’t have the time or energy to invest in a pet of your own, you can still enjoy wonderful sensory experiences by appreciating visitors to your garden. Simply observing a bee sneaking inside flowers, doing its waggle dance to collect pollen and smother its back legs with bright yellow can be a delight for your eyes. Hearing bird song as you relax on a garden chair may be just the kind of amazing tune that your ears need after a busy day.

  • helps to improve your relationships

Research has shown that keeping a pet can help strengthen your relationship with your partner and even your kids. According to my reading, whether you already feel pretty close to your loved ones or not, having a pet is something you both have in common and this creates a new bond where you both share similar feelings and sentiments. This certainly holds true for my husband and I as we often spent time interacting with Rosie together and she is regularly the subject of discussion on an evening when she is up to her usual antics!

Things to consider before you get a pet

Of course, before you all rush out and get yourself a new pet, you need to make sure that you have time for one and that you know all about the type of creature you are thinking of getting. Some basic questions to ask yourself could include:

  • how long does this pet live on average?
  • what does the pet like to eat?
  • how much exercise does it need?
  • which habitat is required to keep the pet healthy?
  • what basic equipment is required to keep this type of pet?
  • how much does it cost to keep this pet per week or year?
  • how big does it get?
  • do I have enough time to properly care for this pet?

All pets require some form of commitment, so make sure you’re able to make one before purchasing or adopting!

Final words

I would love to hear about your experiences of having pets and what you think are the main benefits for you. I know some of my followers keep guinea pigs and rabbits, whilst others have a dog or a cat. My husband and I even enjoy caring for wildlife in our garden such as the birds and our nightly hedgehog visitors – all of which can have similar benefits to our wellbeing. Pets can also help other family members too. For example, they can be great for your children as they can learn the skills associated with responsibility and, from a young age, can develop their communication skills and widen their vocabulary as they chat to or about the pet. Even visiting an elderly relative with your dog or cat can be wonderful to enable them to find meaning and joy in their life. I’m sure you can bring to mind may other benefits too so feel free to share them in the comments.

Posted in art, bullet journal, Bullet journaling, Planning and journaling, watercolour painting

Setting up my Bullet Journal for April: April showers theme

Hi everyone, hope you are all well and enjoying the warmer weather. This month, I’ve gone for an April showers theme featuring umbrellas and raindrops. Again, I had fun practising my drawing skills for the brollies and I also decided to get out my watercolours for the cover page using my Winsor & Newton Cotman paints for the large umbrella and my watercolour pencils for the tiny raindrops. I hope you enjoy looking at my spreads.

Cover page

For my cover page, I kept it simple with a single umbrella which I sketched in pencil onto hot pressed (smooth) watercolour paper and then inked using a Pigma micron pen in 02. I then wet some Cadmium Red deep straight out of the tube and used it for the top of the umbrella, applying the paint with a size 6 brush. After that had dried, I added a tiny amount of black to the mixture to create a darker contrasting hue for the underneath of the umbrella. By letting the first colour dry thoroughly, I avoided any colour bleeds when applying the darker colour. After leaving the umbrella to dry overnight to avoid any smudging, I drew the raindrops with the Pigma pen and then coloured them in with a dark blue watercolour pencil before using a small damp paintbrush (in size 0) to activate the paint. I was really careful not to lean on any of the wet paint as I didn’t want any issues like those I had with the calendar page as you will see next! The image was then scanned into my computer, pasted into a MS Publisher document and the month added.

Monthly calendar

For my calendar, I wrote April on dot grid paper and then cut it out to stick in as the header. The calendar is my usual six dots x six dots grid drawn with a 0.3 Pigma pen. The umbrellas are hand-drawn and coloured in with my watercolour pencils and then wetted to activate the paint. The raindrops were also done in the same way. As you can see, there are a few smudges, one from some Tombow ink and the other from accidentally dripping water on a couple of the raindrops. I’ve tried to cover them over with my white gel pen but I’m still not happy with it!

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Another two double page Spring collage!

I enjoyed creating the other collages so much that I decided to do another one. Again, the photos are from Google Images. The paper backgrounds are from a paper pack I got from The Range and the hearts and flowers are cut with mini punches from Hobbycraft. Some stickers and ephemera completed the spreads nicely! The pages are such a joy to look at and I’m so pleased with how they turned out.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative
Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Yoga session tracker

This is where I record the session I followed on YouTube or the e-book sequence I followed. I also write in my yoga journal but I find writing in here gives me an at a glance record so I can be sure to have focused on stretching different parts of my body throughout the month. Again, I got smudges of Tombow elsewhere – the joys of being a leftie!

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

TBR and reading information spread

Again, I wanted to do a spread which shows the books I plan to read over the next couple of months. I also have an extra novel that I’m not going to get around to by the end of March too but I’d already done the spread so I shall read it in a few months time.

The benefits of reading fiction spider diagram was useful for reminding me about the benefits of reading for pleasure and also gave me the idea of writing this blog post. I’ve also done a bit of journalling about my reading and the books on my virtual TBR pile. I think it’s nice to include colour versions of the covers in my BuJo because, as I think I’ve said before, you don’t get to see them on the Paperwhite version of Kindle.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

2 lines a day gratitude

A simple spread where I record at least three things a day for which I am grateful. I did this last month too and really enjoyed filling it in each evening.

That’s most of my spreads that I thought you might like to see this month. I have really got into using my bullet journal again now that my mental health has improved. I would love to know what theme you have chosen and, as usual, if you’ve shared your spreads on your blog, don’t forget to include a link so that other readers can have a nosey as well as me!

Happy bullet journalling!

Posted in lifestyle, self care

Monday Matters: 10 benefits of reading fiction books

My current read is The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Since my mental health has improved, I’m finding myself reading a lot less books from my (virtual) TBR pile as I now only read in bed on a night and not most afternoons as I did previously. Also, I’m so busy during the day, I can only manage a couple of chapters before I find myself drifting off to sleep. I would still like to make sure I read a couple of fiction books each month, plus at least 2 chapters each week from my current non-fiction book. In order to make sure I keep up with reading novels, I decided to do a little research into the benefits of regular reading of fiction. I was quite surprised by some of what I learnt and thought my blog readers might like to see too. So, this is the subject of my Monday Matters blog post for this week – 10 ways reading fiction can be helpful as well as pleasurable.

1. Improves your capacity for empathy

If you’re anything like me, when reading some genre of fiction, you’ll likely find yourself imagining what it would be like to be one or more of the characters in the book. Studies has shown, that doing this helps to activate the parts of the brain responsible for showing understanding towards others and seeing things from an alternative perspective. So, by devouring lots of books on a variety of themes, you are strengthening your ability to be empathetic towards people in your life.

2. Widens your vocabulary

The more you read, the wider your vocabulary will get, especially if part of your TBR pile includes more literary works. I love learning new words when reading and, because I mainly use my kindle, I can check out the meaning of those I’m not sure of by selecting the text and opening the dictionary. In fact, on a few occasions, when I’ve been super tired and reading a paperback, I’ve found myself tapping on a word to discover what it means! (please tell me I’m not the only one who has done this ha ha!).

3. Reduces stress

Becoming immersed in a book has been shown to be extremely good at making us feel less stressed. Reading can lower blood pressure, slow our heart rate and help us release tension in our muscles. So basically, by dedicating some time each day for a quiet reading session, we can calm the often incessant mental chatter, soothing our minds and bodies.

4. Mental stimulation which leads to less mental decline than non-readers

Just like doing Sudoku, crosswords and word searches, reading of any kind provides excellent mental stimulation. By keeping our brains active, we’re helping to delay the onset of mental decline associated with conditions such as dementia.

In fact, scientific studies have shown that reading novels strengthens brain function in all kinds of ways, both during the actual act of reading and for days after. One study found that when the tension in a story mounts, brain activity increases too!

5. Better sleep

Reading a couple of chapters before turning out the light has been shown to help us have a better night’s sleep. Studies found that just ten minutes can help us wind down really effectively. Also, if you make it a regular part of your bedtime routine, your brain will associate reading with quite time prior to slumber.

6. Increases happiness

Regularly burying your head in a good book has been shown to have the potential to make us happier by banishing depressive thoughts and feelings and generally improving our mood. Reading can also boost self esteem which is likely to have a positive effect on our confidence levels and our beliefs about ourselves and our abilities.

7. Better analytical skills

If you like reading crime fiction, psychological dramas with lots of twists and other stories with complex plots like I do, you’ll be pleased to know that not only will you be enjoying a cracking read, you’ll also be improving your analytical skills too. Analytical skills include developing your ability to visualize, conceptualize, and solve both simple and complex problems using all information available – in essence, great life skills which can be applied to every day situations and come in really useful at work or school too.

8. Inclusivity

In a nutshell, inclusivity is the quality of including many different types of people and treating them all fairly and equally. Reading can help you do this by introducing you to characters from all walks of life so you can learn about cultural differences and issues which may present themselves in certain communities or through particular life experiences, making you more open minded.

9. Creativity

The fact that reading broadens our minds and experiences (sometimes transporting us to completely different worlds) has also been shown to help us to be more creative. By fully engaging in the books we choose, our imagination flows freely and our creative juices are stimulated.

10. Improved emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence which can be defined as ‘the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically’ (Oxford dictionaries) has been shown to be greatly improved, especially if you read widely. According to research and a number of theories, reading fiction provides a safe place to explore different emotions and prepare us for the stresses and strains of real life. Also, by reading about a range of different cultures and life situations, we increase our capacity for empathy and understanding towards others.

Final words…

According to a number of statistics, reading fiction for pleasure is very much on the decline, both in adults and children. This is a shame because, as you can see, there are so many benefits to regularly picking up a book and becoming engrossed in a story. I hope that today’s post has encouraged you to assess how much time you devote to reading and has also perhaps persuaded you to dedicate a few minutes each day to this great mindful activity. Let me know in the comments what your favourite reading genre is and what you feel are the personal benefits for you.

Thanks for reading!