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

Setting up my bullet journal for May: Floral theme

Hi everyone, I hope you’re all doing okay. For this month in my bullet journal, I took inspiration from our garden and decided to do a floral theme – I know it’s a popular / common theme but hopefully my take on it is a little bit different. There are so many stunningly delicate flowers popping out right now and quite a few of them in one of our beds have been a complete surprise because they’ve self seeded from next door’s hanging baskets that they had up last year (no idea how this has happened as their baskets are on the other side of a six foot fence). The result is some wonderfully thick clumps of viola and pansies in an array of gorgeous Spring colours. Not a bad display for a cost of £0.00! I hope you enjoy looking at my spreads for May and I wonder if they might prompt you to do a little watercolouring in your bullet journal sometime soon?

The front cover

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

To enable me to include lots of different flowers and leaves, I decided to try out a watercolour wreath for my cover page. I used my Helix circle drawing tool to create the basic shape and then lightly sketched out the flowers and leaves. Most are based on real florals including cherry blossom (which is overhanging our garden from next doors tree), forget-me-not (which we often see on woodland walks) and the little patches of bedding plants, but I did use a little artistic license in places when it came to the leave shapes and colours. When I was happy with the basic design, I used a 003 Pigma Micron to ink them in. The ink is waterproof so it works great with watercolour.

I had great fun mixing different shades of watercolour and was glad of my three plastic mixing palettes. I used a size 0 brush for most of the larger areas and a teeny tiny 3/0 brush for the little berries and the thin stems. After everything was dry, I added some little dots of gold here and there to give the piece a bit of shimmer – it probably doesn’t show up well on the camera but IRL, it looks good! In the past, I’ve used watercolour paper to create a design to paint and then photocopied the finished piece but the colours are never the same on the printed image so I’m pleased I painted straight into my bullet journal.

The Monthly Calendar

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

This is my usual calendar set up – it’s just the right size for noting appointments and events so I never see the need to change it. There are lots of different cute colour combos in the little violas and pansies so I decided to have a go a painting some of them. I spent hours doing the different florals, mixing the paint to get shades just like the real flowers and adding the little lines from the centre. There was lots of precision involved but I’m really pleased with how they turned out. The 160gsm paper means that the paint doesn’t bleed through but it’s not as smooth to work on as watercolour paper. My next BuJo has the same thickness of paper so I’ll definitely be doing some more painting in the future.

2 lines a day Gratitude Log

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

I’ve really enjoyed filling in my gratitude log each evening for the last two months and it has become very much a part of my routine. This is the same set up as before with the addition of some watercolour behind the heading. I used the wet into wet technique so the previous and next page have gone a bit wrinkly but I’m pleased with how it turned out so I don’t mind too much!

For my daily entries, I include simple things such as the supermarket having my favourite sandwiches in stock for our picnic, paracetamol to ease my foot pain and a new yoga sequence on YouTube to try. There are so many benefits of practising gratitude, one of which is increased optimism so I highly recommend it.

Yoga session tracker

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

I’ve been doing yoga for well over a year now. I started attending a class but it was quickly cancelled due to COVID-19 so I now do sequences from my favourite YouTube Channel Yoga with Lin and Leo. I miss the chance to have input from the teacher and I’m looking forward to the chance to interact with others in a class but I’ll definitely continue to use the channel to practise regularly at home. This line a day tracker allows me to record my sessions in brief and identify my rest days. Hopefully, some day soon, I’ll be able to write down some face-to-face classes!

May Memories

This is another spread I’ve been doing for a few months now. It’s a place to record anything of note that happened such as a wildlife spot, lunch with a friend, interesting purchases, places visited etc. I’ve left the décor minimal so I’ve got plenty of room to write. Before photographing, I wrote a memory from yesterday so that you can see what my entries look like.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

That’s all of my initial spreads for this month. As I’ve said before, I don’t draw up weekly plans anymore as I just end up wasting space if there’s not much going on that day or I end up filling days with to do lists of things that really don’t need to be done on a specific day.

Final words

I hope you’ve enjoyed having a sneak peek at my spreads for May even if I shared them a little later than planned. Don’t forget to let me know in the comments what theme you’ve chosen this time and if you’ve shared your pages on your blog, I will be sure to check them out. Hopefully next month I’ll find the time to get cracking a little earlier and the lighting will be more conducive to taking photos (the April showers have saved themselves up until the final week of April and have then continued on into the first week of May).

Happy bullet journalling,

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 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 art, creativity, lifestyle, mental health, Planning and journaling, watercolour painting

Currently… life update March 2021

I haven’t done one of these updates for a while (it was last March in fact!) so thought I might spend an hour or two composing one this afternoon. There have been quite a few changes since the last one so here goes:

Currently adjusting…

to a new mental health diagnosis. Yesterday, I had an appointment with the mental health team and psychiatrist to discuss issues that I had been having for an almost six month period. Basically, last year, I met with the team as I thought I had cyclothymic disorder which is a mild form of bipolar. However, it felt nothing like a mild illness, with me being very depressed since mid September 2021 and only getting better a few weeks ago. My appointment lasted two hours and it was really helpful as I had a long chat with a member of the team and then a video call with the psychiatrist who is working from home. I’ve now been diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and will be embarking on a completely new treatment plan which doesn’t involve anti-depressants – one of which I’ve been on for over 20 years! So now, I have a new condition to read up on and get my head around. Well, I say a new condition, but really I’ve had it for around 24 years and have only just been correctly diagnosed.

Currently buying…

nothing but the essentials. I have so many clothes, accessories and crafty bits and bobs that I really don’t need anything but food, drink and a few toiletries right now. In fact, I’m about to embark on a huge declutter of stuff as the wardrobe is fit to burst and my craft room has enough materials to last a lifetime and beyond.

Currently enjoying…

seeing glimpses of Spring. Things are starting to pop up in the garden, the birds are singing and the weather is starting to improve – today I went out without my coat on for the third time this year! Although I hate too much sunshine with having very fair skin, I love putting on my sunglasses and going out for relaxing walks or spending time in the garden. when the weather gets milder.

Currently learning…

all about productivity and organising stuff using a very popular method. Although I’ve not read the book, I’ve been able to use information from various infographics and YouTube videos to learn about the Getting Things Done Method by David Allen. I’m hoping to implement the main ideas shortly to help me get super organised and work efficiently throughout the week so I have the weekends totally free to spend time with my husband or on personal projects. If you want to learn the basics, I recommend you check out this YouTube channel as Emma provides a series of videos which talk you through GTD and shares real examples of how she follows the principles.

Currently making…

watercolour paintings to be used as designs for greetings cards. It all started when I couldn’t find a nice card for my dad for his birthday so I created a variegated watercolour wash using some of his favourite colours and then added some gold paint flecks to give it some sparkle. Then I started looking at tutorials on YouTube and Pinterest, had a go at some of them, and now I’m hooked on making my own unique cards. I even made my own envelopes using the We R Memory Keepers 1,2, 3 punch board!

Currently pinning…

a range of watercolour tutorials to give me ideas for cards and front cover designs for my monthly bullet journal set ups. I’m now using a Scribbles That Matter journal so the pages are nice and thick, although often I do the painting on hot pressed watercolour paper and then scan, print and stick it in. If you want to see some of my pins, you can check my Pinterest here.

So, that’s a mini update on me and my life currently. I hope you enjoyed reading about what I’m up to. I might do life updates more regularly in future, particularly if my new treatment plan for Bipolar 2 helps to keep me well. And if anyone reading has Bipolar disorder and writes about how it affects them in their blog, I would really love it if you dropped the link in the comments so I can check out your experiences and see if I can pick up any tips on managing the condition. Until next time, keep safe and well.

Posted in art, lifestyle, mental health, wellbeing

Monday Matters: The Wild Remedy – a book which explores the relationship between connection to nature and improved mental health

Today’s Monday Matters post is a little different in that it focuses on a book which I’ve recently started reading after hearing Chris Packham praising it on Springwatch last month. ‘The Wild Remedy – how nature mends us’ is the published diary of a naturalist, writer and illustrator called Emma Mitchell who has found herself better able to manage her mental health since she moved to live in the English Countryside and began to spend more time in nature.

Emma suffers from depression and finds that she particularly struggles in the winter months when the light is poor and the few colours to be seen outdoors are particularly drab. She describes her battle with Seasonal Affective Disorder and talks about how she has to force herself to interact with nature in any way she can in an attempt to lift her spirits. Her diary documents her highs and lows throughout the year and her experiences of the natural world in the different seasons. I have found her prose to be a complete joy to read and over the last few days I’ve devoured her writing and delighted in her photographs, drawings and watercolour work.

Whilst out on her walks, Emma absorbs herself in her surroundings and seeks out the beauty of flora and fauna and seasonal changes. She often collects wild flowers, leaves, berries and evidence of birds who have visit the area in the form of different feathers or pieces of eggshell. She also takes photographs of the scenery as evidence of the simple but wonderful sights of her visits to a range of natural environments. This immersion is a kind of mindful practise and one which helps her to become rejuvenated and happier.

When Emma returns home, she is able to study her finds and can search for them in one of her treasured wild flower books to learn more about a particular species. She also regularly makes photographic records so she is able to enjoy the beauty of these natural objects again and again. Emma is also a very creative person and she often produces detailed line sketches or small watercolour paintings which she finds very soothing for her mind. She includes her art work and photographs throughout her diary as a pictorial record of the nature calendar.

In the introduction to the book, the author describes a variety of research which has considered the effects of nature on the body and the mind. Walking in green spaces and observing natural landscapes has been shown to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression by causing a drop in the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in our bodies and releasing seretonin (the feel good chemical) into our brains. Also blood pressure decreases and pulse rates slow which has a positive effect on your physical and mental health.

Further discussion of recent scientific research shows numerous other ways that being in close contact with nature is good for our health. For example, many plant species produce compounds and oils known as phytoncides and when these are inhaled, they have a positive impact on our immune, hormonal, circulatory and nervous systems. We don’t have to actively go around sniffing different greenery either. Just been amongst trees and bushes regularly is enough to enjoy these health benefits. If you add in a good walk, especially in the sunshine, you will likely find your mood lifting due to raised seretonin levels and the release of feel good endorphins from the exercise.

I’ve read almost all of Emma’s book over the last few days and I’m looking forward the last few chapters. Her diary entries are beautifully written and you really feel as though you are there with her due to her delightful descriptions. Her field photographs and flat lay shots of her nature finds are so inspiring and are guaranteed to make you want to take out your camera to create some similar images.

A stunning two page spread of a range of wild flowers Emma collected on her walk

Emma is also an illustrator and an array of line drawings and hand painted watercolours are included throughout the pages. Although I couldn’t match her art work, I am keen to use my pencils, fineliners and paints to have a go at creating my own records of nature spotted within my back garden and whilst out on my walks.

Emma’s watercolour of a house sparrow which was a regular visitor to her garden feeding station

I’ve mentioned before the meditative and calming affects that drawing and painting can have and how this helps the body and the mind. Emma describes how the repetitive process of creating her nature images and not focusing too much on the results is as much of a boost for her as the walk itself.

I highly recommend ‘The Wild Remedy’ if you want to learn more about how nature can support good mental health or if, like me, you have a keen interest in the natural world. Although I find that I need medication to keep my depression and anxiety at bay and that regular talking therapies are required to help me learn strategies for managing my condition on a day-to-day basis, I think nature has so much to offer too and also plays its part in my mental wellbeing. I make sure I either go out for a walk in the park or local woodland each day or spending time tending to my garden and I encourage you to find the time to do the same.